Fighting Pakistan with a handicap

Print edition : July 03, 1999
A case for crossing the Line of Control.

PAKISTAN has struck against India in Kashmir for the fourth time since 1947 - the first time in 1948, then twice in 1965 (April and August), and now for the fourth time. Each time, in our eagerness to achieve peace, we have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in these wars imposed on us by Pakistan. In 1948, after the Pakistan Army was on the run, we stopped our forces at the Line of Control (LoC) at the base of the Kargil mountains, instead of allowing our Army to take full control of the entire Kashmir State from the retreating Pakistan Army. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, in order to "respect" the unilateral commitment of the last British Governor-General, Lord Mountbatten, went rushing to the United Nations in search of peace. What we got instead was a lecture from the world powers, and an albatross of a U.N. Security Council resolution asking us to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir. There was no condemnation of the Pakistani perfidy.

In 1965, our troops climbed the Kargil heights at great human cost and captured the highest vantage points, on which peaks the Pakistan Army is sitting today in cement bunkers. But Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri sojourned in search of peace to Tashkent for a third-party Soviet mediation, and agreed to withdraw back to the 1948 LoC. Many of our soldiers at the Kargil heights had revolted at the thought, but obeyed Shastri's orders, with tears streaming down their cheeks. Even in the 1971 war when we won an outright victory in liberating Bangladesh, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, in the name of peace, gave away territory that we had captured across the LoC, even though under the Indian Constitution it was inalienable Indian territory.

The LoC is a notional concept, at best an ad hoc arrangement to make Pakistan vacate its aggression in Kashmir with dignity. It cannot be regarded as a permanent border. That would violate our Constitution. Already we have waited too long for Pakistan to see reason, but after the events of 1999, it is clear that Pakistan will never quit with grace. The more inches we concede to them, the more miles of our territory they will claim. The Pakistanis have a slogan: Hass Hass Ke Liya Pakistan, Ladd Ladd Ke Lenge Hindustan ("With a laugh we got Pakistan, by fighting we will capture India"). The time thus has now come for us to teach Pakistan lessons to make it snap out of its stupor. Indians are sick of "peace" with Pakistan. We have had enough of it. That is the national mood today.

Unfortunately, Pakistan has failed to gauge the Indian mood correctly because it has been misled by its interaction with the weakest Indian leadership in our history since Bahadur Shah Zafar. In the case of Nehru, Shastri and Indira Gandhi, we can accuse them of hankering for peace, but they were patriots and had sacrifices in the struggle for national independence behind them. The present Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition consists of parties which are anything but patriotic. The strings of this government in crucial ministerial portfolios are pulled by two sinister organisations, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The BJP's patron, the RSS, has never participated in any national struggle for Independence, while the LTTE represents the Supreme Court-declared murderers of Rajiv Gandhi and is internationally condemned as a terrorist organisation. The Defence Minister, the Law Minister and the Health Minister in the Vajpayee Government are all unabashed advocates of the LTTE. The LTTE, in turn, is a captive of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) on account of its dependence on narcotics-arms swap trade in the subcontinent. No wonder then that the Defence Minister gave a clean chit to the ISI, and the Law Minister and the Health Minister, stoutly in chorus, supported him when Jayalalitha and I exposed him.

Despite the media hype in which the RSS is adept as fascists generally are, our Prime Minister is so weak that he has no nerve to sack his Defence Minister despite a nation-wide demand for the same. Of course, Vajpayee is bound to be weak, since he has not and cannot go against the fatwas of the RSS.

Today, I doubt that he has the nerve to teach Pakistan the lesson it deserves to be taught. His decision to go on a bus ride to Lahore despite a clear Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) warning that Kashmir had been infiltrated, and while in Lahore to read namaz at the Muslim League citadel, the Minar-e-Pakistan, shows psychological weakness. Today he has internationalised Kashmir by writing a letter to the G-8 leaders for support. We should not expect a government led by Vajpayee to show sustained determination to teach Pakistan a lesson.

