Published : Jul 03, 1999 00:00 IST

The bungle in Kargil

Thank you for the lucid exposition of the catastrophic intelligence failure in Kargil ("The bungle in Kargil", July 2). I wonder if we can ever again dare to hope that Pakistan's feudal-military-clerical complex might allow an amicable coexistence between India and Pakistan. One aborted soap opera attempt at detente should be lesson enough for us.

Amrita Mishra amritamishra @hotmail.com* * *

Your Cover Story hit the nail on the head. Doubtless, the BJP was "beguiled" into a state of complacency by the nature of the reciprocatory gestures from Pakistan and was preparing to tell voters in the election campaign that its government had established friendly relations with the neighbour in a manner that no previous government had done. Pakistan has now upset the BJP's plans.

The BJP-led government's failure has perturbed the people and many questions remain. It is not clear why in the first place the Pakistanis were allowed to intrude so deep into Indian territory. Why was the border so poorly guarded? Does it not indicate the Government's callousness? Should not all those responsible for the negligence be punished in the general elections?

The Opposition has not raised these questions because it was afraid that it would be accused of being "unpatriotic" in a situation which demands national unity. But discerning Indian citizens could do this.

K. Kumara Sekhar Eluru, Andhra Pradesh* * *

Going through the latest issue of Frontline, I was shocked to observe the callous and irresponsible approach to a matter of grave importance. By putting out a bundle of absurd theories, distorted facts and blinkered thoughts, you are attempting to shift the blame on to the Indian Government.

The charges you have raised against George Fernandes are an attempt to malign the government. Any sane person can see that the Defence Minister was only trying to present Pakistan before the international community as a state on the verge of anarchy, where the civilian government has little or no control over the military.

Can you not see that discrediting the enemy is imperative as a diplomatic practice? Offering 'safe passage' and asking to 'withdraw' mean the same.

Besides, you have missed the point that the Kargil infiltration is a desperate response of Pakistan to the flagging militancy in Kashmir, the direct result of the pro-active policy of the BJP-led government.

K.T. Nair ThiruvananthapuramOf strategic follies

1. Apropos 'Strategic follies' by Praveen Swami (July 2). The story is factually incorrect and contains flawed logic on military aspects.

2. The following factual inaccuracies are highlighted:

(a) Marpola, Sando and Bimbat L.C. are permanent posts along the Line of Control (LoC) and were manned throughout the winter.

(b) 3 Punjab is holding a number of posts along the L.C. in the area of Batalik. No positions were vacated during the winter in the entire Kargil sector, from Chorbatla to Marpola.

(c) There was no warning conveyed to the Army in October '98 by I.B.'s Leh bureau of an incursion by 350 irregulars in Kargil sector in April '99.

(d) There was no 'Concept Paper' originated by Army HQ calling for military representatives at all levels of civilian government in Jammu and Kashmir from the district level to the tehsil level. The existence of such a document has also been denied by the Ministry of Home Affairs (J&K Department).

(e) The deployment of forces along the Line of Control is dynamic and is based on the threat assessment. This is constantly reviewed and necessary changes in deployment made based on operational considerations. To say that no review was carried out of the 15-year policy is totally incorrect.

3. Lack of indepth knowledge of warfare in such high altitudes has been displayed by stating that by holding some heights it would be possible to detect intrusion in the vast glaciated tracts in the area along the L.C. which were not occupied by either side.

4. The remark that military assessments were excessively based on political events is a figment of imagination. Further, the statement that senior officials are finding politics more interesting than army work is malicious and slanderous. The Army has remained resolutely apolitical and will continue to remain such.

Col. Shruti Kant Public Relations Officer (Army) New Delhi

Praveen Swami writes:

2.(a&b). The Army PRO asserts that the Marpola, Sando and Bimbat posts were "manned throughout the winter" and then makes a claim that none of his superior officers have so far made: "No positions were vacated during the winter in the entire Kargil sector, from Chorbatla to Marpola."

If all Indian positions were held through the entire Kargil sector throughout the winter, where are those soldiers now? Why is the Army pushing its way along the Sando nullah and using air power to hit Pakistan positions on Marpola if it is already there? Why is the Army now not in control of posts in the Batalik area, which the Army PRO asserts India held throughout the winter? Were the posts over-run by Pakistan? And why did 15 Corps Commander Lieutenant-General Kishan Pal say at his first press conference on the Kargil crisis that Pakistan had occupied "unheld areas" if, as the Army PRO says, India in fact held them?

One simple way to settle the issue would be for the Army PRO to state just where the pickets the Army has held all winter are. No security issues would be involved, since Pakistan irregulars and troops would presumably be engaging with these positions. He could also then explain why soldiers are giving their lives to reoccupy positions India already holds.

