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July 9, 1999
Punish the guilty of Kargil
If words could deter, then the farrago of verbiage coming out of our leaders should lead to a hasty Pakistani retreat from Kargil. Even the prime minister -- the epitome of peace -- is talking tough, warning of dire consequences for the drugs mafia that runs that Sunni Punjabi (non-Seraiki) fiefdom.
What a pity that Brajesh Mishra had to kill the effect, by admitting on Star TV that all that was needed was for the Pakis to be pushed back across the LoC and India would discuss "anything" with them, including Kashmir. It was the dilution in the Indian stand on this state at Lahore that gave the Pakis the impetus to attempt a redrawing of the Line of Control by force. Each time an Indian official agrees to a discussion on changing the status quo in Kashmir, the Inter-Services Intelligence and its criminal gangs get fresh oxygen. The Lahore Declaration gave them a lot of hope.
For the first time since Jawaharlal Nehru left Lady Mountbatten's side to say that India was ready to hold a plebiscite in the state (thus opening a Pandora's Box), an Indian prime minister said in writing that the status quo in Kashmir was not sacrosanct, it could be altered.
An intelligent policy would have explicitly warned that no change unfavourable to India would be acceptable. The best Pakistan could expect would be what India is experiencing on the China border: a freezing of the dispute. This writer believes that good relations between India and China are so important to world stability that the Sino-Indian border dispute should be frozen for 999 years. It can be taken up after the expiry of this period, in 2998 AD. In the same way, an intelligent Pakistan would have realised that India is too big to defeat, and that the status quo on Kashmir is the only outcome both favourable and feasible for Pakistan.
However, the drugs mafia is hardly bothered about Pakistan. Most of their children are citizens of foreign countries, so havens are ready to escape to when the inevitable disintegration of Pakistan takes place. In less than ten years, there will be a virtual civil war in that country between the Sunni Punjabis (non-Seraikis) who rule it and the rest of the population. The drugs trade is controlled by this group, with the others -- chiefly Afghans and Pashtuns -- acting as mere couriers and hitmen.
There is no chance of Islamabad giving up its role as the breeding ground of international terrorism. It is such a country that China -- with the benign acquiescence of the United States -- equipped with nuclear weapons. It would be one of history's ironies were one of those devices to land on Xinjiang, where the ISI is hyperactive even while camouflaging its activity by using Tibetan fronts.
If Jayalalitha Jayaram, sitting in Chennai without access to the home or defence ministries, could learn in October 1998 that Osama bin Laden was actively training guerrillas for Kashmir, there is no excuse for the Vajpayee government. After the incursion is put down, there will need to be a reckoning to identify and punish the guilty of Kargil.
Apart from the civil servants in the prime minister's office, finance and defence ministries who ensured that the level of preparedness of the armed forces was decreasing steadily, we need in particular to find out just who gave the fatal orders in 1997 and 1998 to stop winter posts in that region. It is a lie that the area was "uninhabited."
The fact is that the posts and bunkers now being occupied by the Pakis were built by the Indians, and were used as winter shelters till a mysterious order was given to abandon them. Who gave this order? Let us remember that it was in 1997 when the Pakistan mafia first began planning the 1999 Kargil occupation. How was it aware that Indian troops would not return to the earlier practice of using the bunkers and posts in winter for observation purposes?
It is strange that a government in which Atal Bihari Vajpayee is the prime minister and L K Advani the home minister should be so lax in identifying the guilty men of Kargil. Or is it that Brajesh Mishra is protecting them?
It is well known -- as the case of Ajit Kumar -- that the principal secretary to the prime minister protects his friends and punishes his enemies, no matter that the former do harm to national interests and the latter do benefit.
So powerful is Brajesh that he can easily countermand an order of "Atal,'' his term for the prime minister. For example, very recently the prime minister wanted to appoint a friend of Jerusalem, Manohar Lal Sondhi, as envoy to Israel. As Brajesh detests Sondhi (who topped the Indian Foreign Service examination, thus confirming Brajesh in the view that Sondhi was useless), he blocked the appointment, as he does several of the prime minister's other requests.
After the post-Pokhran follies, when an anti-China missive was sent to Bill Clinton and promptly leaked by the White House, Brajesh once again outdid himself by once again drafting a letter for Vajpayee to sign, again to Clinton and Clinton alone. Clearly, the man has yet to hear that India does not endorse the unipolar world order.
