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COVER STORY

30-07-1999

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Briefing

Unknown heroes of Batalik

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PRAVEEN SWAMI

FEW people know their names or the fact that they were responsible for saving the Batalik heights from a potential military disaster. But a Frontline investigation has established that Tashi Namgyal, Morup Tsering and Ali Raza Stanba, the three residents of Garkhun village, were the first to spot the Pakistani intrusion, on May 3. There were vague references in the media to shepherds who informed the Army about an intrusion, but for some reason the military and bureaucratic establishment chose to black out their names and stories.

The three shepherds were not present in Batalik to share in the rejoicing over the triumph. They were not even available in their villages. Local residents said that they had left for Leh or elsewhere to stay with their relatives. But officials and villagers Frontline spoke to provided a cogent account of their discovery. Had the shepherds not seen and reported the intrusion, vital weeks would have been lost and Pakistan would have been enabled to fortify further its positions in the area.

In the first week of May, Namgyal and Tsering went to Ali Raza's home in Judi village, which is located just below the Banju heights. They had planned to take their sheep to the high mountain meadows together, a common practice in the Kargil area. Shepherds pool their herds at a single hut above their villages, and groups of two or three persons are assigned in turns the task of looking after the livestock of all the families. Namgyal's friends are a little coy about just why the three decided to move up the mountains quite so early this summer. But it seems probable that the group had decided to spend a little time poaching wild goats. Whatever the truth, Tsering carried a pair of field binoculars he had purchased years ago in Leh.

On the morning of May 3, Namgyal had moved up some 5 km along Jubbar Langpa stream when he scanned the mountain through the pair of binoculars and saw groups of men in Pathan attire digging bunkers. Some were armed, although at that distance their precise numbers and equipment were impossible to detect. Namgyal promptly called his friends back and they made their way to a local detachment of the 3 Punjab Regiment. It appears that initially the officials did not take Namgyal's account quite seriously. The first patrol to go out on May 6, a lightly armed group of eight, lost one soldier in an ambush ahead of Yaldor. Soldiers of a second patrol sent out the next day were injured, and on May 9 a third patrol was ambushed. Tashi and the other shepherds had set up a trap, but this bizarre reaction soon gave way to a realisation of the grim realities that had arrived on the Batalik mountains.

Garkhun's first encounter with Pakistani intruders, back in the summer of 1996, had also involved Namgyal. Two men, who spoke a dialect he identified as that of Ganoks village on the other side of the Line of Control (LoC), had stuck a gun in Namgyal's ribs while he was asleep on a meadow. The two claimed that they had lost their way while hunting for mountain goats, but Namgyal was too frightened to report the incident. Again, in the summer of 1998, Namgyal and his friends Afzal and Tsering Norphel encountered three armed men at a sheep hut above Garkhun. The men offered to buy a watch, probably a move to procure an Indian-made instrument in order to prove to their handlers across the border that they had indeed crossed over. Namgyal refused to comply, coming up with the ingenuous fib that the Army kept an inventory of all their possessions.

Local officers responded with some concern. "There was a Major Vasudevan from Kerala and Subedar Rawat who were particularly helpful at the time," recalls Tsering Sumphel, a government-employed Junior Engineer in Kargil, who is a friend of Namgyal and is familiar with the Garkhun area. Three Ladakh Scouts troopers were posted in disguise with the villagers at the sheep hut in 1998, but they encountered nothing. That appears to have acted as a disincentive to further surveillance, despite the apprehensions of ground-level Army personnel. In September 1998, troops began to move down the mountains with the villagers. Just a few posts remained. Until Namgyal went up the mountains again, there was no one to keep a watch on movements across the LoC.

In a context where relations between civilians and the military have on occasion been less than cordial, with porters complaining of occasional abuse and villagers of collective suspicion and high-handedness, Namgyal's story illustrates the fact that the best guardians of the border are its people. It would be tragic if at the end of the Kargil war Namgyal and his friends are obscured.

The final assault, and the withdrawal

As Pakistan retreats from its Kargil misadventure, India's spectacular military successes against the odds could turn into an uncertain political victory.

A MACABRE graveyard marked the summit of the majestic Jubbar heights. More than 30 bodies of Pakistani troops and irregulars had been dumped in shallow graves on the 4,924-metre peak by a retreating unit. With just a few stones to cover them, the bodies had decomposed beyond recognition. The summit was enveloped in an indescribable miasma of death. On reaching the Jubbar summit, the first thing the Indian soldiers did was to ask for disinfecting and deodorising chemicals to be sent up as fast as possible, rather than celebrate its recapture. There was no joy at the sight of rotting bodies. "While a man is firing at you, he is your enemy. A dead man is nobody's enemy," said one officer involved in the assault.

Two months into the Kargil war, its end has begun with a United States-authored withdrawal of Pakistani troops and irregulars. The withdrawal began after the capture of several important features in the Batalik sub-sector, where the intrusion by Pakistan was first detected on May 3. Progress had been made in the Mushkoh Valley, another major area of concentration of Pakistani troops, while Drass has almost been cleared.

India's spectacular military triumphs came in the face of overwhelming odds. Several people believed that the campaign to evict Pakistani positions, carried out at heights above 5,000m, was doomed to failure.

But if the Indian Army again established its military competence and resolve, the Kargil campaign's outcome could in a broader political sense prove to be an uncertain victory. The military success could be undermined in the years to come by the U.S.' emergence as a central player in the larger war over the future of Jammu and Kashmir.

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India's progress in the Batalik area began in early July when soldiers from the Garhwal Rifles, the Bihar Regiment, the Gurkha Rifles and the Grenadiers began pushing their way along the flanks of the Batalik heights. The 5,287-m summit of Khalubar, east of Yaldor, fell on July 2 and the entire mountain was cleared within three days by the Gurkhas. West of the Urdas Langpa (stream), Peak 4,812, which the Indian soldiers call Dog Hill, followed rapidly. Holding these flanks, the troops could now begin to cut off Pakistani reinforcements making their way down from their rear base at Muntho Dalo, which had been hit by successive waves of air strikes through the previous fortnight.

Fortune played a big role in the final assault. Troops had succeeded in making their way up the Urdas Langpa to Banju, the minor peak, which guards the Jubbar ridge line. The assault up the ridge would have been murderous had a shell not hit a massive Pakistani ammunition dump near the Jubbar peak. An officer involved in the assault recalls: "It (the ammunition dump fire) was the most amazing display of fireworks I have ever seen. It was a like a hundred Diwali nights at once." The Pakistani troops were forced to retreat and the route up Jubbar to Peaks 4,924 and 4,927 was now clear.

Progress was rapid on the eastern side of the Garkhun Langpa as well. The Garkhun Langpa is flanked by Jubbar to its west and the Kukerthang and Tharu heights to its east. The push from the village of Yaldor on the Yaldor Langpa to Peak 4,821 on Kukerthang was a protracted one and claimed heavy casualties. But the mountain was taken and the 5,103-m Tharu fell next. With the heights intact, the troops could now dominate the Garkhun Langpa and the villages of Baroro and Kha Baroro. Further, Pakistani troop movement down the Gargurdu, Garkhun and Yadlor Langpas, the three major streams that trisect the Batalik area from west to east, is now near-impossible.

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AMONG the most important realisation of the Batalik campaign is that the Pakistan Army has direct complicity in events in the area. The interrogation of Naik Inayat Ali of the 5 Northern Light Infantry, captured on the night of July 2, proved that the heights were occupied by his battalion and that no irregulars were present there. Inayat Ali told his captors that his entire unit of 200 had been wiped out in sustained Indian ground and air fire. One of the soldiers involved in his capture told Frontline that having exhausted his ammunition, Ali continued to throw stones down the mountain at Indian soldiers. "We had to send someone around and finally pin him down," he said.

However, contrary to official claims, the battle for Batalik was not over at the time Pakistan announced on July 11 the withdrawal of its troops. The retreating Pakistan troops had been reinforcing at two heights - Peaks 5,121 and 5,327 - over a kilometre inside the Line of Control (LoC) from where their pull-out appears to have commenced. Reaching these heights would have involved a further assault, which could have proved costly. To the east of Yadlor lies Muntho Dal, the 5,065-m pyramid which has acted as Pakistan's principal supply base for the Batalik sector. Although Muntho Dalo has come under sustained air attack, and 105-millimetre field guns and multi-barrelled Pinaka rocket launchers have been pounding the position from the Silmoo Langpa, until July 9, the final physical occupation could again have taken time.

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Pakistan's movement out of the Drass area also prevented what could have been a series of small but bitter skirmishes along the Tiger Hills sector. At least one Pakistani position on the western face of Tiger Hills remained intact until the withdrawal, and there have been concerted counter-attacks on Peaks 5,100 and 4,875. Interestingly, the Tiger Hills area also appears to have received significant reinforcements of Pakistani irregulars until July 8. On that day, the bodies of three Pakistani soldiers, Major Iqbal and Captain Imtiaz Malik of the 12 Northern Light Infantry (NLI) and Captain Karnal Sher of the 165 Mortar Regiment, were recovered from the hills. But there is little doubt that the early withdrawal helped India retake positions such as the Marpo La pass. Intriguingly, Army Public Relations had claimed in a letter to Frontline that the area had already been recaptured.

But it is in the Mushkoh Valley and Kaksar that Pakistan's retreat is likely to have the most significant impact. The assault down the Mushkoh Valley, which began on July 7, claimed 23 soldiers the next day. More casualties were reported subsequently. Much of the fighting came along the Mun Thang, the stream that drains Peak 4,342 above the Valley. The fighting is at an air-distance of between 5 and 6 km from the LoC, but Pakistani troops were not likely to be present in strength in the region since the temperature in the glacial north of the Mushkoh Valley would rule out holding positions for any length of time. The counter-attacks on Tiger Hills and Peak 5,100 appeared designed to ease the pressure on the Pakistani positions in Mushkoh.

KAKSAR was also certain to see bitter fighting. At least three attempts to storm the Pakistan-occupied Bajrang Post and Peak 5,299, which dominates the Kaksar stream, have been beaten back since the fighting began. A major offensive that began on June 6 showed few results until the withdrawal began. While the Indian troops had been engaged in virtual hand-to-hand combat a fortnight ago, Pakistan succeeded in reinforcing its positions. Officials had been desperately petitioning New Delhi for a limited retaliatory incursion across the LoC in this area since the only local ridge line route to Peak 5,299 lies from the other side. The only option would have been a succession of near-suicidal assaults up the mountain face.

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Indian field commanders and troops were preparing for these final assaults when the Pakistani withdrawal began. Despite the rhetoric emanating from terrorist groups in Islamabad, there is little doubt that the retreating forces were more than delighted to be on their way. Deserted by their officers, having lost well over half their numbers, short of food and ammunition and subjected to eight weeks of sustained air and ground bombardment, wireless intercepts made clear that what remained of Pakistan's forces on the mountains were dispirited and in disarray. An Indian military success had become inevitable as Pakistan announced its withdrawal.

There is more than a little confusion about the time that would be taken for the withdrawal and its physical manifestations. Even as officials in New Delhi announced that preliminary evidence of a pullout had been noticed, 15 Corps Brigadier (General Staff) A.K. Chopra told journalists in Srinagar that nothing of the kind had happened. It is likely that some pockets of resistance will remain for a few weeks although there has been a marked decline in cross-border fire since July 9. Informed sources told Frontline that the Ministry of Defence had passed on instructions to field artillery formations only to fire in defence. This would allow relatively safe movement back across the LoC, which was perhaps one of the issues discussed by the Directors-General of Military Operations of India and Pakistan on July 11.

More important, the time has now come for a transparent examination of the strategic misjudgments that led to the enormous costs inflicted on India on the Kargil heights. Despite denials by the Army that it knew of plans of an armed intrusion, sources told Frontline that two officers attached to the 121 Brigade in Kargil had sent up warnings in September and November 1998 to the 3 Infantry Division's headquarters at Leh, the 15 Corps Headquarters in Srinagar and the Army Headquarters in New Delhi. Major Bhupinder Singh and Major K.B.S. Khurana of the 121 Brigade's Intelligence Team and Intelligence and Field Security Unit had warned of an intrusion in April; they filed reports similar to those issued by the Intelligence Bureau's Kargil field officer to his Leh station. The first of the Singh-Khurana reports classified the information as non-reliable and the second as highly reliable.

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Senior officials were presumably too busy or too taken in with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government's Lahore Bus diplomacy to pay attention. No cogent account of deployments through the winter has yet been offered, but some guesses are possible. The first snow in the Kargil area fell on October 16, just a day after the formal deadline for the movement of civilian winter supplies across the Zoji La pass. But after two days of snowfall, no more fell until the night of January 4; January and February saw only light snowfall, not enough to drive posts off the mountain heights; March 8 saw a sudden heavy snowfall, after which positions such as Bajrang Post in Kaksar probably moved down. With supplies running low and the threat perception being minimal, officials probably believed it would be safer to move downhill and return in June.

WHAT the Indian Army achieved at Kargil was to ensure that Pakistani intruders were evicted from large areas of occupied territory well within the 12-week time-frame senior officials had privately suggested at the beginning of the campaign. In an inversion of the conventional play of mountain war, the defenders of fortified positions, by most estimates, suffered twice as many casualties as India. Yet Pakistan's retreating forces succeeded in inflicting enormous military and economic costs on India, tying down five Indian brigades but losing only expendable and poorly paid infantry soldiers and irregulars. Secondly, even if the international reaction to its adventure did not play quite the way in which Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and General Pervez Musharraf may have expected, Pakistan has secured the U.S.' emergence as a key player in Jammu and Kashmir.

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In the years to come, Pakistan is certain to look to these twin outcomes of the Kargil conflict and see what opportunities may be found in them. There are already disturbing signs that an escalation of violence could be imminent in Jammu and Kashmir, a development which could open the way for renewed Western intervention. Incidentally, Western backing for India was greeted with cries of delight by the Union Government. In the absence of serious reflection by the security establishment, the victory the Indian soldiers have built at enormous cost could be subverted.

WITH an election campaign just round the corner, spurious triumphalism is almost certain to black out the disturbing possibilities that have emerged with the end of the conflict. Indian soldiers have held their ground against the most concerted attempt to transfigure Jammu and Kashmir since the war of 1965. Whether the BJP-led government will be able to do the same remains to be seen.

Sensitive cargo

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SUDHA MAHALINGAM

FIVE days before the North Korean vessel mv Ku Vol San was due to dock at Kandla, Russian intelligence authorities had alerted Indian officials about the sensitive nature of the cargo it carried. The ship was bound for Malta via Singapore, Kandla and Karachi.

The Government instructed the Department of Revenue Intelligence and the Research and Analysis Wing to mount a surveillance operation in the Arabian Sea. As soon as the ship docked at Kandla on June 18, ostensibly to offload 13,000 tonnes of sugar meant for a private Indian trader, the Customs authorities searched it. They faced resistance from the 44-member crew, and the initial search yielded nothing incriminating. The authorities had almost decided to let the ship and its crew off as the search had threatened to explode into a diplomatic disaster. It was then that Russian intelligence came up with specific information about the location of the suspected cargo; it was hidden in the ship's belly.

The cargo consisted of 148 boxes described as machinery and water-refining equipment. A team of senior Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) scientists, missile experts and military intelligence officers reached Kandla to examine the boxes. It turned out that the consignments were materials required for the production of tactical surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 300 km. They included fuel propulsion systems and hardware for the fabrication and launching of the missiles. According to a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs, the cargo included "special material and equipment, components for guidance system, blueprints, drawings and instruction manuals for the production of such missiles." On interrogation, the crew admitted that the cargo was meant for a Pakistani public sector company engaged in a missile development programme for the Army. It was also ascertained that the address in Malta, to which the boxes were purportedly destined, was fictitious.

It appears strange that a ship with sensitive cargo bound for Pakistan should dock at an Indian port, especially when the two countries were engaged in a conflict. Informed sources told Frontline that apparently neither the owner of the ship nor the key members of the crew were aware of the real nature of the cargo. The commercial vessel was on a routine run from Pyongyang to Malta, with stops at Kandla and Karachi, and was chosen to carry the cargo in the belief that it would not arouse any suspicion. The plan was to offload the cargo on the high seas off Karachi, for which arrangements had been made, these sources said.

INTELLIGENCE sources believe that North Korea has been bartering metals, missile components and technology in return for nuclear technology and materials from Pakistan. Sources say that initially North Korea supplied these components and technology in return for rice and sugar, which Pakistan exported to that country in March 1998. North Korea is learnt to have accepted the rice but refused the consignment of sugar. It was soon after this that Pakistan successfully test-fired the Ghauri missile. Subsequently, North Korea is learnt to have demanded hard currency payments for the supply of sensitive missile equipment and technology. Pakistan, which faced a resource crunch, was unable to pay up.

Pakistan pursues two parallel missile programmes - Ghauri, with liquid fuel technology, and Shaheen, with part-liquid and part-solid fuel technology. Ukraine and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States have supplied dual-use metals and technology to Pakistan. However, after German Police and Federal investigators intercepted and seized sensitive cargo and fissile materials bound for Pakistan through Bonn in 1997-98, this route was not available and Pakistan had to look elsewhere for its requirements.

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While Ghauri has already been successfully test-fired, Shaheen is still under development. Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, who heads the A.Q. Khan Laboratories, and who has taken the credit for Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, has been reportedly under considerable pressure to complete Shaheen. Speculation is rife that he may have traded nuclear materials/technology with North Korea in return for materials to complete Shaheen.

Ghauri is said to be a replica of North Korea's Nodong-I missile, which uses liquid fuel. Shaheen is to be based on the solid fuel technology of the Taepodong missile system of North Korea. North Korea was persuaded by the U.S. to abandon its nuclear programme in return for the supply of two research nuclear reactors meant for peaceful purposes. However, it is understood that North Korea has been clandestinely pursuing its nuclear weapons programme and scouting for technology and materials while Pakistan has been on the lookout for metals for critical technological areas of military application.

Sources said that Pakistani and North Korean officials had held a few meetings to clinch the deal. Indian intelligence authorities are aware of at least two such meetings, one held in Shen Zen in China in 1998 and another in New Delhi in January. It is also surmised that two or three consignments have already reached Pakistan.

The Indian authorities have taken the captain and crew of the ship into custody. A first information report has been registered by the Gujarat Police.

The joint statement

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Following is the text of the joint statement issued by U.S. President Bill Clinton and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif:

"PRESIDENT Clinton and Prime Minister Sharif share the view that the current fighting in the Kargil region of Kashmir is dangerous and contains the seeds of a wider conflict. They also agreed that it was vital for the peace of South Asia that the Line of Control in Kashmir be respected by both parties, in accordance with the 1972 Shimla accord.

"It was agreed between the President and the Prime Minister that concrete steps will be taken for the restoration of the Line of Control in accordance with the Shimla Agreement. The President urged an immediate cessation of the hostilities once these steps are taken.

"The Prime Minister and President agreed that the bilateral dialogue begun in Lahore in February provides the best forum for resolving all issues dividing India and Pakistan, including Kashmir. The President said he would take a personal interest in encouraging an expeditious resumption and intensification of those bilateral efforts, once the sanctity of the Line of Control has been fully restored. The President reaffirmed his intent to pay an early visit to South Asia."

The joint statement

cover-story

Following is the text of the joint statement issued by U.S. President Bill Clinton and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif:

"PRESIDENT Clinton and Prime Minister Sharif share the view that the current fighting in the Kargil region of Kashmir is dangerous and contains the seeds of a wider conflict. They also agreed that it was vital for the peace of South Asia that the Line of Control in Kashmir be respected by both parties, in accordance with the 1972 Shimla accord.

"It was agreed between the President and the Prime Minister that concrete steps will be taken for the restoration of the Line of Control in accordance with the Shimla Agreement. The President urged an immediate cessation of the hostilities once these steps are taken.

"The Prime Minister and President agreed that the bilateral dialogue begun in Lahore in February provides the best forum for resolving all issues dividing India and Pakistan, including Kashmir. The President said he would take a personal interest in encouraging an expeditious resumption and intensification of those bilateral efforts, once the sanctity of the Line of Control has been fully restored. The President reaffirmed his intent to pay an early visit to South Asia."

A 'sell-out' and some hard-sell

Facing mounting reverses on the battlefield and under international pressure, Nawaz Sharif agrees to a pullout from Kargil, and angers hawks at home.

THE countdown has begun. If Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Army stay the course, the Pakistani pullout from Kargil, already under way, will be completed in a few days. There could be twists and turns in the withdrawal process, but Sharif has so far given no indication that he will resile from his July 4 agreement with U.S. President Bill Clinton.

There is little doubt that Pakistan has capitulated: it buckled in the face of sustained international pressure and a determined operation by the Indian Army. Sharif's action in ordering the pullout from the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC) may have angered the hawks in the Pakistani establishment, but it has not caused many ripples on the streets of Pakistan. Officially, since it was a "war" between the Kashmir mujahideen and the Indian Army, the Pakistan Army was not "involved". The Army is angry but has gone along with the course steered by the political executive.

The July 11 meeting between the Directors-General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan was on the cards ever since Pakistan made the first move of "appealing" to the mujahideen to pull back. Whether it was the visit to India of special envoy Niaz Naik or the three visits to Pakistan of R.K. Mishra, editor of the Observer of Business and Politics, as the official emissary of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, diplomatic channels of communication were always open. Finally, of course, there was the Sharif-Clinton meeting and the U.S. President's telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

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The very fact that the pullout from the Kaksar and Mushkoh sectors was announced by both India and Pakistan shows that the contacts have been productive and that in the days to come the pullout will be extended to the entire Kargil sector.

Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz said at a briefing on July 11: "Following the mujahideen's positive response to our appeal to de-escalate in Kargil, the Government of Pakistan and the Government of India have been in contact on the question of the restoration of the LoC. The DGMOs of the two countries met today and agreed on the modalities for de-escalation including sector-wise cessation of ground and air hostilities to facilitate the mujahideen's disengagement."

Aziz further said: "We have been informed that disengagement from the Kaksar sector which began yesterday has been proceeding satisfactorily. The disengagement from the Mushkoh sector will commence tonight. Gradually the disengagement will be completed in the entire area..." He said that it had "always been our position that both Pakistan and India should respect the Line of Control, make efforts to de-escalate and promote peace through dialogue and contacts between civil and military officials. We also believe that both India and Pakistan should honour their commitment to implementing the Lahore Declaration in letter and spirit. The Lahore process, which envisaged an early solution of the Kashmir dispute, should be revived immediately."

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Not so surprisingly, Pakistan claims that the militants are "dispersing", not withdrawing to the Pakistan side of the LoC. This is consistent with Pakistan's position that the militants are "indigenous Kashmiris". In effect, by making such an "appeal", Pakistan has sought their "withdrawal" into Indian territory. Clearly, such a position does not belong in the real world.

Militant groups which are branded together under the United Jehad Council (UJC) first rejected the Pakistan Government's call for a withdrawal from Kargil, but that appears to be a case of posturing: after all, can "jehadi elements" be seen to be withdrawing from their religious "duty" of liberating Kashmir? It may therefore be better to declare premature martyrdom, save face and prepare for the same job at another place and another time.

Sharif is under fire at home, and ironically the fiercest attacks have come from a constituency that the Government has all along pandered to: those journalists, analysts and former Generals for whom India-baiting is a profession. They have accused him of having sold out in Washington after raising expectations of a profitable "war" for the "liberation" of Kashmir.

In the whole process, Sharif has demonstrated that he is a man not to be trusted by India, a man who has no consistent policy towards India and a man who presides over an imperfect, unstable and adventurist nation. The real danger to India, however, does not flow from Sharif himself, but from Pakistan's inability, after 52 years of existence, to conduct itself as a mature and democratic international player. When it comes to India, Pakistan appears to suffer from schizophrenia. If bilateral talks are to have meaning, Pakistan must first emerge as one nation, not a sum total of different centres of power.

In an action that is characteristic of Sharif, he rushed to Washington after he realised that the Kargil misadventure could not be sustained. He called up Clinton, requested an appointment and rushed over as soon as the President said yes.

Despite all the spin and twist Islamabad seeks to put on it, the Clinton-Sharif joint statement is quite clear about what is required of Pakistan: "It was agreed between the President and Prime Minister that concrete steps will be taken for the restoration of the Line of Control in accordance with the Simla Agreement. The President urged an immediate cessation of the hostilities once these steps are taken," the statement said.

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It added: "The Prime Minister and the President agreed that the bilateral dialogue begun in Lahore in February provides the best forum for resolving all issues dividing India and Pakistan, including Kashmir. The President said he would take a personal interest in encouraging an expeditious resumption and intensification of those bilateral efforts, once the sanctity of the Line of Control has been fully restored."

So what exactly does Sharif have to do? The first concrete step must come from Pakistan - it must "restore" the LoC by pulling back the intruders. (The fact that the joint statement does not use the term "intruders" does not in any way twist its meaning around.) And then Clinton will take a "personal interest" in encouraging a resumption of bilateral talks between India and Pakistan.

According to a report in the Pakistani newspaper The Nation (July 9), the U.S. and Pakistan had prepared their own drafts of a joint statement. In its draft the U.S. had described Pakistan as an "aggressor" and called upon Islamabad to withdraw its forces from Indian territory. "The process of marrying the two (Pakistani and U.S. drafts) saw many ups and downs. Finally, Sharif and Clinton personally gave it a final shape," the newspaper reported.

The "compromise solution" is obvious. The U.S., which has repeatedly called for a withdrawal of the intruders, did not want to embarrass Pakistan. Equally, it did not want to dilute its concerns. This explains the final formulation. The "gain" for Islamabad was also clear - Clinton would take a "personal interest" in "encouraging an expeditious resumption and intensification" of bilateral efforts to resolve Kashmir and other disputes. Clearly, this phraseology reflects Pakistan's concerns and represents the "only gain" for Islamabad. Whether it will find any concrete meaning, of course, remains to be seen.

The joint statement also reflects another major climbdown by Pakistan. Sharif agreed with Clinton that the Lahore process was the "best forum" to resolve all disputes between India and Pakistan, including Kashmir. So, what will happen to the United Nations and to Pakistan's calls for intervention by third parties? Has Pakistan changed its mind suddenly after shouting from the rooftops that the international community must intervene?

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The significance of the Sharif-Clinton statement will become more evident in the weeks and months to come. It shows that the U.S. is more than willing to play a role in resolving disputes between the two countries. Today such an intervention may favour India, tomorrow it may not.

After his return from London on July 8, where he met Prime Minister Tony Blair, Sharif went into a meeting with Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Pervez Musharraf and other senior aides. The next day he presided over a meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC), Pakistan's highest decision-making body on security matters. It comprises the Prime Minister, the three Service chiefs, the Foreign, Finance and Interior Ministers, and special invitees, depending on the issue under discussion.

An official statement said that the DCC expressed "satisfaction" that the Clinton-Sharif joint statement had incorporated the "main elements" of Pakistan's position. The DCC "decided that Pakistan should appeal to the mujahideen to help resolve the Kargil situation".

Soon after the DCC meeting ended, Sharif met with leaders of the Jehad Council in the presence of Gen. Musharraf and made an "appeal" to them to "help resolve" the Kargil situation. An official statement issued after a Cabinet meeting on July 10 said: "The Cabinet noted that the mujahideen have responded positively to the appeal of the Government of Pakistan to help resolve the Kargil situation." The statement further said that the Cabinet believed that Sharif's "peace initiative had helped to internationalise the Kashmir issue in a manner that had never been done before while peace in the region had been preserved... The Cabinet acclaimed the heroic contribution of the Kashmiri freedom fighters, particularly the martyrs of Kargil, who laid down their lives for a just and legitimate cause. While stating that their sacrifices would not be in vain, the Cabinet underlined Pakistan's principled policy of providing moral, diplomatic and political support to the freedom struggle of the people of Jammu and Kashmir."

After their meeting with Sharif, the militants denounced appeals for their withdrawal from Kargil. Denying press reports that the militants had agreed to consider the appeal, Council spokesman Abu Shahbaz said that a withdrawal from Kargil would deliver a body blow to the "jehad in Kashmir". The mujahideen, he said, would "fight to the end". "Not all the international conspiracies against the freedom movement of Kashmir can prevent us from moving towards the liberation of Kashmir," he said.

Clearly, the militants cannot be seen as sabotaging their own cause. Since their movement, backed by Pakistan's "political support", is to continue, withdrawal may prove to be disastrous for a movement that is looking for new volunteers from the "jehadi madrasas" in Pakistan.

Aziz Siddiqui, a former editor of The Frontier Post, wrote in Dawn on July 11: "It is hard to see that the defiant refusal of the mujahideen groups to climb down can be much more than a sort of whistling in the dark, a bid to acquire some dignity in defeat. Any indefinite continuance of their operation will require maintenance of a supply line of men and material which may not be easy without the cooperation of the Pakistan Army."

Despite the spin put on the Kargil developments, Pakistanis will find it hard to believe that they have gained from the enterprise. If the intrusion was part of a well-thought-out policy, why was it not pursued to its logical conclusion? If it was doomed from the beginning, why was it executed in the first place? Convincing answers will be hard to come by since the tradition of fudging and flattery, which characterises the Pakistani politico-military establishment, will not permit such a debate.

Siddiqui wrote in Dawn: "Humiliation at India's hand is hard to bear in any circumstance; it is the worst sin a government (or a cricket team) can commit. It shocks the people even more when they have been made to expect the opposite."

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Asad Durrani, a former chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence, argued in The News on July 9: "We had chinks in our armour, but as the events unfolded it was the Indian external pincer that forced us to agree to restore the LoC... Pakistan was pressured to restore the status quo ante, not only because the West desired to prevent turmoil in the region, but also due to our comparative vulnerability to coercion... It (Kargil) has not only brought home the realities of international politics... it has also taught us to regard events in their correct perspective, rather than getting carried away by self-serving hopes and hypes."

KARGIL was a result of the Pakistani establishment's anti-India posture. Cross-border bus rides have not altered this ground reality. Pakistan has been stoking the fires in Kashmir for 11 years; can a single bus trip change anything? Vajpayee's bus diplomacy was a media event - it was intended to project him as a peace-maker after the nuclear tests of May 1998. However, India had hardly done its homework, policy was absent and there was pressure from the United States.

An excellent Pakistani perspective on the bus diplomacy was provided by The Friday Times soon after the Lahore summit: "The transition from a status-quo, jehad-oriented, hawkish foreign policy vis-a-vis India to a forward-looking, moderate, peace-oriented foreign policy which Mr. Sharif appears to be advocating is going to be very difficult. Such a transition cannot take place without Mr. Sharif first cobbling a broad political consensus for it and then nudging the national security establishment to review its historic assumptions and accord its approval to a change of tack... but Mr. Sharif has made no effort to take the security establishment or the Pakistani people into confidence. He has taken no steps to bring the political opposition on board his non-ideological foreign policy agenda... Therefore, our fear is that, like his many other hastily assembled initiatives on equally contentious areas of economy and law, this (Lahore) initiative too is likely to flounder on the rock of institutional confusion, political indecision and jehadi counter-pressure."

The post-Lahore scene seems to match these words - in a sense, it has been true to script. India had done nothing to jeopardise the Lahore process. In March, in the cool climes of Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka, Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz and External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh were chalking out the methodology of implementing the Lahore agreements. In April, the Indian High Commission was liberally doling out visas to Pakistanis who wanted to travel to Mohali in Punjab to see the India-Pakistan one-day cricket match. Special trains were organised to take the Pakistani fans back and forth.

In May, when the Indian patrols returned to Kargil, they found Pakistani intruders occupying Indian posts. So who was responsible for the rupture - India or Pakistan? The finger must be pointed at Pakistan - or, more specifically, both its civilian and military leaderships - for having ruined what could have proved to be a long roller-coaster ride to better relations.

As one diplomat in Islamabad put it: "Every Prime Minister who takes power in New Delhi thinks that Pakistan is virgin territory waiting to be explored." Clearly, the BJP does not have an understanding of the dynamics of India-Pakistan relations, or it would not have used persons like R.K. Mishra as emissaries.

At the other extreme, one sees the ludicrous spectacle of the Indian Government banning Pakistan Television broadcasts and blocking access to the Web site of Dawn. It is clear that notwithstanding the creation of a new bureaucratic structure like the National Security Council, the Indian establishment suffers from a poverty of strategic thinking.

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Did the BJP ever consider the possibility that Pakistan would be emboldened by its nuclear weapon status? There have been reports that Pakistan had four times in the last 15 years planned to execute the Kargil operation, but had to abort it on each occasion. But, now, when it has the "ultimate weapon", Pakistan thought nothing of the Kargil adventure. It may have backfired, but the absence of strategic thinking shows the BJP establishment in a poor light.

Pakistan has begun calling back its men from Kargil, but it is clear that there is no change in its policy of sending "jehadi elements" into Kashmir. If anything, an Army that is smarting from the experience of having to listen to political dictates may step up the infiltration into Kashmir from other areas on the LoC - or try some desperate actions elsewhere. The acknowledgement of "valiant actions" by the mujahideen is not mere talk; the Pakistani establishment genuinely believes it.

India must talk to Pakistan, but only on an equitable basis. Islamabad should not be given any concession following its Kargil misadventure. The infiltration into Kashmir must stop before a genuine dialogue process can begin.

A firm American demand

What does Washington's prescription for Nawaz Sharif in the context of Kargil signify in real terms?

IF the Pakistani propaganda machine is anything to go by, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did a big favour to the United States by visiting Washington on July 4 - his primary objective being the averting of a "war" in the subcontinent. But the Clinton administration is not unaware of the fact that official Islamabad is desperately looking for ways to save its Prime Minister politically.

Whether President Bill Clinton should have in the first place given an appointment to Nawaz Sharif is one question. But in many quarters there is the conviction that the terms of the meeting were not dictated by the Pakistan Prime Minister. In fact, one argument is that Sharif had perhaps to agree to every single point raised and to sign the Joint Statement even before Clinton agreed to meet him during the long Fourth of July weekend.

Notwithstanding Islamabad's blatant disinformation campaign on the nature and scope of the three-hour meeting, one cannot ignore what was put in print by way of the 18-line Joint Statement. But things that were not said in it found their way into Pakistan's "interpretation" of the statement.

Nawaz Sharif agreed with Clinton on some crucial points. For instance he agreed that it was vital for peace in South Asia that both India and Pakistan respect the Line of Control (LoC) in accordance with the 1972 Simla Accord; that "concrete steps" would be taken to restore the sanctity of the LoC. The President urged an immediate cessation of hostilities "once these steps are taken".

The communique also goes on to say that both Clinton and Sharif agreed that the bilateral dialogue process that had begun in Lahore was the "best forum" to resolve all issues, including Kashmir, and that the President would take a personal interest in encouraging an expeditious resumption and intensification of the bilateral efforts "once the sanctity of the Line of Control has been fully restored."

The Pakistani "spin" was only to be expected, for the Prime Minister could not return home "empty-handed". Perhaps the photo session with Clinton at the end of the talks could have well served the purpose of whipping up the feeling back home as to how "close" Sharif was to Clinton. The "spin" came not by way of a masterful interpretation of the Joint Statement but in putting together things that were not there.

According to Pakistani officials in Washington, who gave their own "meaning" to the Joint Statement, Islamabad would use its "influence" to "appeal" to the militants, or the mujahideen; it was made to appear as though there was no commitment on the part of Sharif to withdraw Pakistani forces from the Indian side of the LoC. The Joint Statement makes no reference to any militants or the so-called freedom fighters who suddenly appeared on the Indian side; rather there is an explicit call to Pakistan to pull back its forces from the other side of the LoC in order to reduce tensions.

