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July 20, 1999
Indian army to resume operations in Mushkoh valley
Amberish K Diwanji in New Delhi
The Indian army is all set to resume operations in the Mushkoh valley area where the Pakistani soldiers are still holding a few points. In the other sectors of Kargil, that is Batalik, Kaksar and Drass, the Pakistani soldiers have withdrawn and are either beyond the Line of Control or just on the LoC.
However, in the Muskoh Valley, the Pakistani troops are still occupying a few features either very close to the Line of Control on the Indian side, or are on the LoC, when they should be well beyond. With the deadline for withdrawal having expired, the Indian army is all set to flush out the intruders.
"The operations might well have started even as I am speaking or they will start within a few hours," said an officer at the army headquarters in New Delhi.
While the army is a little perturbed about the continued presence of Pakistani soldiers on Indian soil, the operations to drive them out by themselves will only take a couple of days. So far, the forward movement of Indian troops had been extremely slow and cautious as they had to comb all the areas vacated by the Pakistanis for anti-personnel mines.
The anti-personnel mines, weighing as little as 150 grams, have been strewn all over the vacated areas, often hidden under small stones and rocks. These small mines rarely kill a person who inadvertently steps on them but do cause grievous injuries, mostly the loss of a limb. Hence, the care taken in moving forward.
Now that the Indian troops are almost upon the LoC, they have stumbled upon a few detachments of Pakistanis who have refused to withdraw in the Muskoh Valley.
"These soldiers must just be disobeying orders or are perhaps unwilling to withdraw, seeing it as a defeat that they do not want to accept," said the army officer. He doubted if Islamabad was directly linked with the Pakistanis continued presence on the Indian side of the LoC.
The officer added that with the morale of the Pakistani soldiers having hit rock bottom and that the refusal to withdraw was just a form of stubbornness. Of course, the morale of the Indian soldiers extremely high, after their string of battle victories and Pakistan's humiliating capitulation in the face of the Indian onslaught.
"It is not just the defeats that have shattered their morale, which is understandable," said the officer, "but also the refusal to accept the bodies of the dead soldiers and carry out the final rites and give them an honourable military burial."
The officer pointed out that the refusal to accept the dead bodies to deny culpability in the Kargil conflict has upset the soldiers of the Northern Light Infantry, who are from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
"Let us be very honest. If the bodies were of the Pakistan Punjabi soldiers, there is no way that Islamabad would have even dared to refuse to bring back the bodies. The only reason it really does not care is because the soldiers are Pakistani Kashmiris, from Gilgit and Baltistan, people from which areas are even denied the basic rights in Pakistan," said the officer.
The officer said it was the Indian media's fault that it did not highlight how the Punjabis discriminated against the Kashmiris in Pakistan. He said this would expose the hypocrisy of Pakistan, which was forever tom-tomming about how Kashmiris were suffering in India.
"This war has clearly indicated how the Pakistani Punjabi just does not care for the people of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. While the Balti soldiers were sent into battle, the Punjabi officers stayed back in the comfort of the base camps. When the tide turned against them, the soldiers were left to fend for themselves, often without adequate supplies. And now, the Pakistani government is not even decent enough to take back the bodies," he said.
While the officer said that such mistreatment would affect the morale and fighting spirit of the Pakistani soldiers, he added that the Pakistani government was trying to take corrective measures to placate the troops of the Northern Light Infantry.
"We'll have to wait and see how the measures work out," he said.
According to reports, the soldiers and some of the officers of the NLI are very upset at being used as cannon fodder, while none of the other regiments hailing from the plains were used while from India, soldiers from across the country were used. To pacify them, the officers are being sent given posting abroad as defence attachés while the soldiers are being extra salaries.
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