Instead of sending letters to all South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation states (except Pakistan), Association of South East Asian Nations, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the European Union, the G-8, the P-5 and the Gulf states, besides major countries such as Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, New Delhi once again focussed only on Washington.
Even more pathetic is the slew of inspired reports that India has won a "major diplomatic victory" over Pakistan thanks to the G-8 communique. That document explicitly supports Islamabad's position that there should be an immediate cessation of hostilities, before -- and that word 'before' needs to be repeated -- Pakistani intruders are pushed back across the LoC. If this is a "victory", then defeat can only mean the complete Iraqisation of India. Thanks to the same giant brain that forced Vajpayee to sign a flawed accord at Lahore, India has moved perilously close to itself internationalising Kashmir.
Had Atal Bihari Vajpayee selected a competent principal secretary, he would probably not have had to witness the fall of his government. Politically, the blunders of the de facto prime minister, Brajesh Mishra, threaten to turn the electoral tide against the Bharatiya Janata Party. Already, voters are looking askance at a government that ate tandoori chicken in Lahore while Pakistani intruders came marching in.
Should the Kargil operation not get completed soon, then questions will be asked about the ability of this government to protect national interests. Thanks to Brajesh Mishra, India has adopted a military strategy that is very costly both in time and manpower.
Instead of diplomacy adjusting to military needs, the Vajpayee government has sacrificed military imperatives to a diplomacy that can only be described as a repeat of the famous "Walling Diplomacy" of Benazir Bhutto. India is begging the world to halt Pakistan, just as Benazir beseeched the world to force New Delhi to give up its operations against terrorists in Kashmir.
Should the Kargil conflict continue to September, and the United Nations General Assembly meet, then the Security Council will discuss the issue and give diktats that will not be palatable to New Delhi. Instead, India should have given the international community full facts about Pakistani involvement, while saying that it would do the job of eviction itself, thank you, and in its own way. This would have been infinitely preferable to begging the rich countries to use their influence to generate a Pak pullout. Since when have drug dealers and terrorists listened to chancelleries? All they listen to is force. Change that to Force, with a capital F.
When Papa D P Mishra looked on as R N Banerjee -- then Union Public Service Commission chief and previously home commissioner in the Central Provinces when the senior Mishra was home minister -- inducted dear Brajesh into the foreign service, he would not have realised the consequences to India. The IFS did, though, ensuring that Brajesh Mishra would never be considered for foreign secretary.
Good friend Virendar Dayal (Chef de Cabinet to the UN Secretary-General) got him an advisor's post in the UN headquarters in Brajesh's second favourite city, New York. In 1998, despite his record, despite the fact that he had never served in Delhi except as a junior, Atal Bihari Vajpayee sealed his own fate by appointing the man his principal secretary.
Today, Brajesh has imposed his own standards of competence and intellect on a foreign service that has arguably some of the best diplomats in the world. For those who like Vajpayee, it is sad to see him putting personal friendship above national need by refusing to remove an individual who has exposed his incompetence through Kargil.
Thankfully for Vajpayee, he has Sonia Gandhi as his main adversary. An individual who could not complete school, and who can speak only Italian with any fluency. That the poor lady does not know English became clear after the Congress Working Committee meeting in which Sangma, Pawar, Anwar and Pilot questioned her competence to be prime minister. She had told the CWC members to "speak frankly." When at least three members took her at her word, they were promptly expelled. Clearly, the lovely daughter of the Maino clan does not understand the meaning of "frank."
Sonia Maino has been hungering to become prime minister of India since 1995. It was when Narasimha Rao refused to step down after a single term that she set her hounds on the man. Every day of the mock-resignation drama, it was clear that Sonia was itching to return to the All India Congress Committee presidentship. The question before India is whether Vajpayee will succeed in making Maino the prime minister or Maino will succeed in giving a second (sorry, third) chance to Atal. It is indeed a race that is evenly matched.
Let this end with a Kashmir footnote. Several times we have heard politicians declaim that "Kashmir is an integral part of India." One wishes that some of them would add that "Kashmiris are an integral part of Indian society." To achieve the bonding of this unique people with their motherland will call for governments of a calibre different from what we have, and what we are in danger of getting after this totally unnecessary Lok Sabha poll.
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