More than the withdrawal of forces, what was emphasised was a firm American demand for the restoration of the LoC and for respect of its sanctity.

Pakistani officials sought to appease the fundamentalists back home by saying that the mujahideen elements had achieved their objective of drawing international attention to the Kashmir issue: it is a different matter if the hardliners accepted this "compliment". Clinton's commitment to take a "personal interest" in the Kashmir issue was highlighted as yet another selling point. This certainly was stretching the agreement a little too far.

Senior administration officials say that the Joint Statement is quite clear on Clinton's stand that the Lahore Process provided the best forum to resolve all disputes between India and Pakistan on a bilateral basis. The emphasis is on the word 'bilateral'.

If the Pakistani propaganda machine harped on the gains made at the talks, U.S. officials who briefed the media focussed on Kargil. One official remarked: "... The purpose of this meeting is to address the immediate crisis which has been unfolding over the last several weeks. That is the urgency. And clearly once you have addressed this immediate crisis, there will be opportunities to address all issues, again within the context of Lahore."

Asked if the U.S. understanding of the restoration of the LoC in accordance with the Simla Agreement involved all the alterations that came to be made since the accord was signed in 1972, a senior official said: "We have read the Simla Agreement,we read the 43-page annexe which delineates the Line of Control. But this meeting today was not about the history of that agreement, or, indeed, the history of the Kashmir crisis. It is about this particular situation in Kargil with those posts that have been overtaken, and dealing with that."

WHETHER Nawaz Sharif achieved the "political cover" in his meeting with Clinton and will therefore be in a position to implement what he agreed to remains to be seen. In the aftermath of the talks there has been genuine concern in the U.S. over Sharif's capacity to implement the agreement. The impression gained by the administration is that he can pull it off, for two reasons. First, there is a perception that the opposition in Pakistan to the Washington proposal comes from the known hardline elements who would have opposed the Prime Minister, no matter what the outcome of the meeting was. Thus far the U.S. has seen little evidence of a "nation rising in protest". Initial reports indicated that even the armed forces may not stand in the way - if the statements of General Pervez Musharraf, the Chief of the Army Staff, were anything to go by.

Secondly, the U.S. administration is of the firm view that if Islamabad really wants to tell the terrorists and the mercenaries where to get off, it really can. The international community knows that these fighters, who are holed up in the mountain peaks on the Indian side, are sustained by Pakistan.

Prior to the Washington meeting, senior U.S. officials freely talked of "hundreds" of Pakistani regulars being involved in the fighting in Kargil. Pakistan's claim that it has no control over the "freedom fighters" and that its forces are not involved in the intrusions in the sector do not cut much ice with them. In fact, these claims are dismissed with contempt.

Then why should the Clinton administration look for ways to bail out Pakistan? The U.S. does not see the prospect of Pakistan formally going under in terms of its best national and strategic interest, or that of India having to put up with a failed state on its borders. The apprehensions of Islamic fundamentalism aside, Washington is mainly worried about elements in Pakistan's nuclear establishment signing on with terrorists and rogue states in the international system.

Mediation by any other name

AIJAZ AHMAD cover-story

The defusing of the Kargil crisis is likely to see intensification of external, especially U.S., pressure on India to resolve the Kashmir issue. We may not call it mediation, but we are quite in the middle of it.

THE President of the United States went to work on the Fourth of July. Mindful of the sensitivities of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in New Delhi, the White House claimed that a meeting had been hastily arranged in response to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's urgent request. The facts would seem to be otherwise.

The weekend of June 26-27 appears to have been decisive. It was then, at the end of the week, that Pakistan's Chief of the Army Staff, General Pervez Musharraf, casually told presspersons in Karachi that Sharif would soon be meeting Clinton. Musharraf had just concluded intense negotiations with Gen. Anthony Zinni, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. General Command, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Gibson Lanpher, who had been in Islamabad since June 23, and therefore had reason to know. On that same day, June 27, The Sunday Telegraph reported in London that the mechanics of a negotiated withdrawal by Pakistan-inspired forces occupying the heights of Tiger Hill, Marpo La and Batalik was a topic of conversation between Zinni and Musharraf. In Karachi, where Musharraf himself was to make that statement, Dawn, the oldest of English dailies in Pakistan, went further and wrote: "Pakistan had insisted on reciprocity. For example, a promise by the Indians for time-bound discussions on Kashmir in return for assisting the mujahideen to home bases. Pakistan, on its part, would be prepared to consider as part of the permanent solution the inclusion of the entire Valley and the Muslim parts of Jammu in the Azad Kashmir territory - a settlement on the line of the Owen Dixon plan."

That "the Owen Dixon plan" is very much in the air these days has been reported in Frontline ("Broadening the base", June 18, 1999; "The Many Roads to Kargil", July 16, 1999), and we shall return to the matter presently. That "the Valley and the Muslim parts of Jammu" should be included "in the Azad Kashmir territory" is of course Pakistan's maximum demand which India is most unlikely to concede. But that some variant of this solution, interim and much softer, is being prepared seems beyond doubt, as we can surmise from the contours of the plan for the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir that Farooq Abdullah's Regional Autonomy Committee had released already, on April 13, as well as the carefully prepared proposal that Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, published on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times on June 8 under the significant title "Camp David for Kashmir"(reproduced in Frontline, July 2).

We shall return to this key document later. Two things may be noted immediately, however. One is that what happened in Washington on the Fourth of July was itself a miniaturised Camp David, with Pakistani and American specialist groups sitting across the table, yet again, to hammer out the final wording of the joint statement; U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger clearing the wording with his Indian counterpart Brajesh Mishra on the telephone; and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee available and waiting at the other end of another telephone line while Sharif and Clinton met in person. The latter is known to have called Vajpayee in the middle of that meeting. Clinton's "personal interest in encouraging an expeditious resumption and intensification" of bilateral efforts that the joint statement promises seems to hold at least a faint promise of a more comprehensive and prolonged 'Camp David' through other means. In any case, the phrasing does come very close to what Dawn had indicated on June 27 as Pakistan's basic negotiating position: withdrawal of the 'mujahideed' in return for a promise for a time-bound discussion on Kashmir. K. Natwar Singh, the seasoned diplomat that he is, was actually being circumspect when he merely said that the phrase "personal interest" amounted to third party intervention.

The other curiosity is that the ink on the joint statement was barely dry when Benazir Bhutto started indicating an imminent return to Pakistan. As if on cue, her party has promised a massive welcome rally, on the model of 1986, warning the government not to act in haste. Now, the reason why she has been cooling her heels abroad is that she and her husband have both been sentenced on corruption charges, and husband Zardari is not only held in prison but is alleged to have been gruesomely tortured quite recently. Cruelty comes more or less naturally to Sharif. What assurances has Benazir received, and from whom, to start contemplating a spectacular return? After all, she was similarly cooling her heels in foreign countries more than a decade ago when Gen. Zia-ul-Haq's body went up in a ball of fire over Bahawalpur in an air crash that has never been adequately explained. Then, too, the Americans had arranged for her to return and go straight into an election that she was bound to win. It is too early to say whether or not they would be able or even wholly willing to stage a second coming for her. They would in any case like to indicate to Sharif that they have options.

When Musharraf told the press of Sharif's impending meeting with Clinton, over a week before the event, too many people thought that he had spoken out of turn. Not so. He seems to have by then worked out with Gen. Zinni not just the politics of Kargil, for which Lanpher was at least equally suitable, but the great technical details involved in the proposed withdrawal, in the contemplated "restoration" of the "sanctity" of the Line of Control (LoC), and in the radical disagreement between Pakistan and India over the implications of the fact that the LoC does not extend to Siachen even on the maps, beyond the point that is known as NJ9842, even though the 1949 agreement records a summary verbal reference that beyond that point the line went "north to the glaciers". He knew what he had offered Zinni on all these counts, and what the latter thought of it.

By then Lanpher and Niaz Naik, the retired Foreign Secretary of Pakistan and a trusted adviser of Nawaz Sharif, had spent the whole weekend in Delhi, conferring with Brajesh Mishra and Vajpayee who also now knew what Zinni had been offered and what Washington's view of that was going to be. Naik returned to Pakistan on June 27, the day Musharraf announced the Sharif visit; the latter, in turn, cut short his visit to China on June 28, in view of his impending visit to Washington, after he had concluded his meetings with all the key Chinese leaders that he was scheduled to meet. Clinton modified his vacation plan to satisfy not only the Pakistan Prime Minister but Vajpayee as well, as we shall see.

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WHY the urgency? It is worth recalling, I think, that a very large number of intruders have been routinely crossing the LoC from the Pakistan side, year after year, for over a decade now, trained and armed for organising insurrection on Indian territory, leading to very great and constant tragedies in the Valley as well as Jammu. It has been a very long time since either side has treated the LoC with any sense of "sanctity". Why was respect for the "sanctity" of the LoC now so urgently affirmed by all and sundry?

Part of the reason undoubtedly is that the Kargil operation was of a different order. Musharraf himself has said that between 1,500 and 2,000 fighters from the Pakistani side were involved; reports in the Indian media suggest that they were spread across roughly 1,000 sq km, including the majestic heights. As of July 8, the Indian official claim was that 643 intruders and 321 Indian men, including 23 officers, had died. The figure does not include the maimed and the injured.

So, we have a curious situation that speaks volumes about the mentality of ruling circles around the world. The "sanctity" of the LoC meant little for a decade while the terrorised populations of the Valley and Jammu were involved, but restoration of this "sanctity" became so very important when fixed bases on stretches of territory became the issue; in war, territory is always more important than the people who live in those territories. By now it has also become clear that Pakistan started preparing for this operation soon after the nuclear blasts last summer; by October even some reports had appeared to that effect in sections of the British press. The United States, meanwhile, had greatly intensified surveillance over the whole length of the Indo-Pakistan border, including the LoC and the Siachen triangle where the boundaries of India, Pakistan and China meet in glacial silence. It seems improbable that the U.S. did not know of the movement of men and material. There is no public record suggesting that the U.S. shared this information with India or urged Pakistan to abandon the project.

Clinton's first calls to Sharif and Vajpayee came on June 14 and 15, after three weeks of a "war-like situation", as Vajpayee carefully described it. Some ground must by then have been prepared for such calls to be meaningful. Then, over the next two weeks, things moved at dizzying speed until Musharraf announced the prospect of a Clinton-Sharif meeting, which indeed took place a week later. Why so great an urgency that the U.S. President was found at Blair House on the Fourth of July?

By then, the real scale of Pakistan's operation had become quite clear. That Pakistan had established fixed bases meant that it expected to come under attack, suffer casualties, move when absolutely necessary, re-group elsewhere, and so on, until one of three things happened: (a) the Indian response would be so restrained that at least a goodly number of the intruders would be able to hold on until the winter set in; or, (b) the Indian determination to conclude the operation before September would be so great that casualties would mount, the armed forces would start clamouring to cross the LoC and the threat of a larger war would help focus everyone's mind; or, (c) India would seek international mediation and the great powers would oblige and Pakistan could then extract at least minimal promises, threatening more hostilities in other places and at other times.

By mid-June, a combination of (b) and (c) had come to pass, and even (a) could not be entirely ruled out. That Pakistan would be approaching the countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) for mediation was part of its plan. What now changed was that India too started imploring the NATO countries for mediation, competing with Pakistan for attention and sympathy. Well before Clinton and Sharif agreed that "concrete steps" shall be taken to respect the LoC in accordance with the Simla Agreement, India had been requesting the G-8 countries to take such "concrete steps" as blocking economic assistance to Pakistan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other multilateral agencies. It seems quite clear by now that Vajpayee's letter to Clinton that Brajesh Mishra handed over to Sandy Berger on the eve of the G-8 meeting in Cologne essentially said that India would soon have to make the decision on crossing the LoC and time was running out for the G-8 countries to do something. By June 26, when Zinni returned to the United States while Lanpher and Naik appeared more or less simultaneously in Delhi, the Indian Army chief, Gen. V.P. Malik, was indicating that he would go to the Union Cabinet for permission to cross the LoC. The urgency for drastic action was at hand.

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EASIER said than done, though. Everyone knew that Pakistan had by then concentrated enough forces on its side of the LoC to engage India in a limited battle within Kashmir, but also that any significant escalation beyond that would also mean that the Kashmir issue would return to the United Nations Security Council. The main favour Clinton did to India was that he took into his own hands the problem that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had sought at one point to mediate, and he moved quickly enough. It is ironic that India and the United States have now become partners in sidelining the United Nations as a dangerous institution that may actually respond to the interests of all its members, while direct Great Power mediation is what we are actively seeking.

The U.S. of course did not go so far as to try and block financial assistance from any quarter at all. On June 29, well before Sharif's visit was officially announced in the United States, State Department spokesman James Rubin said that the U.S. had no plans to influence the IMF. Before Sharif had concluded his visit to Beijing, China and Pakistan signed a fresh agreement for establishing in Pakistan with Chinese assistance a new factory for the manufacture of aircraft for the Pakistan Air Force. In remarks quoted in People's Daily, Prime Minister Zhu Rongji referred to Kashmir as "a historic problem involving territorial, religious, ethnic and other elements." The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) quickly passed the Pakistani resolution affirming the Kashmiri people's right of self-determination.

The Indian media reported it all, but in small print as it were, refusing to draw the conclusion that in virtually every respect and in all the usual quarters it was business as usual and that Pakistan's great "isolation" in the "international community" was restricted to the scale of its operation in Kargil beyond the LoC, which of course even the Pakistan government must have anticipated before launching the operation. For them, the question had always been: how far will the condemnation go, in material terms, and what else, other than the condemnation, could they earn?

If Gen. Musharraf was the first to announce Sharif's projected visit, he also affirmed the Army's support for the outcome of the visit with remarkable alacrity. He was the first person within Pakistan to use the language that Foreign Office spokesman Tariq Altaf was to use in Washington even before Sharif's delegation left the United States: that Pakistan "will appeal and use its influence" with the mujahideen. The Urdu daily, Jung, reported Musharraf as saying: "The mujahideed will be asked to change their position. It remains to be seen how they will respond." Saying that there was "complete understanding" between the Army and the civilian government, he went on to praise the Sharif-Clinton agreement because, as he put it, it recognised "the need to address the current volatile situation in Kargil within the context of the larger Kashmir situation." This is exactly what Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz was to say in his much publicised interviews in London, on his way back to Pakistan. By the time Sharif got up to present to the nation the agreed position arrived at during the session of the Defence Council, the high-power military-civilian committee, the language had become the official line of the Government of Pakistan.

My guess is that the language had been developed before Sharif went to Washington and that Clinton knew of it, in general terms, before he signed the joint statement. What the United States actually expects and what undertakings Pakistan has actually offered are still shrouded in mystery, all the public posturing in various quarters notwithstanding. At no point has this diplomatic process been even remotely transparent, and there is no reason to believe that it has become so in the wake of a single statement. The Indian position that there can be no ceasefire until after the Kargil intrusion has been withdrawn has certainly been upheld; nothing short of it could be tenable. Similarly, it goes largely in India's favour that the statement calls for "the restoration of the Line of Control in accordance with the Simla Agreement."

On the other hand, the "forces" that are to return have not been identified as personnel of the Pakistan Army, and Pakistan has won at least three further concessions: that Kashmir is indeed an issue between India and Pakistan that is yet to be "resolved"; that the LoC is to be respected by "both" sides; and that it is Clinton who will ensure "expeditious resumption and intensification" of talks to resolve these issues, including Kashmir.

FOUR actions from the Pakistan side can now be expected. First, having held its positions in Kargil long enough to have forced India to seek mediation, it will withdraw all or most of its personnel from the positions which the Indian armed forces have yet not overrun, and the mujahideen will now re-group, to survive elsewhere in the area and periodically to carry out small actions, mostly on a level that does not threaten the overall process but still keeps the pot boiling on a low simmer. Second, Pakistan seems to have used the cover of the Kargil operation to infiltrate a large number of terrorists into the Valley and the Poonch-Rajouri sector, and killings there will revive, as appears to be happening already; the emphasis will be sought to be shifted from "occupation" to "insurgency". Third, Pakistan will remind the United States that it has always regarded the 1984 Indian occupation of Siachen as a "gross violation" of the Simla Agreement and that the seven meetings that have taken place between Pakistan and India over this issue have failed to produce an agreement, the last one having broken down in November 1998, just about the time Pakistan seems to have begun the Kargil operation in earnest.

All this will be used to argue that India is not respecting the LoC either and that while Pakistan will take "concrete steps" to defuse the crisis, none of these problems can be actually resolved without addressing the main issue of Kashmir once and for all. We can undoubtedly show that the LoC never covered Siachen, but that only proves that it is yet to be demarcated there; it does not automatically endorse our claim to it, which is itself based on a successful grab and the further claim that the whole of Jammu and Kashmir - Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir included - is ours in any case. Furthermore, Pakistan can be undoubtedly shown as being the aggressive party on most immediate counts. The key fact remains, however, that there is no international consensus in favour of the Indian position that J&K - even the whole of J&K - is non-negotiable Indian territory. The language of the joint statement describes it as an issue yet to be resolved, which is the crux of the international consensus itself.

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To the extent that the Kargil situation gets defused, to that same extent the pressure on India shall increase for resolving the Kashmir issue. The real pressure will probably not come until after the September-October elections. However, once a new government is in place and Clinton begins to prepare for his projected trip to South Asia, pressure will mount for an "expeditious resumption and intensification" of the process, in order to show him something tangible when he arrives. We may not call it mediation, but we are quite in the middle of it.

We need to be soberly sceptical regarding the dominant interpretation in India that the joint statement is some unalloyed victory for us; that a new watershed has been reached in Indo-American relations; that Pakistan is henceforth isolated in the comity of nations; that Sharif is similarly isolated within Pakistan; that the civilian government is paying for the blunders of the Pakistan Army, and so on. Just as the Army high command was careful to inform Nawaz Sharif and take his permission before launching the Kargil operation, Sharif has been careful in not just informing but directly involving his Chief of the Army Staff in the whole diplomatic process. The key negotiations took place not between Sharif and Clinton, not even Sartaj Aziz and Strobe Talbott, but between Musharraf and Zinni. If Sharif loses office over this issue then Musharraf too will go, and, under the circumstances, they can only be replaced by far more rabidly Islamicist generals. The Americans know it and they could hardly have participated in a process that would yield such a dire result. Their position is likely to be much closer to the plan that Benazir published in The New York Times.

BEFORE discussing that plan, a couple of things should be clarified. The first is that precisely because she is currently not holding any office in Pakistan, Benazir is free to spell out in public the contours of a future settlement that Sharif, carrying the weight of prime ministerial office, cannot. And, because of her freedom, she is the right person for the Americans to send up the trial balloons, with proposals that are not exactly on the table but very much in the air, ready to land in prime ministerial laps. Second, Z.A. Bhutto built his entire career on extremely frenzied anti-India hysteria, which then his daughter, Benazir, also fully exploited when she herself was Prime Minister; it is unlikely that she went through so radical a change of heart just because she met Shimon Peres, as she so disingenuously claims. The plan has come from sources, perhaps a conjunction of several sources, which we do not know. And, most important, she and Nawaz Sharif may be mortal enemies of each other but Benazir still aspires to return to Pakistan as Prime Minister, and it is most unlikely that she would publicly present a plan for which she has not already obtained considerable support from policy-making institutions in Pakistan as a whole. As I have emphasised previously, it is simply foolish to think that Pakistan lacks a coherent state authority, beyond the personalities, that set long-term objectives.

The general principle Benazir proposes is that of what she calls "deliberate, incremental advance", so that the hardest decisions are left to an indefinite future. The plan itself has the following components:

1. "The two sections of Kashmir should have open and porous borders. Both sections would be demilitarised and patrolled by either an international peacekeeping force or a joint Indian-Pakistani peacekeeping force."

2. "Both legislative councils would continue to meet separately and on occasion jointly" but "none of these steps would prejudice or prejudge the position of both countries on the disputed areas."

3. "The borders... would be opened for unrestricted trade, cultural cooperation and exchange... leading to "the creation of a South Asian Free Market zone."

4. "Only after all of these confidence-building mechanisms" and a "significant set period of time (Camp David called for a five-year transition), would the parties commence discussions on a formal and final resolution to the Kashmir problem."

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She ends her short piece with the words of warning: "The clock is ticking. The time to act is now." It is plausible that the Pakistan Army staged the Kargil action so that the ticking of the clock may get a bit louder, for all to hear. This, too, is paradoxical. By the middle of summer 1998, insurgency in Kashmir had come substantially under India's control and Pakistan, the inferior military power, had no means to expedite the pace. Then we gifted them Pokhran-II, nuclear parity, competitive weaponisation. When Kargil exploded, the world sat up to listen to their case on Kashmir in a way it had not done in a long time. And we were the ones who had to run for cover, begging the superpower to intervene on our behalf and feeling grateful that it had been even-handed.

One does not know the behind-the-scenes secrets but there is no public evidence of any major tension between the Army and the civilian government in Pakistan; Sharif's own immediate future is probably safe. Second, a lot of war hysteria had been whipped up in Pakistan, as if the time to liberate Kashmir had come, but outside the rabid Islamicists, there was little enthusiasm for the venture. So long as the inner unity of the armed forces remains intact, the government will successfully contain the immediate agitations from the Islamicist extremists; they are powerful but they cannot succeed without a split in the Army, which does not seem to be at hand. Once the dust settles, the government will prevail in arguing that the Kargil operation has helped "internationalise" the Kashmir issue, bringing the day of "liberation" closer. Even the Islamicists will have to come along, just as the BJP has been able to silence the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Bajrang Dal and so on by assuring them that the day of the building of the Ram mandir in Ayodhya is drawing nearer.

Pakistani society has not become notably more right-wing or less attached to democratic values owing to the Kargil crisis; these deficits in Pakistan came earlier. Ours has! There is now a widespread consensus that the government should not be criticised while the fighting lasts, as if democratic dissent was a peacetime indulgence. Israel feels more beleaguered than any other nation on earth, and yet it has not been involved in a single military action over the past 30 years without being challenged, by one group or another and for one reason or another, on the streets of Tel Aviv. In India, by contrast, we do not get a decent protest from the Press Council of India, for example, when the government denies us the right to read a Pakistani newspaper, or watch Pakistan Television. A government that has lost the confidence of the Lower House refuses to call into session the Upper House, but the Opposition parties which had defeated this government on the floor are reduced merely to pleading for the favour of being listened to. Kapil Dev and Ajay Jadeja start preaching what Thackeray was preaching last year, and receive accolades from across the country, including Raj Singh Dungarpur, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, whose offices had been attacked by Thackeray's goons last year.

Meanwhile, an extraordinary consensus develops, all the way from L. K. Advani, against whom charges are about to be framed for his role in the Ayodhya demolition, to Rajeev Dhavan, a lawyer of impeccable liberal credentials and well-deserved repute, that Pakistan was a "rogue state", "terrorist state" and so on, forgetting that no one demanded that India be declared a "rogue state" when a government here was supporting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) or when a Prime Minister colluded in letting loose Bhindranwale upon the country itself. The BJP's own allies seem to have retreated into the background so much that it has effectively become the government of the BJP plus Fernandes alone. It is difficult to foresee the consequence of such subservience for the foreseeable evolution of the polity.

Meanwhile, the clock shall go on ticking, louder and louder, because it now has nuclear energy infused into it.

Political echoes

There is a national consensus on supporting the Indian armed forces' operations in Kargil, but in the guise of parading their patriotism some elements within the ruling coalition and outside it have discouraged a debate on the government's handling of the situation.

FOR the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition, a political formation given to invoking "nationalistic" rhetoric even in times of peace, the war-like situation in Kargil has provided a platform to parade its patriotism.

Simultaneously, elements within the ruling coalition and some others outside it have taken to casting aspersions on the nationalist commitment of some Opposition parties and leaders. They have sought to avert a national debate on the government's handling of the Kargil situation on the specious plea that such a debate would lower the morale of the armed forces. Some Opposition parties too have been swayed by the winds of "competitive patriotism" and jingoism.

The BJP-led government has stubbornly refused to concede a proposal by several Opposition parties to convene a special session of the Rajya Sabha in order to discuss the Kargil conflict. In its view, any criticism of the government's handling of the situation would amount to criticising the defence forces, which would have serious consequences for the soldiers' morale. "We cannot afford to have a 'fight' in Parliament when our soldiers are bravely fighting the enemy," a leader of the ruling coalition said. A few others felt that it would be "unpatriotic" to allow criticism of defence policy in Parliament "at a time when our forces require complete political and moral backing in their battle against the enemy."

However, the all-party meeting held on June 28 and the conference of Chief Ministers on July 7 have shown that, if anything, unfettered expression of views could in fact strengthen the national resolve and convey the message that the nation was united in facing up to the challenge posed by the Pakistan-backed infiltrators.

In response to the opinions voiced at the Chief Ministers' conference, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said that he was "heartened"by the national consensus on the need to defeat Pakistan's designs. Although there were political differences, the participants had upheld the primacy of national security, he said. There had been sharp disagreements among the Chief Ministers on the issue of convening a session of the Rajya Sabha, but he would examine the matter afresh, Vajpayee added.

While all the Chief Ministers extended their support to the armed forces and to the Union Government in dealing with the infiltration, a few who belong to parties that make up the national Opposition expressed reservations over the government's handling of the conflict, particularly in allowing such a serious situation to develop along the Line of Control. At least seven Chief Ministers - those of Orissa, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala - urged the government to convene a Rajya Sabha session. Two Congress(I) Chief Ministers, S.C.Jamir (Nagaland) and Luizinho Faleiro (Goa), did not participate in the conference.

According to Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting and government spokesperson Pramod Mahajan, at least 13 Chief Ministers - those of Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Gujarat, Punjab, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Maharashtra - opposed the demand for such a session. The Congress(I) Chief Ministers wanted the government to bring out a White Paper on the conflict in Kargil.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal, which is in power in Bihar, is known to support the demand for a Rajya Sabha session, but Chief Minister Rabri Devi did not raise the issue. Karnataka Chief Minister J.H. Patel, who belongs to the Janata Dal, opposed the demand for a session even though party president Sharad Yadav had expressed his support for it at the all-party meeting.

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According to Prakash Karat, member of the Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) who represented his party at the all-party meeting, the majority of the parties urged the government to convene a Rajya Sabha session. In his opinion, it made little sense to take a head-count of the Chief Ministers in this matter; given the war-like situation on the Kashmir border and the fact that the government functioned in a caretaker capacity and the Lok Sabha had been dissolved, it was incumbent on the government to convene the only House of Parliament that existed, he said.

Karat indicated that the Opposition would step up pressure on the government and urge the President to exercise his powers if the government failed to advise him to convene the session. On July 9, a Congress(I) delegation led by Balram Jakhar met President K.R. Narayanan and requested him to direct the government to convene the Upper House. The delegation said that the session was necessary to evolve a collective national response to recent events. "Allowing a caretaker government to function for too long a period without accountability to the democratic process is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution," the delegation said.

Some political observers believe that the government is fighting shy of a Rajya Sabha session because, unlike at the conference of Chief Ministers - where it got away with merely making a statement - in a Rajya Sabha debate the government will be held accountable and its acts of omission and commission will be exposed. Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy said that the government's reluctance to face a Rajya Sabha session stemmed from this fear.

At the conference, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh pointed out that peace had prevailed between India and Pakistan for 27 years after the signing of the Simla Agreement . He said that the roots of the Kargil conflict could be traced to the Pokhran-II nuclear blasts.

Union Home Minister L.K. Advani, in his address, said that although the Simla Agreement had brought about peace on the border, it had not enabled "complete peace". Pakistan had resorted to a proxy war, first in Punjab and later in Jammu and Kashmir, he said. Advani noted that about 1,700 soldiers died in Punjab between 1984 and 1994, whereas Pakistan had suffered no casualties. In Kashmir, he said, 1,845 Indian soldiers had died between 1989 and 1998; since the Kargil conflict had begun, 270 Indian soldiers had died, Advani said.

THE Opposition's demand for a Rajya Sabha session has a curious precedent, set during the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962. Ironically, it was Vajpayee, as the leader of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh's parliamentary delegation, who urged Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to convene an "emergency" session of Parliament to discuss the crisis. Newspaper reports of that period reveal that the Jan Sangh pushed a strident line and demanded that India break off diplomatic relations with China and declare China an "enemy country" (The Hindu, October 22, 1962). A delegation led by Vajpayee met Nehru on October 26, 1962 and appealed to him to relieve V.K. Krishna Menon of the Defence portfolio; it wanted Nehru himself to take over the portfolio in order to "create confidence in the country about the Government's firm determination to eject the Chinese invaders from Indian territory" (The Hindustan Times, October 27, 1962).

The delegation further told Nehru: "So far, the Indian defence had been passive in the sense that they had been allowing the Chinese to select the point of attack. Indian defence had only been on the checkposts. The Indian forces should take initiative in their hands" (The Hindustan Times, October 27, 1962).

Nehru conceded the Jan Sangh's demand and convened a parliamentary session on November 8. Vajpayee, in his speech in the Upper House, accused the Nehru Government of failing to introspect and of neglecting national security. He wanted an inquiry into why soldiers were not posted in adequate numbers in the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA).

Congress(I) leaders have pointed out that in 1962, Vajpayee and the Jan Sangh had, even before the war ended, pressed for a critical analysis of what went wrong and criticised the Government. No one had questioned Vajpayee's patriotism even when he had harshly criticised Nehru's "lapses". They wondered whether Vajpayee would now display the same degree of statesmanship as Nehru had in 1962.

AT the conference, some Chief Ministers wondered whether there was a constitutional provision that allowed the convening of a session of the Upper House when the Lok Sabha stood dissolved and whether such a session could be convened when elections to the Lok Sabha had been announced.

There is no precedent for the convening of a Rajya Sabha session in isolation (during the interregnum between the dissolution of a Lok Sabha and the holding of elections). However, there is nothing in the Constitution that prevents the Union Cabinet from advising the President to call a session of the Rajya Sabha in such circumstances. In fact, President Narayanan had suggested to the government that the Cabinet advise him to call a Rajya Sabha session. Vajpayee had indicated to the President that a session could be called in the first week of July, but he has not acted on the proposal, evidently under pressure from within the ruling coalition.

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Constitutional experts say that it is not unusual for the Rajya Sabha to continue its session even after the Lok Sabha has been prorogued. Subhash Kashyap, former Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha, said that the Constitution provides for the convening of a Rajya Sabha session even after the dissolution of the Lok Sabha, in order to approve the proclamation of a state of emergency. However, he said, the present controversy seemed to be of a political nature, considering that the ruling coalition was in a minority in the Upper House.

WHETHER or not Kargil gets to be debated in the Rajya Sabha, there is enough to indicate that it will figure as a campaign issue in the Lok Sabha elections. Congress(I) president Sonia Gandhi, on her campaign tours, has criticised the government for not pre-empting the Kargil crisis. The ruling coalition believes that it can make electoral gains if the infiltrators are driven out before the elections.

The government, after initially signalling that it might prefer a postponement of the parliamentary elections in the light of the Kargil situation, has in recent interactions with the Election Commission made it clear that it wanted the elections to be held as decided earlier. Advani's remark that the situation in the country and the external threat to its security merited the imposition of internal emergency caused disquiet in political circles. The Samata Party, an ally of the BJP, indicated that it would support such a move. Imposition of a state of emergency would have entailed a postponment of the elections. However, sensing the public mood, the BJP denied that the government was considering imposing a state of emergency. "We don't see any need for it as of now," BJP spokesperson K.L. Sharma said.

At the conference of Chief Ministers, Advani denied that the government had considered postponing the elections. However, he said, given the war-like situation, the government may be unable to make available to the States paramilitary troops in numbers comparable to the 1998 elections. The State governments would have to meet the shortfall by augmenting the police and civil defence, he said.

IF the ruling coalition considered the demand for a Rajya Sabha debate an "unpatriotic" response, there were other, more extreme, expressions of "patriotism" from self-styled opinion leaders. Information and Broadcasting Minister Pramod Mahajan imposed a ban on the transmission of Pakistan TV broadcasts through cable channels. The Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL) made an unsuccessful attempt to block Internet access to the online edition of the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. Chairman of the VSNL Amitabh Kumar admitted that the action had been taken on instructions from "higher authorities" in the Ministry of Telecommunications. There was no explanation for the selective targeting of Dawn's Web site for online censorship, but the move, which showed up an inadequate understanding of the futility of filtering information in the seamless world of the Internet, only ended up embarrassing the political leadership further. The newspaper continued to be accessible to Internet subscribers through other Web sites.

On another front, the Sahara cricket series in Toronto (in which India and Pakistan were to have played) was cancelled following former Test cricketer Kapil Dev's call (issued after visiting injured Indian soldiers in a Srinagar hospital) for the suspension of cricketing ties with Pakistan until the conclusion of the war. Although Kapil Dev took a highly nuanced stand - he favoured such a suspension only for the duration of the border hostilities - Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, who had cited Pakistan's support for the militants in Kashmir and campaigned against (and even threatened to sabotage) the recent tour to India of the Pakistani cricket team, felt vindicated.

A section of the Congress(I) and the Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra seemed to have been swept away by the tide of competitive jingoism. A victim in this case was veteran film actor Dilip Kumar. The Shiv Sena started it all when it demanded that he return the Nishan-e-Pakistan award, the highest civilian honour in Pakistan, which was conferred on him by the Pakistan Government last year. A BJP Minister in the State Government asked Dilip Kumar to "return the award or quit the country". Deputy Chief Minister Gopinath Munde asked the actor to decide whether he wanted to join the nation in condemning the Pakistani intrusion in Kargil. Congress(I) spokesperson Ajit Jogi declared that there was no question of doubting Dilip Kumar's "patriotism", but even he refused to condemn the State leaders of his party who had endorsed the Shiv Sena's demand.

The Federation of Legislators of India deplored the exhibitions of "misplaced patriotism" and said that doubting Dilip Kumar's loyalty and patriotism was an "unforgivable crime" against India's culture and civilisation. Dilip Kumar, who accepted the award after obtaining the consent of the then Prime Minister and the President, sought an appointment with Prime Minister Vajpayee to find out whether he endorsed the demands of his party's coalition partners.

Given the recent success of the Indian armed forces in ending the infiltration, the battle in Kargil may end before long. However, the wounds caused to India's pluralistic polity by the jingoistic responses of certain sections may take a long time to heal.

Election modalities

cover-story
V. VENKATESAN

THE Election Commission (E.C.) has set the electoral machinery rolling. Unlike in the past, when the party in power suggested the polling dates and the E.C. merely announced them, planning the election schedule has been the E.C.'s prerogative in recent years. This has certainly helped the E.C. capture its primacy in the electoral process. Following a precedent established by T.N. Seshan as Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), the multi-member E.C. under CEC M.S. Gill reserved for itself the right to determine the schedule and matters relating to the coming into force of the model code of conduct.

The CEC and Election Commi-ssioners G.V.G. Krishnamoorthy and J.M. Lyngdoh announced in New Delhi on July 11 that the elections to the 13th Lok Sabha would be held in five phases, from September 4 to October 1. The polling dates are September 4, 11, 17 and 24 and October 1. A planned five-phase schedule is unprecedented in Indian electoral history.

