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June 2, 1999


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The Rediff Interview/Lt Gen J S Arora

'The PM's visit to Pakistan made our people feel a bit more comfortable'

H ero of the 1971 war Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora has lambasted Defence Minister George Fernandes for absolving the Pakistani government and the ISI of any alleged involvement in the recent intrusion into the Kargil sector of Jammu and Kashmir.

"He should not have said this. Doesn't he know the ISI is part of Pakistan's military set-up?" asks the general, who accepted the surrender of Major General A A Niazi on behalf of 93,000 Pakistani soldiers after the liberation of Bangladesh.

The retired general, who had done his stint in the Uri sector while in service, thinks there was a definite intelligence lapse on India's part and that an inquest should be held once the operations are over to fix responsibility. "Any inquest now would divert attention from our basic goal," he says.

The war hero spoke to Onkar Singh about Operation Vijay and its aftermath.

Why do you think Pakistan has selected the Kargil sector for armed intrusion?

The Pakistanis have been creating mischief in the Kargil sector off and on in the past, and each time we were able to give them a fitting reply. But then their operations were strictly limited to Kargil only, and not spread to other areas like this time.

The area of their operation this time is large and their intentions are clear. They have come into our territory and established their camps here. Right from Zozila pass to Drass, they have intruded into our side of the Line of Control

Do you think there was a failure on the part of our intelligence set-up?

You can say that. If it had not been the case, the intruders would not have been able to enter our side of the Line of Control.

There have been reports that our intelligence agencies were aware of the designs of the Pakistan army.

I don't know whether that is authentic or not. If they knew the snow was melting earlier, the minimum they should have done was to start patrolling if not moving. It was a failure on our side for not being vigilant as we should have been.

If Kargil had been a problematic area in the past, why did we now fail to take preventive measures?

The moment you say this, you would actually have many more troops sitting on the upper reaches. This means a lot of expenditure and lot of manpower as well.

What would you have done if you had been in service now?

How can I say what would have I done in a situation like this? I am a retired man and as good a civilian as anyone else. You see, what has happened is that the army has been committed for duty on the international border and as well as internal security in Kashmir to such an extent that our people started saying that since this was not a trouble-prone area, let us not put our troops there otherwise there would be none left in the reserves.

I have a feeling that the our prime minister's visit to Pakistan made our people feel a bit more comfortable. They relaxed a bit and we are now paying for that laxity.

Defence Minister George Fernandes has absolved the Pakistan government and the ISI of organising an armed intrusion into the Kargil sector.

That was a very stupid remark. He made a remark which he had no business to make. The trouble is that all politicians have a habit, they think they know better. I am personally of the opinion as the defence minister of India, George Fernandes should not have made the remark he did.

Was he trying to fool the country, you think?

No, he is not trying to fool the nation. He is a politician and does not know much about the ISI. What is the ISI? It is a part of Pakistan's military intelligence. Hence, to say that both the government of Pakistan and the Inter Services Intelligence did not know about such an operation is absolute rubbish. This is a slip-up. A blunder, if I could say that. We made a similar blunder in 1962 when the Chinese attacked India.

Is he becoming another Krishna Menon?

No, I would not say he is trying to become another Krishna Menon. Krishna Menon knew we were not in a position to fight on the eastern side where he forced us to fight.

In 1962, we were saying Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai and the Chinese attacked us. Now we are talking in terms of friendship with Pakistan and they send in armed intruders. Haven't we learnt any lessons from the past?

I personally think the two situations are quite different. Atal Bihari Vajpayee is not a politician who would make a hash of everything. The fault lies with the intelligence agencies, including the army, for not having got the information earlier and done something about it.

Do you think responsibility should be fixed for this lapse and the guilty punished?

The priority right now is to push the enemy out of our borders. This is not the time to find fault with the people and pick up one brigade commander or core commander for the lapse. You've got to see what inputs RAW had with them. You've got to see what sort of information the IB had. Our army was only depending on feedback and did not start patrolling early enough to prevent an armed intrusion of this magnitude.

The question of fixing responsibility would be addressed once the operations in the Kargil sector are over and the armed intruders are either killed or pushed back across the Line of Control. Until that happens, this kind of inquest would only hamper the operations that are being carried out right now.

But how would you rectify the failure?

You must leave this matter to the services to deal with it as they deem it fit. There are no if and buts to it. They would definitely look into the matter but only at an appropriate time.

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