Published : Jun 19, 1999 00:00 IST

War in Kargil

Your Cover Story ("War in Kargil", June 18) provided excellent coverage of the grim situation in the Kargil region. What was thought to be a localised affair is turning out to be a long-drawn-out and costly war. The terrain is among the most hostile in t he world: pitched battles are fought at altitudes between 4,572 metres and 5,181 m. People who expect a quick end to the conflict and elimination of the intruders must appreciate the fact that the Indian soldiers are braving severe cold and problems caus ed by the altitude and taking on a well-entrenched enemy camping on higher ground and receiving full logistical support from across the border.

War is no solution to the Kashmir issue, which has been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan for over 50 years. The hope that the Shimla Agreement and the recent Lahore Declaration would smoothen the relations between the two countries has eva porated. The intentions of our neighbour are clear - internationalise the issue and bring in a third party to solve it. The world is watching with apprehension how the two countries are dealing with each other after Pokhran II, which ushered in a nuclear arms race in the subcontinent.

The time for jingoism is over. The first concern should be restoring the status quo as it existed before the flare-up began in Kargil. It is time for bold diplomatic initiatives. For India and Pakistan there is no alternative but peaceful coexistence if a nuclear holocaust is to be kept away.

D.B.N. Murthy Bangalore* * *

Kargil has once again proved that come what may we will never mend our ways and learn from the past. The whole episode is an exact re-run of what happened in 1962. While China continued doing its homework and kept developing its areas, Jawaharlal Nehru a nd V.K. Krishna Menon were busy preaching the benefits of non-alignment to the whole world. They should have settled the border question with China, which had been kept open by the British in spite of the non-ratification by the Chinese at both the Shiml a conferences. Ultimately we suffered the greatest humiliation a country can suffer. There was not one Chinese prisoner of war.

Many Indians are of the opinion that we learnt a lesson from China to keep ourselves prepared. But did we? The present scenario conveys a message to the contrary. The Prime Minister was more concerned with his party's image and repeatedly used George Fer nandes to placate Jayalalitha rather than ensuring that the Defence Minister be left to his more important duties. Krishna Menon was obsessed with his speeches on Kashmir and George with China and Jayalalitha. The real problems were given no importance. Let the whole nation rise and condemn the errors of Vajpayee and George. Let us not be silent spectators. How can they be excused for allowing intruders to enter our house? Should they not be made to pay for their gross incompetence?

R. Singh ChennaiDams and development

Many thanks for publishing Arundhati Roy's passionately accurate broadside against the myth of big dams ("The Greater Common Good", June 4). The author has blended rigorous research and veracity with well-founded outrage. Not only is this the finest essa y I have read on the subject of dams, it is probably the finest I have read on the politics of "development" in general (as the author of an overview of the politics and history of dams - Silenced Rivers, Orient Longman, 1998 - I have read more th an my fair share of articles and books on dams and development). Sadly, her story of the war of the dammers against the dammed is not unique to India - it happened in the United States (where thankfully dams are now starting to be taken down) and is now happening across Asia, Latin America and Africa. "The Greater Common Good" - and the courage of Bava Mahalia and the other adivasis and residents of the Narmada Valley - will help inspire all those around the world who are fighting what Arundhati Roy cal ls the "mass destruction" by big dams.

Patrick McCully Campaigns Director International Rivers Network Berkeley, California

* * *

I have been informed that Frontline has been getting some flak for carrying Arundhati Roy's excellent essay on the Narmada Valley tragedy in particular, and dam-building in general.

You can gauge by this that you have struck very close to the bone. Indeed, your magazine deserves the heartiest applause for having the courage and commitment to publish her story in full. It is a passionate, poetic, powerful and very well researched pie ce of work. I was so moved by it that I immediately pieced together the fragments forwarded to me via e-mail by the International Rivers Network and posted the story on our Dam Alert Bulletin page (https://www. xlibris.de/magickriver/bulletin.htm). I hope you will pardon my impulsive action, but we don't receive Frontline in Malaysia.

I believe her essay was also featured in Outlook recently. This is indeed a wondrous event in publishing history - that such a long, substantial feature should be carried by two major magazines.

Allow me to extend my heart-felt congratulations on helping the world see the truth behind the sinister concept of giant dams.

We in Malaysia have our own battle against the same sort of bungling, evil bureaucracy and corporate greed. The essay was most inspiring and timely.

Thank you.

Antares Numi*On Ceremonial Guardian Magick River 44000 Kuala Kubu Baru Malaysia (https://www.xlibris.de/magickriver/)

Frontline can be read on the Web sites: https://www.frontlineonline.com and https://www.the-hindu.com/fline/ index.htm. Arundhati Roy's essays, "The Greater Common Good" and "The End of Imagination" (on nuclear weaponisation in South Asia), can be read on these Web sites. Editor, Frontline

* * *

Arundhati Roy's essay on Sardar Sarovar is superbly written, extremely well-researched and hard-hitting. The photographs chosen by Frontline are also very appropriate and moving. The article presents several dimensions of problems related to large dams and why they are pushed despite severe human and ecological costs.

Apart from these problems, large dams have not lived up to their promise of all the benefits. About half of all the dams built in India since Independence are in Maharashtra. While we in Maharashtra have a strong, politically influential sugarcane lobby, the drinking water problem has become more acute than ever.

If large dams were symbols of the modern scientific temper some 50 years ago, today's wisdom lies in abandoning them as they have turned out to be symbols of destruction rather than development for the large majority.

I am sure Frontline will follow the course of action in the Narmada Valley during this monsoon. I think it would be a great idea to publish this essay as a booklet.

Sujit Patwardhan (received on e-mail)

Kindly enlighten me. Is Frontline going to become a literary magazine?

N. Khandelwal MumbaiCitizen Sonia

I agree with Jayati Ghosh that Sonia Gandhi's origin is targeted by her opponents to pander to the sentiments of the vast majority of voters. However, to the intellectual elite, Sonia Gandhi's rise to the supreme position in India's oldest political part y represents the triumph of dynasty over democracy. If she becomes Prime Minister of the world's largest democracy after a political life of less than two years, it will bring no credit to this ancient country. She is still unable to deliver extempore sp eeches even at rent-a-crowd rallies arranged by her party. She is the projection of her speech writers. She has not yet addressed a full-fledged press conference or participated in parliamentary debates. We do not know about her knowledge of the complex economic and international problems confronting India and the world. The high office of Prime Minister is not a training ground for novices.

If Sonia Gandhi's adopted family has made sacrifices for India's cause, the gains it made have been greater. For about 40 years, this family ruled India with almost absolute power but the average annual economic growth of the country during their rule w as only about 3 per cent, among the lowest in the Third World.

Mahatma Gandhi, Subash Chandra Bose and Sardar Patel and their families made greater sacrifices in the service of India without caring for power or office. Sardar Patel's father participated in the first war of Independence. Patel, his elder brother and daughter were in the thick of the battle of freedom under Gandhi's leadership.

Prem Behari Lucknow
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