Of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies, 146 will go to the polls on September 4, 124 on September 11, 79 on September 17, 72 on September 24, and 122 on October 1. Counting will begin on October 5 and the final results will be declared on October 8. Separate notifications will be issued with regard to the schedules for the different groups of constituencies that go to the polls on different days so that candidates do not campaign beyond the legally permissible three-week period. Polling will be spread over three days in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and over two days in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa and Rajasthan. In the remaining States and Union Territories, it will be a one-day affair.

Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Sikkim, where the terms of the Legislative Assemblies were to end in less than six months, will have Assembly elections too. The E.C. has indicated that if the Maharashtra Government makes a request, it will hold Assembly elections along with the Lok Sabha elections in that State as well. The Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party Government is reportedly undecided about advancing the Assembly elections.

Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir will go to the polls on September 4, 11 and 17; Bihar and Uttar Pradesh on September 17, 24 and October 1; Madhya Pradesh on September 11, 17 and 24; Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu on September 4 and 11; Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Tripura and West Bengal on October 1; Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Delhi and Lakshadweep on September 4; Kerala and Pondicherry on September 11; Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland on September 24; Meghalaya on October 1; Manipur and Orissa on September 24 and October 1.

The timing of the announcement, on a Sunday, and the phased election schedule took the political fraternity by surprise. While the Congress(I) and the Left parties welcomed the announcement, the BJP expressed its disappointment. Although the BJP approved the phased schedule, party spokesperson M. Venkaiah Naidu said: "We are unable to understand the rationale behind the early announcement of the poll schedule."

Congress(I) spokesperson Ajit Jogi said that the BJP's criticism was "yet another proof of its fascist, narrow-minded thinking which implies total contempt and disregard for the Constitution and constitutional authorities." CPI(M) general secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet said that the performance of the BJP-led government will be the main electoral issue. He added that the Opposition parties would expose the government's bungling of the Kargil episode if it tried to draw mileage from it.

The early announcement of the election schedule has restrained the Central and State governments from taking major policy decisions. Opposition parties have been concerned with recent policy changes made by the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led caretaker government in the aviation and telecom sectors.

The application of the model code of conduct, which has been approved by all political parties, came into effect immediately. By keeping the Central and State governments in suspense about the timing of its announcement, the E.C. prevented the possibility of policy decisions being taken with the intention of influencing the electorate.

According to the CEC, the E.C. will not register any new political parties until the electoral exercise is complete. While drawing the election schedule, the E.C. stuck to its May 4 position, following the dissolution of the 12th Lok Sabha, that the best possible time for the elections would be September-October.

It was expected that the E.C. would announce the election dates after the revision of the electoral rolls, which was scheduled to be completed by the third week of July. Perhaps the E.C. felt constrained to make an early announcement in view of the protests against the "improper" decisions taken by the caretaker government under the specious plea that it had the 'powers' to function as a full-fledged government until the election schedule was announced. Constitutionally, the next Lok Sabha should be convened by October 21, that is, within six months of the last sitting of the previous Lok Sabha.

The E.C. met the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the External Affairs Minister, the National Security Adviser and representatives of national parties on July 3. The political parties were unanimous about going ahead with the general elections as planned, despite the conflict in Kargil. There were detailed discussions with representatives of the Home Ministry on security arrangements. The deployment of the Central paramilitary forces is an essential feature of election planning. Battalions of the State police, Home Guards and other security agencies are also deployed in large numbers. In view of the engagement of the paramilitary forces in the border States, the E.C. has decided to utilise the services of 11 lakh senior and junior members of the National Cadet Corps. The E.C. based its decision also on inputs on the expected weather conditions from the India Meteorological Department.

The E.C. announced that electronic voting machines (EVMs) would be used in 46 Lok Sabha constituencies, spread over 17 States and Union Territories. Almost six crore voters will have access to these machines in more than 65,000 polling stations. Approximately one lakh EVMs are likely to be used.

Another summer of killings

Militants have renewed their killings in the Kashmir Valley, taking advantage of the reduction in security levels in view of the Kargil conflict.

SEVERAL months ago, some families migrated from Bilaspur in Madhya Pradesh and Etawah in Uttar Pradesh to Sandu, 9 km from Anantnag, in search of work in brick kilns. On June 29, when the workers were asleep after a hard day's work, terrorists arrived at their huts a little after midnight. It took several minutes before two men working through the night stoking the kilns, whom the terrorists had forced to act as guides, could wake any of them up. Five men workers came out of one set of huts, and seven from a second cluster of huts some 200 metres up the road. Several others slept through the sharp commands to come out. Fatigue ensured that they survived the massacre that followed.

Women workers, who came out hearing the commotion, turned out to be the only witnesses to the killings. They were ordered to stand to one side as the terrorists began a desultory conversation. One of the three terrorists who were at the cluster of huts nearer to the road asked to share a bidi, an act that was intended to ensure coordinated fire with the second group of terrorists. Then shots rang out. The leader of the smaller group fired from his assault rifle on single-shot mode, picking his targets one by one. The larger group fired automatic weapons, ripping apart the workers' bodies. Then, having completed the first communal massacre in Jammu and Kashmir this summer, they left the brick kilns as quietly as they came.

The carnage at Sandu and the massacre of nine villagers at Mendhar in Poonch district two days later have proved that India's military successes in Kargil are just a counter-point to an otherwise depressing summer in Jammu and Kashmir. With the Kargil conflict having thinned out troops meant for counter-terrorist operations, security forces in the Valley have found themselves short of at least 25,000 personnel. The pressure on the troops has created space for terrorist acts designed to deepen the fissures between the Hindu and Muslim communities throughout the State and also the country. The offensive also comes at a time when a spectrum of powerful figures have demanded a new partition of Jammu and Kashmir, one that would forever tear the State asunder on communal lines.

Several observers have attributed the new round of communal killings to the June 28 murder of 17 Muslim residents of Mohra Bachchai hamlet near Surankote. The victims, who included three women and three minor girls, were the relatives of Khalil Khan, Imtiyaz Ahmad and Mushtaq Ahmad, three top Hizbul Mujahideen activists belonging to the village. Many local residents promptly, but unfairly, blamed the Army for these killings. On August 3 last year, 19 family members of top Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami terrorist Imtiaz Sheikh were shot dead at Salian village by unidentified gunmen. A State Human Rights Commission inquiry had held the Army responsible for the murders. No individuals or units were indicted, but the killings followed the murder of Zakir Hussain, a key source of the 9 Para Commando Regiment, a formidable Army unit based in northeastern India.

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Investigations into the June 28 massacre have largely been built around the testimony of its sole survivor, Zubaida Bi. From her hospital bed in Jammu, Zubaida Bi confirmed reports of a bitter power struggle between the Sameer Mohammad faction of the Hizbul Mujahideen, to which her relatives belonged, and the Kauner Mehmood group. The power struggle exploded when a female relative of key figures in the Kauner Mehmood faction was kidnapped by Sameer Mohammad's unit on suspicion of being a police informer. The woman was raped, tortured and then shot. Zubaida Bi believes that the massacre of her family members was a reprisal action. Although she saw men in uniform near the village on the eve of the killings, Zubaida Bi insists that many of the 13 persons who carried out the attack were terrorists from the region, and not soldiers in disguise. Her account is plausible for more than one reason. Had the Hizbul Mujahideen believed the killings were carried out by the Army, its response would most likely have been a communal massacre in the Poonch area itself.

Further, the Zakir Khan group, believed to be responsible for the Anantnag massacres, has no history of involvement in communal enterprises. The once-powerful Zakir faction of the Hizbul Mujahideen has been under intense pressure from the Anantnag police and the Rashtriya Rifles and is unlikely to have volunteered for an enterprise that was certain to invite targeting by the security forces. The Zakir group's top bomb-maker, code-named Shaheen, had been eliminated a week before the Sandu killings. Another member of the group was shot dead in February at Dharna.

WHY then were the Anantnag killings carried out? Cynics believe that the Zakir faction was just reminding brick kiln owners of their "obligation" to pay protection money. They say that brick kilns have been a major source of revenue for the terrorists in the area and the return of peace in Anantnag curtailed this lucrative source. Whatever the truth, the killings have sparked an exodus of migrant labour from the State, a crippling experience businessmen are certain to avoid in the future.

Other interesting explanations have also been offered. Khundra, near Acchabal, is home to one of the Army's largest field ordnance depots. The movement of ammunition from the depots depends largely on a heavily secured road, just one kilometre ahead of Sandu. The massacre may have been designed to draw security pickets away from the road as a prelude to attacks on ammunition convoys.

The killings at Mendhar appear to have had little connection with the Anantapur massacre. Apparently, they have had their origins in an affair between Shankar Lal, a local resident, and Arifa, the daughter of Sher Mohammad. The two eloped in mid-May, following which Muslim communalists insisted that the girl had been abducted. Their Hindu counterparts gave the issue a political colour, claiming that the local police harassed Shankar Lal's family. Some terrorists joined in the fracas and warned the local Hindu population that failure to return Arifa would invite their wrath. Ironically, Shankar Lal's father Mohan Lal and mother Kaushalya Devi escaped the terrorist attack. Those who were killed included 95-year-old Jeevan Das, his 87-year-old wife Ishro Devi and two children.

That the Surankote killings may not have been the trigger for the Mendhar massacre is illustrated by the fact that terrorists have for several years intervened in communal disputes. In August 1997, Manzoor Hussain, a Gujjar schoolteacher posted at Sewari Buddal village in the Reasi area, married Rita Kumari, a Hindu girl who came from an impoverished home. The two evidently married with the blessings of Rita Kumari's mother. After the local police refused to intervene, three dominant feudal Rajput families stepped in to punish the couple for the temerity. Rita Kumari was abducted, while Hussain and his mother-in-law were severely beaten. Hussain subsequently approached the Farid Khan group of the Hizbul Mujahideen for revenge. Eight members of the three families, who had organised Rita Kumari's abduction, were slaughtered.

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Read in the context of last summer's massacres, the renewal of the killings requires little interpretation. The broad objective, then as now, is to apply a communal cleaver between the predominantly Muslim areas north of the Chenab and the predominantly Hindu areas to its south. Pakistan's fundamental post-Pokhran objective in Jammu and Kashmir, as its Kargil assault confirms, is to force a conventional engagement that would raise the prospect of a nuclear conflagration and then deploy these developments to force a Western-mediated settlement. In such an event, widespread hostilities between Hindus and Muslims within Jammu and Kashmir would serve an obvious purpose. Local politicians seem determined to aid Pakistan in this objective. As with past massacres, the Surankote and Mendhar killings saw communal mobilisation by local units of the Bharatiya Janata Party, on the one hand, and the National Conference in tacit alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami, on the other.

KARGIL'S impact on security in the rest of the State might then be mildly described as a calamity. Figures obtained by Frontline show that 58 battalions of the Army engaged in counter-insurgency operations have been withdrawn for deployment on the border; 36 of these have been withdrawn from Kashmir and 22 from the Jammu province. Just 14 Central Reserve Police Force and six Border Security Force battalions have been moved in to take their place. No one has any clear idea of just how the shortfall will be met, particularly with the Lok Sabha elections round the corner. During the 1998 Lok Sabha elections, 354 additional companies, each consisting of 125 men, were deployed throughout the State. Given that each battalion has between four and six companies, at least 500 companies would have to be brought in even to meet the 1998 security levels.

The reduction in security levels comes at a time when the demand for security cover is certain to increase in the months to come. Last month's arrest of a 25-member terrorist cell, led by Ali Bhutto, a local resident from the Turtok area of Leh, has indicated that conflict can be expected in this quiet region. Bhutto's arrest has been treated with little concern. But terrorist activities had similar low-key origins elsewhere too. In Poonch, the first sign of an offensive was the arrest of Ayyub Shabnam in May 1990. Shabnam, who went on to spend five years in jail, was believed to be responsible for the training of and distribution of weapons to several local operatives. He, like Bhutto, had little knowledge of Pakistan's broader objectives. Few took the incident seriously until Poonch went up in flames after 1993.

Even as Jammu and Kashmir finds itself lacking security cover, there is evidence that cross-border infiltration has been unusually high this summer. Field intelligence officials in Kupwara and Baramulla estimate that nearly 600 terrorists have moved in since March and occupied positions at heights above 4,000 metres. Anantnag too has witnessed a sharp rise in the arrival of Pakistani and Afghan terrorists, with more than 200 of them reported to be active in the district. While most terrorist groups have avoided frontal engagement with the security forces, there is little doubt that since the Kargil war broke out there has been a marked escalation in violence.

Since last summer, the mountain heights, which were considered areas of little political significance, have seen large concentrations of Pakistani and Afghan terrorists. Received military wisdom on this development was that these groups lacked the motivation or resources to fight a losing battle in the Valley. But a more intriguing possibility also existed. By building up numbers in Doda, Banihal, Kupwara and the Rajouri-Poonch belt, terrorist groups could dominate the heights over the four principal lines of access to the Valley. In the context of increasing recovery in the recent months of heavy weapons, ranging from mortar and anti-aircraft guns to a Grail anti-tank missile launcher, some people argue that the current deployment patterns suggest that the terrorist groups are preparing to support Pakistani troops in a conventional engagement.

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"We've made a terrible mistake by sundering the conflict in Kargil from that in Jammu and Kashmir as a whole," a senior security official said. "After all, very little has happened in Kargil that is fundamentally different in character from what has been going on in Jammu and Kashmir over the last 10 years. Pakistan has pushed in arms and personnel and engineered sustained violence against both the Indian state and its citizens."

In Sandu, there is little interest in the larger theatre for which the village briefly became a stage. The Muslim residents reached out to the poor migrant workers; they organised materials for the cremation of the dead and arranged food, clothes and shelter for the survivors. When a labour contractor complained that the death of the workers meant that the advance payments he had made to their families would now have to be written off, he almost faced a lynching. This display of sympathy illustrated the real ties between communities that have survived 10 years of terrorism. But it is not clear if such a solidarity can be sustained as some forces are arrayed against the people.

For whom the bell tolls

The human dimension of the war is represented by the heroes of Kargil.

FOR the generation that has grown up since 1971, the conflict in the heights of Kargil is the first direct experience of India at war. The peacekeeping operations in Sri Lanka have tragically receded from public memory since they were conducted in the cause of an alien state. Compromised by unfocussed political guidance, the action in Sri Lanka seemed only remotely connected to India's interests. Kargil is in contrast a grim battle in hostile terrain in defence of the nation's sovereign territory. Few have remained untouched by the spectacle of Indian soldiers battling their way up the Kargil heights, inch by agonising inch, recapturing territory that was snatched away by rootless marauders chasing an incoherent ideal of theological purity. And as the human costs mount, it seems as if every Indian stands diminished in some measure by the lives lost in the ridges and crevices around Kargil.

In the discourse of politics, the armed forces are the ultimate instrumentality of the state - the institution that enjoys the relatively unfettered right to use the power of coercion in the defence of national interests. It stands as a corollary to this definition that the power of the armed forces will be used selectively and with discrimination. The armed forces have fired their guns in anger at several junctures since Independence. But an equally vital role has been in the sustenance of civil order within the country. And there have been few instances when a show of intent by the soldiers of the republic have failed to appease frayed tempers and reassure vulnerable sensibilities, when the raging fires of civil disorder have not been doused by the simple device of a "flag march" by the Indian Army.

It is that vision of an institution that is above fractious politics, untouched by divisions of language, culture and religion, that underlines the massive surge of public empathy for the heroes of Kargil. Young men just entering the best years of their lives, drawn for the most part from social backgrounds where the struggle for survival is the dominant reality, suddenly plunged into a battle situation that few managed to foresee or plan for. And then, cold statistics do not convey the trauma of crated bodies transported to remote corners of the country, of families losing earning members, children their fathers, wives their husbands and parents their sons. The Indian Army has lost over 300 men in the Kargil conflict at the time of writing. As spokesmen for the Indian Army proudly declare, close to 30 of the dead are officers who "led from the front" in the best traditions of the institution they serve. And another 10 are reported "missing in action", hopes of their return shrinking by the day.

In the villages of Kumaon in Uttar Pradesh, the dusty plains of southern Haryana and the hills of Himachal Pradesh, each day brings news of a fresh tragedy affecting the immediate neighbourhood. These are regions where military service is a hoary tradition, where every family has a connection to the armed forces. But Kargil is perhaps unique among all the armed conflicts that India has engaged in. Its reverberations echo through every part of the country, from the northeastern India, through Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra and Gujarat. In decisively debunking the old colonial stereotype of the "martial races", the Kargil conflict has brought to the fore a notion of the armed forces as the final refuge of the national spirit, an institution that every region of the country partakes of, whose achievements every citizen exults in, whose tragedies every Indian despairs at.

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LANCE NAIK Rajbir Singh of 18 Grenadiers laid down his life on June 13 in the Drass sector. His modest dwelling in the Lakhan Majra village of Rohtak district does not blazon the fact that it once was the home of a war hero. His father Sakhat Singh saw action in the 1965 and 1971 wars. But an element of despair penetrates the stoic calm with which the soldier is taught to face death. His son was only 28 years when he met his end. Rajbir Singh's widow Anita now clings to the forlorn hope that the war will end soon, since she does not want other women to cope with its awesome burdens. Her two children, aged eight and five, cannot in the tenderness of their years come to terms with the reality of their loss. The younger one indeed believes that his father will soon return, just as he has done in the past.

Commissioned into the Bihar Regiment four years ago, Major Mariappan Saravanan led a platoon of 30 men on May 14 to cut the supply lines of the Kargil infiltrators entrenched on the Jubar ridge at 14,000 feet. The approach was treacherous. If they tried climbing up the steep rock-face, they would be easy targets. The ridge had claimed the lives of Major Rohit Gaur and three other men of his company three days earlier. Mindful that danger could crop up from the most unexpected quarters, Saravanan led his platoon up another route, using the rocky outcrops as cover to approach the Pakistani picket at the top. As they were closing in on the enemy picket at Point 4268, Saravanan moved ahead of his company and stumbled upon the infiltrators. Before he went down in a hail of deadly machine-gun fire, the Major took out four of the infiltrators. His platoon had to withdraw on account of the ferocity of enemy gunfire. The ridge was not recaptured till over a month later. On June 26, the personal effects of the 26-year-old Major, son of an army officer who died last year in an automobile accident, were handed over to his grieving family in Tiruchi. His body was recovered only on July 7 after the capture of the Batalik heights.

Naik Pramod Kumar, affectionately called "Netaji" in his village of Madhopur in Bihar, was another soldier in Saravanan's platoon who went down with him. His older brother Shyamanand, an armyman for 13 years, learnt of the death two days prior to the official notification on June 1. He was forbidden by Army regulations from informing his family. Deepak, the youngest in the family, also serves in the Bihar Regiment and today awaits orders to proceed to the battlefront. Pramod's father Bindeshwar is an agricultural labourer, deprived all his life of the privileges of education and land ownership. But his fierce sense of pride in his martyred son is palpable as he says: "He went to fight for his country, proud and with his head held high. If I had two more sons, I would have them follow in their brother's footsteps and join the Army." The dignity does not subside even as a sense of despair wells up: "I do not think it will now ever be possible to console his mother."

Lance Naik Shankar Rajaram Shinde had seen action in the peacekeeping mission in Sri Lanka. In April this year, he paid his last visit to the village of Pingori in Pune district. From the pastoral peace of a farm, he was soon transported to the rarefied heights of Kargil. Shinde was among the troops of 18 Garhwal Rifles who led the charge on Point 4700, a key objective in the effort to retake the Tiger Hill salient. The mission was accomplished on June 29, but Shinde suffered a fatal injury from shell splinters a few days later. His village, where military service is almost an axiomatic choice for an able-bodied young man, received his body on July 8.

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Naik Srinivas Patra from Ganjam district in Orissa had received a promotion and was en route to a fresh posting in Bihar when he was recalled by 12 Mahar Regiment for what was termed "an emergency mission". On July 5, he was engaged in mopping up operations along ridges leading away towards the Line of Control from Tiger Hill. Moving forward in a unit of four, Patra succeeded in demolishing two bunkers that the enemy forces had constructed along the ridge line. As he moved towards the next objective, he walked into a withering blast of machine gun fire. All four soldiers were killed in the encounter, though only after offering heroic resistance.

From the geographical fringes, the outlawed insurgent group, the United Liberation Front of Asom, has appealed to Assamese soldiers to return home rather than waste their energies in the defence of India. Gunner Uddhav Das of 197 Field Regiment returned to his residence in Barpeta district on June 27, but in a coffin draped with the national tricolour. He had been killed three days earlier in the Drass sector, a victim of intensive Pakistani shelling. His family in the village of Anchali lost its sole earning member and is in a state of shock. The 24-kilometre route leading to his home was lined with people who had come to pay their respects. And as his body was brought home, the women of the village broke out in a collective wail. Although a village with an established tradition of military service, Anchali was not able to suppress the grief for a young life lost.

The funeral of Captain K. Clifford Nongrum of 12 Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry witnessed, by all accounts, the greatest outpouring of emotion ever seen in Shillong, surpassing in the fervour of public participation even the farewell accorded to Williamson Sangma, the founding father of the State of Meghalaya. Similarly, Lieutenant Neikezhakuo Kengurutse of 2 Rajputana Rifles, who died in the effort to consolidate territorial gains made in the Tololing Ridge, will for long survive in public memory as a symbol of the firmness with which the people of Nagaland have chosen to integrate with a state apparatus that they fought for long.

BUT beyond the symbolism of military honours and the transient surge of national grief, beyond all the packages of monetary compensation announced by the government, the heroes of Kargil pose a moral dilemma. What does it take to restore a sense of purpose to lives rendered desolate by the death of their solitary source of sustenance? "I want my son back, and not the money," says the distraught mother of Lance Naik Jasbir Singh (2 Rajputana Rifles). "What will I do with the heroic image of my son when he is not there to help me through life?"

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Subsistence pressures compelling men to seek a career in the Army is a common predicament in the arid plains of southern Haryana. And though his despairing mother insists that she will not permit her other son to join the forces, the father, Surajmal Singh, is more matter-of-fact. He says that the younger son would seek to enlist in due course since he needs a job and the family needs to secure another source of income.

Solace eludes Hema Aziz, mother of Lieutenant Haneef Uddin, even though the point where her son went down in the Turtok range on June 8 has now been named Haneef Uddin Point by the Indian Army. Trying to be philosophical in her moment of loss, she says: "There is no space for personal feelings in this sort of situation."

Colonel (retd.) V.N. Thapar, the third of four generations of armymen, takes a less detached view. His son Lieutenant Vijayant Thapar was in the leading platoon which went for the final assault on Knoll, a feature ahead of the Tololing Ridge. As they moved up on the night of June 28, they were pinned down by relentless enemy firing. Platoon leader Major Padmapani Acharya was killed while clearing a bunker. Being second in the chain of command, Thapar took over along with Naik Anand, standing upright to take on the enemy positions. A few grenades were tossed and another bunker was cleared, but Thapar was hit on the chest and head and died instantly. His company consolidated on the gains he had made by moving ahead.

Col. Thapar accepts the death of his son as part of the soldier's destiny. But he still thinks that the current situation was avoidable: "There has been some lapse somewhere and someone should be held accountable." In his opinion, the current crop of politicians has a shallow understanding of military affairs. And this renders it additionally difficult to arrive at a decision in the proper perspective.

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Lieutenant-Colonel R. Viswanathan of 18 Grenadiers is the highest ranking officer to have fallen in the Kargil operations. His action in leading a partly successful charge along the Tololing Ridge on June 2, lends a new depth and resonance to the otherwise hackneyed phrase: "leading from the front". Hardened through exposure in the Sri Lanka operations and the U.N. peacekeeping missions in Rwanda and Angola, Viswanathan's heroism was commemmorated in the largest-ever funeral witnessed in his home district of Ernakulam in Kerala.

For Kerala, the moment was especially poignant in that the northern city of Kozhikode said its farewell almost concurrently to 25-year-old Captain P.V. Vikram of 141 Field Regiment. It was a unit that Vikram's father had served for long years. And as Lt.-Col. P.K.P.V. Panicker recounts, in the course of his last radio exchange with his commanding officer, his son seemed literally to be charged with the spirit of battle. "He must have been killed ten minutes later," says Panicker, a trace of moisture in the eyes his only concession to grief.

Naik R. Kamaraj from Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu left home in March with the promise that he would return for his wedding anniversary. He was killed on June 10, a day before the promised reunion. Elsewhere, Chennai mourned the death of Lt.-Col. N. Vijayaraghavan on June 24 in counter-insurgency operations in Kupwara district. The 38-year-old officer of the 15 Kumaon Regiment had seen action during Operation Bluestar and logged extensive service in counter-insurgency operations in northeastern India. He was a recipient of the Sena Medal and had been recommended for the Kirti Chakra.

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EARLY in 1971, as the eastern wing of Pakistan plunged into anarchy and chaos, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi summoned the Chief of Staff of the Indian Army, General S.H.F.J. Manekshaw, for a briefing on the level of preparedness of his forces. The General, ever the good professional, was guarded in his response. The troops could be pressed into service, but they would most likely enter into battle prey to deep anxieties. Service conditions had not improved significantly over the years and compensation packages for death or disability were still stuck in an archaic mould. A gesture of faith was called for from the political leadership, one which would restore the soldiers' sense of honour, his belief in the value the country placed upon his services.

Shortly afterwards, the Third Pay Commission recommendations were brought into effect. In December 1971, the Indian armed forces waged their most successful war ever.

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Monetary compensation of course is not all. But it is surely germane that after the recommendations of the last Central Pay Commission were implemented, there was a spurt in requests for premature retirement from the services. Today, as the Indian Army continues its valiant struggle on the killing heights of Kargil, there is yet again fevered debate over the terms of the political compact with the services. Are the ex gratia amounts granted adequate for the dependents of soldiers killed in action? Are the schemes of compensatory employment working as they should? Is there a case for equalising compensation packages across ranks, so that every soldier is aware that his life is as valuable to the nation as anyone else's? The example set by the heroes of Kargil are a standing reproach to a political establishment that is yet to devise satisfactory answers. Perhaps the only honour the nation can now do to its dead heroes is to respect their survivors and provide a secure mooring for their shattered lives.

With inputs from T.K. Rajalakshmi, Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay, Parvathi Menon, R. Krishnakumar, Asha Krishnakumar and Kalyan Chaudhuri.

Of forgotten fighters

As the fighting in the Kargil sector reached a decisive phase, military analysts were drawing comparisons between this latest round and the battles fought by the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka in the period between 1987 and 1990. In that operation, 70,000 young men and women, including soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilian service personnel, fought in adverse conditions and hostile circumstances for over two and a half years. But today, the nation seems to have forget ten them. According to Lieutenant-General (retired) A.S. Kalkat, who commanded the IPKF, they "fought with honour and returned with dignity."

The valiant soldiers fighting in Kargil are given due recognition. In a widespread and spontaneous response, the state, private enterprise and individual citizens have contributed liberally to welfare funds for the families of the dead and the wounded. However, a sort of collective amnesia seems to have set in about the around 1,200 Indian soldiers who were killed in the jungles of Sri Lanka.

Here, Lt.-Gen. Kalkat draws parallels between the IPKF experience and the current one in the Kargil sector. Speaking to John Cherian in New Delhi, Lt.-Gen. Kalkat said that it was still not too late for the nation to recognise the sacrifices made by the IPKF soldiers. Excerpts:

Are there any comparisons to be drawn between the fighting in the Kargil sector and the IPKF experience?

Yes and no. The IPKF operations as well as the operations in the Kargil sector are infantry-predominant operations. What this means is that in normal battles, the Air Force, and if there is a coastline, the Navy, play important roles. The other components of the Army, particularly tanks and heavy artillery, play a predominant role in supporting the infantry. This results in much fewer casualties among infantry soldiers.

However, in jungle terrain and in mountain warfare, the support of tanks is almost absent. The ability of the Air Force to provide close air support gets severely restricted and artillery support is not as effective as in the plains. This is the common condition which we soldiers faced in Sri Lanka and indeed face today in the Kargil sector. This implies a much greater reliance by the infantry soldier on his personal weapons and involves engaging the enemy eyeball to eyeball in close combat, often fighting hand to hand ultimately to destroy him. This kind of fighting in essence is the ultimate test of human endurance, perseverance and courage.

The next common factor is that the engagements are not of large formations, such as brigades and divisions. Most battles are fought at the company and platoon levels, and because of this the performance of the young officer, who is the company or platoon commander, becomes a battle-winning factor. As I can see, the performance of the young officer, which was outstanding in Sri Lanka as was evident from the high proportion of officer casualties, is following a similar pattern in the Kargil sector.

In both cases, our soldiers faced a battle-hardened adversary. In Kargil, in addition to the regular Pakistan Army, there is the Afghan Mujahideen; in Sri Lanka, there was the LTTE. Both the Afghan Mujahideen and the LTTE have been rated among the most dangerous militant-terrorist organisations in the world.

Another common factor is that the militants in both the cases have been armed with the most sophisticated weaponry, often superior to that used by the Indian infantry. In Sri Lanka, the LTTE had AK-47s. We never had them. The LTTE also had better hand-held communication equipment.

Was the political environment different when the IPKF moved into Sri Lanka?

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When the IPKF first went in, there was great public euphoria for two months. But the moment the fighting broke out in right earnest and the body bags started coming home, the euphoria came down. Over a period there were dissenting voices on the government's decision, and indeed against the IPKF. One major political party placed its opposition to the involvement of the IPKF in its election manifesto. This seriously impaired the morale of the Indian soldiers fighting in the jungles of Sri Lanka.

I am happy to say that today the entire nation is behind the Indian soldier in one voice. This certainly makes the task of the commanders easier in sustaining morale and commitment among their troops.

Can this support be sustained for an extended period of time?

My main concern is that in case this confrontation lingers on for long, media interest will start waning after some time. The time should never come that the people of this country lose interest. That is a dangerous scenario which will create the syndrome of 'a forgotten army' - a feeling which had started to creep into the IPKF towards the later stages.

Was there a similar patriotic fervour when the IPKF was in action?

None whatsoever, except in Tamil Nadu, where there was great awareness of the ongoing conflict in the north and east Sri Lanka. We got symbolic gifts and donations but nothing substantive.

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It is still not too late. There should be a memorial to commemorate the memory of the soldiers who left the shores of India to fulfil the country's solemn commitment to a friendly neighbour and for which they gave their lives and never returned to their motherland. I would be failing in my duty to the families of the valiant dead of the IPKF, which I had the privilege to command, if I were not to speak on their behalf. In a country where memorials and monuments are put up for all and sundry, no government has seen it fit to lay even one stone or one brick to commemorate the brave men of the Indian armed forces who laid down their lives. There is no place for public recognition for their sacrifices; there is no place where the families of the dead martyrs can even place a wreath in memory of their loved ones.

Even though Vietnam was this century's most controversial and unpopular involvement, the American nation did not forget its dead: the Vietnam Memorial in Washington is the tribute of a grateful people to the patriotism and sacrifice of its soldiers. A nation that does not honour its dead heroes dishonours itself.

Since the withdrawal of the IPKF from Sri Lanka in March 1990, successive governments have wished that it had never happened. Indeed, some hoped that by disregarding it, it would be erased from the memory of the nation. Be that as it may, some facts are incontrovertible and can neither be wished away nor thrown into the dustbin of history. First, it actually happened; second, 1,200 Indian soldiers sacrificed their lives and more than 3,000 were wounded; third, a former Prime Minister of our country was assassinated; fourth, the bloodbath in Sri Lanka continues with even greater ferocity, and finally, neither the government of Sri Lanka nor the LTTE nor all the political negotiators since have come up with a better alternative to the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord.

Do you visualise a quick conclusion to the conflict in Kargil?

We do not know the details of the initiatives, talks and contacts taking place at the covert level. Therefore, if one were to take the statements in the press at face value, then it would appear that the conflict would end soon. However, I am sceptical of commitments given by Pakistan, particularly in respect to any issue in Kashmir. Basically, Pakistan should stick to its words and ensure that the militants are not allowed to operate. Pakistan should not be allowed to wage a proxy war. In such a situation, we have no option but to fight till the last infiltrator is driven out or killed.

What are the options available for India?

At this stage we have two options. One is to carry on as we are doing now - which is a long-drawn-out and time-consuming affair ... Alternatively, cross the Line of Control (LoC) or the border at a time and place of our choosing ultimately to destroy the invaders.

Obviously, around the area of the current operations, bypassing the positions established by the infiltrators - lower to the LoC - may not be possible since all existing gaps would have been plugged by the regular Pakistan Army. Therefore we may have to seek the ingress routes across the LoC away from the area. There are other alternatives such as solely using air power to strike at their artillery which is supporting the infiltrators from positions in Pakistan- Occupied Kashmir (POK). Since Pakistan claims that it is not supporting the Mujahideen, then it cannot complain that we have hit their guns. Of course such an action raises the conflict to another level. Nevertheless, if there seems a danger of this conflict lingering on, it leaves India with no choice except to seek one of these options than getting involved in a bleeding war.

Towards greater autonomy

The report of the State Autonomy Committee set up by the National Conference Government outlines constitutional and legislative measures to restore to Jammu and Kashmir the political autonomy that was guaranteed at the time of its accession. Particularly in the light of developments since the Kargil conflict began, it merits a national debate on the State's place in the Indian Union.

Certain tendencies have been asserting themselves in India, which may in the future convert it into a religious state wherein the interests of Muslims will be jeopardised. This would happen if a communal organisation had a dominant hand in the Government and Congress ideas of the equality of all communities were to give way to religious intolerance. The continued accession of Kashmir to India should, however, help in defeating this tendency. From my experience of the last four years, it is my considered judgment that the presence of Kashmir in the Union of India has been the major factor in stabilising relations between the Hindus and Muslims of India.

- from Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah's inaugural address to the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly, November 5, 1951.

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THE National Conference, the ruling party in Jammu and Kashmir, appears to be torn between a sad marriage to its historic ideological commitments and a new dalliance with the Hindu Right.

Four months have passed and a war has broken out since Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah announced the release of the most important political document on the political future of Jammu and Kashmir since its accession to India on October 26, 1947. The Report of the State Autonomy Committee (SAC), which was set up shortly after the National Conference Government came to power in September 1996, promised to open a dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir's place in the Indian Union. But with more than a few voices on the Hindu Right calling for the repeal of Article 370 in the wake of the Kargil crisis, it remains to be seen whether the N.C. will find the courage to initiate a meaningful debate on the autonomy issue.

The SAC, whose Report was released in April, has its origins in a promise the N.C. made in its manifesto released ahead of the State Assembly elections in 1996.The manifesto said the party would secure "dignified, undiluted and meaningful autonomy" for the State's people. The N.C., which had boycotted the previous round of Lok Sabha polls, agreed to participate in the 1996 Assembly elections only after the then Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda, promised "maximum autonomy" for Jammu and Kashmir. In the wake of the Kargil crisis, the SAC Report raises fundamental questions about India's policy on Jammu and Kashmir: What vision does India have of the State's future? Given that powerful forces within and outside India have advocated that the State be carved up on communal lines, what alternative terms of political dialogue for Jammu and Kashmir may there be?