2(c). I stand by what our investigation revealed. This is supported by official documentation Frontline, along with some other publications, has access to. Our findings were first reported in the Frontline issue of June 18, 1999: Intelligence operatives based in Leh had, in October 1998, passed on reports that 350-odd irregulars were being trained in two camps in the general area of Olthingthang, Pakistan's forward headquarters in the Kargil sector. The Leh reports specifically stated that the groups were to be infiltrated into the Kargil area in April 1999. Further, shortly afterwards, further reports emerged from Indian intelligence in Leh warning that Remotely Piloted Vehicles, airborne surveillance platforms, were being used by Pakistan to monitor the Leh-Kargil area. This body of information was received by the Ministry of Defence in the third week of October 1998. This finding was repeated on page 12 of Frontline (July 2, 1999), where I noted that military officials had disregarded, among other things, warnings issued by the Intelligence Bureau's Leh office in the third week of October 1998 of an incursion in April 1999 by at least 350 irregulars from Pakistan's Kargil area forward headquarters in Olthingthang. Nowhere have we stated that the Leh intelligence was sent to Army Headquarters.

If the military officials in the Ministry of Defence did not inform Army Headquarters of intelligence received on so serious a matter, that itself is revealing. The first report emanated from the Intelligence Bureau's field operative in Kargil, and it strains credulity to believe that it would not have been shared with the 121 Brigade's Military Intelligence officials. Indeed, reliable sources say that the matter was locally discussed in December 1998 and again in March 1999.

2(d). As for the concept paper on administration in Jammu & Kashmir, it was put forward at meetings of the Unified Headquarters in Srinagar, and widely discussed by administrative and police officials in the State. How the Ministry of Home Affairs (J&K Department) could deny the existence of a document emanating from Army Headquarters, and one it had nothing to do with at any stage, is not clear.

2 (e). If, as the Army PRO claims, military policy on the Line of Control has been "constantly reviewed" and "is based on the threat assessment", the quality of such exercises has been made clear by events in Kargil. The Army PRO makes no reference to the widely reported and candid admission by Northern Command chief H.M. Khanna that the Army had not expected Pakistan to go to war while it was talking peace.

3. Now about the PRO's proposition that it is not correct to say that by "holding some heights it would be possible to detect intrusion". Posts on heights are supposed to carry out regular patrols over a defined area. If posts on heights cannot detect a major hostile intrusion, what are they there to do in the first place? "Lack of indepth knowledge of warfare in such altitudes" is not a serious response to those who raise this question only in order to ensure that the mistake is not repeated.

4. My criticism of "the excessive dependence of some top Army officials for their military assessments on the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government's perceptions of the Lahore Process" is not a figment of the imagination. Such criticisms have been published in other news publications. I did not either state or imply that "senior officials", that is all senior officials, found politics more interesting than army work. My report referred to "several recent instances of senior officials finding politics more interesting than army work." I stand by these observations.

Finally, if a one-inch contour map of the Kargil sector is studied, it becomes clear that there are no "vast glaciated tracts in the area along the L.C. which were not occupied by either side" in the Kargil sector.


The feature on the relief and rehabilitation work in Latur and Osmanabad districts of Maharashtra was a good one ("Rebuilding lives", July 2).

I was personally involved in some of this work. I worked in Limbala Dau village, which can be easily described as one off the beaten track. The very fact that your correspondent visited this place indicates the thoroughness of her work.

I also appreciate the point being made about the coordination between non-governmental organisations and government agencies.

Kartik Subramanian MumbaiNarmada

I read with fascination Arundhati Roy's article ("The Greater Common Good", June 4) and was amazed at the quality and truthfulness of the piece. With every line my heart went out to the people who are left in the lurch by projects such as these. I live in an area of Quebec (Canada) that has dealt with similar issues and had to "displace" thousands of our own "Indians"; that is, the Cree of northern Quebec, owing to the James Bay projects. Thanks to the public outcry and media attention, there have been some holds put on development here as well. In future, I would love to see more such articles and emotions expressed in your magazine.

James Douglas Montreal (Camp: Hyderabad)* * *

It was a heartbreaking experience to read the article. It was also the result of very good research. I am now writing a paper for a seminar in Delhi in December and I need some figures about irrigation. Here are my questions to Arundhati Roy: What is the definition of a big dam? From where do the figures on dams come?

Gunnar Jacks Stockholm

Articles like these make your magazine a 'must read'. I hope you will continue to publish such educative and relevant articles and give space to inspiring authors such as Arundhati Roy.

Gokul California* * *

The article was informative and factual, passionate and powerful, depressing and yet motivating. It is rare to see such writing at a time when Big Money and Big Wars get all the coverage and people's issues and social movements are relegated to the back pages of our mainstream publications and newspapers.

Aniruddha S. Vaidya Pennsylvania* * *

Arundhati Roy has lucidly explained the issues. I was unsure about these issues before I read the article. Now I know where I stand.

Leena Ranade Minneapolis* * *

Congratulations on publishing Arundhati Roy's piece! It brings to the public attention what has been intentionally or otherwise relegated to obscurity by political and other news in India.

