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June 14, 1999
Kargil: The China Connection
There is one thing that the Indian armed forces did that I hope was a calculated risk -- not seeking hot pursuit into Pakistani territory. It must have been tempting to retaliate by opening up a new front. But then this could have followed the war game scenarios beloved of the United States Army War College's Center for Strategic Leadership:
Other Pentagon scenarios include the involvement of the Americans as 'peacekeepers' and Iran on the Pakistani side. Strangely, the scenarios don't seem to involve Chinese participation, although one would have thought that would be obvious -- China to the support of its cats-paw Pakistan.
Pakistani tactics have been a carbon-copy of their tried-and-tested ''invasions by tribals.'' In 1948, Pakistani army regulars invaded Jammu and Kashmir disguised as ''Pathan tribesmen spontaneously rising up.''
In 1996-97, Pakistani army regulars invaded Afghanistan disguised as ''Islamic seminary students,'' also known as the Taliban. Imagine, ''Islamic students'' flying F-16s and driving tanks!
In 1999, Pakistani army regulars invade Kargil disguised as ''guerillas and Kashmiri freedom fighters.''
As was abundantly clear in the Afghan campaign, these Pakistani soldiers indulge in terrorism. They will use terror tactics to demoralise their foes and in particular the civilian population. But they are also vulnerable to a determined and clever counter-attack, as Ahmed Shah Masood has demonstrated from his mountain fastnesses in the Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan.
What is the proper counter-tactic? I don't know. But it is pretty clear that those of Semitic religions believe in extreme terror as a tactic: this is what invading Muslims have done everywhere; Christians during the Inquisition, the conquest of the Americas, and the Jewish Holocaust; and Marxists in the age of the Gulag, in Cambodia, and now in Tibet and Xinjiang. Not to forget Tiananmen Square, June 4, 1989.
Force is the language the Pakistanis and their Afghan and Arab mercenaries understand. Instead, India, like a shrinking violet, treats them with gentlemanly restraint. Chivalry is seen as an admission of weakness -- and encourages the Pakistanis to redouble their efforts.
Remember the Afghan Mahmud of Ghori, beaten but chivalrously let go by Prithviraj Chauhan seventeen times? He came back, and when he got his first chance, defeated, blinded and murdered Chauhan in 1192 CE at the Battle of Tarain.
Similarly, the troubles in Jammu and Kashmir escalated only after the terrorists were able to blackmail the government. In 1989, Rubaiya Sayeed was kidnapped by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front -- they wished to exchange her for a number of their jailed compatriots.
As Manoj Joshi details in Lost Rebellion: Kashmir in the Nineties , (Penguin India, 1999, Rs 295), an excellent analysis of what happened in the state, this was a trial balloon by the JKLF, who were in fact on the point of releasing her unconditionally when a fatal mistake was made by 'progressives.'
A Union Cabinet committee consisting of that notorious 'progressive' I K Gujral, along with Arif Mohammed Khan and Arun Nehru made the fateful decision to release five jailed terrorists. Prime Minister V P Singh went along with this. Predictably, this ''famous victory'' made it appear to the terrorists that India was vulnerable; and encouraged them to escalate the uprising and to adopt kidnapping as a regular tactic.
Symmetrically, the government refused to release various jailed Harkat-ul-Ansar insurgents after the 1994 abduction of Western tourists; even though they are missing and presumed dead after five years, there have been few cases of kidnapping since -- the terrorists got the message. Incidentally, Joshi believes the five white men were murdered some time in late 1995.
At bottom, it is a matter of will and resolve. If the government shows its implacable intent to not give in to terrorists, then they are unlikely to undertake risky and fruitless missions.
This is where the 'progressive' breast-beating and hand-wringing becomes an issue of treason, even if it is unwitting. Their endless doubts and raising of the nuclear bogey and willingness to cede territory for an elusive peace all lead to the enemy's concluding that India's resolve to fight is weak. This is the time, I repeat, for all Indians to commit to the defence of the country; recriminations can come later.
4. Propaganda failure: This is the biggest failure, in my opinion. India has a very strong case in Kashmir, but it has never taken this to the world, nor jumped up and down shouting from the rooftops about how it is right and how its enemies are wrong. In the era of the sound-bite, this is a colossal mistake. For instance:
In addition to these missed opportunities that India has been muffing for many years, the PR reaction to the Kargil crisis has been nothing short of pathetic. For instance:
India needs desperately to cultivate the art of marketing and packaging itself in suitable sound-bites so that its side of the story can be heard. India starts off with massive handicaps -- the average westerner is severely biased against India based on prejudices.
One is religious prejudice -- the average Christian can understand the average Muslim, as their religions are practically identical; but Hinduism is the baffling Other. Another aspect is the picture of appalling negatives which the Indian press, as Francois Gautier pointed out in the Hindustan Times on May 11, revels in painting.
5. Who's behind all this? The $ 64,000 question -- who gains from this exercise in futility -- brave men dying for a few snow-bound mountain peaks? Of course, the Pakistani Army, whose raison d'etre is aggression against India. Various Islamic fundamentalists, now that they are a little under-employed in Afghanistan.
But for my money, the prime suspect is China. For, by investing a small amount -- say $ 50 million in arming and supplying the Pakistanis, who will then spill their blood for the glory of God -- the Chinese succeed in 'containing' India, the only nation in the region that has the capability in the long run to challenge China's dominance.
It is a terrific return on investment, and China has the money to spare -- their huge foreign exchange reserves of $ 110 billion or so can sustain Pakistani lunacy for quite a long time. At a very low cost to China itself, it is able to cripple India. Diabolically clever, indeed.
Of course, India should return the favour -- by arming Uighur separatists in China's restless Xinjiang, and by providing Taiwan with nukes and missiles. But India seems too weak-willed to do this.
But in the end, India has to resolve, to paraphrase that old racist Winston Churchill: "We shall go on to the end; we shall fight in Kashmir, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air; we shall defend our land, whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on the mountains, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the valleys; we shall never give in."
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