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Jammu and Kashmir's former feudal ruler Karan Singh was appointed to chair the nine-member SAC's deliberations, which began shortly after it was set up on November 11, 1996. Growing political differences with Farooq Abdullah led Karan Singh to resign suddenly from the SAC in July 1997. Public Works Minister Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah took over as the chair, and former Assembly Speaker Mirza Abdul Rashid filled the vacancy. The slow progress of the SAC's deliberations provoked cynicism about its work. However, its final Report is surprisingly thought-provoking.

In essence, the SAC Report outlines a series of constitutional and legislative measures to restore the political autonomy that Jammu and Kashmir was guaranteed at the time of its accession. Unlike any other princely state, and despite the pressures placed by Pakistan's invasion of its territory, Jammu and Kashmir negotiated the terms of its accession to India. A schedule to the Instrument of Accession listed just 16 areas, under the three heads of Defence, External Affairs and Communications, for which the legislature of the Dominion of India could make laws. A fourth head, Ancillary, enabled the Dominion to make laws on four subjects related to elections to its legislature.

Protracted negotiations between N.C. founder Sheikh Abdullah and Indian political leaders, principally Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, led to the institutionalisation of the relationship laid out in the Instrument of Accession. The process of negotiation was often bitter, with Sheikh Abdullah threatening on at least one occasion to walk out of the Constituent Assembly in protest against the phrasing of a clause. Article 370 of the Constitution emerged from this process of dialogue, and this fact is little understood by the assortment of figures who periodically attack it as the reason for the troubles in Jammu and Kashmir.

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In essence, the Article makes six special provisions for the State, all of which emerged from the terms of the Instrument of Accession. First, Jammu and Kashmir would have its own Constitution within the Union of India, thus exempting it from the provisions of the Indian Constitution for the governance of the States. Then, Parliament's authority to legislate for the State would be restricted to the three areas laid out in the Instrument of Accession. If any other constitutional mandates or Union powers were to be made applicable to the State, they required the assent of the State Government.

But, the SAC Report argues, Article 370(2) placed even bigger limitations on the Union's powers. It made clear that the State Government's concurrence with moves to extend constitutional provisions to Jammu and Kashmir would require the ratification of the State's Constituent Assembly. Once the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly completed its work, therefore, no government had the power to consent to any further extensions of the Union's powers. Finally, Article 370(3) enabled the President to abrogate or amend the entire Article, but only on the basis of a recommendation by the State's Constituent Assembly.

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IN July 1952, even as the work of the Constituent Assembly was under way, Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah announced a 10-point agreement on Jammu and Kashmir's relationship with India. While residuary powers rested with the Centre in the case of other States, they would rest with the State in the case of Jammu and Kashmir. Citizens of the State would also be citizens of India, but pre-Independence State subject laws that barred outsiders from buying land in the State would still apply. The Indian flag would have primacy, and the power to grant prisoners reprieves and commute death sentences would rest with the President of India. The Union's power to impose a state of emergency was, however, severely restricted.

Areas of disagreement still remained. Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah could not agree on whether Fundamental Rights should be incorporated in the Constitution of the State or that of India. One of the principal obstacles was that the right to property conferred by the Indian Constitution stood in the way of the N.C's radical programme of land reform. Then, while Sheikh Abdullah agreed that the Supreme Court ought to have jurisdiction with regard to Fundamental Rights, no final decision was made on how this would be reconcilable with the powers of Jammu and Kashmir's supreme judicial authority, the Advisory Board to His Highness. Financial arrangements, too, were left for further discussion.

The Delhi Agreement of 1952, and the Constitution Order it led to, were to form the basis of the N.C's subsequent demands for autonomy, for reasons that were deeply rooted in politics. The Hindu Right's aggressive Praja Parishad movement in Jammu, demanding the full application of the Indian Constitution in the State, as well as the bitter legacy of the genocidal riots that accompanied Partition, had led Sheikh Abdullah to adopt a stand that seemed to introduce a measure of ambiguity to his commitment to the Indian Union. The Praja Parishad movement terrified Muslims in the State and was to force his new stand. This, helped by Sheikh Abdullah's occasional - and opportunistic - support for Western intervention in the State, pushed Nehru finally to break with his comrade of long standing.

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With Sheikh Abdullah in jail, Syed Mir Qasim's regime set about resolving the areas of dispute in the 1952 Accord. In February 1954, Qasim presented the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly with the reports of its Drafting Committee. The reports were to form the basis of the 1954 Constitution Order issued by the President of India, which transformed several important features of the Delhi accord. The jurisdiction of Parliament to legislate for Jammu and Kashmir was now extended beyond the three areas outlined in the Instrument of Accession, making it competent to cover all areas in the Union List. Parliament was now also empowered to make laws for the State on areas not detailed in the Union List. Fundamental Rights, too, were extended to Jammu and Kashmir.

The SAC Report bitterly attacks the 1954 Constitution Order. For one, it points out, the Order's preamble says that it was "made with the concurrence of the Government of the State of Jammu and Kashmir." Since proceedings in the State's Constituent Assembly were on at that time, the SAC Report asserts, "the State Government (had) lost the power to accord any such concurrence... However, the order may be said to be valid insofar as it conforms to the Annexure to the report of the Constituent Assembly's Drafting Committee." This, it did. But the Constitution Order of 1954, made early in the course of a bitter political confrontation in the State, was just the beginning.

By 1986, some 42 Constitution Amendment Orders had been passed, restricting the powers of the State legislature and empowering Parliament to legislate on matters in the Concurrent List and even matters that ought to have been State concerns. Emergency powers that were applicable in all other States came into force in Jammu and Kashmir too. The All India Services gained entry, as did the Election Commission of India. Major reforms in the State Constitution were also brought about. "Not all these Orders can be objected to," the SAC Report accepts. "For instance, none can object to provision for direct elections to Parliament in 1966, delimitation of Parliamentary constituencies, etc. (But) It is the principle that matters. Constitutional limits are there to be respected, not violated."

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FIGURES listed in the SAC Report detail just how deeply the special status envisaged in the Instrument of Accession and Article 370 has been transformed. Of 395 Articles in the Indian Constitution, the Report says, 260 are applicable in Jammu and Kashmir. The remaining 135 are Articles for which there are identical provisions in the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir. Only three of the 97 areas listed in the Union List are still inapplicable in the State, as are 26 of the 47 entries in the Concurrent List. In some ways, however, the use of Article 370 has proved comparatively disadvantageous to Jammu and Kashmir. For instance, Parliament had to move four amendments to the Constitution to provide for the imposition (and extension) of President's Rule in Punjab from May 1987 until February 1992. In the case of Jammu and Kashmir, it merely required executive orders to be issued under Article 370.

It is this history that the SAC Report seeks to undo. At least two points are central to the debate that is certain to follow. The first is that the SAC Report must be seen as a basis for a rational debate, not as a theological manifesto, both by the party and by its critics. If, as the Report admits, some of the 'encroachments' by the Union's powers since 1950 have been desirable, a dogmatic insistence on restoring the Delhi Accord seems meaningless. Few people in Jammu and Kashmir will be enthused by the prospect of leaving the business of drafting Fundamental Rights to the State legislature or doing away with the powers of the Election Commission altogether. Creative solutions to the troubled history of State autonomy need to be found in a manner that respects the unique heritage of Jammu and Kashmir and the equal imperative of protecting the democratic rights of citizens from a notoriously corrupt political elite.

But despite Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah's promise of a national debate, it is far from clear just how serious his party is about such a process. Parts of the SAC Report read suspiciously like a National Conference political broadcast, projecting the party as the sole authentic representative of popular aspiration in the State. The process of regaining autonomy must be an inclusive one. The N.C.'s support for the BJP-led government at the Centre has not helped its credibility on the issue, given the Hindu Right's commitment to a single monolithic nationhood. Congress(I) leader Mehbooba Mufti, daughter of former Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, has reacted with suspicion, arguing that the N.C. intends to use the SAC Report as election-time bait - a proposition that is not implausible.

Received wisdom that the erosion of autonomy is the sole or even principal cause of terrorism in the State is more than a little tired. Nor is the converse of this argument - that the grant of autonomy will ensure an end to violence - even vaguely grounded in the real world. The rise of the once-hated Congress(I) as a likely challenger to the N.C. in some areas and the ability of even the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which has pockets of influence in the State, to mobilise mass support on development issues at the grassroots level, illustrate that the basic foundations of politics in Jammu and Kashmir are changing more rapidly than most observers understand. Autonomy from New Delhi, if it is to serve any purpose, must be part of a broader process of devolving power to the people, something that Kashmir's ruling elite is conspicuously silent on.

But placing autonomy on the agenda will serve one, more fundamental, purpose. It will signal to the people of Jammu and Kashmir that despite the rise of a revanchist right-wing elsewhere in India, the political and cultural rights of Muslims in the State will be secure. It is perhaps not coincidental that the rise of secessionism and an Islamic far-Right in Jammu and Kashmir came about in the 1980s, a time of growing communal violence and a closing of doors to Muslims in India. And, in the wake of the Kargil crisis, a genuine all-India dialogue on the SAC Report could be the most effective line of resistance to United States-led efforts to intervene in the region. With the curious formations in power in the State and in New Delhi, however, such a debate seems wholly unlikely to come about.

A communal divide

PRAVEEN SWAMI the-nation

The report of the Regional Autonomy Committee, which was established by the National Conference Government, reinforces fears that attempts are on to restructure Jammu and Kashmir along communal lines.

ABOUT the same time that the Report of the State Autonomy Committee, with its far-reaching recommendations for grant of political autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, was released, another report - of the Regional Autonomy Committee - was released, on April 13. However, it has been kept well hidden from public view. The release of the RAC's Report has underlined fears that powerful figures in the National Conference wish to restructure the State along communal lines. The Report recommends that the historic regional formations of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh be broken down into new entities. It holds out more fundamental threats to the prospect of a secular and democratic Jammu and Kashmir than any number of terrorists do.

In essence, the RAC has recommended the creation of eight new provinces, each with an elected provincial council. In Kashmir itself there would be three new provinces - Kamraz, made up of Baramulla and Kupwara districts; Nundabad, comprising Budgam and Srinagar districts; and Maraz, made up of Anantnag and Pulwama districts. Although all three provinces have some prehistoric resonance, there is no compelling need to carve them out anew. The peoples of the districts have demanded more local power, but they have never asked for new administrative boundaries built along non-existent fault lines.

If the RAC has its way, Ladakh would be subjected to an undisguised communal cleaver. The mountain region would be broken up into two new provinces, consisting of just one district each - predominantly Buddhist Leh and predominantly Muslim Kargil. Ladakh has already been sundered by the exclusion of Kargil from the Ladakh Autonomous Council, set up in 1989; the transfiguration of the two districts into provinces would serve only to sharpen communal and ethnic boundaries. Had protests by local chauvinists in Kargil been disregarded in 1989, the deepening fissures between Buddhists and Muslims may have been averted. As things stand, voting in the region since 1996 has largely been on communal lines, and many political groups in Leh have been calling for a consensus candidate from among the Buddhists to contest this year.

But the most dramatic impact of the RAC recommendations would be on Jammu. Here, the RAC Report makes no effort to hide its authors' motives. The district of Doda, and the single Muslim-dominated tehsil of Mahore from the adjoining district of Udhampur, would go to form a new Chenab Valley province. Perhaps the best index of the RAC's blithe disregard for secular values is that not a sentence in the Report seeks to explain this decision. The largely Hindu districts of Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur would make up Jammu province. Poonch and Rajouri districts would form Pir Panjal province. The existing province of Jammu would thus be turned into three provincial blocks divided along the fault lines of Hindu and Muslim communities in the region.

Shabby reasoning and appalling research characterise the RAC Report. Paragraph 32 suggests that "the prevailing classifications of Provinces/Divisions are hampering the processes of social/human development. The Committee is also of the view that this arrangement is coming in the way of democratic participation at the grassroots level within the State." Yet, after making its recommendations, the RAC Report executes a neat volte-face just three paragraphs later. Paragraph 35.1 "recommends that the Government may consider setting up District Councils as an alternative to the Regional/Provincial Councils." Such district councils are clearly irreconcilable with the assertions of Paragraph 32, since they would work within the existing provincial arrangements.

On more fundamental issues, the Report offers few insights into the RAC members' thinking. Why development could not be achieved within the existing district and province boundaries is nowhere explained. There is no serious discussion on how the creation of new provinces would aid development. Indeed, the RAC only calls for changes to be made to the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir in order to enable the new provincial or district councils to be established, without spelling out what they might be. Nor are the powers of the new councils and their specific responsibilities spelt out. Since this was presumably the purpose of setting up the RAC in the first place, it is hard to escape the conclusion that it did not do its work.

THE history of the RAC offers insights into how some of its more outrageous recommendations came into being. The RAC was set up shortly after the National Conference Government took office in October 1996; Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah was the RAC chairman. Academic Balraj Puri was appointed its working chairman. The members consisted of State Finance Minister Mohammad Shafi Uri, legislators Syed Mushtaq Bukhari and Mubarak Gul, and Ladakh representative Pinto Narbu. The raison d'etre of the RAC was to ensure that the N.C's demands for greater autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir as a whole did not alienate minorities in the State, since they would be given guarantees of regional autonomy.

Puri was, however, besieged with demands from N.C. leaders and other politicians that the RAC recommend the creation of new provinces and districts. He flatly refused. The RAC's terms of reference said nothing about new provinces; they had asked only for recommendations that would "promote better involvement and participation of people in different regions for balanced political, economic, educational, social and cultural development (and the) evolving of instrumentalities, like local organs of power at all levels." The RAC was also to examine the powers that local organs of power were to be vested with, and "whether any changes in the State Constitution would be needed to bring them about."

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Late in 1998, Puri circulated his proposals for regional autonomy, which essentially consisted of strengthening existing institutions at the panchayat, block, district and regional levels. Much of the emphasis in his Report was on removing the State Government's powers to nominate members of local bodies. One-third of all panchayat members, for example, are government nominees, along with representatives of the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, and what State laws describe as "Other Classes". District Development Councils, an institution unique to the State, have an entirely nominated leadership. Puri sought to replace this burlesque with real democracy.

But although N.C. members on the RAC had expressed no reservations with drafts that were circulated, they rapidly distanced themselves from Puri's report, claiming that it did not have their support. On January 21, 1999, Puri was informed that his term, along with that of the RAC, had expired. Then, on March 4, the State Government issued orders extending the term of the RAC retrospectively. The order revived the terms of all members except the working chairman. The new Report was assembled in just three months. Curiously, the final RAC Report tabled in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly bears the signatures of neither its chairman (the Chief Minister) nor Narbu.

The strange history of the RAC and its equally bizarre recommendations suggest that meaningful democratic change is the last thing on the N.C's mind. Indeed, the proposal to set up smaller provinces will erode the powers of the existing ones, since each in itself will simply not have the resources to take up large-scale developmental work. Nor will local bodies like panchayats and block-level bodies be democratised and empowered. The sole outcome of the RAC proposals will be to enable N.C. politicians in the Jammu region to represent themselves as defenders of local Muslim communities against a largely fictional hegemony of Jammu's largely Hindu urban trading communities.

WHAT then, was on the RAC's mind? In the wake of the Pokhran-II nuclear tests in May 1998 and the subsequent contrived and ill-fated show of subcontinental goodwill between Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Atal Behari Vajpayee, culminating in the Lahore Declaration, the United States political establishment offered some insights into its vision of a final settlement on Jammu and Kashmir. This came in the form of a report, Kashmir: A Way Forward, circulated by the high-profile think tank, the Kashmir Study Group. The Kashmir Study Group is controlled by a non-resident Indian, Farooq Kathwari, a furniture tycoon from a well-heeled Srinagar family. Two Indian establishment figures, former Foreign Secretary N.K. Singh and retired Vice-Admiral S.K. Nair, have been associated with the Group, although both deny they endorse the thrust of the report.

Kashmir: A Way Forward advocated that "a portion of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir be reconstituted as a sovereign entity enjoying free access to and from both India and Pakistan." The report, which was widely circulated among politicians in the State and details of which were published in Frontline (March, 26, 1999), suggested that the new entity have its own legislature, citizenship and internal law and order force, with its defence guaranteed by both India and Pakistan. It was evident that the "portion" referred to was the Kashmir Valley, the area under most bitter dispute. Interestingly, Kathwari came to India shortly after the report was released, and visited what one intelligence official described to Frontline as a "who's who of the BJP hierarchy".

The Kashmir Study Group's proposals in effect meant a sundering of Kashmir from Jammu, and a division of the State on communal lines. In 1950, Owen Dixon, the United Nations mediator on Kashmir, had suggested a similar plan. The Dixon Plan called for the international border to run broadly north of the Chenab river, cutting apart predominantly Muslim Doda, Rajouri and Poonch from Jammu, and joining them to the Kashmir Valley. Kathua and Jammu, which have a predominantly Hindu population, would have stayed with India. The proposal was unacceptable to India's secular political establishment. The revival of the idea by the U.S. had obvious significance in the context of the meeting in February 1999 between two right-wing Prime Ministers.

However, the most important players in the enterprise were those firmly entrenched in the State's political apparatus. Since at least 1996, influential figures in the N.C. have been pushing hard to transform the character of Jammu, a communally diverse but culturally coherent region which is the principal barrier to Kashmir-centred secessionist claims.

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In 1996, N.C. leaders from the predominantly Muslim areas of Jammu broadly north of the Chenab river, which would have gone to Pakistan had the Owen Plan succeeded, demanded the creation of a new pahari (mountain) region, separating the predominantly Muslim Rajouri-Poonch belt from Jammu province, and integrating it with Uri to the north in Kashmir province. Later, during meetings of the RAC headed by Puri - whose original report the N.C. Government has refused to make public - the N.C. leaders again said that they did not want to governed by Jammu's "kanak mandi lalas" (grain market traders).

The N.C. has made a similar demand to separate the sprawling district of Doda from Jammu province. These demands are in part driven by short-term political considerations. The demand for a pahari region, for example, was designed to undermine the influence of Gujjar and Bakerwal leaders in the region; these two communities have traditionally backed the Congress(I). But the demand rests on the untrue proposition that these regions have no common culture with Jammu.

With panchayat elections due in Jammu and Kashmir later this year, the RAC Report could have been the basis for ensuring that local bodies truly represent the people who elect them, and have the power to transform the countryside. Instead, the RAC Report has dedicated itself to furthering a spurious debate designed solely to deepen the alarming communal rifts in Jammu and Kashmir. Puri's statement in March 1999 that he was "almost entirely without hope" pointed to grim portents for the State. Those fears are proving to be alarmingly close to the truth. If people are not given the resources to govern their lives, communal mobilisations will continue to be the sole basis for mass action.

A case at a snail's pace

Will the framing of charges against the accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case before the Special Court take place on July 23?

THE Special Court in Lucknow, which is hearing the Babri Masjid demolition case, has fixed July 23 for the framing of charges against the 49 accused. However, given the history of proceedings in the case, few in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which investigated the demolition and related developments, expect the crucial formality to be completed that day.

In the last two years, the court has on 12 occasions set dates for the framing of charges; however, on each occasion the Special Court, which will go into the criminal conspiracy behind the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, failed to complete the process for one reason or another.

Among the accused are Union Home Minister L.K. Advani, Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh and Bharatiya Janata Party president Kushabhau Thakre.

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The Special Court ordered the framing of charges first on September 9, 1997, nearly five years after the demolition. When that deadline was missed, the court set another date: October 7, 1997. On that day, the majority of the accused failed to present themselves before the court and their lawyers sought postponement of the hearings on that ground. The lawyers claimed that the accused had the highest regard for the court and its proceedings, but that they had been unable to appear in person on account of professional obligations and should therefore be allowed to attend the court at a later date. The court acceded to this request. Since then, the accused have resorted to several ruses in order to delay the proceedings.

Within two months of the Special Court passing its September 1997 order to frame charges, 33 of the accused filed revision petitions before the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court questioning the trial court's decision. Among those who filed such revision petitions were Shiv Sena leader Moreshwar Save, BJP leader and (now) Union Minister Uma Bharati, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders Ashok Singhal and Sadhvi Ritambara and veteran BJP leader Vijayaraje Scindia. R.N. Srivastava, who was the District Magistrate of Faizabad at the time of the demolition, and D.B. Rai, the then Senior Superintendent of Police of Faizabad, too filed revision petitions. According to sources in the CBI, these petitions have virtually stalled the moves to frame charges.

Proceedings in the Special Court have been stayed on several occasions as a result of revision petitions. In the latest such case on June 10, U.K. Dhawan, the vacation judge of the High Court, issued a stay order barely five days before the Special Court was to frame charges. It was then that the Special Court set July 23 as the new date. Whether charges can be framed on that day is far from clear: the revision petitions are to come up for hearing in the High Court on two days from July 20. If the High Court issues yet another stay order, charges cannot be framed on July 23.

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Apparently, CBI officials believe that the accused will continue with their delaying tactics even if they do not obtain a stay from the High Court. They believe that Advani, Joshi, Uma Bharati and Kalyan Singh may yet again cite "professional obligations", may not appear before the court, and may seek a postponement of the hearings.

Counsel for the CBI, including P.K. Choube, have repeatedly argued that revision petitions should not be used as a device to stall proceedings in the trial court. During arguments, they cited the precedent set by the Supreme Court in the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) bribery case. The apex court ruled that the mere presence of revision petitions was not enough to stop the proceedings in the trial court. However, the High Court has not been persuaded by this argument.

There is another obvious aberration: in the last two years the Special Court has failed to frame charges also against those accused who have not filed revision petitions against the trial court's judgment that there is a prima facie case against them. Only 33 of the 49 accused have filed revision petitions, and the Special Court can frame charges against the 16 others - among whom are Advani, Joshi and Kalyan Singh.

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Counsel for the accused, however, claim that if the Special Court framed charges against just these 16 accused initially, it would lead to complications in the hearing and evaluation of the case. According to I.B. Singh, advocate for Srivastava and Rai, in that case, the case against the 16 would have to be taken up separately and this would have long-term implications for the case. The court would not want to create such a complication, he remarked.

Whatever the merits of such arguments, the pace at which proceedings in the case have moved over the years has not exactly enhanced the standing of the judiciary. The fact that the legal inquiry into the criminal aspects of an event that was described as a national shame has become bogged down in legal technicalities seems to point to a distinct lack of judicial will.

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Some observers say that the demolition case seems to be following the pattern of the original case in Ayodhya, the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute. That dispute has a legal history of over a hundred years: it was in 1885 that the first suit was filed in the Faizabad court. The case later moved to many different legal forums, including the Supreme Court, and was later reverted to the sessions court. After more than a century of litigation, that dispute is nowhere near resolution. Going by the pace of proceedings, the demolition case too seems set for a long legal haul.

A question of priorities

VIJAY PRASHAD world-affairs

Mexican students strike against neo-classical economics.

IN a recent interview, Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano commented on the need to shelter hope (abrigar esperanzas) since "hope needs to be protected" and a "lot of movements are telling us hope is possible". The 280,000 students of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (known by its Spanish initials UNAM, the largest institution of higher education in Latin America), are in the midst of a strike that confirms Galeano's paean to hope. On April 20, thousands of students attended general assemblies of UNAM's various schools to approve the strike call. Their principal issue was the decline in state support for education concomitant with the state's demand that students now pay the equivalent of $145 a year instead of the token fee of 2 cents. Almost all the activities in the school came to a standstill as the strikers participated in demonstrations and information sessions on the crisis in Mexico and at UNAM. The largest such demonstration took place three days later at the Plaza of the Constitution, at which 100,000 students and their allies gathered. One student died in a bus accident during the protest.

On April 25, a group of student leaders along with their parents occupied UNAM's administrative building. They hung a red and black banner (a symbol of "strike and dignity") from the tower, sang the national anthem, and shouted slogans against the hike in tuition fees. Representatives of 11 other national universities pledged their solidarity with the strike and called upon the nation to commemorate April 29 as a national day for the defence of free education. The administration invited the students for negotiations, but the discussions did not yield any results. By early July both sides stood poised for a prolonged conflict. The students are on strike in quest of both a better education and a reassessment of the Mexican state's priorities.

By late April, the strike committee at UNAM released a manifesto ('The Road to Victory'). "The move to privatise UNAM," the manifesto pointed out, "is not an isolated attack by the government on the standards of living of Mexican workers and youth." It put forward two proposals: the "defence of public education" and the withdrawal of "the proposal to privatise the electrical industry". It called upon the electrical workers to join the strike since President Ernesto Zedillo has threatened to privatise the electricity industry.

In September 1995, several hundred students occupied the administrative building to demand a more accountable admissions process. Now they are concerned both about their own welfare and the need for democratic reform within their society. When Veronica Velasquez, a UNAM student, said that "education is for everyone. It's a right. It isn't a service," she clarified that the conflict at UNAM is not only about fees and admissions but principally about the way the state and society view social development. The links with the electricity industry workers illustrates the students' concern over not merely their sectional problems but the wider problems confronting Mexican society. For, their sectional problems are closely related to those of the totality of Mexican society.

In the 1980s, the country's economy went into a tailspin. From 1980 to 1990, per capita national income decreased by over 12 per cent and real wages went down by 40 per cent. "When in 1992 the Mexican Government published the first statistical accounts of income distribution in 15 years, the data were terrifying," said Jorge Castaneda, UNAM's leading political scientist. Most of the 90 million Mexicans took no relief when the peso collapsed in December 1994, only to await a mild recovery with assistance from the United States.

In 1995, the Mexican Government launched the Bank Saving Protection Fund (Fobaproa) and expended $65 billion, 16 per cent of Mexico's annual gross domestic product, to shore up the banks. El Barzon, the debtor's movement, was quick to point out that Fobaproa benefited the rich investors - only 304 people from Mexico's financial elite drew $11 billion from the corpus of Fobaproa. The Zapatistas (EZLN) in the southern province of Chiapas also strongly criticised the bias within Fobaproa, which has since become the most recent symbol of the state's capture by a tiny elite.

"The government dare give away 700 billion pesos to the bankers," the UNAM strike manifesto argued, as the elite attempts to "convert the right to education into a privilege only for those who can pay. The money from Fobaproa should go to education!" Since 1994, Mexican state spending on the social side of the ledger (principally health, education, and social security) decreased by 40 per cent. The students in the UNAM strike now join other sections of Mexican society (Amerindians, trade unionists) who have already been in the forefront of the struggle to protect what neo-classical economists consider as faulty state intervention.

SUBCOMANDANTE Marcos of the EZLN argues that "civil society" must make a concerted claim on the state, that is, the working class and the peasantry must have more control of the state. Each act within civil society that challenges the state in Mexico is met with fierce repression. In the south, in the province of Chiapas, the paramilitary and the U.S.-trained Mexican Army continue their repression of the Amerindians, organised under the banner of the EZLN. Near the U.S.-Mexico border, the workers at the Han Young factory inside the maquiladora (free trade, unregulated) zone face routine police violence as a consequence of their recent attempts to form a union. "Violations of the rule of law by the actions of the authorities themselves betray an inadmissible contempt that we cannot tolerate," said Senator Rosa Albina Garabito in June during a tour of the Tijuana-based factory. "We demand an immediate and definitive end to the repression the strikers have suffered since the beginning of the struggle." The Mexican elite willingly joined the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, which curtailed the rights of labour, especially in the free trade or maquiladora factories whose managers habitually harass workers, mainly women. The ongoing struggles of these workers (sometimes against recalcitrant government-backed unions) and of the EZLN provide the inspiration for the UNAM students.

ALTHOUGH UNAM dates from the 16th century, the participants in the Mexican Revolution of 1911 transformed the college into a modern, democratic institution whose students feel the burdens of nation-building. With a virtually free education, UNAM's graduates have provided Mexico with the expertise for whatever development it has been able to muster. The students have a firm commitment to their country and its future, something that differentiates them from the political and economic elite who took their education in the private colleges of Mexico, Europe, and the U.S. For UNAM's students, the trench warfare of civil society is an integral part of their democratic nationalism.

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Indeed, UNAM can be proud of its history of such warfare. In 1968, students from UNAM rallied against state repression and institutionalised poverty, especially since Mexico City was to be the site for the high-profile, and very expensive, Olympic Games. On October 2, a large crowd of students gathered in La Plaza de Las Tres Culturas at Tlatelolco, Mexico City, as part of a series of actions. For three decades, the truth of Tlatelolco remained hidden.

In June this year, Reforma and La Jornada reported that the Presidential General Staff, an elite army unit, conducted a deliberate massacre of a few hundred students. The verdict of the newspapers has been reaffirmed by a newly released book, Parte de Guerra, Tlatelolco, 1968, the 'war report', by Julio Scherer Garcia and Carlos Monsivais, both well-regarded intellectuals. Two days after the massacre, a now declassified Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) document notes, "all military zone commanders now have the authority to move against disorderly students in the provinces." The state's only response to the tussle in civil society was with guns. For the students, "Tlatelolco, 1968" is an emblem of their capacity, and its commemoration last year provided a forum for the struggles of 1999.

On January 17, 1969, the CIA station chief in his assessment of the student protests, said that they had an "authentic context". The 1968 student riots posed "a series of warning signals that Mexico's vaunted progress and genius for stability have seen better times." Educational reform, the CIA agent wrote, "is under study and the head of the PRI (Party of the Institutional Revolution), Mexico's principal political party, has admitted publicly that the party has for a long time forgotten university youth." Nothing was done for the university students and the U.S. was party to the abandonment of the hopes of the Mexican youth. NAFTA sealed the possibility of widespread mobility within the country; since it came into force, there has been a steady rise in unemployment rates among the youth.

"Estamos muy mal hechos," said Galeano, "pero no estamos terminados." (We are badly made, but we are not finished.) The ongoing actions of students of UNAM are a hopeful development, since they show that the students have joined the endeavour for a better future for all Mexico's citizens.

Vijay Prashad is an Assistant Professor, International Studies, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut.

A turnaround in South Korea

AMIYA KUMAR BAGCHI world-affairs

The speed of South Korea's economic recovery has been impressive and almost unique in the contemporary world.

IN the last week of November 1997, news broke in the world media that the Republic of Korea (South Korea in common usage) had approached the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for assistance in order to escape an external payments crisis and a possible debt default. By then the usable foreign exchange reserves of the country had come down to $7 billion to 8 billion, although official statistics still showed the foreign exchange reserves to be $24 billion. Most of this amount had been given by the central bank to the domestic banks to support the operations of their branches overseas. The usable foreign exchange reserves were down to a value of about two weeks' imports. Moreover, the total external debt of the country was $180 billion, of which short-term debt came to $100 billion.

The rescue package organised by the IMF came to $58 billion; of this, $21 billion was the loan pledged by the IMF, the largest amount to be lent to any country in a single deal. The rest of the $58 billion was composed of loans to be granted by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Japanese government and so on.

By the beginning of May 1999, that is, within a year and a half of seeking IMF assistance, South Korea's usable foreign exchange reserves had risen to $56 billion, and a severe economic downturn in 1998 had been converted into an expected rate of growth of 2-4 per cent this year. South Korea has been the first of the East Asian and South-East Asian countries to emerge out of the economic crisis that broke out in the wake of Thailand's forced devaluation of its currency in July 1997. Thereby it has confounded both the critics and the supporters of the IMF's package of policies, and the critics of the irremediable structural faults from which South Korea was supposed to suffer.

This does not mean that South Korea will necessarily be able to resume the high-growth path trajectory which it had recorded for almost 30 years before the downturn of 1997, nor that it will be able to get rid anytime soon of the enormous increase in unemployment that has accompanied the structural adjustment programme. In the boom years between 1990 and 1995, South Korea had attained virtually full employment (the rate of unemployment was 2 per cent in 1995) and there were an estimated 1,68,000 legal and illegal immigrants in the country by the second quarter of 1996. By May 1999, the official rate of unemployment was 8 per cent, and if we take into account the 'disappointed' who had given up looking for jobs, the rate goes up to 10 per cent.

Much of that unemployment is structural, in the sense that the unemployed are mostly easily retrenchable female labour or low-skilled male labour. This labour is unlikely to find jobs easily even when growth is resumed, since many of the low-skill jobs or 'jobs fit for women' under this South Korean patriarchy will be reorganised out of the system in the current process of restructuring.

Since 1996, South Korea has been a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the only Asian country other than Japan to be accepted into that exclusive club. It may have to share the fate of carrying a large load of structural unemployment even in times of relative prosperity. However, South Korea differs from most other OECD countries in one major respect: it has very little social insurance for the unemployed.

With all these problems characteristic of a full-fledged capitalist economy without the protection afforded by a welfare state apparatus, South Korea's speed of recovery still remains impressive - almost unique in the contemporary world. How does one understand this performance? And why did South Korea get into the mess of an external payments crisis in 1997?

IN most of the literature analysing the crisis and its aftermath in South Korea, one signal aspect of the society and policy in the country has barely been mentioned, namely, its geopolitical and geomilitary situation. It is a relatively small nation situated at the geopolitical confluence of three large and powerful countries, namely, Russia, China and Japan. Moreover, it was until 1910 an independent nation that had successfully resisted Japanese attempts to conquer it and had also remained independent of the Chinese empire to its south and east. It had remained under direct foreign rule only for the 35 years between 1910 and 1945, and the Korean people and their leaders on both sides of the border dividing North Korea and South Korea remained fiercely conscious of their historically independent status as a nation.

Even when North Korea and South Korea fought a bloody civil war (1950-1953), and the South Korean regime was preserved only through the intervention of the United States and its allies, and a U.S. Army contingent was stationed permanently on Korean soil, South Korea did not become just a passive dependency of the U.S. Syngman Rhee, who was President of South Korea during the 1950s, repeatedly flouted the advice of U.S. advisers and pursued a strategy of building up Korean industry through a policy of import substitution rather than allowing South Korea to slide back into the role of a supplier of rice and seaweed to Japan as it had been under Japanese rule.

Park Chung Hee became President in 1961 through a military coup and fashioned the economic strategy that lifted South Korea out of poverty and converted it into one of the fastest growing economies in the world. He had been trained in the Japanese military academy and modelled his economic strategy on that of Japan rather than following the dictates of static comparative advantage according to the advice tendered by Western policy advisers. He was conscious of the abject dependence of his regime on U.S. military and economic aid. One prong of his strategy was to lessen the degree of that dependence. For this purpose, he sought a rapprochement with Japan, the traditional enemy. This opened up another avenue of economic aid, a nearby large market for Korean products and a source of modern technology, equipment and managerial expertise. The drive to earn much larger amounts of foreign exchange by boosting the growth of exports was motivated both by the goals of generating more income and employment and loosening the foreign exchange constraint on investment and economic growth.

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The central institutional mechanism for driving the nationalist but foreign-aid dependent engine of growth was a military command system. In an analogy with the Japanese system of national economic management, which has been called Japan Incorporated (Inc.), the Korean system has also been styled as Korea Inc. But the proper analogy for the system under the regime of Park Chung Hee is the supreme General Headquarters (GHQ) of an army during a military campaign.

The abolition of landlordism in South Korea had destroyed possible bases for the use of private violence. (In this respect the country differed profoundly from India, from the 1950s.) General Park, who became President Park, monopolised the public means of coercion and compulsion. All adult males between certain ages were subject to compulsory military service. The system still prevails. The family structure remained patriarchal, and women were subordinated to men in most areas of decision-making. But unlike the situation in many communities in South Asia, or most countries in West Asia, there was no stigma attached to women working for a wage.