Our only hope today, therefore, is that the present India-Pakistan conflict will simmer till the October general elections. Thereafter, hopefully a government of patriots will be formed which will resolve to settle the Pakistan problem once for all, even if it takes years. Time is on our side, however, since Pakistan's economy is tottering. Despite a $5.5-billion bailout bid by the International Monetary Fund in November 1998, it barely has $1.5 billion in foreign exchange reserves. Its economy is import-oriented and service-based. It has a poor manufacturing base. Hence, our diplomacy must concentrate on tightening sanctions against Pakistan. A weak Vajpayee government has no credibility to do that.

A patriotic government must order the Indian ground and air forces to cross the LoC to smash the supply lines of the 'infiltrators'. Otherwise, we are fighting with one arm tied behind our backs. Crossing the LoC is permitted in international law rooted in the U.N. Security Council resolution of April 1992. According to this resolution, nations have the right to cross the established boundaries of other countries in hot pursuit of terrorists. The United States used this resolution to bomb Libya and nearly killed Muammar Qadhafi because he refused to hand over the PanAm Boeing 747 saboteurs. In the case of Kargil, Pakistan has disowned the infiltrators and hence the infiltrators are terrorists.

The LoC, furthermore, is not even an established boundary. Hence the U.N. Security Council resolution would fully sustain the Indian armed forces crossing the LoC in pursuit of the infiltrators, till we reach the Afghan borders. If Pakistan launches a full-fledged war in retaliation, the new patriotic government of India should be ready for it. Better face the problem in October 1999 than ten years later. A full war will lead to a collapse of that country's economy.

We need not worry too much about the international reaction. Pakistan itself has demonstrated that international opinion is a paper tiger. Has the G-8 or China condemned Pakistan for this blatant aggression? In the 1971 Bangladesh war period, 104 nations voted against India in the U.N. General Assembly, but that did not stop Indira Gandhi. No world power is going to intervene in a situation of Pakistan's making, except to make pious noises.

If Vajpayee cannot bring his nerve to order the crossing of the LoC, let him at least not rush by the first bus to Pakistan in search of peace. It was pathetic to see Jaswant Singh run to China, and the Prime Minister's Secretary scamper to the G-8 meeting. Let the Prime Minister instead keep the pot boiling for the next elected government to settle the matter decisively.

The new patriotic government should also set in motion our tangible support for the various insurgent movements in Pakistan, such as in Sindh, Baluchistan and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). If Pakistan can support the LTTE, the United Liberation Front of Asom and all the mad fundamentalists in India, we can also do so. It is Pakistan which is vulnerable and can fall apart, and not India.

In the final analysis, the fight between India and Pakistan is not over Kashmir, as the United States thinks. It is on whether in the subcontinent secularism triumphs or Taliban-backed Pakistani fundamentalist Sunni hegemony will prevail. It is significant that Kargil is Shia-dominated, and the Muslims there are fierce Indian nationalists. This agitates Pakistan since, in the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir, only in the Valley does it receive some support from fringe Sunni groups. Indian Muslims, Shia or Sunni, do not accept this fundamentalist Sunni hegemony. Muslims have laid down their lives for India in all the wars since 1948. In other words, the India-Pakistan fight is a clash of ideology and, in essence, a conflict between an ancient civilisation and an artifact.

A letter from the Editor


Dear reader,

The COVID-19-induced lockdown and the absolute necessity for human beings to maintain a physical distance from one another in order to contain the pandemic has changed our lives in unimaginable ways. The print medium all over the world is no exception.

As the distribution of printed copies is unlikely to resume any time soon, Frontline will come to you only through the digital platform until the return of normality. The resources needed to keep up the good work that Frontline has been doing for the past 35 years and more are immense. It is a long journey indeed. Readers who have been part of this journey are our source of strength.

Subscribing to the online edition, I am confident, will make it mutually beneficial.

Sincerely,

R. Vijaya Sankar

Editor, Frontline

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
×