Prasad Rao received on e-mail* * *

I wish to commend your magazine for carrying the article by Arundhati Roy. It is amazing that we as a nation are allowing the government, through our passivity, to continue to build the dam. This issue is now coming to a head in the light of the recent Supreme Court order. I was not aware of all the terrible human implications of the dam before reading the article. Thank you for bringing the issue into clear focus and I hope I can contribute to the protest against the dam.

Hema Swaminathan received on e-mail* * *

It was a well-researched and appealing piece of writing. We need more such articles to build a body of enlightened public opinion. You should also consider inviting rejoinders from the proponents of the dam if they have any. They should avoid general rhetoric on development. They should be specifically invited to write on the question, "whose development and at whose cost?".

Madhukar Deshpande Pune* * *

Arundhati Roy's article brings out the points of conflict in the Narmada dam debate very clearly and shows how the facts are distorted by the government to help the rich. We are agitated about the war in Kargil. We are upset that intruders have occupied "our" land. But is this not exactly what the government and the rich are doing to the tribal people - occupying "their" land forcibly and throwing them out? Exploitation of the poor in the name of development has always been the norm. The government and the rich, who are part of this conspiracy, distort facts and project wrong ideas using the media. Organisations of the poor, like the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), try to fight this exploitation. The truth is on their side. But unless they can reverse the indoctrination of the public by the media controlled by the government and the rich, they will not be successful. Articles like Arundhati Roy's can serve this purpose. We need more such rational presentation of facts in the media.

M. Balaji Sampath K. Kalpana received on e-mail

* * *

Such articles rarely appear in the media. The tone and tenor of Arundhati Roy's article would make every reader ponder over such unmindful planning and development. The article expresses concern over the threat to ecology, anger against the exploitation of tribal people and ridicules the lacunae in cost-benefit analysis.

R. Rajan Bangalore* * *

I wanted to commend you on publishing Arundhati Roy's article on the Narmada issue in Frontline. Please continue to publish more on the Narmada issue.

In the depths of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond, And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow, your heart dreams of spring. Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.

- Khalil Gibran. Vidhi Parthasarathy Madison* * *

Arundhati Roy's essay shattered my amateurish faith in the "temples of progress". Her account of the enormous and expensive blunders of our governments make the follies of Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq appear harmless. We protest when multinational companies usurp our heritage and traditional knowledge of herbal plants, but now our own government is killing us with slow poison.

Our establishment imbued the people with blind "faith" in monomaniacal ideas of progress and development. Nationalism has been used to trample communities, movements and traditions. The covert nexus between the government, industrialists, bureaucrats, bankers and brokers should not escape attention.

By all accounts big dams have failed and the Government's policy towards them stands discredited. It is the same story at nuclear power plants. If yields of foodgrains have increased, so has poverty. "Indians are forced to grow the kind of food they cannot afford to eat." What a marvellous irony.

In the process of "nation building", the self-righteous establishment forces the weaker sections of the population to make all the sacrifices.

Kamrul Haque Guwahati* * *

Why does Frontline feel that Arundhati Roy is the fount of knowledge on all the major issues of the country? One Booker Prize does not entitle her to be an authority on nuclear weapons, Dalits and big dams.

Jayesh Karmarkar MumbaiThe Narmada Valley as a symbol

All of us in the Narmada Valley feel obliged to Arundhati Roy and your esteemed publication for the unique essay "The Greater Common Good". The author's rational analysis and emotional appeal have helped us reach out to the hearts of the unaware and the unconvinced. As described by her, the development machine that engulfs land, water and forest and produces rayon suits and air-conditioners - without the beneficiary, but only the sacrificers, paying the cost - is what anyone sensitive to natural resources and human communities living on those should be able to visualise. The Narmada Valley is, therefore, just a symbol of all that is happening in the name of development.

Arundhati Roy has presented comprehensively the huge displacement that would be caused by and the negligible power benefits to be accrued from the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) after it devours vast tracts of land and forest - sources of 'energy'. She has depicted all aspects of the issue, ideological, technical and practical. The strength of her essay is not the statistics, which she has meticulously gathered, but the vivid description of the simultaneously horrifying and tragic tale of uprooting of the tribal and rural populations. She understands the complexity of the ways and means of the state, 'overstretched' but also 'encroaching' and 'privatised'. All this, in the name of law and development.

The question of life and death - which the displaced are compelled to face - stares at us. The undemocratic development planning witnessed by the whole country in all sectors is further exposed as unscientific and outdated in the SSP. The unjust submergence of the tribal region - land, water source, forest, houses and gods - this monsoon is to be faced as a challenge on behalf of the looted, the deprived and the marginalised. Readers of Frontline should respond to, take a position on and participate in the satyagraha to protest against the rising waters in the Narmada Valley, from June 20. The struggle has to reach its logical end - for a change in India's water policy that has failed.

Medha Patkar Mumbai
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