As the rate of economic growth accelerated and agriculture ceased to provide work for the majority of the workforce, more and more women were inducted into the labour force. However, the majority of the entrants into the labour force were young women up to the age of 25 or thereabouts, and many of them went out of paid employment as they married and raised children, since men were not expected to shoulder any part of the burden of housework. Between the 1960s and 1982 the share of manufacturing in total employment rose from 10-12 per cent to more than 20 per cent, and the participation rate of female labour rose from about 36 per cent to more than 40 per cent. By 1995 this rate had gone up to 47 per cent.

South Korea put emphasis on educating its workforce in as good a manner as possible, both through public programmes and through the sustenance of appropriate private incentives. The educational levels of women rose along with those of men, though at a slower pace. By now virtually all the adult males and females are literate, and a large proportion of the population has undergone secondary and university education.

Real wages of South Korean workers rose seven-fold between the late 1960s and 1997, when the crisis broke out. However, in spite of these advances, South Korea recorded perhaps the largest male-female differentials in wages worldwide: a woman at any level of education earned barely half or a little more of the pay of her male colleagues. What is equally striking is that very few women can be found in a decision-making position in any large-scale organisation or business.

Business in South Korea is conducted on a patrimonial basis, to an even greater degree than in India. The heads of the big chaebols (the conglomerate business groups) are men and their successors are their sons, brothers or cousins. One of the objectives of reform after the recent turmoil is to change the style of governance of these chaebols. But this is not going to be an easy task: chaebols were deliberately encouraged during the Park regime as instruments of the government's policy of promoting industry and penetrating export markets.

The government controlled both the domestic deposit-money banks and the allocation of foreign exchange. Both domestic credit and foreign exchange receipts (whether in the form of export earnings, military or economic assistance or loans from foreign sources, mainly the U.S. and allied governments and financial institutions controlled by them) were channelled to designated objectives of production and exports to be attained by the favoured conglomerates.

After Park's assassination, the chaebols came to influence government policy in their own interest, especially under the military-authoritarian regime of Chun Doo Hwan (1980-88). After the eruption of a movement for democracy supported by militant workers and students in 1987, attempts were made to reform the working of the chaebols and mitigate their concentration of economic power, which had reached one of the highest levels in the world. There was a lull in the growth of the economic power of the chaebols in the late 1980s, partly because of a slowdown in economic growth. But in the 1990s, the economic boom chiefly powered by large-scale domestic and foreign borrowing led to their further growth, until the economic crisis, which began in 1996, led to bankruptcies of some of the leading chaebols, such as Kia and Hanbo.

South Korean enterprises, as in the case of most large Indian firms, are characterised by high ratios of debt to equity. In fact, it has been claimed by Robert Wade and other radical critics of the policy enforced by the IMF that high debt-to-equity rates are characteristic of the high-growth Asian economies, and that trying to bring down these ratios and make them conform to the Anglo-American ideal of debt-equity ratios of 1:1 or lower figures is to strike at the prime financial lever of Asian growth.

There is certainly a great deal of truth in this proposition. Stock markets in many of these countries play a minor role compared with banks and other money market institutions in mobilising national savings. Insulating the operation of a company from the short-term fluctuations of a fickle stock market (which as often reflects unfounded speculator sentiments as it reflects the fundamentals of the performance of a company or the economy in which it operates) allows the controllers of the company to pursue long-term goals of productivity growth through expansion in scale and scope, and through in-house learning and implicit or explicit research and development activities.

The trouble in South Korea during the expansive phase of the 1990s was that not only were debt-equity ratios high, they kept on rising, even down to 1998. According to an estimate made by Seong Min Yoo, the debt-equity ratio of the top 30 chaebols was 4.21 in 1989, 4.49 in 1997 and 6.03 in 1998. The close relationship between the government and businesses under a military or semi-authoritarian regime (as that of President Roh Tae Woo) led to corruption, and big firms were often able to get approvals of risky investments by influencing government or bank officials.

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Hanbo Steel, for example, had an equity base of 90 billion won but was able to borrow 2,700 billion won to build the steel mill, giving it a debt-equity ratio of 30 to 1. It went bankrupt in January 1997, with a debt of 5,000 billion won, the largest case of bankruptcy in the history of the country. Eventually the Hanbo group itself collapsed. By the end of 1998, altogether 16 groups, which had been classed among the top 30 chaebols were bankrupt or were undergoing restructuring under government, bank or court directives. Many other smaller chaebols were also undergoing such a restructuring process.

However, despite government resolutions to remodel the style of corporate governance, the chaebols are not about to disappear, not even about to play a less significant role in the running of the South Korean economy. Soon after the agreement with the IMF was signed, the South Korean government took over the debts and the management of the Korea First Bank and the Bank of Seoul. The operations of the merchant banks, which had been mainly responsible for running up the short-term debt, were suspended, and a new supervisory authority, independent of the central bank, was created to oversee the operations of all financial institutions. As a result of all these measures of tightening credit, many more firms went bankrupt in 1998 than in 1997. The number of insolvent firms rose from 9,502 in 1993 to 17,168 in 1997 and to 21,966 in 1998. But significantly enough, most of the cases of bankruptcy in 1998 occurred early in the year, and the rate of failure of firms came down drastically in the latter part of the year.

The chaebols were urged to engage in the 'Big Deal', that is, exchange some of their assets with one another, so as to streamline their clutch of enterprises and concentrate on their areas of core competence. In October 1998, the five top chaebols, namely, Samsung, Hyundai, Daewoo, LG and SK, announced that seven of their business divisions - dealing with semiconductors, petrochemicals, oil refining, aviation, railway rolling stock, power generation and engines for ships - would be restructured following the strategy of the Big Deal.

This will have three effects: (a) increase the sizes of the companies in each sector and make them formidable penetrators of export markets (b) keep out foreign enterprises seeking to buy up weak firms at cheap rates and (c) minimise or eliminate domestic price competition among rival firms.

Thus, for example, Hyundai Electronics and LG Semicon agreed to set up a company which will rank second only to Samsung Electronics, that has been the world leader in the manufacture of semiconductors for some time. The takeover of the automobile business of Kia and Samsung Motors by Hyundai has converted Hyundai Motor into one of the top 10 automobile manufacturers in the world. Its only rival in the country is Daewoo Motor, which has taken over Ssangyong Motors. Both the companies have the ambition to emerge as top players in the global automobile market.

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When the South Korean economic crisis occurred, there were fears of the fire sale of enterprises, particularly with foreign transnationals taking advantage of the weak won and the mountain of debt of the enterprises to buy up hundreds of enterprises and properties at cheap rates. The government also publicly encouraged foreign direct investment (FDI) as a way of acquiring more foreign exchange and keeping up the competitiveness of the domestic firms. The first half of 1998 seemed to justify the fears of a wholesale transnational takeover of South Korean firms; Procter & Gamble of the U.S. took over Ssangyong Paper Co., Coca-Cola bought out the beverage business of Oriental Brewery Co., its partner in a joint venture, Fuji Xerox of Japan bought up its subsidiary Korea Xerox, Pfizer of the U.S. bought up the stake in the pharmaceuticals business of the Shinwon group, and so on.

According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Finance and Economy, between November-December 1997 and the first quarter of 1999, foreign capital acquired a stake in 600 enterprises, and 70 per cent of the firms were entirely turned over to foreign ownership and control. Of the total $10.8-billion FDI, only 20 per cent was intended for new businesses and the rest was for acquiring stakes in South Korean enterprises.

However, despite these figures, we have to reckon with the sheer size of the chaebols and other South Korean firms, and the resistance that has been increasingly mounted against the foreign takeover of domestic business. In 1998, the Daewoo, Samsung and Hyundai corporations (they do not include all the enterprises of the groups) each achieved sales of more than 34 trillion won, that is, taking a U.S. dollar as being equal to 1,200 won, a little below or above $30 billion each. Samsung Electronics achieved sales of 20 trillion won; LG International, 19 trillion won; Daewoo Heavy Industries, 6 trillion won, and so on. Pohang Iron and Steel and Korea Electric Power Corpo., both highly profitable state enterprises incidentally, had sales of 11 trillion and 14 trillion won respectively. It would have been difficult for transnational companies to buy up a major chunk of these enterprises, even at fire sale prices.

As it happened, after the agreement with the IMF had been signed and a minimum level of foreign exchange reserves ensured, South Korean enterprises drove into the export markets with renewed vigour. The government made special credit lines available to exporting firms, and especially to small and medium enterprises (large enterprises always had favoured credit allocations for export), and imports were cut down drastically. (The decline in the number of cases of bankruptcies in the latter part of 1998 is explained partly by these measures.) There was a 30 per cent increase in export volume but because of the depreciation of the won and weak markets for South Korean products (virtually all manufactures), export values declined. However, imports declined by almost 36 per cent and South Korea ended 1998 with a current account surplus of $40 billion and with usable foreign exchange reserves of about $50 billion. The freeze on nominal wages with a high inflation rate also drove down real wages and labour costs, as did large-scale retrenchment of workers.

As these developments took place, South Koreans became less and less willing to sell their enterprises to foreigners. Most of the proposed transfers of state-controlled financial and other enterprises to foreign firms were stalled. For example, after months of negotiation, the deal to transfer the ownership of Korea First Bank to Newbridge Capital of the U.S. fell through in the beginning of May this year.

In actual fact, there has been little let-up in the aggressive drive by the Korean firms to penetrate foreign markets as evidenced by the expansion plans of the Daewoo, Hyundai and LG groups in various sectors of the Indian market. To an uninitiated foreigner, there is something paradoxical in this seeming ability of South Korean enterprises to ignore the impact of hard times. The results of virtually all the chaebols in 1998 show up huge losses: for example, the losses of the Hyundai, Ssangyong, Hanwha and Dong-Ha groups during 1998 were reported to be (in won) 9,410 billion, 1,056.5 billion, 168.8 billion and 1,455 billion respectively. Some top groups such as Daewoo, Samsung, LG and SK showed positive profits but a recalculation, after taking into account losses covered by transactions between group companies (carried out by a local securities firm, Shinhan Securities Co.) found all of them making losses in overall terms. This recalculation showed the total losses of the top 26 chaebols as 14 trillion won, that is, considerably more than $1 billion.

On top of this, South Korean companies had piled up very large debts. The total assets of the 440 companies listed on the Korea Stock Exchange increased from $84.5 billion to $110 billion but their total debts remained virtually the same, at $278 billion.

The secret of all these developments lies in the ability of South Korean firms to obtain credit for expansion even when they were making losses. One of the main reasons for South Korea piling up so much short-term debt before the crisis was that South Korean banks and other overseas branches were extending lines of credit to South Korean firms operating overseas, even as the former were borrowing from other banks. While the present government would perhaps want to bring down the power of the top chaebols, given the way Korea Inc. can be converted into Korea GHQ in moments of crisis, and given the fact that the external payments crisis has been overcome, there are few grounds for optimism that the fundamental style of management of South Korean firms and enterprises - patrimonial, authority-centred, consensual at the top and repressive towards labour and women, especially in times of trouble - will change in the near future.

Amiya Kumar Bagchi is RBI Professor of Economics at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta.

Figures of crime

R.K. RAGHAVAN the-nation

CRIME against property in the country came down by two per cent in 1997; violent crime remained steady at 2.49 lakh offences. Although these statistics may appear incredible, this is a claim made by Crime in India 1997, the official annual publication (price Rs.667 or $38) of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) of the Ministry of Home Affairs, released recently. In the absence of material that challenges these figures, any analysis of the crime scene will have to make do with the NCRB statistics. The Bureau has grown in stature over the years mainly owing to the accent it has placed on a continual refining of the process of reporting of crime by State police forces. It cannot take the blame for any possible under-reporting or misreporting. Against this backdrop, a study of crime based mostly on Crime in India seems unexceptionable. In any case, we are concerned here with the rise or fall of crime each year, rather than with crime in absolute terms.

Crime is invariably reckoned the world over in terms of its rate, that is, offences per 100,000 of the population. In India, the rate of Indian Penal Code (IPC) offences (most pertinent to our study) has hovered around 170-190, except for an occasional crest (200 in 1981) or a trough (142 in 1961). Interestingly, there was a marginal drop during 1997. Too much cannot be read into this. It must, however, be remembered that crime figures tend to go up with population and any demand that these should necessarily come down is preposterous, to say the least. We are now a nation of more than 960 million as against 360 in 1951. Also, police strength in the States has doubled during the past three decades (0.7 million in 1971 against 1.3 million in 1997) accounting for a higher level of registration of crime. There is consensus here over a balanced approach that, as far as possible, avoids a wholly statistical approach. An observer who plays up the numbers, and a misguided policeman who suppresses crime to hoodwink the public, both distort the perspective of a dispassionate analyst.

Crime in the urban areas is qualitatively different from that in semi-urban and rural areas. Crime in India identifies 23 mega-cities. A 7 per cent rise in incidents of homicide and a 16 per cent spurt in incidents of kidnapping are indicative of the disturbing situation. Delhi had the highest share of urban crime in 1997, followed by Mumbai and Bangalore. Interestingly, in Tamil Nadu, Coimbatore outstripped Chennai.

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It is widely known that a practical policeman is one who pays equal attention to solving crime as well as tackling fear of crime in the community. Normally it is the latter that is more difficult to handle. Such fear is often induced by a rash of violent offences. The NCRB's decision to devote a chapter exclusively to this is appropriate, especially when such crime accounts for about 15 per cent of all cognizable cases under the IPC.

Homicide cases dropped by less than one per cent during 1997. This is too insignificant a change to draw any comment. What should, however, cause concern is the fact that they have gone up by more than 30 per cent during the past decade. Property disputes account for 10 per cent of homicide cases. There is some food for thought here for the district administration, especially the executive magistracy, who have powers under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to nip such disputes in the bud.

Incidents of rape are a blot on civilised society. But they occur frequently even in the advanced West. We do have this problem in abundant measure. Whenever there is a spurt, public opinion is enraged leading to a public debate on the need to step up the penalty prescribed by law. Capital punishment is also often mentioned in this context. Although there was just a three per cent rise during 1997, the nearly 80 per cent increase during the decade cannot be brushed aside. Although a majority of the victims are usually in the age group of 16-30, nearly one in three subjected to this crime in 1997 was even younger.

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We need to sit up and ask several questions. Apart from social control, are there enough physical safeguards at home and in the work environment to frustrate depredators? This is especially because the rape victim is often violated by a person known to her, either a friend or a close relative. There is a case here for a practical approach by parents and employers that will reduce the opportunity for the commission of crime. This is usually referred to by criminologists as target hardening, although such a term is more often used in association with property crime.

Crime in India has a comprehensive chapter on offences against women. Seven such crimes are identified by the IPC. It should be a revelation to many that there are 17 special enactments relevant to the subject. These include the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act and the Dowry Prohibition and Commission of Sati (Prevention) Acts. A five per cent rise in the total number of offences against women does not seem alarming. But the popular perception, especially that of women's organisations, is at variance with the conclusion that could be drawn from actual crime figures. This is why the earlier reference to the fear of crime phenomenon that the police willy-nilly have to contend with. Also for consideration before the police is the question of how to break the impediments in the way of freer reporting of crimes by female victims. Has the institution of women police helped promote this? My own feeling is that this has not helped greatly and there is scope for research.

Instances of property crime (such as robbery, burglary and theft) dropped by about two per cent during 1997. This again is likely to be unacceptable to the average citizen, especially in the metropolitan cities, who perceives crime at his doorstep each living day. The nearly 11 per cent fall in cases of theft is possibly explained by a growing lack of faith in the investigation mechanism. The tendency is to do a cost-benefit analysis of the time spent in seeking police help. On the positive side, community policing projects launched by a few enterprising police officers, which seek to educate the community on how to secure their property, have sent around the message that crime prevention measures do help. There is a case for more serious interest in such projects by supervisory ranks so that crime prevention becomes a matter of habit and a cooperative endeavour.

THE police complain eternally of shrinking resources to combat crime. The complaint is credible in the context of the enormous attention that law and order matters need from law enforcement agencies. There is no gainsaying the fact that the executive has greater stakes in maintaining public peace than in solving individual instances of crime, unless such crime is grave and involves large numbers of the citizenry. The situation is not easily solved and can be tackled only by bringing to bear a certain balance between competing priorities. There is no scientific formula which can guide the policemen in the field.

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Crime in India is a very useful compendium of information on the police. From a mere 27.3 policemen per 100 square kilometre. in 1981, there are now 40.4. But in terms of strength per 100,000 of the population, the rise has been from 131 merely to 134. This is a modest ratio that needs a close look. The point, however, is how much governments can do to expand police manpower. Discerning policemen, past and present, will set much score by a more judicious use of existing manpower. They will opt for making the police more equipment-oriented. This needs constant attention from the top leadership of the police.

The NCRB, under the dynamic leadership of Director Sharda Prasad, has many ambitious projects on hand. One such is the proposal to bring out a publication on prison statistics. This will be eagerly awaited as the absence of reliable statistics is a handicap for serious researchers.

Dr. R.K. Raghavan is currently Director, Central Bureau of Investigation, New Delhi. The views expressed in the article are his own.

Understanding Dashrath Patel

On an artist whose work spans a wide range of creative activity, taking the ordinary aesthetics of daily life beyond their limitations.

WHEN I first met Dashrath Patel at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in New Delhi, he burst into deep, tormented tears at the mention of the name of Harindranath Chattopadhyay. I immediately understood why; around me were works repeating the lines of the poet in P. Sundarayya's "Telengana People's Struggle and its Lessons", describing nature's equalising power, but in their own way:

Nought is superior or inferior To aught in her untamperable plan Of oneness and equality; no headiness Dwells in her countless details, every detail, Worthy of life, is conscious of itself And of its station in the masterpiece.

It is only from this perspective of the unity of each creative effort with others and its essential harmony with nature that one can understand the sweep of Patel's activity. Indeed, Sadanand Menon, in his curatorial note, highlights Patel's "extraordinary body of artistic work - including figurative, narrative and impressionist paintings from the late forties... the transition to conscious abstraction in the middle phase and contemporary mixed media and multi-media collages in recent years."

The same myriad quality of nature affects each medium he touches. Take ceramics; his hand flits "from the village potter's wheel at Vastrapur, Ahmedabad, to glazed pottery at Bombay potteries, to his path-breaking work in glazes and art ceramics at the School of Art, Prague, to his setting up of the ceramics department at the National Institute of Design and the industrial ceramic prototypes he made there for the NID showroom and, later, for the Rural Design School at Sewapuri." And nowhere do we see it falter. Even when he picks up mass-produced objects of use, such as bags and notebooks, he transforms them and liberates them from their pedestrian existence. One might say, just as he has liberated himself from the shackles his extraordinary creativity had been burdened with under the patronage of a state, Harindranath had mocked in the following words:

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You government Of brutal tyranny, of tinsel crowns, Self-puffed exploiters, seeming benefactors, You arms-empowered heroes, one-day actors, Time's bloody bubbles that shall burst - and soon!

So "he kept himself vulnerable and open to critique and, at a stage in his life when most people sink into comfort and sedentary celebrityhood, he chose to tread a path of uncertainty and re-learning all over again," Sadanand points out.

Can one not see in him the picture of Bhishma, lying on his bed of arrows, the father-figure of so many unworthy sons? Indeed, the tears Dashrath Patel shed that afternoon for Harindranath may well be those of the father-figure of the Mahabharata who could not but have suffered to see how the path of conventional duty had so cleverly led him to its final impasse. Dashrath was wiser. But, as in the case of Proust, to regain lost time one has to pay a terrible price.

HOW then does one look at his exhibition, first shown at the NGMA both in New Delhi and in Mumbai? It spans a wide range of creative activity, from architecture to assemblages, installation and photography. And yet, behind it all, a remarkable respect for the inborn aesthetics of the working people. But he does more than that. Taking the ordinary aesthetics of daily life, he extends them beyond their limitations.

"I think I was merely aware in a very strong way of my own limitations," he explains. "I was aware that I was not adequate in my language and that my basic education was not enough. So I had this feeling, this fear of being limited. I always felt the need to learn and do something more than was needed in related fields."

This "doing something more" is the artist in him as opposed to the craftsman who only does what is required. Or the fruit and vegetable packers, who are masters of simple design but do not try to work out original solutions to things. They react to a need to organise elements, but do not "see" them as an artist does, or express themselves in the process of organisation.

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This comes out in the most concrete manner in Dashrath Patel's first encounter with another artist, Henri Cartier-Bresson:

"He was really interested in seeking," Patel points out, "Taking photographs was secondary. His main interest was in seeing. He was interested in everything around him and in knowing what people were doing... When I exhibited at the Galerie Barbizon, Cartier-Bresson had come to see. Afterwards he put his camera in my hand and said, 'Can you shoot a frame for me?' At that time I hated the camera. All I wanted was to draw at the time. I said, 'I don't do photography. Why should I?' He said, 'You are clear in your drawing, but I also want to know what you see with another tool.' So I clicked a shot and forgot about it. Couple of weeks later he invited me home for a meal and to meet his wife. He showed me many prints. He held up one and said, 'You like it?' By then I had already forgotten that I had shot a picture with his camera - I had done it with so much resistance and prejudice. I said, 'Yes, it's very well seen!' He said 'It's you and it's important you buy a camera and work with it!' That's how I got my first camera."

But 'seeing' is only part of it. Creating the 'seen' within one is another, and being able to communicate its impact widely is yet another. Dashrath Patel has managed to do so on a very wide canvas indeed. The axis of his eye seems to revolve around sharp contrasts of light and shade, something that is natural in an environment with strong sunlight. And the slatted light falling on the wall behind him in his studio gives us an insight into his mixed media abstracts, as also the Sewapuri dhurrie with a similar motif. In fact, the impact of light and shade enters his sight in the form of sharp colour contrasts, as in his wooden bowls with a lacquer finish, as also his photograph of an Islamic shrine. The harsh light of the Indian sun seems to drain away the subtleties of the palette, so it is challenged by our artists with pure bright colours - a challenge that is imbibed not only from Rajasthani miniature art, but also from the craftsmen. And one cannot help but wonder if his use of silver foil is not inspired by the mirror work of Gujarat.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson we learn from Dashrath Patel is not what he can or cannot see, but the simplicity with which he reminds us that everyone has that capacity to see. It is this faith in him that forced him to leave behind the artist's canvas and enter the much more public world of the open exhibition, the fair, the theatre and of the public world that enters our most private existence as design. And in all this he has remained an artist, not only doing what is merely required of him, but reminding us of the vision required of us as thinking human beings confronted by a world that is constantly moving forward. This is neither the general run of things nor easy to achieve. And this also distinguishes him from the craftsman.

A 'sell-out' and some hard-sell

Facing mounting reverses on the battlefield and under international pressure, Nawaz Sharif agrees to a pullout from Kargil, and angers hawks at home.

THE countdown has begun. If Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Army stay the course, the Pakistani pullout from Kargil, already under way, will be completed in a few days. There could be twists and turns in the withdrawal process, but Sharif has so far given no indication that he will resile from his July 4 agreement with U.S. President Bill Clinton.

There is little doubt that Pakistan has capitulated: it buckled in the face of sustained international pressure and a determined operation by the Indian Army. Sharif's action in ordering the pullout from the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC) may have angered the hawks in the Pakistani establishment, but it has not caused many ripples on the streets of Pakistan. Officially, since it was a "war" between the Kashmir mujahideen and the Indian Army, the Pakistan Army was not "involved". The Army is angry but has gone along with the course steered by the political executive.

The July 11 meeting between the Directors-General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan was on the cards ever since Pakistan made the first move of "appealing" to the mujahideen to pull back. Whether it was the visit to India of special envoy Niaz Naik or the three visits to Pakistan of R.K. Mishra, editor of the Observer of Business and Politics, as the official emissary of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, diplomatic channels of communication were always open. Finally, of course, there was the Sharif-Clinton meeting and the U.S. President's telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

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The very fact that the pullout from the Kaksar and Mushkoh sectors was announced by both India and Pakistan shows that the contacts have been productive and that in the days to come the pullout will be extended to the entire Kargil sector.

Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz said at a briefing on July 11: "Following the mujahideen's positive response to our appeal to de-escalate in Kargil, the Government of Pakistan and the Government of India have been in contact on the question of the restoration of the LoC. The DGMOs of the two countries met today and agreed on the modalities for de-escalation including sector-wise cessation of ground and air hostilities to facilitate the mujahideen's disengagement."

Aziz further said: "We have been informed that disengagement from the Kaksar sector which began yesterday has been proceeding satisfactorily. The disengagement from the Mushkoh sector will commence tonight. Gradually the disengagement will be completed in the entire area..." He said that it had "always been our position that both Pakistan and India should respect the Line of Control, make efforts to de-escalate and promote peace through dialogue and contacts between civil and military officials. We also believe that both India and Pakistan should honour their commitment to implementing the Lahore Declaration in letter and spirit. The Lahore process, which envisaged an early solution of the Kashmir dispute, should be revived immediately."

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Not so surprisingly, Pakistan claims that the militants are "dispersing", not withdrawing to the Pakistan side of the LoC. This is consistent with Pakistan's position that the militants are "indigenous Kashmiris". In effect, by making such an "appeal", Pakistan has sought their "withdrawal" into Indian territory. Clearly, such a position does not belong in the real world.

Militant groups which are branded together under the United Jehad Council (UJC) first rejected the Pakistan Government's call for a withdrawal from Kargil, but that appears to be a case of posturing: after all, can "jehadi elements" be seen to be withdrawing from their religious "duty" of liberating Kashmir? It may therefore be better to declare premature martyrdom, save face and prepare for the same job at another place and another time.

Sharif is under fire at home, and ironically the fiercest attacks have come from a constituency that the Government has all along pandered to: those journalists, analysts and former Generals for whom India-baiting is a profession. They have accused him of having sold out in Washington after raising expectations of a profitable "war" for the "liberation" of Kashmir.

In the whole process, Sharif has demonstrated that he is a man not to be trusted by India, a man who has no consistent policy towards India and a man who presides over an imperfect, unstable and adventurist nation. The real danger to India, however, does not flow from Sharif himself, but from Pakistan's inability, after 52 years of existence, to conduct itself as a mature and democratic international player. When it comes to India, Pakistan appears to suffer from schizophrenia. If bilateral talks are to have meaning, Pakistan must first emerge as one nation, not a sum total of different centres of power.

In an action that is characteristic of Sharif, he rushed to Washington after he realised that the Kargil misadventure could not be sustained. He called up Clinton, requested an appointment and rushed over as soon as the President said yes.

Despite all the spin and twist Islamabad seeks to put on it, the Clinton-Sharif joint statement is quite clear about what is required of Pakistan: "It was agreed between the President and Prime Minister that concrete steps will be taken for the restoration of the Line of Control in accordance with the Simla Agreement. The President urged an immediate cessation of the hostilities once these steps are taken," the statement said.

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It added: "The Prime Minister and the President agreed that the bilateral dialogue begun in Lahore in February provides the best forum for resolving all issues dividing India and Pakistan, including Kashmir. The President said he would take a personal interest in encouraging an expeditious resumption and intensification of those bilateral efforts, once the sanctity of the Line of Control has been fully restored."

So what exactly does Sharif have to do? The first concrete step must come from Pakistan - it must "restore" the LoC by pulling back the intruders. (The fact that the joint statement does not use the term "intruders" does not in any way twist its meaning around.) And then Clinton will take a "personal interest" in encouraging a resumption of bilateral talks between India and Pakistan.

According to a report in the Pakistani newspaper The Nation (July 9), the U.S. and Pakistan had prepared their own drafts of a joint statement. In its draft the U.S. had described Pakistan as an "aggressor" and called upon Islamabad to withdraw its forces from Indian territory. "The process of marrying the two (Pakistani and U.S. drafts) saw many ups and downs. Finally, Sharif and Clinton personally gave it a final shape," the newspaper reported.

The "compromise solution" is obvious. The U.S., which has repeatedly called for a withdrawal of the intruders, did not want to embarrass Pakistan. Equally, it did not want to dilute its concerns. This explains the final formulation. The "gain" for Islamabad was also clear - Clinton would take a "personal interest" in "encouraging an expeditious resumption and intensification" of bilateral efforts to resolve Kashmir and other disputes. Clearly, this phraseology reflects Pakistan's concerns and represents the "only gain" for Islamabad. Whether it will find any concrete meaning, of course, remains to be seen.

The joint statement also reflects another major climbdown by Pakistan. Sharif agreed with Clinton that the Lahore process was the "best forum" to resolve all disputes between India and Pakistan, including Kashmir. So, what will happen to the United Nations and to Pakistan's calls for intervention by third parties? Has Pakistan changed its mind suddenly after shouting from the rooftops that the international community must intervene?

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The significance of the Sharif-Clinton statement will become more evident in the weeks and months to come. It shows that the U.S. is more than willing to play a role in resolving disputes between the two countries. Today such an intervention may favour India, tomorrow it may not.

After his return from London on July 8, where he met Prime Minister Tony Blair, Sharif went into a meeting with Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Pervez Musharraf and other senior aides. The next day he presided over a meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC), Pakistan's highest decision-making body on security matters. It comprises the Prime Minister, the three Service chiefs, the Foreign, Finance and Interior Ministers, and special invitees, depending on the issue under discussion.

An official statement said that the DCC expressed "satisfaction" that the Clinton-Sharif joint statement had incorporated the "main elements" of Pakistan's position. The DCC "decided that Pakistan should appeal to the mujahideen to help resolve the Kargil situation".

Soon after the DCC meeting ended, Sharif met with leaders of the Jehad Council in the presence of Gen. Musharraf and made an "appeal" to them to "help resolve" the Kargil situation. An official statement issued after a Cabinet meeting on July 10 said: "The Cabinet noted that the mujahideen have responded positively to the appeal of the Government of Pakistan to help resolve the Kargil situation." The statement further said that the Cabinet believed that Sharif's "peace initiative had helped to internationalise the Kashmir issue in a manner that had never been done before while peace in the region had been preserved... The Cabinet acclaimed the heroic contribution of the Kashmiri freedom fighters, particularly the martyrs of Kargil, who laid down their lives for a just and legitimate cause. While stating that their sacrifices would not be in vain, the Cabinet underlined Pakistan's principled policy of providing moral, diplomatic and political support to the freedom struggle of the people of Jammu and Kashmir."

After their meeting with Sharif, the militants denounced appeals for their withdrawal from Kargil. Denying press reports that the militants had agreed to consider the appeal, Council spokesman Abu Shahbaz said that a withdrawal from Kargil would deliver a body blow to the "jehad in Kashmir". The mujahideen, he said, would "fight to the end". "Not all the international conspiracies against the freedom movement of Kashmir can prevent us from moving towards the liberation of Kashmir," he said.

Clearly, the militants cannot be seen as sabotaging their own cause. Since their movement, backed by Pakistan's "political support", is to continue, withdrawal may prove to be disastrous for a movement that is looking for new volunteers from the "jehadi madrasas" in Pakistan.

Aziz Siddiqui, a former editor of The Frontier Post, wrote in Dawn on July 11: "It is hard to see that the defiant refusal of the mujahideen groups to climb down can be much more than a sort of whistling in the dark, a bid to acquire some dignity in defeat. Any indefinite continuance of their operation will require maintenance of a supply line of men and material which may not be easy without the cooperation of the Pakistan Army."

Despite the spin put on the Kargil developments, Pakistanis will find it hard to believe that they have gained from the enterprise. If the intrusion was part of a well-thought-out policy, why was it not pursued to its logical conclusion? If it was doomed from the beginning, why was it executed in the first place? Convincing answers will be hard to come by since the tradition of fudging and flattery, which characterises the Pakistani politico-military establishment, will not permit such a debate.

Siddiqui wrote in Dawn: "Humiliation at India's hand is hard to bear in any circumstance; it is the worst sin a government (or a cricket team) can commit. It shocks the people even more when they have been made to expect the opposite."

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Asad Durrani, a former chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence, argued in The News on July 9: "We had chinks in our armour, but as the events unfolded it was the Indian external pincer that forced us to agree to restore the LoC... Pakistan was pressured to restore the status quo ante, not only because the West desired to prevent turmoil in the region, but also due to our comparative vulnerability to coercion... It (Kargil) has not only brought home the realities of international politics... it has also taught us to regard events in their correct perspective, rather than getting carried away by self-serving hopes and hypes."

KARGIL was a result of the Pakistani establishment's anti-India posture. Cross-border bus rides have not altered this ground reality. Pakistan has been stoking the fires in Kashmir for 11 years; can a single bus trip change anything? Vajpayee's bus diplomacy was a media event - it was intended to project him as a peace-maker after the nuclear tests of May 1998. However, India had hardly done its homework, policy was absent and there was pressure from the United States.

An excellent Pakistani perspective on the bus diplomacy was provided by The Friday Times soon after the Lahore summit: "The transition from a status-quo, jehad-oriented, hawkish foreign policy vis-a-vis India to a forward-looking, moderate, peace-oriented foreign policy which Mr. Sharif appears to be advocating is going to be very difficult. Such a transition cannot take place without Mr. Sharif first cobbling a broad political consensus for it and then nudging the national security establishment to review its historic assumptions and accord its approval to a change of tack... but Mr. Sharif has made no effort to take the security establishment or the Pakistani people into confidence. He has taken no steps to bring the political opposition on board his non-ideological foreign policy agenda... Therefore, our fear is that, like his many other hastily assembled initiatives on equally contentious areas of economy and law, this (Lahore) initiative too is likely to flounder on the rock of institutional confusion, political indecision and jehadi counter-pressure."

The post-Lahore scene seems to match these words - in a sense, it has been true to script. India had done nothing to jeopardise the Lahore process. In March, in the cool climes of Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka, Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz and External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh were chalking out the methodology of implementing the Lahore agreements. In April, the Indian High Commission was liberally doling out visas to Pakistanis who wanted to travel to Mohali in Punjab to see the India-Pakistan one-day cricket match. Special trains were organised to take the Pakistani fans back and forth.

In May, when the Indian patrols returned to Kargil, they found Pakistani intruders occupying Indian posts. So who was responsible for the rupture - India or Pakistan? The finger must be pointed at Pakistan - or, more specifically, both its civilian and military leaderships - for having ruined what could have proved to be a long roller-coaster ride to better relations.

As one diplomat in Islamabad put it: "Every Prime Minister who takes power in New Delhi thinks that Pakistan is virgin territory waiting to be explored." Clearly, the BJP does not have an understanding of the dynamics of India-Pakistan relations, or it would not have used persons like R.K. Mishra as emissaries.

At the other extreme, one sees the ludicrous spectacle of the Indian Government banning Pakistan Television broadcasts and blocking access to the Web site of Dawn. It is clear that notwithstanding the creation of a new bureaucratic structure like the National Security Council, the Indian establishment suffers from a poverty of strategic thinking.

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Did the BJP ever consider the possibility that Pakistan would be emboldened by its nuclear weapon status? There have been reports that Pakistan had four times in the last 15 years planned to execute the Kargil operation, but had to abort it on each occasion. But, now, when it has the "ultimate weapon", Pakistan thought nothing of the Kargil adventure. It may have backfired, but the absence of strategic thinking shows the BJP establishment in a poor light.

Pakistan has begun calling back its men from Kargil, but it is clear that there is no change in its policy of sending "jehadi elements" into Kashmir. If anything, an Army that is smarting from the experience of having to listen to political dictates may step up the infiltration into Kashmir from other areas on the LoC - or try some desperate actions elsewhere. The acknowledgement of "valiant actions" by the mujahideen is not mere talk; the Pakistani establishment genuinely believes it.

