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August 14, 1999
Major General Ashok K Mehta
'The Islamised Pakistan army believes Jihad is the military salvation to Kashmir'
There is no difference between the best and worst of times in the context of military to military relations between India and Pakistan. At one level, it is a rather strange relationship when senior retired military officers of both countries who studied in the former Royal Military College, Dehradun meet periodically in either country. It is incredible this warm and affectionate reunion as if of lost brothers. Many of them were chiefs of the services. Many ministers and diplomats.
Early this year, former Foreign Secretary Shahryar Khan was in Delhi as manager of the Pakistan cricket team. Expectedly, his Dehradun school mates lifted him on their shoulders. He was a great hit. Also with Indian Gorkha peacekeepers in Rwanda in 1994 as the head of the UN mission. He wrote a letter to the Indian prime minister and chief of army staff singling out their outstanding performance.
But these are Pakistanis of the pre-Partition vintage, part of the undivided British Indian army and civil services. Their heart is still at the right place, but they are on the wrong side of geography. Yet some of them still complain about unequal distribution of military assets in 1947, the detachment of Kashmir and other India bred insecurities.
Four wars later there is no real change in status of a cease-fire line now called the Line of Control, originally designated in 1949. The great change is however in the mindset of the new generation of Pakistani military officers hankering for revenge. Revenge for 1971, revenge for (Siachen) 1984, now revenge for 1999. 1971 was defeat and surrender. 1999 is defeat and safe passage.
The Islamised Pakistan army is on a course of self-destruct. Erroneously they believe jihad is the military salvation to Kashmir. The professionals among them on the other hand understand the insecurity of Pakistan is reflected in the mindless attempts of the Jihadists to militarily alter the LoC. It is a strange paradox that the very institution which is seen as the most enduring and stabilising in Pakistan is also the one responsible for its slow bleeding.
Thanks to the army and ISI linkages with the Islamic fundamentalists, a new power troika consisting of these power centers is emerging. The divine A words -- America and Allah -- may rue the day they encouraged the formation of this dangerous trinity.
Early this year during an international peacekeeping seminar at Delhi, I met a serving colonel of the Pakistan army. He was a professional soldier and reflected the mind of the saner elements of the military. He carried no illusions about the destiny of Pakistan or the ultimate victory in the 1,000-year war with India. Infact he was hopeful the Lahore process would fructify and lead to a resolution of the Kashmir problem. He was most concerned about the waste of war.
There were happier times of course, despite the routine exchange of gunfire across the LoC over the last 52 years. Local commanders would meet near the LoC, sort out local border disputes, feast on each other's culinary delights, exchange gifts and part as reasonable and responsible adversaries. Islamisation and nuclear capability encouraged the proxy war launched in 1989. Apres 1989, the deluge!
The Pakistan army writ is absolute over nuclear, Kashmir and Afghanistan policies. That is why General Parvez Musharraf was able to do a much bigger Kargil than the smaller Drass sanctioned by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief. And the gamble failed.
There is nothing like success. The mood in Pakistan has swung dramatically from initially one of euphoria emanating from the military masterstroke to eventually one of despair over a bungled operation, a military disaster.
Yet Pakistan is so concerned about protecting the image of the army that it has had to play the charade of the army masquerading as the Mujahideen. Pakistan cannot afford to acknowledge the army has been defeated.
In order to minimise the ignominy of defeat Pakistan had used just the Northern Light Infantry regiment for this aggression, but gave it the Mujahideen mask which was dropped all over Kargil. Pakistan has consistently proclaimed that it has no control over the freedom fighters through it gives them political, diplomatic and moral support. In Kargil this translated into artillery and logistic support.
After the great betrayal at Kargil, military relations never in good shape are in tatters. Chief of Army Staff General V P Malik warned that the Pakistan army cannot be trusted because they tell lies.
The friends of India in Pakistan and vice-versa had hoped a cease-fire in Kargil might happen which could then be extended to the rest of the LoC leading to restoration of confidence building measures. Instead Kargil is likely to trigger off an arms race.
If the Lahore process had stayed on course and the Vajpayee government not been unseated, the dialogue on Kashmir would have started with India offering to vacate Siachen as a gesture of goodwill, alas, that will become only an if in history. Genuine military relations with India can develop only after democracy firms in and the army is firmly under civilian control in Pakistan.
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