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June 12, 1999


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E-Mail this column to a friend Rajeev Srinivasan

Himalayan Blunder, Reprise

I think it was John Kenneth Galbraith who called India a "functioning anarchy". Never before in recent memory has this been truer -- the response to the Kargil invasion has been an absolute disaster. This is one of those times when I almost despair for this beloved country. It is déjà vu 1962, Himalayan blunders all over again. And I see China's modus operandi behind all this.

Even though this is not the time for pointing fingers, I cannot help wondering: who screwed up? The Indian government, for sure -- for this has been a strategic, tactical, and propaganda catastrophe. And then the armies of fifth columnists in the English-language media and among the 'progressives' -- in a moment of national crisis they should not indulge in loud and pointless dissent motivated by petty politics.

There are some who are aghast at the fact that India is fighting a war. Fair enough. I think this is a good time to suggest to them: "This is the plan: India will ensure her territorial integrity by all available means; you have to commit. Agree and commit; or disagree and commit. Either you commit, else please leave India. Your heroes, be it China, or Pakistan, or the US, will be happy to take you."

1. Why Kashmir? The 'progressives' and indeed, all of us, need to understand why Jammu and Kashmir is worth fighting for. It is the very core of India's secular identity. For if India gives up on J&K and lets it be taken over by Islamic aggressors, it is tantamount to accepting the Two-Nation Theory -- TNT -- that Muslims and Hindus cannot live together: that they, axiomatically, need separate nations.

Pakistan was created as the archetype of this idea: ask the Hindus living there, that is the small handful of them (the others have either been killed or converted to Islam). India, on the other hand, is the epitome of the rejection of the TNT -- its 130 million Muslims enjoy equal rights under the law. They are not second-class citizens, as all non-Muslims are in an Islamic theocracy such as Pakistan.

Thus, it is appalling that the 'progressives' -- who loudly proclaim their 'secular' credentials all over the place -- should be the proponents of religion-based discrimination. To make it quite plain, if the 'progressives' want to cede J&K to Pakistan, then they have accepted the TNT, which then means that all 130 million Indian Muslims must also be sent to Pakistan!

Is that a bargain that Pakistan, the 'progressives' et al are willing to accept? In truth, this bargain is something that I, and most people in India, would find abhorrent. Ironically, it is these very 'progressives', in particular their idol, Jawaharlal Nehru, who brought about the wholly unnecessary Partition, and the biggest forced migration of human beings in history: the greatest Holocaust that ever happened. Of course, Nehru also created the Kashmir issue, by not pushing Pakistanis out by force in 1948.

Apart from this argument based on long-term ideals about Indian as a nation, there are several excellent strategic reasons to ensure Jammu and Kashmir is forever a part of India.

First, it is India's listening post that allows India to keep an eye on what goes on in Central Asia, and have some control over the Karakoram Highway through which Chinese nuclear proliferation to Pakistan (and further afield) takes place. Without J&K, Delhi would be appallingly close to potentially hostile territory. We know what happens when buffer states disappear -- remember Tibet, the historic buffer with China?

Second, if Jammu and Kashmir indeed were to become a separate nation (as preferred by the Americans), it would be easy prey for Americans, Chinese, or any others interested in the Great Game. Despite all those proclamations of Kashmiriyat and a separate Kashmiri identity, I am hard pressed to see how an independent J&K could survive on its own. It will be swallowed up.

Third, we have seen what Sunni fundamentalists have done in the Vale of Kashmir -- their ethnic cleansing has been far worse than what has happened in Kosovo: there are no Hindus left in the Valley any more. It is a safe bet that if India were to yield in Jammu and Kashmir, the remaining Hindus of the state (in Jammu) and Buddhists (in Ladakh) will be massacred, converted, or turned into refugees.

J&K is by no means a Muslim-only province, although the Americans are wont to add the terms "the only Muslim-majority province in Hindu-majority India" to every report on J&K. (I have always wondered why they don't say, in the interests of equal opportunity, "Atlanta, a black-majority city in white-dominated America" whenever they talk about that city.) See the population figures according to the Census of India, 1981, (no census in 1991 due to the violence): all these non-Muslims and a fair number of Shi'ite Muslims will be targets for massacres by Pakistanis. This cannot be countenanced.


% of Hindus

% of Muslims

% of Buddhists/other

Vale of Kashmir












Fourth, the Islamic fundamentalists are not going to stop with 'winning' J&K. After all, theirs is a holy war. Naturally, they will then turn their attentions to other vulnerable parts of India, probably those areas where there is already a Muslim majority, and start their ethnic cleansing there. There has to be a lakshmana rekha, a line in the sand against this butchery, and J&K is it.

Fifth, if India caves in on J&K, it sets a clear precedent of a soft state. All those would-be secessionists -- Christian missionaries and Chinese agents creating mischief in the North-East, Sikh separatists regrouping in the Punjab, radical Tamil supporters of the LTTE, the People's War Group, the al-Umma in the South, to name but a few -- will be encouraged to redouble their efforts.

Sixth, there is a battle for the hearts and minds of the Muslims of South Asia -- they have two paradigms in front of them. One, exemplified by India and to an extent by Malaysia and Indonesia, is that a liberal Islam can co-exist in a secular state with other religions. The other, exemplified by Pakistan and Afghanistan, is that Islam has to be violent, brutal and medieval. We cannot let the brutal choice overwhelm the liberal choice by force.