India must talk to Pakistan, but only on an equitable basis. Islamabad should not be given any concession following its Kargil misadventure. The infiltration into Kashmir must stop before a genuine dialogue process can begin.

A firm American demand

What does Washington's prescription for Nawaz Sharif in the context of Kargil signify in real terms?

IF the Pakistani propaganda machine is anything to go by, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did a big favour to the United States by visiting Washington on July 4 - his primary objective being the averting of a "war" in the subcontinent. But the Clinton administration is not unaware of the fact that official Islamabad is desperately looking for ways to save its Prime Minister politically.

Whether President Bill Clinton should have in the first place given an appointment to Nawaz Sharif is one question. But in many quarters there is the conviction that the terms of the meeting were not dictated by the Pakistan Prime Minister. In fact, one argument is that Sharif had perhaps to agree to every single point raised and to sign the Joint Statement even before Clinton agreed to meet him during the long Fourth of July weekend.

Notwithstanding Islamabad's blatant disinformation campaign on the nature and scope of the three-hour meeting, one cannot ignore what was put in print by way of the 18-line Joint Statement. But things that were not said in it found their way into Pakistan's "interpretation" of the statement.

Nawaz Sharif agreed with Clinton on some crucial points. For instance he agreed that it was vital for peace in South Asia that both India and Pakistan respect the Line of Control (LoC) in accordance with the 1972 Simla Accord; that "concrete steps" would be taken to restore the sanctity of the LoC. The President urged an immediate cessation of hostilities "once these steps are taken".

The communique also goes on to say that both Clinton and Sharif agreed that the bilateral dialogue process that had begun in Lahore was the "best forum" to resolve all issues, including Kashmir, and that the President would take a personal interest in encouraging an expeditious resumption and intensification of the bilateral efforts "once the sanctity of the Line of Control has been fully restored."

The Pakistani "spin" was only to be expected, for the Prime Minister could not return home "empty-handed". Perhaps the photo session with Clinton at the end of the talks could have well served the purpose of whipping up the feeling back home as to how "close" Sharif was to Clinton. The "spin" came not by way of a masterful interpretation of the Joint Statement but in putting together things that were not there.

According to Pakistani officials in Washington, who gave their own "meaning" to the Joint Statement, Islamabad would use its "influence" to "appeal" to the militants, or the mujahideen; it was made to appear as though there was no commitment on the part of Sharif to withdraw Pakistani forces from the Indian side of the LoC. The Joint Statement makes no reference to any militants or the so-called freedom fighters who suddenly appeared on the Indian side; rather there is an explicit call to Pakistan to pull back its forces from the other side of the LoC in order to reduce tensions.

More than the withdrawal of forces, what was emphasised was a firm American demand for the restoration of the LoC and for respect of its sanctity.

Pakistani officials sought to appease the fundamentalists back home by saying that the mujahideen elements had achieved their objective of drawing international attention to the Kashmir issue: it is a different matter if the hardliners accepted this "compliment". Clinton's commitment to take a "personal interest" in the Kashmir issue was highlighted as yet another selling point. This certainly was stretching the agreement a little too far.

Senior administration officials say that the Joint Statement is quite clear on Clinton's stand that the Lahore Process provided the best forum to resolve all disputes between India and Pakistan on a bilateral basis. The emphasis is on the word 'bilateral'.

If the Pakistani propaganda machine harped on the gains made at the talks, U.S. officials who briefed the media focussed on Kargil. One official remarked: "... The purpose of this meeting is to address the immediate crisis which has been unfolding over the last several weeks. That is the urgency. And clearly once you have addressed this immediate crisis, there will be opportunities to address all issues, again within the context of Lahore."

Asked if the U.S. understanding of the restoration of the LoC in accordance with the Simla Agreement involved all the alterations that came to be made since the accord was signed in 1972, a senior official said: "We have read the Simla Agreement,we read the 43-page annexe which delineates the Line of Control. But this meeting today was not about the history of that agreement, or, indeed, the history of the Kashmir crisis. It is about this particular situation in Kargil with those posts that have been overtaken, and dealing with that."

WHETHER Nawaz Sharif achieved the "political cover" in his meeting with Clinton and will therefore be in a position to implement what he agreed to remains to be seen. In the aftermath of the talks there has been genuine concern in the U.S. over Sharif's capacity to implement the agreement. The impression gained by the administration is that he can pull it off, for two reasons. First, there is a perception that the opposition in Pakistan to the Washington proposal comes from the known hardline elements who would have opposed the Prime Minister, no matter what the outcome of the meeting was. Thus far the U.S. has seen little evidence of a "nation rising in protest". Initial reports indicated that even the armed forces may not stand in the way - if the statements of General Pervez Musharraf, the Chief of the Army Staff, were anything to go by.

Secondly, the U.S. administration is of the firm view that if Islamabad really wants to tell the terrorists and the mercenaries where to get off, it really can. The international community knows that these fighters, who are holed up in the mountain peaks on the Indian side, are sustained by Pakistan.

Prior to the Washington meeting, senior U.S. officials freely talked of "hundreds" of Pakistani regulars being involved in the fighting in Kargil. Pakistan's claim that it has no control over the "freedom fighters" and that its forces are not involved in the intrusions in the sector do not cut much ice with them. In fact, these claims are dismissed with contempt.

Then why should the Clinton administration look for ways to bail out Pakistan? The U.S. does not see the prospect of Pakistan formally going under in terms of its best national and strategic interest, or that of India having to put up with a failed state on its borders. The apprehensions of Islamic fundamentalism aside, Washington is mainly worried about elements in Pakistan's nuclear establishment signing on with terrorists and rogue states in the international system.

Mediation by any other name

AIJAZ AHMAD cover-story

The defusing of the Kargil crisis is likely to see intensification of external, especially U.S., pressure on India to resolve the Kashmir issue. We may not call it mediation, but we are quite in the middle of it.

THE President of the United States went to work on the Fourth of July. Mindful of the sensitivities of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in New Delhi, the White House claimed that a meeting had been hastily arranged in response to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's urgent request. The facts would seem to be otherwise.

The weekend of June 26-27 appears to have been decisive. It was then, at the end of the week, that Pakistan's Chief of the Army Staff, General Pervez Musharraf, casually told presspersons in Karachi that Sharif would soon be meeting Clinton. Musharraf had just concluded intense negotiations with Gen. Anthony Zinni, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. General Command, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Gibson Lanpher, who had been in Islamabad since June 23, and therefore had reason to know. On that same day, June 27, The Sunday Telegraph reported in London that the mechanics of a negotiated withdrawal by Pakistan-inspired forces occupying the heights of Tiger Hill, Marpo La and Batalik was a topic of conversation between Zinni and Musharraf. In Karachi, where Musharraf himself was to make that statement, Dawn, the oldest of English dailies in Pakistan, went further and wrote: "Pakistan had insisted on reciprocity. For example, a promise by the Indians for time-bound discussions on Kashmir in return for assisting the mujahideen to home bases. Pakistan, on its part, would be prepared to consider as part of the permanent solution the inclusion of the entire Valley and the Muslim parts of Jammu in the Azad Kashmir territory - a settlement on the line of the Owen Dixon plan."

That "the Owen Dixon plan" is very much in the air these days has been reported in Frontline ("Broadening the base", June 18, 1999; "The Many Roads to Kargil", July 16, 1999), and we shall return to the matter presently. That "the Valley and the Muslim parts of Jammu" should be included "in the Azad Kashmir territory" is of course Pakistan's maximum demand which India is most unlikely to concede. But that some variant of this solution, interim and much softer, is being prepared seems beyond doubt, as we can surmise from the contours of the plan for the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir that Farooq Abdullah's Regional Autonomy Committee had released already, on April 13, as well as the carefully prepared proposal that Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, published on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times on June 8 under the significant title "Camp David for Kashmir"(reproduced in Frontline, July 2).

We shall return to this key document later. Two things may be noted immediately, however. One is that what happened in Washington on the Fourth of July was itself a miniaturised Camp David, with Pakistani and American specialist groups sitting across the table, yet again, to hammer out the final wording of the joint statement; U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger clearing the wording with his Indian counterpart Brajesh Mishra on the telephone; and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee available and waiting at the other end of another telephone line while Sharif and Clinton met in person. The latter is known to have called Vajpayee in the middle of that meeting. Clinton's "personal interest in encouraging an expeditious resumption and intensification" of bilateral efforts that the joint statement promises seems to hold at least a faint promise of a more comprehensive and prolonged 'Camp David' through other means. In any case, the phrasing does come very close to what Dawn had indicated on June 27 as Pakistan's basic negotiating position: withdrawal of the 'mujahideed' in return for a promise for a time-bound discussion on Kashmir. K. Natwar Singh, the seasoned diplomat that he is, was actually being circumspect when he merely said that the phrase "personal interest" amounted to third party intervention.

The other curiosity is that the ink on the joint statement was barely dry when Benazir Bhutto started indicating an imminent return to Pakistan. As if on cue, her party has promised a massive welcome rally, on the model of 1986, warning the government not to act in haste. Now, the reason why she has been cooling her heels abroad is that she and her husband have both been sentenced on corruption charges, and husband Zardari is not only held in prison but is alleged to have been gruesomely tortured quite recently. Cruelty comes more or less naturally to Sharif. What assurances has Benazir received, and from whom, to start contemplating a spectacular return? After all, she was similarly cooling her heels in foreign countries more than a decade ago when Gen. Zia-ul-Haq's body went up in a ball of fire over Bahawalpur in an air crash that has never been adequately explained. Then, too, the Americans had arranged for her to return and go straight into an election that she was bound to win. It is too early to say whether or not they would be able or even wholly willing to stage a second coming for her. They would in any case like to indicate to Sharif that they have options.

When Musharraf told the press of Sharif's impending meeting with Clinton, over a week before the event, too many people thought that he had spoken out of turn. Not so. He seems to have by then worked out with Gen. Zinni not just the politics of Kargil, for which Lanpher was at least equally suitable, but the great technical details involved in the proposed withdrawal, in the contemplated "restoration" of the "sanctity" of the Line of Control (LoC), and in the radical disagreement between Pakistan and India over the implications of the fact that the LoC does not extend to Siachen even on the maps, beyond the point that is known as NJ9842, even though the 1949 agreement records a summary verbal reference that beyond that point the line went "north to the glaciers". He knew what he had offered Zinni on all these counts, and what the latter thought of it.

By then Lanpher and Niaz Naik, the retired Foreign Secretary of Pakistan and a trusted adviser of Nawaz Sharif, had spent the whole weekend in Delhi, conferring with Brajesh Mishra and Vajpayee who also now knew what Zinni had been offered and what Washington's view of that was going to be. Naik returned to Pakistan on June 27, the day Musharraf announced the Sharif visit; the latter, in turn, cut short his visit to China on June 28, in view of his impending visit to Washington, after he had concluded his meetings with all the key Chinese leaders that he was scheduled to meet. Clinton modified his vacation plan to satisfy not only the Pakistan Prime Minister but Vajpayee as well, as we shall see.

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WHY the urgency? It is worth recalling, I think, that a very large number of intruders have been routinely crossing the LoC from the Pakistan side, year after year, for over a decade now, trained and armed for organising insurrection on Indian territory, leading to very great and constant tragedies in the Valley as well as Jammu. It has been a very long time since either side has treated the LoC with any sense of "sanctity". Why was respect for the "sanctity" of the LoC now so urgently affirmed by all and sundry?

Part of the reason undoubtedly is that the Kargil operation was of a different order. Musharraf himself has said that between 1,500 and 2,000 fighters from the Pakistani side were involved; reports in the Indian media suggest that they were spread across roughly 1,000 sq km, including the majestic heights. As of July 8, the Indian official claim was that 643 intruders and 321 Indian men, including 23 officers, had died. The figure does not include the maimed and the injured.

So, we have a curious situation that speaks volumes about the mentality of ruling circles around the world. The "sanctity" of the LoC meant little for a decade while the terrorised populations of the Valley and Jammu were involved, but restoration of this "sanctity" became so very important when fixed bases on stretches of territory became the issue; in war, territory is always more important than the people who live in those territories. By now it has also become clear that Pakistan started preparing for this operation soon after the nuclear blasts last summer; by October even some reports had appeared to that effect in sections of the British press. The United States, meanwhile, had greatly intensified surveillance over the whole length of the Indo-Pakistan border, including the LoC and the Siachen triangle where the boundaries of India, Pakistan and China meet in glacial silence. It seems improbable that the U.S. did not know of the movement of men and material. There is no public record suggesting that the U.S. shared this information with India or urged Pakistan to abandon the project.

Clinton's first calls to Sharif and Vajpayee came on June 14 and 15, after three weeks of a "war-like situation", as Vajpayee carefully described it. Some ground must by then have been prepared for such calls to be meaningful. Then, over the next two weeks, things moved at dizzying speed until Musharraf announced the prospect of a Clinton-Sharif meeting, which indeed took place a week later. Why so great an urgency that the U.S. President was found at Blair House on the Fourth of July?

By then, the real scale of Pakistan's operation had become quite clear. That Pakistan had established fixed bases meant that it expected to come under attack, suffer casualties, move when absolutely necessary, re-group elsewhere, and so on, until one of three things happened: (a) the Indian response would be so restrained that at least a goodly number of the intruders would be able to hold on until the winter set in; or, (b) the Indian determination to conclude the operation before September would be so great that casualties would mount, the armed forces would start clamouring to cross the LoC and the threat of a larger war would help focus everyone's mind; or, (c) India would seek international mediation and the great powers would oblige and Pakistan could then extract at least minimal promises, threatening more hostilities in other places and at other times.

By mid-June, a combination of (b) and (c) had come to pass, and even (a) could not be entirely ruled out. That Pakistan would be approaching the countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) for mediation was part of its plan. What now changed was that India too started imploring the NATO countries for mediation, competing with Pakistan for attention and sympathy. Well before Clinton and Sharif agreed that "concrete steps" shall be taken to respect the LoC in accordance with the Simla Agreement, India had been requesting the G-8 countries to take such "concrete steps" as blocking economic assistance to Pakistan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other multilateral agencies. It seems quite clear by now that Vajpayee's letter to Clinton that Brajesh Mishra handed over to Sandy Berger on the eve of the G-8 meeting in Cologne essentially said that India would soon have to make the decision on crossing the LoC and time was running out for the G-8 countries to do something. By June 26, when Zinni returned to the United States while Lanpher and Naik appeared more or less simultaneously in Delhi, the Indian Army chief, Gen. V.P. Malik, was indicating that he would go to the Union Cabinet for permission to cross the LoC. The urgency for drastic action was at hand.

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EASIER said than done, though. Everyone knew that Pakistan had by then concentrated enough forces on its side of the LoC to engage India in a limited battle within Kashmir, but also that any significant escalation beyond that would also mean that the Kashmir issue would return to the United Nations Security Council. The main favour Clinton did to India was that he took into his own hands the problem that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had sought at one point to mediate, and he moved quickly enough. It is ironic that India and the United States have now become partners in sidelining the United Nations as a dangerous institution that may actually respond to the interests of all its members, while direct Great Power mediation is what we are actively seeking.

The U.S. of course did not go so far as to try and block financial assistance from any quarter at all. On June 29, well before Sharif's visit was officially announced in the United States, State Department spokesman James Rubin said that the U.S. had no plans to influence the IMF. Before Sharif had concluded his visit to Beijing, China and Pakistan signed a fresh agreement for establishing in Pakistan with Chinese assistance a new factory for the manufacture of aircraft for the Pakistan Air Force. In remarks quoted in People's Daily, Prime Minister Zhu Rongji referred to Kashmir as "a historic problem involving territorial, religious, ethnic and other elements." The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) quickly passed the Pakistani resolution affirming the Kashmiri people's right of self-determination.

The Indian media reported it all, but in small print as it were, refusing to draw the conclusion that in virtually every respect and in all the usual quarters it was business as usual and that Pakistan's great "isolation" in the "international community" was restricted to the scale of its operation in Kargil beyond the LoC, which of course even the Pakistan government must have anticipated before launching the operation. For them, the question had always been: how far will the condemnation go, in material terms, and what else, other than the condemnation, could they earn?

If Gen. Musharraf was the first to announce Sharif's projected visit, he also affirmed the Army's support for the outcome of the visit with remarkable alacrity. He was the first person within Pakistan to use the language that Foreign Office spokesman Tariq Altaf was to use in Washington even before Sharif's delegation left the United States: that Pakistan "will appeal and use its influence" with the mujahideen. The Urdu daily, Jung, reported Musharraf as saying: "The mujahideed will be asked to change their position. It remains to be seen how they will respond." Saying that there was "complete understanding" between the Army and the civilian government, he went on to praise the Sharif-Clinton agreement because, as he put it, it recognised "the need to address the current volatile situation in Kargil within the context of the larger Kashmir situation." This is exactly what Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz was to say in his much publicised interviews in London, on his way back to Pakistan. By the time Sharif got up to present to the nation the agreed position arrived at during the session of the Defence Council, the high-power military-civilian committee, the language had become the official line of the Government of Pakistan.

My guess is that the language had been developed before Sharif went to Washington and that Clinton knew of it, in general terms, before he signed the joint statement. What the United States actually expects and what undertakings Pakistan has actually offered are still shrouded in mystery, all the public posturing in various quarters notwithstanding. At no point has this diplomatic process been even remotely transparent, and there is no reason to believe that it has become so in the wake of a single statement. The Indian position that there can be no ceasefire until after the Kargil intrusion has been withdrawn has certainly been upheld; nothing short of it could be tenable. Similarly, it goes largely in India's favour that the statement calls for "the restoration of the Line of Control in accordance with the Simla Agreement."

On the other hand, the "forces" that are to return have not been identified as personnel of the Pakistan Army, and Pakistan has won at least three further concessions: that Kashmir is indeed an issue between India and Pakistan that is yet to be "resolved"; that the LoC is to be respected by "both" sides; and that it is Clinton who will ensure "expeditious resumption and intensification" of talks to resolve these issues, including Kashmir.

FOUR actions from the Pakistan side can now be expected. First, having held its positions in Kargil long enough to have forced India to seek mediation, it will withdraw all or most of its personnel from the positions which the Indian armed forces have yet not overrun, and the mujahideen will now re-group, to survive elsewhere in the area and periodically to carry out small actions, mostly on a level that does not threaten the overall process but still keeps the pot boiling on a low simmer. Second, Pakistan seems to have used the cover of the Kargil operation to infiltrate a large number of terrorists into the Valley and the Poonch-Rajouri sector, and killings there will revive, as appears to be happening already; the emphasis will be sought to be shifted from "occupation" to "insurgency". Third, Pakistan will remind the United States that it has always regarded the 1984 Indian occupation of Siachen as a "gross violation" of the Simla Agreement and that the seven meetings that have taken place between Pakistan and India over this issue have failed to produce an agreement, the last one having broken down in November 1998, just about the time Pakistan seems to have begun the Kargil operation in earnest.

All this will be used to argue that India is not respecting the LoC either and that while Pakistan will take "concrete steps" to defuse the crisis, none of these problems can be actually resolved without addressing the main issue of Kashmir once and for all. We can undoubtedly show that the LoC never covered Siachen, but that only proves that it is yet to be demarcated there; it does not automatically endorse our claim to it, which is itself based on a successful grab and the further claim that the whole of Jammu and Kashmir - Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir included - is ours in any case. Furthermore, Pakistan can be undoubtedly shown as being the aggressive party on most immediate counts. The key fact remains, however, that there is no international consensus in favour of the Indian position that J&K - even the whole of J&K - is non-negotiable Indian territory. The language of the joint statement describes it as an issue yet to be resolved, which is the crux of the international consensus itself.

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To the extent that the Kargil situation gets defused, to that same extent the pressure on India shall increase for resolving the Kashmir issue. The real pressure will probably not come until after the September-October elections. However, once a new government is in place and Clinton begins to prepare for his projected trip to South Asia, pressure will mount for an "expeditious resumption and intensification" of the process, in order to show him something tangible when he arrives. We may not call it mediation, but we are quite in the middle of it.

We need to be soberly sceptical regarding the dominant interpretation in India that the joint statement is some unalloyed victory for us; that a new watershed has been reached in Indo-American relations; that Pakistan is henceforth isolated in the comity of nations; that Sharif is similarly isolated within Pakistan; that the civilian government is paying for the blunders of the Pakistan Army, and so on. Just as the Army high command was careful to inform Nawaz Sharif and take his permission before launching the Kargil operation, Sharif has been careful in not just informing but directly involving his Chief of the Army Staff in the whole diplomatic process. The key negotiations took place not between Sharif and Clinton, not even Sartaj Aziz and Strobe Talbott, but between Musharraf and Zinni. If Sharif loses office over this issue then Musharraf too will go, and, under the circumstances, they can only be replaced by far more rabidly Islamicist generals. The Americans know it and they could hardly have participated in a process that would yield such a dire result. Their position is likely to be much closer to the plan that Benazir published in The New York Times.

BEFORE discussing that plan, a couple of things should be clarified. The first is that precisely because she is currently not holding any office in Pakistan, Benazir is free to spell out in public the contours of a future settlement that Sharif, carrying the weight of prime ministerial office, cannot. And, because of her freedom, she is the right person for the Americans to send up the trial balloons, with proposals that are not exactly on the table but very much in the air, ready to land in prime ministerial laps. Second, Z.A. Bhutto built his entire career on extremely frenzied anti-India hysteria, which then his daughter, Benazir, also fully exploited when she herself was Prime Minister; it is unlikely that she went through so radical a change of heart just because she met Shimon Peres, as she so disingenuously claims. The plan has come from sources, perhaps a conjunction of several sources, which we do not know. And, most important, she and Nawaz Sharif may be mortal enemies of each other but Benazir still aspires to return to Pakistan as Prime Minister, and it is most unlikely that she would publicly present a plan for which she has not already obtained considerable support from policy-making institutions in Pakistan as a whole. As I have emphasised previously, it is simply foolish to think that Pakistan lacks a coherent state authority, beyond the personalities, that set long-term objectives.

The general principle Benazir proposes is that of what she calls "deliberate, incremental advance", so that the hardest decisions are left to an indefinite future. The plan itself has the following components:

1. "The two sections of Kashmir should have open and porous borders. Both sections would be demilitarised and patrolled by either an international peacekeeping force or a joint Indian-Pakistani peacekeeping force."

2. "Both legislative councils would continue to meet separately and on occasion jointly" but "none of these steps would prejudice or prejudge the position of both countries on the disputed areas."

3. "The borders... would be opened for unrestricted trade, cultural cooperation and exchange... leading to "the creation of a South Asian Free Market zone."

4. "Only after all of these confidence-building mechanisms" and a "significant set period of time (Camp David called for a five-year transition), would the parties commence discussions on a formal and final resolution to the Kashmir problem."

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She ends her short piece with the words of warning: "The clock is ticking. The time to act is now." It is plausible that the Pakistan Army staged the Kargil action so that the ticking of the clock may get a bit louder, for all to hear. This, too, is paradoxical. By the middle of summer 1998, insurgency in Kashmir had come substantially under India's control and Pakistan, the inferior military power, had no means to expedite the pace. Then we gifted them Pokhran-II, nuclear parity, competitive weaponisation. When Kargil exploded, the world sat up to listen to their case on Kashmir in a way it had not done in a long time. And we were the ones who had to run for cover, begging the superpower to intervene on our behalf and feeling grateful that it had been even-handed.

One does not know the behind-the-scenes secrets but there is no public evidence of any major tension between the Army and the civilian government in Pakistan; Sharif's own immediate future is probably safe. Second, a lot of war hysteria had been whipped up in Pakistan, as if the time to liberate Kashmir had come, but outside the rabid Islamicists, there was little enthusiasm for the venture. So long as the inner unity of the armed forces remains intact, the government will successfully contain the immediate agitations from the Islamicist extremists; they are powerful but they cannot succeed without a split in the Army, which does not seem to be at hand. Once the dust settles, the government will prevail in arguing that the Kargil operation has helped "internationalise" the Kashmir issue, bringing the day of "liberation" closer. Even the Islamicists will have to come along, just as the BJP has been able to silence the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Bajrang Dal and so on by assuring them that the day of the building of the Ram mandir in Ayodhya is drawing nearer.

Pakistani society has not become notably more right-wing or less attached to democratic values owing to the Kargil crisis; these deficits in Pakistan came earlier. Ours has! There is now a widespread consensus that the government should not be criticised while the fighting lasts, as if democratic dissent was a peacetime indulgence. Israel feels more beleaguered than any other nation on earth, and yet it has not been involved in a single military action over the past 30 years without being challenged, by one group or another and for one reason or another, on the streets of Tel Aviv. In India, by contrast, we do not get a decent protest from the Press Council of India, for example, when the government denies us the right to read a Pakistani newspaper, or watch Pakistan Television. A government that has lost the confidence of the Lower House refuses to call into session the Upper House, but the Opposition parties which had defeated this government on the floor are reduced merely to pleading for the favour of being listened to. Kapil Dev and Ajay Jadeja start preaching what Thackeray was preaching last year, and receive accolades from across the country, including Raj Singh Dungarpur, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, whose offices had been attacked by Thackeray's goons last year.

Meanwhile, an extraordinary consensus develops, all the way from L. K. Advani, against whom charges are about to be framed for his role in the Ayodhya demolition, to Rajeev Dhavan, a lawyer of impeccable liberal credentials and well-deserved repute, that Pakistan was a "rogue state", "terrorist state" and so on, forgetting that no one demanded that India be declared a "rogue state" when a government here was supporting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) or when a Prime Minister colluded in letting loose Bhindranwale upon the country itself. The BJP's own allies seem to have retreated into the background so much that it has effectively become the government of the BJP plus Fernandes alone. It is difficult to foresee the consequence of such subservience for the foreseeable evolution of the polity.

Meanwhile, the clock shall go on ticking, louder and louder, because it now has nuclear energy infused into it.

Political echoes

There is a national consensus on supporting the Indian armed forces' operations in Kargil, but in the guise of parading their patriotism some elements within the ruling coalition and outside it have discouraged a debate on the government's handling of the situation.

FOR the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition, a political formation given to invoking "nationalistic" rhetoric even in times of peace, the war-like situation in Kargil has provided a platform to parade its patriotism.

Simultaneously, elements within the ruling coalition and some others outside it have taken to casting aspersions on the nationalist commitment of some Opposition parties and leaders. They have sought to avert a national debate on the government's handling of the Kargil situation on the specious plea that such a debate would lower the morale of the armed forces. Some Opposition parties too have been swayed by the winds of "competitive patriotism" and jingoism.

The BJP-led government has stubbornly refused to concede a proposal by several Opposition parties to convene a special session of the Rajya Sabha in order to discuss the Kargil conflict. In its view, any criticism of the government's handling of the situation would amount to criticising the defence forces, which would have serious consequences for the soldiers' morale. "We cannot afford to have a 'fight' in Parliament when our soldiers are bravely fighting the enemy," a leader of the ruling coalition said. A few others felt that it would be "unpatriotic" to allow criticism of defence policy in Parliament "at a time when our forces require complete political and moral backing in their battle against the enemy."

However, the all-party meeting held on June 28 and the conference of Chief Ministers on July 7 have shown that, if anything, unfettered expression of views could in fact strengthen the national resolve and convey the message that the nation was united in facing up to the challenge posed by the Pakistan-backed infiltrators.

In response to the opinions voiced at the Chief Ministers' conference, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said that he was "heartened"by the national consensus on the need to defeat Pakistan's designs. Although there were political differences, the participants had upheld the primacy of national security, he said. There had been sharp disagreements among the Chief Ministers on the issue of convening a session of the Rajya Sabha, but he would examine the matter afresh, Vajpayee added.

While all the Chief Ministers extended their support to the armed forces and to the Union Government in dealing with the infiltration, a few who belong to parties that make up the national Opposition expressed reservations over the government's handling of the conflict, particularly in allowing such a serious situation to develop along the Line of Control. At least seven Chief Ministers - those of Orissa, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala - urged the government to convene a Rajya Sabha session. Two Congress(I) Chief Ministers, S.C.Jamir (Nagaland) and Luizinho Faleiro (Goa), did not participate in the conference.

According to Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting and government spokesperson Pramod Mahajan, at least 13 Chief Ministers - those of Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Gujarat, Punjab, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Maharashtra - opposed the demand for such a session. The Congress(I) Chief Ministers wanted the government to bring out a White Paper on the conflict in Kargil.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal, which is in power in Bihar, is known to support the demand for a Rajya Sabha session, but Chief Minister Rabri Devi did not raise the issue. Karnataka Chief Minister J.H. Patel, who belongs to the Janata Dal, opposed the demand for a session even though party president Sharad Yadav had expressed his support for it at the all-party meeting.

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According to Prakash Karat, member of the Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) who represented his party at the all-party meeting, the majority of the parties urged the government to convene a Rajya Sabha session. In his opinion, it made little sense to take a head-count of the Chief Ministers in this matter; given the war-like situation on the Kashmir border and the fact that the government functioned in a caretaker capacity and the Lok Sabha had been dissolved, it was incumbent on the government to convene the only House of Parliament that existed, he said.

Karat indicated that the Opposition would step up pressure on the government and urge the President to exercise his powers if the government failed to advise him to convene the session. On July 9, a Congress(I) delegation led by Balram Jakhar met President K.R. Narayanan and requested him to direct the government to convene the Upper House. The delegation said that the session was necessary to evolve a collective national response to recent events. "Allowing a caretaker government to function for too long a period without accountability to the democratic process is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution," the delegation said.

Some political observers believe that the government is fighting shy of a Rajya Sabha session because, unlike at the conference of Chief Ministers - where it got away with merely making a statement - in a Rajya Sabha debate the government will be held accountable and its acts of omission and commission will be exposed. Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy said that the government's reluctance to face a Rajya Sabha session stemmed from this fear.

At the conference, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh pointed out that peace had prevailed between India and Pakistan for 27 years after the signing of the Simla Agreement . He said that the roots of the Kargil conflict could be traced to the Pokhran-II nuclear blasts.

Union Home Minister L.K. Advani, in his address, said that although the Simla Agreement had brought about peace on the border, it had not enabled "complete peace". Pakistan had resorted to a proxy war, first in Punjab and later in Jammu and Kashmir, he said. Advani noted that about 1,700 soldiers died in Punjab between 1984 and 1994, whereas Pakistan had suffered no casualties. In Kashmir, he said, 1,845 Indian soldiers had died between 1989 and 1998; since the Kargil conflict had begun, 270 Indian soldiers had died, Advani said.

THE Opposition's demand for a Rajya Sabha session has a curious precedent, set during the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962. Ironically, it was Vajpayee, as the leader of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh's parliamentary delegation, who urged Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to convene an "emergency" session of Parliament to discuss the crisis. Newspaper reports of that period reveal that the Jan Sangh pushed a strident line and demanded that India break off diplomatic relations with China and declare China an "enemy country" (The Hindu, October 22, 1962). A delegation led by Vajpayee met Nehru on October 26, 1962 and appealed to him to relieve V.K. Krishna Menon of the Defence portfolio; it wanted Nehru himself to take over the portfolio in order to "create confidence in the country about the Government's firm determination to eject the Chinese invaders from Indian territory" (The Hindustan Times, October 27, 1962).

The delegation further told Nehru: "So far, the Indian defence had been passive in the sense that they had been allowing the Chinese to select the point of attack. Indian defence had only been on the checkposts. The Indian forces should take initiative in their hands" (The Hindustan Times, October 27, 1962).

Nehru conceded the Jan Sangh's demand and convened a parliamentary session on November 8. Vajpayee, in his speech in the Upper House, accused the Nehru Government of failing to introspect and of neglecting national security. He wanted an inquiry into why soldiers were not posted in adequate numbers in the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA).

Congress(I) leaders have pointed out that in 1962, Vajpayee and the Jan Sangh had, even before the war ended, pressed for a critical analysis of what went wrong and criticised the Government. No one had questioned Vajpayee's patriotism even when he had harshly criticised Nehru's "lapses". They wondered whether Vajpayee would now display the same degree of statesmanship as Nehru had in 1962.

AT the conference, some Chief Ministers wondered whether there was a constitutional provision that allowed the convening of a session of the Upper House when the Lok Sabha stood dissolved and whether such a session could be convened when elections to the Lok Sabha had been announced.

There is no precedent for the convening of a Rajya Sabha session in isolation (during the interregnum between the dissolution of a Lok Sabha and the holding of elections). However, there is nothing in the Constitution that prevents the Union Cabinet from advising the President to call a session of the Rajya Sabha in such circumstances. In fact, President Narayanan had suggested to the government that the Cabinet advise him to call a Rajya Sabha session. Vajpayee had indicated to the President that a session could be called in the first week of July, but he has not acted on the proposal, evidently under pressure from within the ruling coalition.

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Constitutional experts say that it is not unusual for the Rajya Sabha to continue its session even after the Lok Sabha has been prorogued. Subhash Kashyap, former Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha, said that the Constitution provides for the convening of a Rajya Sabha session even after the dissolution of the Lok Sabha, in order to approve the proclamation of a state of emergency. However, he said, the present controversy seemed to be of a political nature, considering that the ruling coalition was in a minority in the Upper House.

WHETHER or not Kargil gets to be debated in the Rajya Sabha, there is enough to indicate that it will figure as a campaign issue in the Lok Sabha elections. Congress(I) president Sonia Gandhi, on her campaign tours, has criticised the government for not pre-empting the Kargil crisis. The ruling coalition believes that it can make electoral gains if the infiltrators are driven out before the elections.

The government, after initially signalling that it might prefer a postponement of the parliamentary elections in the light of the Kargil situation, has in recent interactions with the Election Commission made it clear that it wanted the elections to be held as decided earlier. Advani's remark that the situation in the country and the external threat to its security merited the imposition of internal emergency caused disquiet in political circles. The Samata Party, an ally of the BJP, indicated that it would support such a move. Imposition of a state of emergency would have entailed a postponment of the elections. However, sensing the public mood, the BJP denied that the government was considering imposing a state of emergency. "We don't see any need for it as of now," BJP spokesperson K.L. Sharma said.

At the conference of Chief Ministers, Advani denied that the government had considered postponing the elections. However, he said, given the war-like situation, the government may be unable to make available to the States paramilitary troops in numbers comparable to the 1998 elections. The State governments would have to meet the shortfall by augmenting the police and civil defence, he said.

IF the ruling coalition considered the demand for a Rajya Sabha debate an "unpatriotic" response, there were other, more extreme, expressions of "patriotism" from self-styled opinion leaders. Information and Broadcasting Minister Pramod Mahajan imposed a ban on the transmission of Pakistan TV broadcasts through cable channels. The Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL) made an unsuccessful attempt to block Internet access to the online edition of the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. Chairman of the VSNL Amitabh Kumar admitted that the action had been taken on instructions from "higher authorities" in the Ministry of Telecommunications. There was no explanation for the selective targeting of Dawn's Web site for online censorship, but the move, which showed up an inadequate understanding of the futility of filtering information in the seamless world of the Internet, only ended up embarrassing the political leadership further. The newspaper continued to be accessible to Internet subscribers through other Web sites.

