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July 26, 1999


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'There's more to Kargil than meets the eye'

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Onkar Singh in New Delhi

Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet on Monday lambasted the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government for setting up a four-member committee to probe the Kargil fiasco.

He termed the exercise as an "eye wash."

"The whole India knows the truth about what transpired in Kargil. But the government is still not coming clean despite the fact the war is now over. If we come to power we would naturally set up another committee to go into this issue. We have a feeling that there is much more to it then meets the eye," Surjeet alleged at a press conference in New Delhi.

"We did not raise the issue earlier because we did not want to give the impression that in the hour of national crisis we are not with the government and our brave soldiers. Now that the conflict is over, the BJP government has to answer major questions, which it has been avoiding so far.

"Why was the Pakistani intrusion which was planned last year and for which preparations began months ago across the border undetected? What were the intelligence agencies doing? Why were the initial reports of preparation in the Kargil area by Pakistan for infiltration ignored?

"The Vajpayee government was blinded by its own claim that the Pokhran tests had made India a nuclear power which strengthened India's security and ushered peace in the subcontinent. It was lulled into complacency by the prime minister's Lahore bus trip. It was this outlook that found it unprepared to accept the reality of the largescale intrusion in the initial period. This gross negligence was responsible for the heavy price paid by the Indian soldiers who laid down their lives while defending the country's integrity," Surjeet said.

The grand old man of the CPI-M questioned the BJP's wisdom in not summoning the Rajya Sabha to discuss Kargil.

"The Vajpayee government obstinately refused to summon a session when the conflict was going on. As a caretaker government it had the responsibility to mobilise national opinion through the forum of the only House of Parliament in existence. The absurd statements made by Defence Minister George Fernandes, such as the exoneration of the Nawaz Sharief government, was sought to be defended by Prime Minister Vajpayee," he said.

He held the government responsible for internationalising the Kashmir issue. "When USA and Pakistan issued a joint statement on Kagril, the Pakistan government had gone on record that they had succeeded in internationalising the issue. This clearly shows that the Pakistan government was fully involved in the Kargil intrusion -- and yet our defence minister gives a clean chit to Nawaz Sharief!

"Not just that: when American President (Bill) Clinton says that he would take personal interest in sorting out the Kashmir issue, the BJP government has virtually accepted third party mediation. Yet, they say that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. Who are they trying to fool?" he asked.

He said that Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh is not giving a clear picture of his talks with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. While Albright is giving the impression that India and Pakistan would have to start talks soon on Kashmir, Singh has been telling that there is no question of talks with Pakistan till it stops aiding militants in Kashmir. Soon the truth would be out and the whole world would know what the BJP has been hiding from the people of India, the CPI-M leader said.

Talking about political developments, Surjeet promised that the CPI-M manifessto would be released soon. His party and the Communist Party of India would go to any extent to ensure that non-BJP votes do not get divided.

"We have been talking to various parties who are not allies of the BJP and who are not part of the National Democratic Alliance in various states for seat adjustments. In Andhra Pradesh we are holding talks with NTR's son Hare Krishna. In Punjab we are talking to non-Akali/BJP parties to contest election there and I can assure you that the Akali/BJP alliance would be wiped out in the state. In Bihar we are talking to Laloo (Prasad) Yadav and we are hopeful that seat adjustments would soon be sorted out. We are not talking to any party which is talking of maintaining equal distance from the Congress and BJP. Our main emphasis would be to see to it that under no circumstance the BJP or its alliance partners win because of vote division," he said with a broad grin.

Asked how many seats would go to the BJP and its allies, Surjeet said it was too early to predict anything. The situation in states like Karnataka is far from clear. The Janata Dal there wants to join the NDA, but the alliance is not willing to take it in.

"One thing I can assure you is that the number of seats of the BJP would go down substantially. They would not be forming the government. I admit that there is no third front at the moment but once the election is over and the picture becomes clear, we would make certain effort to forge unity amongst various political parties and come out with a third alternative," he assured.

When his attention was drawn to a report that West Bengal stalwart Joyti Basu would retire after the Lok Sabha poll, Surjeet blamed the print media for the mistake.

"The media forgot to print the second part of his statement. He had also said that he would abide by the decision of the party in this matter. And you know what the party decision would be in his case," he said.

He did not rule out the possibility of Jyoti Basu's running for prime ministership, should the third alternative have sufficient seats.

The CPI-M leader termed the BJP government's decision to grant big concessions to private telephone operators as one of the biggest scams of the Vajpayee government.

"We would soon be releasing some documents to prove this," Surjeet promised.

The Kargil Conflict

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