Especially for the Shi'ite Muslims of South Asia -- who have seen what the Taliban and Pakistani Sunni zealots do to their brethren -- India does offer a better choice. It can in fact be argued that Indian Muslims can and should form a power center in the affairs of Islam to rival Iran's Shi'ite orthodoxy and the Saudi-Pakistani Wah'abi Sunni axis -- after all, there are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan or Iran.

There are any number of other good strategic reasons. Suffice to say that there is no way India can afford to roll over and play dead in Jammu and Kashmir.

Having said that, it is clear that India has not absorbed the lessons of how NOT to conduct foreign policy and war despite the terrific examples set by Jawaharlal Nehru and V K Krishna Menon in 1962. Panchasheel and the Lahore Declaration. Krishna Menon and George Fernandes mouthing platitudes about the enemy. And betrayal, all over. Who pays in blood and treasure? The ordinary Indian, as always.

2. Strategic failure: The strategy pursued by Pakistan has China's signature written all over -- negotiate, smile nicely, make big speeches, and in parallel, stab in the back. This is exactly what China did to India when they found unwitting dupes in Nehru and Menon, and this is what Pakistan (coached by Big Brother Beijing) is doing to India now.

This is standard Chinese practice. I suggest you read the Christopher Cox report on Chinese nuclear espionage against the US -- with the Americans too, our inscrutable northern neighbors made nice, while at the same time buying US politicians and stealing US nuclear arms secrets wholesale. Furthermore, you might read About Face by James Mann -- about how the Chinese continue to play mind games, quite successfully, with the Americans. According to the Economist, Mann shows how "American officials involved in China policy [were] overawed, and [fell] for Chinese flattery…. Awe, in turn, lead the makers of American policy to overestimate China's strategic importance." I hope that they are learning now.

India's prime minister has been fooled by the Pakistanis, well tutored by the Chinese in their ways of 1962. Like Neville Chamberlain after the Munich Declaration of 1939, when he went back to the UK announcing that "we have peace in our time". As I said in my column On the persistence of time, the parallels between China now and Nazi Germany then are astonishing. And alarming.

When Prime Minister Vajpayee signed the Lahore Declaration, I too hoped that we might be moving sensibly towards normalisation of relations and a semblance of peace in South Asia, although I had my doubts about the Pakistani mind-set, conditioned by fifty years of savage brainwashing, as I said in my column President's rule, 'chaste Urdu', and other diversions.

But that, in hindsight, was the crux of the matter. Pakistanis do not wish to be rational or sensible -- Nixon or the Chinese, I can't remember which, suggested that it is a viable strategy to be completely unpredictable, and in fact to NOT do the things sensible people might do. This in fact is an effective psychological weapon, because the enemy is unable to plan.

It would be most sensible for Pakistan at this time to engage in a little peace. Their economy is in a shambles, there is a lot of internal dissent and mayhem. Even their paymasters with the bottomless pockets, the Saudis, have been hurt by the fall in oil prices and drained by the bribes they have to pay to various of their clients.

A SAARC common market would help Pakistan's economy, as they should be able to sell power to India, among other things. And an arms race would fairly obviously hurt Pakistan's smaller economy more than it would India's -- in fact it could be a form of economic warfare as the Soviets found out to their chagrin. Thus Pakistan has everything to gain from peace. Of course, this assumes rational behavior on their part. But their very strategy is to be irrational.

This is a lesson learnt by India at very high cost -- the deaths of people such as Lt Col Ramakrishnan Viswanathan and Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja and Capt P V Vikram and all the unnamed soldiers who have laid down their lives in the cold wastes of the LoC.

3. Tactical failure: The litany of errors in this area is very long. First of all, the armed forces, their political masters, and the Research and Analysis Wing all failed to properly comprehend the meaning of the early warning signs of the invasion. (Incidentally, let us not pussyfoot around it by calling it an 'infiltration' or a 'skirmish' -- it is an invasion, an undeclared war unleashed on India.)

I am amazed at several things that have happened -- one, that India had vacated the commanding heights overlooking the Srinagar-Leh highway for the winter and that Pakistanis were able to take them over so easily.

Two, that India's vaunted satellite imaging systems failed to capture the movements of these invaders early enough -- this means the early warning system is fatally flawed.

Three, that when the invaders were first detected, that it took so long for the ponderous Indian system to respond, allowing the invaders to entrench themselves, ironically enough often in Indian-built bunkers.

Four, that retaliatory Indian tactics did not include the iron fist -- brutal and terror-inducing counter-attacks. Instead, India waffled and treated the invaders with kid gloves, as it were.

Five, why aren't the supply lines of the intruders being targeted and destroyed, so that they can be starved into submission? I hear they have constructed a number of helipads, so if they are to be resupplied by air that is easier to interdict. But the very audacity of the operation -- helipads deep inside Indian territory -- is amazing. This also implies the 'infiltration' is a large-scale operation, with not 600, but several thousand invaders -- a plan to repeat their Jammu and Kashmir invasion of 1948.

Kargil: The China Connection

Rajeev Srinivasan

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