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June 7, 1999
The Rediff Interview/ Air Marshal Sadanand Kulkarni (retd)
'We have to be patient when losses are not unacceptable'
Air Marshal (retd) Sadanand Kulkarni, commandant of the National Defence College, Delhi, till 1995 and director for the Centre of Advanced Strategic Studies, Pune, speaks to Vaihayasi P Daniel on his assessment of the situation in Kargil.
Are the losses at Kargil too high? Is there a something that needs to be done further?
There will be losses. Because of the terrain, they would have to be losses that we would have to accept. They cannot be too high, given the disadvantageous position from which our troops have to fight this battle. We have to deal with this matter with patience and makes sure that we vacate the armed intrusion (intruders), amounting to aggression, effectively with the least losses. We have to be patient when losses are not unacceptable.
What is happening in Siachen today? We are holding on to Siachen despite the losses. It is in that context that I am talking. People's attention to the events in this sector is understandable, however that would not or should not affect in any way the resolve of the Indian armed forces.
Could there have been any other strategy used which would have reduced the losses? How can the battle be won?
The only way for this situation to have not have happened was if Pakistan had honoured all the agreements, both the Simla Agreement as well as the Lahore Declaration. This is a blatant violation of both. The role of defending our territorial integrity would have to be done by the armed forces. But the larger question would have to be addressed politically and firmly at the diplomatic level.
The international community must also back the efforts of India in ensuring that the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration are adhered to by Pakistan. They need to bring pressure upon Pakistan to ensure that the LoC is respected. After all, India is just showing considerable restraint in dealing with the situation locally.
How can the battle be won?
The campaign can only be won firstly when we are able to vacate the aggressors.
Secondly, when there are diplomatic moves to ensure that Pakistan does not indulge in such misadventures, from time to time, at various places along the border. For this purpose confidence building measures would be necessary. Words will have to be backed by appropriate actions by Pakistan and they would have to give up the option of armed intrusion into Indian territory. This is not Utopian.
The government would have to take strong measures if that didn't work out. I am not talking about hot pursuit or crossing the LoC, but I certainly would suggest that all options must be kept open by India to ensure that such intrusions do not reoccur.
In the last 50 years we have not used power. What we should do in our own territory to safeguard our own territorial integrity and defend our sovereignty is up to us. We do need Pakistan to advise us on that. It is not for Pakistan to advise us on the measures that we should take or not take.
What about the issue of safe passage for the infiltrators? How can we offer this?
I think George Fernandes has been quoted out of context. But what was actually meant was that safe passage may be considered if it is put forward by Pakistan. Diplomatically all options and avenues would have to be considered. That does not mean that safe passage was offered or sought. It also does not mean it has to be accepted. We can consider it and reject it. The idea is to not close the diplomatic exchange.
Is the army free to plan the right strategy for an operation like this?
There is no political interference in the operational aspects of the working of the armed forces. Or the tactical decisions. But what kind of armed forces, at what level, and to what degree the armed forces should be used would have to be a decision made jointly by all those concerned with national security and include the political and the military minds.
Do we have adequate weapons for this fight? Is it true that we may be better off with more sophisticated weaponry?
Modernisation of the armed forces is a continuous process and as technology changes the weapons or the weapon systems have to be modernised. This is true for every country in the world. And no country has enough funds to be modernise everything simultaneously.
Therefore, it is a question of prioritisation among the various modernisation needs of the armed forces. Demand for greater funds for modernisation of the armed forces and the budgetry constraints have to be harmonised.
But we are adequately equipped for the current campaign from what I have read in the newspapers.
What about the suggestion of the use of Precision Guided Munitions?
I am not too sure. That terrain is such that one is not sure. But in any case that requires its own special system -- sophisticated computers, information technology and satellite technology.
What does Pakistan mean when they talk about discussing the LoC?
Strictly Pakistan had no business violating the LoC. That is the point. They wanted to change the Line of Control. They are saying something about how it is not demarcated. It is not demarcated on the ground, yes. But it is demarcated. But Pakistan's attempt to internationalise the Kashmir issue must fail.
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