On another front, the Sahara cricket series in Toronto (in which India and Pakistan were to have played) was cancelled following former Test cricketer Kapil Dev's call (issued after visiting injured Indian soldiers in a Srinagar hospital) for the suspension of cricketing ties with Pakistan until the conclusion of the war. Although Kapil Dev took a highly nuanced stand - he favoured such a suspension only for the duration of the border hostilities - Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, who had cited Pakistan's support for the militants in Kashmir and campaigned against (and even threatened to sabotage) the recent tour to India of the Pakistani cricket team, felt vindicated.

A section of the Congress(I) and the Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra seemed to have been swept away by the tide of competitive jingoism. A victim in this case was veteran film actor Dilip Kumar. The Shiv Sena started it all when it demanded that he return the Nishan-e-Pakistan award, the highest civilian honour in Pakistan, which was conferred on him by the Pakistan Government last year. A BJP Minister in the State Government asked Dilip Kumar to "return the award or quit the country". Deputy Chief Minister Gopinath Munde asked the actor to decide whether he wanted to join the nation in condemning the Pakistani intrusion in Kargil. Congress(I) spokesperson Ajit Jogi declared that there was no question of doubting Dilip Kumar's "patriotism", but even he refused to condemn the State leaders of his party who had endorsed the Shiv Sena's demand.

The Federation of Legislators of India deplored the exhibitions of "misplaced patriotism" and said that doubting Dilip Kumar's loyalty and patriotism was an "unforgivable crime" against India's culture and civilisation. Dilip Kumar, who accepted the award after obtaining the consent of the then Prime Minister and the President, sought an appointment with Prime Minister Vajpayee to find out whether he endorsed the demands of his party's coalition partners.

Given the recent success of the Indian armed forces in ending the infiltration, the battle in Kargil may end before long. However, the wounds caused to India's pluralistic polity by the jingoistic responses of certain sections may take a long time to heal.

Election modalities

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V. VENKATESAN

THE Election Commission (E.C.) has set the electoral machinery rolling. Unlike in the past, when the party in power suggested the polling dates and the E.C. merely announced them, planning the election schedule has been the E.C.'s prerogative in recent years. This has certainly helped the E.C. capture its primacy in the electoral process. Following a precedent established by T.N. Seshan as Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), the multi-member E.C. under CEC M.S. Gill reserved for itself the right to determine the schedule and matters relating to the coming into force of the model code of conduct.

The CEC and Election Commi-ssioners G.V.G. Krishnamoorthy and J.M. Lyngdoh announced in New Delhi on July 11 that the elections to the 13th Lok Sabha would be held in five phases, from September 4 to October 1. The polling dates are September 4, 11, 17 and 24 and October 1. A planned five-phase schedule is unprecedented in Indian electoral history.

Of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies, 146 will go to the polls on September 4, 124 on September 11, 79 on September 17, 72 on September 24, and 122 on October 1. Counting will begin on October 5 and the final results will be declared on October 8. Separate notifications will be issued with regard to the schedules for the different groups of constituencies that go to the polls on different days so that candidates do not campaign beyond the legally permissible three-week period. Polling will be spread over three days in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and over two days in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa and Rajasthan. In the remaining States and Union Territories, it will be a one-day affair.

Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Sikkim, where the terms of the Legislative Assemblies were to end in less than six months, will have Assembly elections too. The E.C. has indicated that if the Maharashtra Government makes a request, it will hold Assembly elections along with the Lok Sabha elections in that State as well. The Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party Government is reportedly undecided about advancing the Assembly elections.

Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir will go to the polls on September 4, 11 and 17; Bihar and Uttar Pradesh on September 17, 24 and October 1; Madhya Pradesh on September 11, 17 and 24; Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu on September 4 and 11; Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Tripura and West Bengal on October 1; Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Delhi and Lakshadweep on September 4; Kerala and Pondicherry on September 11; Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland on September 24; Meghalaya on October 1; Manipur and Orissa on September 24 and October 1.

The timing of the announcement, on a Sunday, and the phased election schedule took the political fraternity by surprise. While the Congress(I) and the Left parties welcomed the announcement, the BJP expressed its disappointment. Although the BJP approved the phased schedule, party spokesperson M. Venkaiah Naidu said: "We are unable to understand the rationale behind the early announcement of the poll schedule."

Congress(I) spokesperson Ajit Jogi said that the BJP's criticism was "yet another proof of its fascist, narrow-minded thinking which implies total contempt and disregard for the Constitution and constitutional authorities." CPI(M) general secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet said that the performance of the BJP-led government will be the main electoral issue. He added that the Opposition parties would expose the government's bungling of the Kargil episode if it tried to draw mileage from it.

The early announcement of the election schedule has restrained the Central and State governments from taking major policy decisions. Opposition parties have been concerned with recent policy changes made by the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led caretaker government in the aviation and telecom sectors.

The application of the model code of conduct, which has been approved by all political parties, came into effect immediately. By keeping the Central and State governments in suspense about the timing of its announcement, the E.C. prevented the possibility of policy decisions being taken with the intention of influencing the electorate.

According to the CEC, the E.C. will not register any new political parties until the electoral exercise is complete. While drawing the election schedule, the E.C. stuck to its May 4 position, following the dissolution of the 12th Lok Sabha, that the best possible time for the elections would be September-October.

It was expected that the E.C. would announce the election dates after the revision of the electoral rolls, which was scheduled to be completed by the third week of July. Perhaps the E.C. felt constrained to make an early announcement in view of the protests against the "improper" decisions taken by the caretaker government under the specious plea that it had the 'powers' to function as a full-fledged government until the election schedule was announced. Constitutionally, the next Lok Sabha should be convened by October 21, that is, within six months of the last sitting of the previous Lok Sabha.

The E.C. met the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the External Affairs Minister, the National Security Adviser and representatives of national parties on July 3. The political parties were unanimous about going ahead with the general elections as planned, despite the conflict in Kargil. There were detailed discussions with representatives of the Home Ministry on security arrangements. The deployment of the Central paramilitary forces is an essential feature of election planning. Battalions of the State police, Home Guards and other security agencies are also deployed in large numbers. In view of the engagement of the paramilitary forces in the border States, the E.C. has decided to utilise the services of 11 lakh senior and junior members of the National Cadet Corps. The E.C. based its decision also on inputs on the expected weather conditions from the India Meteorological Department.

The E.C. announced that electronic voting machines (EVMs) would be used in 46 Lok Sabha constituencies, spread over 17 States and Union Territories. Almost six crore voters will have access to these machines in more than 65,000 polling stations. Approximately one lakh EVMs are likely to be used.

Another summer of killings

Militants have renewed their killings in the Kashmir Valley, taking advantage of the reduction in security levels in view of the Kargil conflict.

SEVERAL months ago, some families migrated from Bilaspur in Madhya Pradesh and Etawah in Uttar Pradesh to Sandu, 9 km from Anantnag, in search of work in brick kilns. On June 29, when the workers were asleep after a hard day's work, terrorists arrived at their huts a little after midnight. It took several minutes before two men working through the night stoking the kilns, whom the terrorists had forced to act as guides, could wake any of them up. Five men workers came out of one set of huts, and seven from a second cluster of huts some 200 metres up the road. Several others slept through the sharp commands to come out. Fatigue ensured that they survived the massacre that followed.

Women workers, who came out hearing the commotion, turned out to be the only witnesses to the killings. They were ordered to stand to one side as the terrorists began a desultory conversation. One of the three terrorists who were at the cluster of huts nearer to the road asked to share a bidi, an act that was intended to ensure coordinated fire with the second group of terrorists. Then shots rang out. The leader of the smaller group fired from his assault rifle on single-shot mode, picking his targets one by one. The larger group fired automatic weapons, ripping apart the workers' bodies. Then, having completed the first communal massacre in Jammu and Kashmir this summer, they left the brick kilns as quietly as they came.

The carnage at Sandu and the massacre of nine villagers at Mendhar in Poonch district two days later have proved that India's military successes in Kargil are just a counter-point to an otherwise depressing summer in Jammu and Kashmir. With the Kargil conflict having thinned out troops meant for counter-terrorist operations, security forces in the Valley have found themselves short of at least 25,000 personnel. The pressure on the troops has created space for terrorist acts designed to deepen the fissures between the Hindu and Muslim communities throughout the State and also the country. The offensive also comes at a time when a spectrum of powerful figures have demanded a new partition of Jammu and Kashmir, one that would forever tear the State asunder on communal lines.

Several observers have attributed the new round of communal killings to the June 28 murder of 17 Muslim residents of Mohra Bachchai hamlet near Surankote. The victims, who included three women and three minor girls, were the relatives of Khalil Khan, Imtiyaz Ahmad and Mushtaq Ahmad, three top Hizbul Mujahideen activists belonging to the village. Many local residents promptly, but unfairly, blamed the Army for these killings. On August 3 last year, 19 family members of top Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami terrorist Imtiaz Sheikh were shot dead at Salian village by unidentified gunmen. A State Human Rights Commission inquiry had held the Army responsible for the murders. No individuals or units were indicted, but the killings followed the murder of Zakir Hussain, a key source of the 9 Para Commando Regiment, a formidable Army unit based in northeastern India.

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Investigations into the June 28 massacre have largely been built around the testimony of its sole survivor, Zubaida Bi. From her hospital bed in Jammu, Zubaida Bi confirmed reports of a bitter power struggle between the Sameer Mohammad faction of the Hizbul Mujahideen, to which her relatives belonged, and the Kauner Mehmood group. The power struggle exploded when a female relative of key figures in the Kauner Mehmood faction was kidnapped by Sameer Mohammad's unit on suspicion of being a police informer. The woman was raped, tortured and then shot. Zubaida Bi believes that the massacre of her family members was a reprisal action. Although she saw men in uniform near the village on the eve of the killings, Zubaida Bi insists that many of the 13 persons who carried out the attack were terrorists from the region, and not soldiers in disguise. Her account is plausible for more than one reason. Had the Hizbul Mujahideen believed the killings were carried out by the Army, its response would most likely have been a communal massacre in the Poonch area itself.

Further, the Zakir Khan group, believed to be responsible for the Anantnag massacres, has no history of involvement in communal enterprises. The once-powerful Zakir faction of the Hizbul Mujahideen has been under intense pressure from the Anantnag police and the Rashtriya Rifles and is unlikely to have volunteered for an enterprise that was certain to invite targeting by the security forces. The Zakir group's top bomb-maker, code-named Shaheen, had been eliminated a week before the Sandu killings. Another member of the group was shot dead in February at Dharna.

WHY then were the Anantnag killings carried out? Cynics believe that the Zakir faction was just reminding brick kiln owners of their "obligation" to pay protection money. They say that brick kilns have been a major source of revenue for the terrorists in the area and the return of peace in Anantnag curtailed this lucrative source. Whatever the truth, the killings have sparked an exodus of migrant labour from the State, a crippling experience businessmen are certain to avoid in the future.

Other interesting explanations have also been offered. Khundra, near Acchabal, is home to one of the Army's largest field ordnance depots. The movement of ammunition from the depots depends largely on a heavily secured road, just one kilometre ahead of Sandu. The massacre may have been designed to draw security pickets away from the road as a prelude to attacks on ammunition convoys.

The killings at Mendhar appear to have had little connection with the Anantapur massacre. Apparently, they have had their origins in an affair between Shankar Lal, a local resident, and Arifa, the daughter of Sher Mohammad. The two eloped in mid-May, following which Muslim communalists insisted that the girl had been abducted. Their Hindu counterparts gave the issue a political colour, claiming that the local police harassed Shankar Lal's family. Some terrorists joined in the fracas and warned the local Hindu population that failure to return Arifa would invite their wrath. Ironically, Shankar Lal's father Mohan Lal and mother Kaushalya Devi escaped the terrorist attack. Those who were killed included 95-year-old Jeevan Das, his 87-year-old wife Ishro Devi and two children.

That the Surankote killings may not have been the trigger for the Mendhar massacre is illustrated by the fact that terrorists have for several years intervened in communal disputes. In August 1997, Manzoor Hussain, a Gujjar schoolteacher posted at Sewari Buddal village in the Reasi area, married Rita Kumari, a Hindu girl who came from an impoverished home. The two evidently married with the blessings of Rita Kumari's mother. After the local police refused to intervene, three dominant feudal Rajput families stepped in to punish the couple for the temerity. Rita Kumari was abducted, while Hussain and his mother-in-law were severely beaten. Hussain subsequently approached the Farid Khan group of the Hizbul Mujahideen for revenge. Eight members of the three families, who had organised Rita Kumari's abduction, were slaughtered.

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Read in the context of last summer's massacres, the renewal of the killings requires little interpretation. The broad objective, then as now, is to apply a communal cleaver between the predominantly Muslim areas north of the Chenab and the predominantly Hindu areas to its south. Pakistan's fundamental post-Pokhran objective in Jammu and Kashmir, as its Kargil assault confirms, is to force a conventional engagement that would raise the prospect of a nuclear conflagration and then deploy these developments to force a Western-mediated settlement. In such an event, widespread hostilities between Hindus and Muslims within Jammu and Kashmir would serve an obvious purpose. Local politicians seem determined to aid Pakistan in this objective. As with past massacres, the Surankote and Mendhar killings saw communal mobilisation by local units of the Bharatiya Janata Party, on the one hand, and the National Conference in tacit alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami, on the other.

KARGIL'S impact on security in the rest of the State might then be mildly described as a calamity. Figures obtained by Frontline show that 58 battalions of the Army engaged in counter-insurgency operations have been withdrawn for deployment on the border; 36 of these have been withdrawn from Kashmir and 22 from the Jammu province. Just 14 Central Reserve Police Force and six Border Security Force battalions have been moved in to take their place. No one has any clear idea of just how the shortfall will be met, particularly with the Lok Sabha elections round the corner. During the 1998 Lok Sabha elections, 354 additional companies, each consisting of 125 men, were deployed throughout the State. Given that each battalion has between four and six companies, at least 500 companies would have to be brought in even to meet the 1998 security levels.

The reduction in security levels comes at a time when the demand for security cover is certain to increase in the months to come. Last month's arrest of a 25-member terrorist cell, led by Ali Bhutto, a local resident from the Turtok area of Leh, has indicated that conflict can be expected in this quiet region. Bhutto's arrest has been treated with little concern. But terrorist activities had similar low-key origins elsewhere too. In Poonch, the first sign of an offensive was the arrest of Ayyub Shabnam in May 1990. Shabnam, who went on to spend five years in jail, was believed to be responsible for the training of and distribution of weapons to several local operatives. He, like Bhutto, had little knowledge of Pakistan's broader objectives. Few took the incident seriously until Poonch went up in flames after 1993.

Even as Jammu and Kashmir finds itself lacking security cover, there is evidence that cross-border infiltration has been unusually high this summer. Field intelligence officials in Kupwara and Baramulla estimate that nearly 600 terrorists have moved in since March and occupied positions at heights above 4,000 metres. Anantnag too has witnessed a sharp rise in the arrival of Pakistani and Afghan terrorists, with more than 200 of them reported to be active in the district. While most terrorist groups have avoided frontal engagement with the security forces, there is little doubt that since the Kargil war broke out there has been a marked escalation in violence.

Since last summer, the mountain heights, which were considered areas of little political significance, have seen large concentrations of Pakistani and Afghan terrorists. Received military wisdom on this development was that these groups lacked the motivation or resources to fight a losing battle in the Valley. But a more intriguing possibility also existed. By building up numbers in Doda, Banihal, Kupwara and the Rajouri-Poonch belt, terrorist groups could dominate the heights over the four principal lines of access to the Valley. In the context of increasing recovery in the recent months of heavy weapons, ranging from mortar and anti-aircraft guns to a Grail anti-tank missile launcher, some people argue that the current deployment patterns suggest that the terrorist groups are preparing to support Pakistani troops in a conventional engagement.

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"We've made a terrible mistake by sundering the conflict in Kargil from that in Jammu and Kashmir as a whole," a senior security official said. "After all, very little has happened in Kargil that is fundamentally different in character from what has been going on in Jammu and Kashmir over the last 10 years. Pakistan has pushed in arms and personnel and engineered sustained violence against both the Indian state and its citizens."

In Sandu, there is little interest in the larger theatre for which the village briefly became a stage. The Muslim residents reached out to the poor migrant workers; they organised materials for the cremation of the dead and arranged food, clothes and shelter for the survivors. When a labour contractor complained that the death of the workers meant that the advance payments he had made to their families would now have to be written off, he almost faced a lynching. This display of sympathy illustrated the real ties between communities that have survived 10 years of terrorism. But it is not clear if such a solidarity can be sustained as some forces are arrayed against the people.

For whom the bell tolls

The human dimension of the war is represented by the heroes of Kargil.

FOR the generation that has grown up since 1971, the conflict in the heights of Kargil is the first direct experience of India at war. The peacekeeping operations in Sri Lanka have tragically receded from public memory since they were conducted in the cause of an alien state. Compromised by unfocussed political guidance, the action in Sri Lanka seemed only remotely connected to India's interests. Kargil is in contrast a grim battle in hostile terrain in defence of the nation's sovereign territory. Few have remained untouched by the spectacle of Indian soldiers battling their way up the Kargil heights, inch by agonising inch, recapturing territory that was snatched away by rootless marauders chasing an incoherent ideal of theological purity. And as the human costs mount, it seems as if every Indian stands diminished in some measure by the lives lost in the ridges and crevices around Kargil.

In the discourse of politics, the armed forces are the ultimate instrumentality of the state - the institution that enjoys the relatively unfettered right to use the power of coercion in the defence of national interests. It stands as a corollary to this definition that the power of the armed forces will be used selectively and with discrimination. The armed forces have fired their guns in anger at several junctures since Independence. But an equally vital role has been in the sustenance of civil order within the country. And there have been few instances when a show of intent by the soldiers of the republic have failed to appease frayed tempers and reassure vulnerable sensibilities, when the raging fires of civil disorder have not been doused by the simple device of a "flag march" by the Indian Army.

It is that vision of an institution that is above fractious politics, untouched by divisions of language, culture and religion, that underlines the massive surge of public empathy for the heroes of Kargil. Young men just entering the best years of their lives, drawn for the most part from social backgrounds where the struggle for survival is the dominant reality, suddenly plunged into a battle situation that few managed to foresee or plan for. And then, cold statistics do not convey the trauma of crated bodies transported to remote corners of the country, of families losing earning members, children their fathers, wives their husbands and parents their sons. The Indian Army has lost over 300 men in the Kargil conflict at the time of writing. As spokesmen for the Indian Army proudly declare, close to 30 of the dead are officers who "led from the front" in the best traditions of the institution they serve. And another 10 are reported "missing in action", hopes of their return shrinking by the day.

In the villages of Kumaon in Uttar Pradesh, the dusty plains of southern Haryana and the hills of Himachal Pradesh, each day brings news of a fresh tragedy affecting the immediate neighbourhood. These are regions where military service is a hoary tradition, where every family has a connection to the armed forces. But Kargil is perhaps unique among all the armed conflicts that India has engaged in. Its reverberations echo through every part of the country, from the northeastern India, through Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra and Gujarat. In decisively debunking the old colonial stereotype of the "martial races", the Kargil conflict has brought to the fore a notion of the armed forces as the final refuge of the national spirit, an institution that every region of the country partakes of, whose achievements every citizen exults in, whose tragedies every Indian despairs at.

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LANCE NAIK Rajbir Singh of 18 Grenadiers laid down his life on June 13 in the Drass sector. His modest dwelling in the Lakhan Majra village of Rohtak district does not blazon the fact that it once was the home of a war hero. His father Sakhat Singh saw action in the 1965 and 1971 wars. But an element of despair penetrates the stoic calm with which the soldier is taught to face death. His son was only 28 years when he met his end. Rajbir Singh's widow Anita now clings to the forlorn hope that the war will end soon, since she does not want other women to cope with its awesome burdens. Her two children, aged eight and five, cannot in the tenderness of their years come to terms with the reality of their loss. The younger one indeed believes that his father will soon return, just as he has done in the past.

Commissioned into the Bihar Regiment four years ago, Major Mariappan Saravanan led a platoon of 30 men on May 14 to cut the supply lines of the Kargil infiltrators entrenched on the Jubar ridge at 14,000 feet. The approach was treacherous. If they tried climbing up the steep rock-face, they would be easy targets. The ridge had claimed the lives of Major Rohit Gaur and three other men of his company three days earlier. Mindful that danger could crop up from the most unexpected quarters, Saravanan led his platoon up another route, using the rocky outcrops as cover to approach the Pakistani picket at the top. As they were closing in on the enemy picket at Point 4268, Saravanan moved ahead of his company and stumbled upon the infiltrators. Before he went down in a hail of deadly machine-gun fire, the Major took out four of the infiltrators. His platoon had to withdraw on account of the ferocity of enemy gunfire. The ridge was not recaptured till over a month later. On June 26, the personal effects of the 26-year-old Major, son of an army officer who died last year in an automobile accident, were handed over to his grieving family in Tiruchi. His body was recovered only on July 7 after the capture of the Batalik heights.

Naik Pramod Kumar, affectionately called "Netaji" in his village of Madhopur in Bihar, was another soldier in Saravanan's platoon who went down with him. His older brother Shyamanand, an armyman for 13 years, learnt of the death two days prior to the official notification on June 1. He was forbidden by Army regulations from informing his family. Deepak, the youngest in the family, also serves in the Bihar Regiment and today awaits orders to proceed to the battlefront. Pramod's father Bindeshwar is an agricultural labourer, deprived all his life of the privileges of education and land ownership. But his fierce sense of pride in his martyred son is palpable as he says: "He went to fight for his country, proud and with his head held high. If I had two more sons, I would have them follow in their brother's footsteps and join the Army." The dignity does not subside even as a sense of despair wells up: "I do not think it will now ever be possible to console his mother."

Lance Naik Shankar Rajaram Shinde had seen action in the peacekeeping mission in Sri Lanka. In April this year, he paid his last visit to the village of Pingori in Pune district. From the pastoral peace of a farm, he was soon transported to the rarefied heights of Kargil. Shinde was among the troops of 18 Garhwal Rifles who led the charge on Point 4700, a key objective in the effort to retake the Tiger Hill salient. The mission was accomplished on June 29, but Shinde suffered a fatal injury from shell splinters a few days later. His village, where military service is almost an axiomatic choice for an able-bodied young man, received his body on July 8.

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Naik Srinivas Patra from Ganjam district in Orissa had received a promotion and was en route to a fresh posting in Bihar when he was recalled by 12 Mahar Regiment for what was termed "an emergency mission". On July 5, he was engaged in mopping up operations along ridges leading away towards the Line of Control from Tiger Hill. Moving forward in a unit of four, Patra succeeded in demolishing two bunkers that the enemy forces had constructed along the ridge line. As he moved towards the next objective, he walked into a withering blast of machine gun fire. All four soldiers were killed in the encounter, though only after offering heroic resistance.

From the geographical fringes, the outlawed insurgent group, the United Liberation Front of Asom, has appealed to Assamese soldiers to return home rather than waste their energies in the defence of India. Gunner Uddhav Das of 197 Field Regiment returned to his residence in Barpeta district on June 27, but in a coffin draped with the national tricolour. He had been killed three days earlier in the Drass sector, a victim of intensive Pakistani shelling. His family in the village of Anchali lost its sole earning member and is in a state of shock. The 24-kilometre route leading to his home was lined with people who had come to pay their respects. And as his body was brought home, the women of the village broke out in a collective wail. Although a village with an established tradition of military service, Anchali was not able to suppress the grief for a young life lost.

The funeral of Captain K. Clifford Nongrum of 12 Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry witnessed, by all accounts, the greatest outpouring of emotion ever seen in Shillong, surpassing in the fervour of public participation even the farewell accorded to Williamson Sangma, the founding father of the State of Meghalaya. Similarly, Lieutenant Neikezhakuo Kengurutse of 2 Rajputana Rifles, who died in the effort to consolidate territorial gains made in the Tololing Ridge, will for long survive in public memory as a symbol of the firmness with which the people of Nagaland have chosen to integrate with a state apparatus that they fought for long.

BUT beyond the symbolism of military honours and the transient surge of national grief, beyond all the packages of monetary compensation announced by the government, the heroes of Kargil pose a moral dilemma. What does it take to restore a sense of purpose to lives rendered desolate by the death of their solitary source of sustenance? "I want my son back, and not the money," says the distraught mother of Lance Naik Jasbir Singh (2 Rajputana Rifles). "What will I do with the heroic image of my son when he is not there to help me through life?"

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Subsistence pressures compelling men to seek a career in the Army is a common predicament in the arid plains of southern Haryana. And though his despairing mother insists that she will not permit her other son to join the forces, the father, Surajmal Singh, is more matter-of-fact. He says that the younger son would seek to enlist in due course since he needs a job and the family needs to secure another source of income.

Solace eludes Hema Aziz, mother of Lieutenant Haneef Uddin, even though the point where her son went down in the Turtok range on June 8 has now been named Haneef Uddin Point by the Indian Army. Trying to be philosophical in her moment of loss, she says: "There is no space for personal feelings in this sort of situation."

Colonel (retd.) V.N. Thapar, the third of four generations of armymen, takes a less detached view. His son Lieutenant Vijayant Thapar was in the leading platoon which went for the final assault on Knoll, a feature ahead of the Tololing Ridge. As they moved up on the night of June 28, they were pinned down by relentless enemy firing. Platoon leader Major Padmapani Acharya was killed while clearing a bunker. Being second in the chain of command, Thapar took over along with Naik Anand, standing upright to take on the enemy positions. A few grenades were tossed and another bunker was cleared, but Thapar was hit on the chest and head and died instantly. His company consolidated on the gains he had made by moving ahead.

Col. Thapar accepts the death of his son as part of the soldier's destiny. But he still thinks that the current situation was avoidable: "There has been some lapse somewhere and someone should be held accountable." In his opinion, the current crop of politicians has a shallow understanding of military affairs. And this renders it additionally difficult to arrive at a decision in the proper perspective.

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Lieutenant-Colonel R. Viswanathan of 18 Grenadiers is the highest ranking officer to have fallen in the Kargil operations. His action in leading a partly successful charge along the Tololing Ridge on June 2, lends a new depth and resonance to the otherwise hackneyed phrase: "leading from the front". Hardened through exposure in the Sri Lanka operations and the U.N. peacekeeping missions in Rwanda and Angola, Viswanathan's heroism was commemmorated in the largest-ever funeral witnessed in his home district of Ernakulam in Kerala.

For Kerala, the moment was especially poignant in that the northern city of Kozhikode said its farewell almost concurrently to 25-year-old Captain P.V. Vikram of 141 Field Regiment. It was a unit that Vikram's father had served for long years. And as Lt.-Col. P.K.P.V. Panicker recounts, in the course of his last radio exchange with his commanding officer, his son seemed literally to be charged with the spirit of battle. "He must have been killed ten minutes later," says Panicker, a trace of moisture in the eyes his only concession to grief.

Naik R. Kamaraj from Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu left home in March with the promise that he would return for his wedding anniversary. He was killed on June 10, a day before the promised reunion. Elsewhere, Chennai mourned the death of Lt.-Col. N. Vijayaraghavan on June 24 in counter-insurgency operations in Kupwara district. The 38-year-old officer of the 15 Kumaon Regiment had seen action during Operation Bluestar and logged extensive service in counter-insurgency operations in northeastern India. He was a recipient of the Sena Medal and had been recommended for the Kirti Chakra.

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EARLY in 1971, as the eastern wing of Pakistan plunged into anarchy and chaos, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi summoned the Chief of Staff of the Indian Army, General S.H.F.J. Manekshaw, for a briefing on the level of preparedness of his forces. The General, ever the good professional, was guarded in his response. The troops could be pressed into service, but they would most likely enter into battle prey to deep anxieties. Service conditions had not improved significantly over the years and compensation packages for death or disability were still stuck in an archaic mould. A gesture of faith was called for from the political leadership, one which would restore the soldiers' sense of honour, his belief in the value the country placed upon his services.

Shortly afterwards, the Third Pay Commission recommendations were brought into effect. In December 1971, the Indian armed forces waged their most successful war ever.

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Monetary compensation of course is not all. But it is surely germane that after the recommendations of the last Central Pay Commission were implemented, there was a spurt in requests for premature retirement from the services. Today, as the Indian Army continues its valiant struggle on the killing heights of Kargil, there is yet again fevered debate over the terms of the political compact with the services. Are the ex gratia amounts granted adequate for the dependents of soldiers killed in action? Are the schemes of compensatory employment working as they should? Is there a case for equalising compensation packages across ranks, so that every soldier is aware that his life is as valuable to the nation as anyone else's? The example set by the heroes of Kargil are a standing reproach to a political establishment that is yet to devise satisfactory answers. Perhaps the only honour the nation can now do to its dead heroes is to respect their survivors and provide a secure mooring for their shattered lives.

With inputs from T.K. Rajalakshmi, Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay, Parvathi Menon, R. Krishnakumar, Asha Krishnakumar and Kalyan Chaudhuri.

Of forgotten fighters

As the fighting in the Kargil sector reached a decisive phase, military analysts were drawing comparisons between this latest round and the battles fought by the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka in the period between 1987 and 1990. In that operation, 70,000 young men and women, including soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilian service personnel, fought in adverse conditions and hostile circumstances for over two and a half years. But today, the nation seems to have forget ten them. According to Lieutenant-General (retired) A.S. Kalkat, who commanded the IPKF, they "fought with honour and returned with dignity."

The valiant soldiers fighting in Kargil are given due recognition. In a widespread and spontaneous response, the state, private enterprise and individual citizens have contributed liberally to welfare funds for the families of the dead and the wounded. However, a sort of collective amnesia seems to have set in about the around 1,200 Indian soldiers who were killed in the jungles of Sri Lanka.

Here, Lt.-Gen. Kalkat draws parallels between the IPKF experience and the current one in the Kargil sector. Speaking to John Cherian in New Delhi, Lt.-Gen. Kalkat said that it was still not too late for the nation to recognise the sacrifices made by the IPKF soldiers. Excerpts:

Are there any comparisons to be drawn between the fighting in the Kargil sector and the IPKF experience?

Yes and no. The IPKF operations as well as the operations in the Kargil sector are infantry-predominant operations. What this means is that in normal battles, the Air Force, and if there is a coastline, the Navy, play important roles. The other components of the Army, particularly tanks and heavy artillery, play a predominant role in supporting the infantry. This results in much fewer casualties among infantry soldiers.

However, in jungle terrain and in mountain warfare, the support of tanks is almost absent. The ability of the Air Force to provide close air support gets severely restricted and artillery support is not as effective as in the plains. This is the common condition which we soldiers faced in Sri Lanka and indeed face today in the Kargil sector. This implies a much greater reliance by the infantry soldier on his personal weapons and involves engaging the enemy eyeball to eyeball in close combat, often fighting hand to hand ultimately to destroy him. This kind of fighting in essence is the ultimate test of human endurance, perseverance and courage.

The next common factor is that the engagements are not of large formations, such as brigades and divisions. Most battles are fought at the company and platoon levels, and because of this the performance of the young officer, who is the company or platoon commander, becomes a battle-winning factor. As I can see, the performance of the young officer, which was outstanding in Sri Lanka as was evident from the high proportion of officer casualties, is following a similar pattern in the Kargil sector.

In both cases, our soldiers faced a battle-hardened adversary. In Kargil, in addition to the regular Pakistan Army, there is the Afghan Mujahideen; in Sri Lanka, there was the LTTE. Both the Afghan Mujahideen and the LTTE have been rated among the most dangerous militant-terrorist organisations in the world.

Another common factor is that the militants in both the cases have been armed with the most sophisticated weaponry, often superior to that used by the Indian infantry. In Sri Lanka, the LTTE had AK-47s. We never had them. The LTTE also had better hand-held communication equipment.

Was the political environment different when the IPKF moved into Sri Lanka?

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When the IPKF first went in, there was great public euphoria for two months. But the moment the fighting broke out in right earnest and the body bags started coming home, the euphoria came down. Over a period there were dissenting voices on the government's decision, and indeed against the IPKF. One major political party placed its opposition to the involvement of the IPKF in its election manifesto. This seriously impaired the morale of the Indian soldiers fighting in the jungles of Sri Lanka.

I am happy to say that today the entire nation is behind the Indian soldier in one voice. This certainly makes the task of the commanders easier in sustaining morale and commitment among their troops.

Can this support be sustained for an extended period of time?

My main concern is that in case this confrontation lingers on for long, media interest will start waning after some time. The time should never come that the people of this country lose interest. That is a dangerous scenario which will create the syndrome of 'a forgotten army' - a feeling which had started to creep into the IPKF towards the later stages.

Was there a similar patriotic fervour when the IPKF was in action?

None whatsoever, except in Tamil Nadu, where there was great awareness of the ongoing conflict in the north and east Sri Lanka. We got symbolic gifts and donations but nothing substantive.

Have the martyrs of that war been forgotten? 16150342jpg

It is still not too late. There should be a memorial to commemorate the memory of the soldiers who left the shores of India to fulfil the country's solemn commitment to a friendly neighbour and for which they gave their lives and never returned to their motherland. I would be failing in my duty to the families of the valiant dead of the IPKF, which I had the privilege to command, if I were not to speak on their behalf. In a country where memorials and monuments are put up for all and sundry, no government has seen it fit to lay even one stone or one brick to commemorate the brave men of the Indian armed forces who laid down their lives. There is no place for public recognition for their sacrifices; there is no place where the families of the dead martyrs can even place a wreath in memory of their loved ones.

Even though Vietnam was this century's most controversial and unpopular involvement, the American nation did not forget its dead: the Vietnam Memorial in Washington is the tribute of a grateful people to the patriotism and sacrifice of its soldiers. A nation that does not honour its dead heroes dishonours itself.

Since the withdrawal of the IPKF from Sri Lanka in March 1990, successive governments have wished that it had never happened. Indeed, some hoped that by disregarding it, it would be erased from the memory of the nation. Be that as it may, some facts are incontrovertible and can neither be wished away nor thrown into the dustbin of history. First, it actually happened; second, 1,200 Indian soldiers sacrificed their lives and more than 3,000 were wounded; third, a former Prime Minister of our country was assassinated; fourth, the bloodbath in Sri Lanka continues with even greater ferocity, and finally, neither the government of Sri Lanka nor the LTTE nor all the political negotiators since have come up with a better alternative to the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord.

Do you visualise a quick conclusion to the conflict in Kargil?

We do not know the details of the initiatives, talks and contacts taking place at the covert level. Therefore, if one were to take the statements in the press at face value, then it would appear that the conflict would end soon. However, I am sceptical of commitments given by Pakistan, particularly in respect to any issue in Kashmir. Basically, Pakistan should stick to its words and ensure that the militants are not allowed to operate. Pakistan should not be allowed to wage a proxy war. In such a situation, we have no option but to fight till the last infiltrator is driven out or killed.

What are the options available for India?

At this stage we have two options. One is to carry on as we are doing now - which is a long-drawn-out and time-consuming affair ... Alternatively, cross the Line of Control (LoC) or the border at a time and place of our choosing ultimately to destroy the invaders.

Obviously, around the area of the current operations, bypassing the positions established by the infiltrators - lower to the LoC - may not be possible since all existing gaps would have been plugged by the regular Pakistan Army. Therefore we may have to seek the ingress routes across the LoC away from the area. There are other alternatives such as solely using air power to strike at their artillery which is supporting the infiltrators from positions in Pakistan- Occupied Kashmir (POK). Since Pakistan claims that it is not supporting the Mujahideen, then it cannot complain that we have hit their guns. Of course such an action raises the conflict to another level. Nevertheless, if there seems a danger of this conflict lingering on, it leaves India with no choice except to seek one of these options than getting involved in a bleeding war.

