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July 15, 1999

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E-Mail this column to a friend Kanchan Gupta

Thank you, but I would rather hate the Pakis than forgive them their crime

Some of your columnists, Kanchan Gupta in particular, have descended to a level of hate that is unbecoming of an Indian; India is home to a multiplicity of people and it believes in unity in diversity and respect for others." That is Shahed H Khundkar commenting on what I had to say about Pakistani barbarism packaged as Islamic jihad and perpetrated on Indian soldiers defending their motherland.

"The comparisons are venomous," writes Pauljohn Moonjeli, passing judgement on what I had to say about Indian soldiers not slaughtering fleeing Pakistani soldiers, compared to the barbarism of the Pakistanis. Suresh Kodoor brushes off my comments as "utter nonsense", while Jaideep R Gupte (who is not sure that there is "such a thing" as the "Indian cause") has objected to my "Pakistan bashing".

Having just returned from the battlefront, I cannot but pity these people who, perched atop their ivory towers and riding the high horse of self-righteous morality, have written in to lecture me on the right response to the Pakistani wrong. To suggest restraint in the face of such gross provocation and bestiality, not to mention treachery, all cloaked in the garb of Islamic jihad, in my book, is nothing short of sleeping with the enemy. They are welcome to coo sweet nothings into Pakistani ears. I won't grudge them their moment of pleasure.

The only regret I nurse is that I haven't had the privilege to participate in fighting back the Pakistanis. Nothing would have given me greater pleasure than scalping some of the alleged mujahideen. But that is not to be. So I must remain content with Paki-bashing.

It would have been easy to feel charitable towards the 'jihadis' who are now fleeing the Kargil battlefield. After all, it makes little sense to kick the fallen. But to feel any sense of charity, of kindness, or even, for that matter, pity, for the Pakistani soldiers and officers who were lucky to survive the battle for Kargil and are now "withdrawing" to the Pakistani side would, in my book, be an act of high treason.

In any event, I seriously doubt if Mian Nawaz Sharief has any intention of keeping his word: even if the Pakistanis were to actually get back to their side of the Line of Control, it would be nothing more than a tactical retreat to cut their losses. The "lava" which Mian Sharief has talked about in his address to the Pakistani people is bound to erupt in another form at another place. It is not merely territory that Pakistan seeks, but the fulfilment of its Islamic expansionist dreams.

To fulfil that dream, Pakistan is willing to go to any extent and take recourse to any means. Even before the guns have fallen silent in the Kargil sector, terrorist guns have started spewing death in the Kashmir Valley. The Al-Badr terrorists who barged into the Border Security Force quarters near Srinagar on July 13 and took 12 hostages after killing three officers (commandos have since freed the hostages and -- rejoice, rejoice -- despatched the terrorists to the world beyond) are another face of the Pakistani troops that dared intrude into Kargil.

In fact, it can be said with a degree of certitude that we shall witness more incidents of blood-curdling brutality, perpetrated as much in the guise of waging a holy war against infidels as the Kargil intrusion was couched, both by the Pakistani state and its terrorist compatriots, in jihadi mumbo-jumbo. The so-called mujahideen who have turned tail and fled the killing fields of Kargil (even the Net is not yet ready for recording what the Nagas did to the Pakis) are bound to resurface in places where they will have the choice of soft targets. For instance, women and children. So much for the courage of the believers.

Given this scenario, the Government of India cannot afford to get carried away by misplaced sentiments of magnanimity in victory. By deciding not to cross the LoC, although that would have minimised the loss of Indian soldiers, the Government of India did the right thing, and it has been duly endorsed by the international community. Indeed, India today stands tall, a responsible nuclear power that can be trusted and treated as an equal by the P-5. In sharp contrast, Pakistan has emerged as a rogue state that can be neither trusted nor believed.

India's decision not to cross the LoC and give the surviving Paki soldiers a chance to retain contact with this world, however, does not preclude retribution. And no retribution can be better than taking a tough stand on future relations with Pakistan -- we have believed them, trusted them, once too often; for a change, let us disbelieve the Pakis and refuse to trust them.

In an effort to dilute and divert world opinion, Mian Sharief has discovered virtue in recalling the Lahore process and urging that it be re-initiated. Perhaps Mian Sharief should take a look at the piece of paper called the Lahore Declaration to which Pakistan appended its signature in February this year.

The penultimate paragraph of the declaration says India and Pakistan "reaffirm their condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and their determination to combat this menace". Condemnation of terrorism? Determination to combat this menace? Such condemnation and determination cannot be expected of a state that cohabits with the Lashkar-e-Toiba. Just like you cannot expect a state that violates the LoC to keep its promise to honour the Shimla Agreement.

The Government of India has said that withdrawal of Pakistani troops from Indian territory by itself will not lead to resumption of the Lahore process; that Pakistan must also restore the sanctity of the LoC by ceasing all sustenance to trans-border terrorism. In other words, Pakistan must first stop being a terrorist state, then only can it seek to participate in activities that keep civil societies going, for instance activities like bilateral dialogue.

Let Pakistan first prove itself as an entity that can rise above its Islamic identity that has till now found expression in rapacious pillage, murder and loot. Till such time Pakistan is able to prove its bona fides as a state that can be trusted and believed, it would be a dishonour and disservice to the Indian soldiers -- Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh and Buddhist -- who died defending their motherland in the rocky wilderness of Kargil, to enter into any dialogue with Islamabad.

As for those who have taken objection to my comments and would rather genuflect before the high priests of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, all I can tell them is that they can never imagine what it feels like to see your own blood and flesh being sacrificed because once again India has been found to be too trusting, too believing.

Kanchan Gupta

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