The conflict and beyond

V.R. RAGHAVAN cover-story

Post-Kargil, India has some difficult policy choices to make, and these will depend on the perceptions that Indian policy planners will bring to bear on the management of the Kashmir issue.

THERE is much anticipation about the way the Kargil issue will ultimately unfold. The scene has been changing fast, both on the battlefield and on the diplomatic front. The return to Pakistan of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after his visits to Washington and London will certainly produce some result. There is, however, no certainty on what the results will be.

The joint statement from Washington after the Clinton-Sharif meeting was emphatic. It stated in no uncertain terms what Pakistan needs to do. It had to take three essential steps: it must adhere to the Simla Agreement, respect the Line of Control (LoC) and restore the LoC. A ceasefire will take effect after the three measures have been put in place. India initially responded with delight, but that has since given way to circumspect anticipation. It is apparent that the next few weeks will be very significant. The prospects of Pakistan bringing the conflict to an end depend on many factors.

The reaction in Pakistan to the Clinton-Sharif joint statement has been contradictory and confusing. The Foreign Office spokesman claimed that it was a positive development and would prove advantageous to Pakistan. The former chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Gen. Hamid Gul, however, queered the pitch when he said that the measures required of Pakistan were impractical and not implementable. He believes that the mujahideen may descend on Islamabad if they are forced to withdraw from Kargil. This is an amazing commentary on the Pakistan military's control over the mercenary hordes. He also anticipated a civil war in Pakistan if a withdrawal was undertaken. The leader of the Lashkar-e-Taiba has gone on record that even if the Pakistan Army withdraws, his men will not do so.

Amidst all this noise, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's Chief of the Army Staff, made two significant pronouncements. First, he said that the military and the Prime Minister were working together and confirmed that the Washington statement was in keeping with the Army's views. The second statement indicated that while the military would withdraw, it could only try to persuade the mujahideen to do so. In other words, he seemed to have washed his hands of the mujahideen's pullback.

Pakistan can sidestep the Washington statement, notwithstanding the clear commitments listed in it. It can claim that it swears by the Simla Agreement and accuse India of having violated the spirit of the accord by delaying the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. It can claim that it adheres to the LoC but that India is not cooperating with it on clearing doubts about where the Line runs on the ground. It can and probably will claim that it has restored the LoC by pulling back its military. It will most probably plead helplessness in getting the mujahideen - or Kashmiri freedom fighters, as it terms them - to pull back. It would then say that India should deal with the "freedom fighters".

There is no estimate of how far the United States is prepared to go in order to get the sanctity of the LoC restored. If, as is likely, Pakistan can create confusion by leaving behind a mess comprising the mujahideen and their weapons and supplies, it is unlikely that the U.S. will do anything more than reiterate the joint statement. U.S. options will be limited by its long-term interests in Pakistan, its perspective on Central Asia, which includes Pakistan, and pressure from Islamic lobbies.

The situation is likely to be confused and bloody for the Indian troops. There is no word on who will monitor the withdrawal. Pakistan can make a statement some day that it has withdrawn its forces. Will that suffice for the Indian and U.S. governments? Can Indian troops and civilians thereafter freely move into the area? Who will clear the mines and the booby traps that would certainly have been laid by the mujahideen? Who is to account for the complete pullout of the mujahideen? Will Pakistani artillery firing in support of the mujahideen stop, once its troops have pulled back? How will confirmation come that the status quo ante has been restored on the LoC? There will be many issues that are likely to remain unresolved. These uncertainties and ambiguities suit Pakistan more than India.

In view of the immense imponderables ahead, India has some difficult policy choices to make. It can go in for an increased presence on the LoC. It will need a large force and a major logistic build-up. This will certainly impact on defence expenditure: it could impose a burden equivalent to that needed to increase the size of the Army by at least 15 per cent. That would amount to the national GDP equivalent of one-half to one per cent to start with and a major recurring cost year after year. The other choice is to look for alternatives in the technological, strategic and economic dimensions so as to take the battle to Pakistan. India's choices on force levels and new operational capabilities will require very careful analysis. The choices will depend greatly on the perceptions that Indian policy planners will bring to bear on the management of the Jammu and Kashmir issue in the future.

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Pakistan is more likely to fulfil only a part of its obligation in respect of the Washington statement in the near future. This will leave behind a multitude of Talibanised groups across the border from Kargil. They are likely to continue to make incursions and stage ambushes, kidnappings and other brutal activities across the LoC.

The Indian Government has committed itself to clearing every Pakistani infiltrator from Indian territory. A situation in which Pakistan declares that it has pulled back all its forces and Indian forces still need to fight to clear the intrusions from the Kargil sector will be fraught with many dangers. The elections in India, the deadline for accession to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the coming winter will add to the pressures on the Indian leadership. The calls for major, decisive action will then gather force.

A long-term solution to the challenge posed in Kargil and the possibility of "future Kargils" requires a great deal of new thinking. Major changes are taking place in the nature of inter-state conflicts. The management of territorial integrity is fast becoming a part of managing the economic and social integrity of a nation. Inter-state conflicts are now inevitably linked with other inter-state issues. On the military side, a revolution is under way in the doctrine of waging war. The use of material assets is fast becoming the basis of future military conflict, rather more than the purely human resource in combat.

It looks as if the disengagement will be neither complete nor smooth. Many loose ends will need to be tied up. The extent to which Pakistan is willing to disengage from Kargil will become clear in the coming weeks. The Jammu and Kashmir issue has so far remained a bilateral dispute between India and Pakistan. The Clinton-Sharif joint statement is also a bilateral effort. If Pakistan drags its feet on disengagement, India cannot go on the military route exclusively. It will need every other means to get Pakistan to adhere to its commitment made in Washington. In the interim, Indian military action will be a sad but continuing reality.

Lt.-Gen. V.R. Raghavan, a former Director-General of Military Operations, is Director of the Delhi Policy Group.

Was there an intelligence failure?

B. RAMAN cover-story

India perhaps paid no attention to trans-border surveillance in the Northern Areas of Pakistan under the assumption that infiltration from this sector into the Drass-Kargil-Batalik areas was unlikely.

ONLY a detailed retrospective study, after the ejection of all the Pakistani invaders in the Drass-Kargil-Batalik sectors of Jammu and Kashmir, could bring out the complete picture of what went wrong with India's national security management in this area before May 6, 1999 and how Pakistan's proxy invasion remained undetected until that day.

However, even at this stage one could make certain observations of relevance. The first is that Pakistan's proxy invasion took place in a sector which received low priority from the managers of national security for many years.

India has a system of holding a periodic review of border security management in different sectors along the Indo-Pakistan and Sino-Indian borders in order to identify gaps in trans-border security and take corrective action. It was as a result of such reviews that projects were undertaken to fence India's borders and the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan in Jammu, Punjab and upper Rajasthan, to intensify desert surveillance in Rajasthan and Bhuj and to step up coastal surveillance off Gujarat.

Unfortunately, such reviews were essentially preoccupied with trans-border security in the Sindh, Pakistani Punjab and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK). Equal attention was not paid to trans-border security in the Northern Areas of the Pakistan sector, consisting of Gilgit and Baltistan.

This was the result of an assumption that Pakistani infiltration from the Northern Areas into the Drass-Kargil-Batalik areas was the least likely in view of (a) the difficult terrain and the high ridges; (b) difficulty of access to these ridges from the Pakistani side; and (c) the unsympathetic attitude of the local population on the Indian side, mainly Shias and Buddhists to Pakistan. Hence, the infiltrators would not get local support.

The recent events have, however, proved this assumption wrong. Consequently, focus on trans-border surveillance in the Ladakh area was concentrated across the Sino-Indian border and little attention was paid to trans-LoC developments in the Northern Areas.

The second observation is that there were major gaps in India's knowledge of the Northern Areas. Indian intelligence was better informed on POK but had difficulty in collecting human intelligence from the Northern Areas because:

(a) There is very little trans-border traffic across the LoC in this sector in the form of relatives exchanging visits or traders and smugglers clandestinely crossing the LoC with their goods;

(b) Officials posted in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad or visitors from India are not allowed to visit this area;

(c) The Government of India too follows a very restrictive policy by not allowing the people of these areas to visit their relatives and friends in the Kargil tehsil. As such, no one approaches the Indian High Commission to obtain visas;

(d) The Northern Areas has very limited facilities for higher education. As a result, migration from there to earn a living abroad is not common. The Mirpuri diaspora in the United Kingdom and the United States, which is a useful reservoir of intelligence recruits for monitoring developments in POK, has practically no migrants from the Northern Areas.

These difficulties leave little scope for collection of human intelligence and hence, one has to depend on technical intelligence. Unfortunately, till recently, not only successive governments but the intelligence community itself gave low priority to these areas even for strengthening the technical intelligence capability.

Development of human sources in Chinese society is very difficult. It is comparatively easier in Pakistan, except in the Northern Areas and in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). As a result, in the allocation of resources to strengthen the technical intelligence capability, technical surveillance of China was always given top priority, followed by Sindh, Punjab and POK areas of Pakistan. The Northern Areas hardly received any attention.

Since no infiltration or invasion from the Northern Areas was apprehended, no detailed thinking went into gathering information about the areas either by the intelligence community or the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) or the inter-departmental committees concerned. Alternative ideas, such as taking advantage of the presence of a large Ismaili community in the Northern Areas which is well looked after by the Aga Khan Foundation, the only non-governmental organisation allowed by Pakistan to work in this area, have not been explored.

Gilgit and Baltistan have a large population of Punjabi and Pakhtoon settlers, many of them ex-servicemen, who were brought in by the Zia-ul-Haq regime in order to reduce the Kashmiri Shias to a minority. Until 1992, the Najibullah Government in Kabul, with good contacts among the Pakhtoon settlers of the Northern Areas and POK, was a good source of information regarding the goings-on in these areas. But after the overthrow of Najibullah in April 1992, this source dried up. India's present intelligence focus in Afghanistan is non-Pakhtoon centric.

THE third observation is not specifically related to Indo-Pakistan relations and Kargil, but is of great relevance to toning up the work of the intelligence community in order to prevent similar surprises in the future. This is about the good performance of the intelligence community on strategic intelligence and its unsatisfactory record in the matter of tactical or preventive intelligence.

Strategic intelligence alerts the Government to changes in policy and strategy among other administrative decisions, but tactical intelligence gives details of action actually taken in the implementation of changes of policy, strategy and so on. Strategic intelligence makes one wiser but does not help in preventing disasters. Some examples in illustration would be in order:

* The intelligence community alerted the Government in 1988 that Rajiv Gandhi was on the hit-list of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and hence there was a threat to his life. But it could not collect tactical intelligence regarding the action actually taken by the LTTE to carry out its plan.

* The intelligence community reported in the second half of 1992 that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had directed its surrogates in India to emulate the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and concentrate on economic targets and that the first attack might be on economic targets in Mumbai, but could not get details regarding the how, where and when of the attack. As a result, the Mumbai blasts of March 1993 caught them napping.

* The intelligence community had been telling the government since 1994 that Tamil Nadu was becoming a major centre of the activities of the ISI and Islamic fundamentalist parties, but was clueless about the preparations for the Coimbatore blasts of February 1998.

* Intelligence knew the background of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the new Pakistani Chief of the Army Staff, and his reputation as a rogue elephant and his links with Islamic extremist organisations, but could not forecast his Kargil adventure.

Indian intelligence's poor record in tactical intelligence is owing to its poor progress in penetration operations. Unless one penetrates the ranks of an adversary, whether it is another country, a terrorist organisation or a religious extremist group, one cannot get details of the adversary's plans of action. Apart from the Pakistani Army regulars, the present invaders in the Kargil sector consist of the cadres of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, the Laskar-e-Taiba, the Al Badr, the Al Qaeda and the Hizbul Mujahideen.

Of these, the Laskar has its presence as far down South as Hyderabad and has been taking local recruits for training in secret camps in Kashmir or in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Had any Indian intelligence agency penetrated this organisation by taking advantage of its recruitment pattern, we would have been better informed of its plans in Kashmir.

Why this difficulty in penetration? Is it because of defective recruitment of intelligence officers, inadequate training and poor modus operandi, or are there other reasons? These questions have not received the attention they deserve. The Indian intelligence community is supposed to have had the longest period of interaction with the LTTE, but despite this it has not been able to penetrate it.

THE fourth observation relates to the capability in technical intelligence, generally considered the most authentic form of intelligence. There are certain forms of technical intelligence capability that help in the collection of strategic intelligence, and certain others that help in tactical intelligence. The recently released recordings of the telephone conversations of Musharraf from Beijing are a good example of strategic intelligence collection through technical means. These recordings gave clinching evidence about the Pakistan Army's involvement in Kargil. All international telephone calls pass through satellites and it is relatively easy to monitor them if one has the equipment. No penetration of the adversary's set-up is required in order to monitor wireless communications or telephonic communications through satellites.

Land-line telephone communications, such as a telephonic conversation between a General in Rawalpindi and his subordinates in Skardu, are a more important source of tactical intelligence, But it is much more difficult to intercept land-line communications inside a country than to intercept international telephone calls made through satellites. For interception of internal telephone calls one may require physical access to the line to be monitored. Unless one is able to penetrate the telecommunications or military set-up of the adversary, one may not be able to get useful tactical intelligence through technical means.

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The fifth observation relates to the lack of adequate attention paid in the intelligence community to the need to diversify its sources of procurement of technical equipment and to indigenise capabilities. Diversification and indigenisation have made satisfactory progress in respect of equipment for electronic monitoring, but not in respect of aerial reconnaissance, for which dependence on Western sources is disturbingly high, particularly since the Sino-Indian war of 1962.

Such equipment and expertise may come with an informal condition or at least an understanding that what is procured could be used only for the surveillance of China and not Pakistan, which is not desirable.

Over the years, the defence forces have either indigenised their equipment or benefited from the friendly relations with the former Soviet Union and the present Russian Federation for reducing their dependence on Western equipment and expertise. But similar efforts have not been made by the intelligence community. As a result of their close interactions with their Western counterparts in the past, they let themselves be infected by the basic Western suspicions of Communist countries and this has stood in the way of their diversification.

THE sixth observation relates to relative threats to the nation's security from China and Pakistan. China's nuclear and missile capability, its military linkages with countries such as Myanmar, and its historic irredentist impulses make it a high priority area for intelligence focus, but it is not a threat to India's national security in the same sense as Pakistan is. After China gave up in 1979 its policy of supporting the insurgencies of foreign Communist parties, destabilisation and balkanisation of India has not been a motivating factor in its policies towards India.

In the case of Pakistan, not only religious extremist organisations such as the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and the Laskar-e-Taiba, but even the state, its armed forces and intelligence agencies are motivated in their actions by a compulsive urge to promote destabilisation and balkanisation of India. This urge poses the greatest threat to India's national security and will continue to be a matter of major concern for many years, whatever be the cosmetic improvement in bilateral relations. By overlooking this urge in moments of unwarranted euphoria or misplaced generosity, India will be doing a great disservice to national security, as has already been done in Kargil.

The seventh observation is that feelings and noble sentiments have no place in intelligence policy formulation; it has to be based on a clinical and unemotional analysis of the nation's interests and threats to national security. For nearly 50 years, the intelligence policy on Pakistan was based on the assessment that the greatest threat to national security arises from Pakistan's Punjabi mindset and laid stress on the need for close interactions with the non-Punjabi sections of the Pakistani population for intelligence collection and for inducing restraint in the behaviour of the Pakistani Army in Kashmir.

In its uncritical enthusiasm for Nawaz Sharif after he returned to power in February 1997, India diluted this policy in order to befriend the Pakistani Punjabis in general and Sharif in particular; it has paid the price for it in Kargil.

The most important components of the national security management apparatus are the assessment and follow-up machineries. Even the best of intelligence collection agencies cannot protect national security if the assessment and follow-up action are not up to the mark.

This was the main lesson brought out by the Lord Franks Committee of the U.K., which inquired into allegations of intelligence failure with regard to the Argentine occupation of the Falklands. It exonerated the British intelligence community and the Navy and held the Joint Intelligence Committee exclusively responsible for the disaster.

One need not be surprised if a post-mortem into the Kargil invasion brings out a similar conclusion.

Whatever be the ultimate finding, one cannot deny that attention to the micro aspects of the functioning of the Indian intelligence needs immediate attention.

B. Raman is a former Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India.

Diplomacy in question

Many of the diplomatic advantages that served India well represented a gradual accretion over the years, rather than the outcome of efforts directly related to the Kargil conflict.

WHERE the interpretation of facts is concerned, the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir evidently represents a point of inflection. It is commonplace to see battlefront situations being depicted to suit the convenience of the moment. Since independent verification is often infeasible, there is a reasonable chance that governments could reassure their constituencies by the simple expedient of denying all that the other side may assert to be true. But the Kargil events have brought to the fore a new form of escapism - of one country asserting to be true what the rest of the world believes to be false.

Midway through his talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, U.S. President Bill Clinton broke off to call up Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. There were concurrent contacts between U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and his Indian counterpart, Brajesh Mishra, as also U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh.

Spokesmen for the Indian government have cast this sequence of telephonic contacts as an exchange of information on the progress of talks between the U.S. and Pakistan. In this respect, the construction is the same as that put on the visit of Gibson Lanpher, Assistant Deputy Secretary in the U.S. State Department, in the last week of June. Immediately after General Anthony Zinni, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Central Command, concluded his mission of persuasion in Pakistan, Lanpher had flown to Delhi to fill in the Indian government on the progress achieved. Well before Lanpher arrived in Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs was going to great lengths to put the attendant circumstances of his visit in perspective: the U.S. government had offered to brief India on Gen. Zinni's visit to Islamabad and the Indian government had accepted. Further, it was explicitly stated that no time-frame had been fixed for Lanpher's visit. India was anxious to avoid the impression that there was a direct association between the Zinni mission to Islamabad and Lanpher's arrival in India - a conjunction in time would have led to the impression that the U.S. was asssuming a mediatory role.

In the event, Lanpher arrived in Delhi immediately after he had participated with Zinni in an effort to persuade the Pakistan government and army to back off from its adventure in the Kargil heights. That was sufficient for official circles in Pakistan to put on his visit the gloss of a mediatory effort. Similarly, after Nawaz Sharif was lectured by the U.S. administration and compelled to concede ground in Kargil, the Pakistan establishment has sought, though without carrying great conviction, to interpret the concurrent contacts between the American and Indian governments as the beginning of a phase of active big-power involvement in South Asia.

The claim is premised upon the assurance that President Clinton will take a "personal interest" in the progress of talks towards a final settlement of the status of Kashmir. This is by all accounts a rather weak foundation. The personal inclinations of an individual are not easily institutionalised as an element of policy, even when he happens to be the U.S. President. And this particular individual has less than two years of his term to run and for the larger part of this period he is likely to be restrained from engaging in diplomatic initiatives with longer-term consequences.

From the intercepted conversations between Pakistan Army chief General Pervez Musharraf and his principal aide - which the Indian government released with fanfare - it is clear that one of the principal aims of the Kargil adventure was to open up the Kashmir issue to international mediation. For this precise reason, it was the foremost priority of Indian diplomacy to ensure that at no stage would there be even the remotest prospect of third-party mediation.

Pakistan had two clear options to use the vantage points it had gained in the Kargil heights to prise open the Kashmir issue - to call in its debts from the days when it was a staging post for American strategic manoeuvres in the Central Asian region; and to utilise its long-standing special relationship with China. Neither option afforded it much sustenance in the context of the Kargil conflict, for reasons derived from geopolitical events over the last two years, if not more.

When U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Pakistan in November 1997, she made a highly publicised visit to an Afghan refugee camp near Peshawar. Going down on her hands and knees to listen to the tales of woe narrated by a group of women, Albright assured them of all assistance in the effort to restore order and sanity in their country. Commenting on the spectacle of the U.S.' top diplomat donning the mantle of humanitarian compassion, Thomas Lippmann wrote in The Washington Post: "The sight of Albright on her hands and knees showed how much attitudes in Washington have changed." But within Pakistan, the same event had a very different resonance, aptly summarised by Maleeha Lodhi, the newspaper editor who served as Pakistan's ambassador in Washington during the Benazir Bhutto administration: "There is a very clear perception that the U.S. is reweighing its relations in this part of the world towards India."

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Why an enlightened social commentator should interpret an expression of humanitarian concern for Afghanistan in terms of a rivalry between Pakistan and India must seem a bit of a curiosity. But the Kashmir dispute, which gained much of its virulence as a consequence of the burgeoning political animosities of the Cold War, has over the past few years settled back into a bilateral framework. The American keenness to do battle on behalf of Pakistan has been dampened by the Taliban experience and by the palpable reality of a Pakistani state that is today besieged by the forces it set loose in Afghanistan.

Pakistan's other option also proved a non-starter. Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz went to Beijing to recruit Chinese support just before he was scheduled to arrive in Delhi for a June 12 appointment with his Indian counterpart. Nawaz Sharif himself went to China later in the month on a visit that had been scheduled well ahead of the Kargil hostilities. But a planned five-day visit was curtailed to two days. And no sooner did the Pakistan Prime Minister arrive in Islamabad than he had to rush off for a meeting with the U.S. President.

China's disinterest is entirely comprehensible, though it is notionally a third disputant in the tussle over the disposition of the territories of Jammu and Kashmir. The model of rapprochement that India and China have adopted since the early-1990s was in fact commended to Pakistan by Chinese President Jiang Zemin, when he visited Islamabad in 1996 - to leave the really intractable issues aside and address other areas of potential mutual benefit. It was not a piece of advice that went down particularly well with his hosts.

An entirely avoidable irritant cropped up with the Indian nuclear tests last year, and by the BJP-led government's identification of China as the principal national security threat impelling the country to seek recourse in nuclear deterrence. For a while, particularly after President Clinton's visit to China in June 1998, it seemed that a political axis of China, Pakistan and the U.S. would coalesce around the shared interest of containing India. But China's equations with the U.S. soon began deteriorating. And Beijing could not have watched the intensive "strategic dialogue" between the U.S. and India that followed the Pokhran nuclear tests with great equanimity. To be seen as the solitary prop for Pakistan's adventurism in Kargil was, in the circumstances, an inadvisable option. It would have boosted American influence in India and cemented an alliance between the two to the disadvantage of China.

In other words, many of the diplomatic advantages that served India well were a gradual accretion over the years, rather than the outcome of efforts directly related to the Kargil conflict. Moreover, there is still much ambiguity around the actual conduct of diplomacy over the last two months. Credible reports have emerged, for instance, that India communicated its intent to launch full-scale hostilities against Pakistan unless the U.S. brought its truculent former proxy in the region to heel. Another rather dubious event was the exchange of personal envoys between the two Prime Ministers, in what was a rather clumsy effort at "back-channel" diplomacy.

Clearly, the visit to Delhi by Niaz Naik, the former Pakistan Foreign Secretary, was an unusual event. He came by a special aircraft and met both Prime Minister Vajpayee and his National Security Adviser, Brajesh Mishra. The whistle was blown on this unconventional exchange by Pakistan government sources who wished to remain unnamed. It was also then revealed that the ground for Naik's visit to Delhi had been prepared by a visit to Islamabad by Vivek Katju, Joint Secretary in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, and R.K. Mishra, lobbyist for an industrial house.

Questions could justifiably be asked about the kind of diplomatic instrumentalities the Vajpayee government used in the context of Kargil. Naik himself was obviously authorised, after his visit to Delhi, to announce that negotiations towards a "so-called withdrawal" of forces from the Kargil region would shortly commence. That no such negotiations took place is of course a comment on the efficacy of bilateral channels of communication. That it finally took U.S. coercion to turn the tide, perhaps provides a foretaste of greater U.S. engagement in the affairs of the region.

Visiting Lucknow in the last week of June, Prime Minister Vajpayee spoke of a "final settlement" of the Kashmir dispute - a phrase which in the accepted usage of his political fraternity can only mean the unification of all the territories of the erstwhile princely state under Indian sovereignty. But concurrent locutions about preserving the "sanctity" of the LoC obviously do not mesh with this perspective. What the Prime Minister could have meant must then remain a matter of speculation. The obvious solution - characterised by some as the lazy and complacent one - is to declare the LoC as the international border. Whether the political will exists within India to take this giant leap, remains unclear. And prospects of a unilateral declaration of intent winning adherents on the other side would seem remote. If in the process the disputants in Kashmir bring in an arbiter, it would essentially be turning the clock right back to where it was during the traumatic days of Partition in the subcontinent. If they choose, against the grain, to bring in the people of Kashmir as equal partners in a dialogue framed by realistic rules of engagement, then a breakthrough in the cause of peace and sanity may well be possible.

Spotlight on Siachen

JOHN CHERIAN cover-story

NEW DELHI was not unduly surprised at Pakistan Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz's reported statement in London early in July, which linked a Pakistani pullout from Kargil to the Indian Army vacating the Siachen glacier. After Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's meeting with President Bill Clinton and Islamabad's decision to retreat from Kargil, the question of saving face was of paramount importance. So it was expected that Pakistan would resort to diversionary diplomatic tactics.

The Pakistani media quoted Aziz as saying that Pakistan has made the infiltrators' withdrawal from the Kargil sector conditional on India agreeing to revert to the 1972 positions on the Line of Control (LoC). Aziz, who accompanied Nawaz Sharif for talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, told reporters: "Pakistan has agreed to request and appeal to the freedom fighters to withdraw from Kargil if India also agrees to vacate the areas that it occupied on the LoC after the signing of the Simla Agreement."

Indian officials quickly rejected the linkage between the fighting in Kargil and Siachen or the Kashmir issue. In response to the statement by Aziz, an External Affairs Ministry spokesman said: "There is absolutely no correlation between Siachen and the Saltoro Ranges, which are well north of NJ 9842 and the LoC. This is another attempt to create confusion and detract attention from the focal point that the intruders must withdraw."

The Siachen dispute became a major bilateral issue in 1984, when the Indian Army airlifted mountain-trained forces to positions overlooking key passes in the Saltoro range, a spur of the Karakoram mountains that flanked the glacier's southern rim. The unexpected Indian action saw the start of a costly high-altitude military struggle for supremacy.

Indian and Pakistani troops confront each other at elevations higher than 6,000 metres above sea level. The area contested is a desolate stretch of about 2,500 sq km situated immediately south of the Chinese border. The United Nations-supervised ceasefire line (CFL) of 1949 extended from the international border between India and Pakistan near Chhamb in Jammu and Kashmir in a rough arc that ran nearly 800 km north and then northeastwards to a point, NJ 9842, nearly 20 km north of the Shyok river in the Chulung group of mountains of the Saltoro range. Since the territory beyond this point witnessed no military activity and appeared inaccessible, no attempt was made at the time to extend the CFL beyond NJ 9842 to the Chinese border. At least a 65-km stretch was left undelineated.

The 1949 Karachi Agreement between the two countries contained a generalised statement which said that the CFL "moved thence north to the glaciers". India has used this line to justify its claim that most of the Siachen glacier is unambiguously and lawfully part of its territory. Pakistan rejected this interpretation and insisted that the delimitation agreement of 1949 contained no reference to the CFL beyond NJ 9842.

New Delhi has vociferously denied that its induction of troops into the Siachen glacier has in any way violated the Simla Agreement of 1972. India's stand is that its troops staved off an attempt by the Pakistan Army to wrest control of the Siachen glacier. In the first few months after the action in 1984, the Pakistan Army tried repeatedly to remove the Indian Army from the commanding heights it had captured, but after some time the Pakistan Army was reconciled to a strategy of containment, operating as it did from a lower height.

Between January 1986 and June 1989, India and Pakistan held five rounds of talks over the Siachen glacier. Pakistan's argument remained that the Indian military action in the Saltoro range was a direct violation of the Simla Agreement, which barred the threat or use of force to bring about a change in the LoC. Both sides stuck to their positions until the fifth round of the talks in June 1989. Benazir Bhutto had come to power and New Delhi gave the impression that it was willing to be more flexible on the Siachen issue.

The Indian side demanded that Pakistan cease its "cartographic aggression", that is, its unilateral attempt to extend the LoC from the agreed terminus at map reference point NJ 9842 to the Karokoram pass on the border with China. The other Indian terms included the "establishment of a demilitarised zone (DMZ) at the Siachen glacier, exchanges between India and Pakistan of authenticated maps showing present military dispositions on the ground, the delimitation of the map based on "ground realities" and the redeployment of Indian and Pakistani forces to mutually agreed positions. The Pakistani side, on the other hand, insisted that the deployment of forces should be in mutually agreed positions that were held at the time of the ceasefire in 1971 and called for the "delimitation" of an extension of the LoC beyond the map reference point NJ 9842.

In 1989, the two countries seemed to be in agreement on working towards a comprehensive settlement by redeploying forces to reduce the chances of a conflict at Siachen. But the expected breakthrough did not materialise.

Siachen figured prominently in the December 1998 bilateral talks in Delhi. Pakistani officials insisted that both countries had agreed in 1989 to redeploy troops to positions held in 1984. They claimed that India had again made a commitment to redeploy troops during the bilateral talks in 1992 and that the redeployment was to be monitored using helicopters. The Indian position was that Pakistan's demand that Indian troops withdraw to the 1984 positions was "untenable". Indian officials said that Indian troops were now in control of not only Siachen but also of higher ground in the Saltoro range. The Indian offer of a ceasefire in Siachen was also not accepted by Pakistan. Pakistan said a ceasefire proposal could only be considered if it was to be monitored by a third party. New Delhi's stand has been that any third party involvement would lead to "internationalising" the issue.

Linking Siachen with Kargil may only be a diversionary ploy by Islamabad. Pakistani officials have privately suggested that their country is not averse to seeing India tied down militarily in Siachen. Indian troops in Siachen have to be supplied by air while the Pakistanis, who occupy the lower heights, can be supplied by road. Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, when he was Pakistan President, once described Siachen and the surrounding areas as barren wasteland. Pakistani officials claim that Siachen is of little military importance to Pakistan and that Pakistan did not perceive the Indian military presence there as a threat. They point out that the strategically important Karakoram highway was hundreds of miles away from Siachen.

Driving a hard bargain

India and Sri Lanka are unable to agree conclusively on their free trade agenda.

THE Indo-Sri Lankan Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was signed amidst some hype by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and President Chandrika Kumaratunga on December 28, 1998, but its operationalisation is still a distant dream. The expectations that surrounded Kumaratunga's visit to New Delhi, the high point of which was the signing of the FTA, have evaporated. The two nations have stepped into a bargaining mode over the contents of their negative lists. If the original intent was to finalise the lists "within 60 days of the agreement", the only indication of forward movement at present is expression of optimism that the contentious issues will be sorted out eventually.

What should have been a matter of dotting the i's and crossing the t's has become bogged down in a mire of conflicting interests, manifested by concerns about the impact bilateral trade in tea, garments, automobiles and auto spares would have on the two economies.

Commerce Secretary P.P. Prabhu's visit to Colombo in May signalled India's interest in operationalising the FTA. After talks with Sri Lankan officials, the Indian delegation felt that there was a "convergence of views" but "certain issues remain to be resolved." New Delhi's approach has been to accept some Sri Lankan demands without compromising Indian interests. Indian officials said that India would consider placing restrictions on certain items under the accord. While such a move would ensure that India provides access to key products from Sri Lanka, it would also help address India's domestic concerns.

As India has removed non-tariff barriers for all member-states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the present stand would be to bring in tariff quotas for specified items, such as tea and garments, because of the high economic stakes involved on both sides of the Palk Straits. Sri Lanka's obligations in this regard would include providing access to products from India for which there is no significant manufacturing base in the island, such as electrical goods, automobile components and pharmaceuticals. With regard to products for which the island does not have a manufacturing base but from which it earns considerable revenue - motorcars, for instance - a more flexible attitude is likely to be taken by India, given the revenue sensitivities of the island's economy.

India's biggest advantage would lie in getting Sri Lanka to open up its markets for products in sectors in which the island has neither a manufacturing base nor revenue-earning capacity. The creation of joint ventures also has been an important part of the agenda. Possibilities for joint ventures exist in sectors such as electrical goods, dyes, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

India is concerned about opening up its markets to Sri Lankan tea as it would directly affect the tea industry in South India. On its part, Sri Lanka is reluctant to give up the revenue advantage from automobile imports. The Indian negotiators appear to have appreciated this point. However, with regard to the automobile spare parts and electrical products sectors they believe that the Sri Lankan market would be served well by imports from India.

Beyond the tedious bargaining, the basic determinant of the direction in which the FTA would move remains the larger domestic interests of the two nations. India could be handicapped by Sri Lanka's "perceptions" about its economy being swamped by exports from India. According to sections of the media and public opinion in Sri Lanka, the deal was signed without taking the Sri Lankan public into confidence and India would gain at the cost of "Sri Lanka's competitiveness" internationally.

The Government's response was tepid, and it was the state-run media that made some efforts to counter such apprehensions. Indian diplomats organised interactive sessions, which were well-attended, to quell the doubts troubling Sri Lankan businessmen. The Sri Lankan Government, however, evaded a formal response to the question that dominated the public mind - the "secrecy" behind the agreement.

As the Provincial Council elections had followed the signing of the FTA, the issue was put on the back-burner. The Sri Lankan Government seems to lack the political will to take the FTA out of cold storage. In a nation where emotional slogans can tilt the electoral balance, none of the major parties has given prominence to the fast-track trade agreement with the island's closest and largest neighbour.

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Even enthusiastic businessmen were aware that there would be a protracted phase of hard bargaining. Trapped in the muddle of vested interests and powerful lobbies, the well-intentioned efforts of the signatories of the agreement seem to have been watered down and the hopes for a new dimension in Indo-Sri Lankan relations belied.

While the FTA provides a fast-track approach to Indo-Sri Lanka trade, it has to be seen alongside two other initiatives at the regional level - the unilateral offer of greater market access for products from SAARC member-states and the moves towards integration with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which would alter the global tariff scenario.

In this backdrop, any move to operationalise the FTA assumes significance because the earlier this is achieved, the sooner will the two nations get a foothold in each other's economy. This would give them a chance to adjust to the scenario that would unfold in the wake of global integration.

Given that the agreement allows bilateral interests to transcend economic factors, any forward movement would depend on how the two nations proceed, keeping their mutual interest in mind. There is a perception that domestic electoral compulsions will drive the Opposition, particularly the United National Party (UNP), to oppose the agreement. Maintaining the position that it will be able to comment on the FTA only after the details are arrived at, the UNP has said that "in principle" it would favour closer economic interaction with India.

The radical Left party, the Janata Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which is improving its position in the island's politics, has said that it opposes the agreement because "Sri Lankans were not taken into confidence" and not because the agreement involves India. It views the FTA as an agreement that the Sri Lankan President entered into "to show Sri Lanka that something was achieved"; it says that the FTA is "dead" as it has not taken effect.

The fact that India prepares for Lok Sabha elections and Sri Lanka heads towards the next round of parliamentary and presidential elections is also important, for political changes in the two countries will also have an impact on further movement of the agreement. As the prime mover of the FTA, Kumaratunga's directives will be an indication of Sri Lanka's intentions. Given the high-voltage nature of Sri Lankan politics, cautious regard of mutual intentions will determine the course of the FTA.

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Oct 9,2020