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The Rediff Special/Lieutenant General (Retd) Ashok Joshi

Kargil Intrusion: Old Wine in New Bottle

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YESTERDAY: Armed Intrusion in the Kargil Sector: a Perspective

Some time after the Simla Agreement of July 1972, Pakistan realised it would be no longer possible for Pakistan to recover all of Jammu and Kashmir from India and it started on a different tack, without formally restating its stand. It appears that, at this stage, Pakistan decided to concentrate on absorbing Muslim majority areas of Jammu and Kashmir and enlarging them with a view to making them strategically more secure and free of 'impurities.'

Pakistan decided to move to the two opposite ends of the spectrum of warfare, reserving its conventional forces for defence of Pakistan against aggression by India using similar forces. It decided to resort to insurgency at one end, and started working on its nuclear option with greater seriousness at the other. It also seriously started considering, or so it seems, the possibility of having to give up claims on the Jammu region, and Ladakh.

This line of thinking is reflected in an inverted manner in the writing of General Mirza Aslam Beg, former chief of the Pakistan army. He talks of Balkanisation of Kashmir by India, and creation of autonomous region of Ladakh. He writes: "As a first step, the area of Ladakh has been given autonomy. The district, however, comprising a Muslim majority area Kargil, has been retained within the jurisdiction of the Indian held Kashmir."

These developments have been mentioned by General Beg admittedly in a pejorative sense, and the conclusions that the present author has drawn from what General Beg has to say, are entirely his own. These conclusions, undoubtedly, will be denied by General Beg.

As and when an opportunity arises for Pakistan, to make a diplomatic bid for Muslim majority areas of Jammu and Kashmir, a ring of territory around the valley which is occupied by tribesmen distinct from Kashmiris, would be of help to Pakistan in putting down the movement for an independent Kashmir. This is one of the added strategic advantages that Pakistan seeks from the occupation of areas in the Kargil sector.

Ever since the late president Zia-ul Haq launched Operation TOPAC in the late eighties, insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir under Indian control has been inspired and fuelled by Pakistan. Insurgents have been systematically trained, supported and armed by Pakistan, and advised to carry out operations that fit into the overall strategy conceived by it.

But native insurgents, as is well known tend to be fractious and are likely to pursue their own agenda and/or private interests. Pak strategy has a concealed element for dealing with a contingency in which Pak-trained Kashmiri insurgents start resisting Pak domination. They have an undoubted place in the low or no cost option that Pakistan has in its repertoire, but, in any case, insurgency by itself does not seem to have achieved the results that were expected of it.

Tourists seem to be returning to the Kashmir valley, cinema houses have started screening films, and satellite television aerials have appeared on rooftops. Pakistan interprets this gradual change as an undesirable shift in the public opinion in the valley.

Perhaps, this willingness on the part of Kashmiris in the valley to put up with the current status of Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian Union, at least for the time being, bodes ill for Pakistan. Pakistan has felt the need to adopt more drastic measures to further its strategy of absorbing Muslim majority areas of Jammu and Kashmir.

The equilibrium that the nuclear tests have brought into being merely imposes a ceiling on the overall violence in the subcontinent, and does not rule out the use of force for so long as it is kept within the limits of tolerance of either nation.

Pakistan has taken recourse to armed intrusion into Kargil to improve its bargaining position at the negotiating table. It feels secure against an all out conventional war with India on the one hand, and insecure on the other hand, now that the possibility for laying claims on the Valley through insurgency seems to be receding.

Apparently, it sees no contradiction between reinforcing the Simla Agreement with the Lahore Declaration, and at the same time, improving its position on ground. It is highly unlikely it hopes that India will accept the United Nations or any other international mediation to solve any bilateral issues in the subcontinent.

The fear of having to fight the war on two fronts, unconcealed Chinese and US hostility, or the displeasure of the UN General Assembly did not cow down India in 1971. The leverage that Pak hopes to produce with its ingress in the Kargil sector can hardly be expected to move India away from its stated position in the Simla Agreement, namely that it would not accept third party mediation.

The Pak position, if anything, is weaker than it was during the Cold War. After the exit of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, it has ceased to receive the attention and indulgence of the US to which it was used. It cannot frighten the international community into pushing themselves into the affairs of the subcontinent merely by holding out the threat of a nuclear flashpoint. Pakistan knows pretty well that it has to sort out the Kashmir problem with India on the negotiating table, or live with the imbroglio. Its relative position vis a vis India is not likely to improve with time.

The initiative for the present misadventure in the Kargil sector may indeed have come from the Pak army, or the tribesmen, or the Inter Services Intelligence, but the fact is that the Pakistani leadership is singularly receptive to such ideas.

Prudence is not one of the marked characteristic of Pakistani leaderships and it is willing to take grave risks without weighing consequences or the real motives of those who render such advice. It is well known from the writings of General Musa, who was the chief of the Pak army in 1965, that President Ayub Khan of Pakistan was prevailed upon to accept the dubious scheme of infiltration -- Operation Gibraltar -- and the follow up operations by the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

In all probability this was done at the instigation of General Akbar Khan -- even some of the names repeat themselves -- who was then commanding the division through which most of the infiltration took place. Then again, in 1971, President Yahya Khan decided to crush mass movement in the eastern wing of Pakistan on the advice of the ultimate beneficiary, the selfsame Bhutto.

What Pakistan has chosen to do now in the Kargil sector does not show much originality. And for that very reason, the surprise that it has sprung on Indians appears so very remarkable. There is a certain logic and continuity in pursuit of its national policy objectives by Pakistan and it has decided to take risks in improving its position before it ultimately moves to the negotiating table to resolve the Kashmir issue.

India went to the UN on the last day of 1947 apprehending breach of international peace in the event of having to cross into Pakistan to punish those who were supporting the armed tribesmen. A request was made to the UN Security Council "to call upon Pakistan to put an end immediately to the giving of such assistance which is an act of aggression against India."

In 1966, in the wake of an all out war with Pakistan, heads of both the countries were invited to Tashkhent, and asked to shake hands and be friends. In 1971, when India had an overbearing advantage, Indira Gandhi indicated what India was willing to concede to Pakistan in the interest of good relations.

The Indian position is unlikely to change, because India cannot yield any more. India cannot defeat Pakistan in a single punishing campaign and impose terms on it. India must not allow Pakistan any more opportunity for pre-emption on or across the Line of Control to Pakistan. This would mean greater expenditure for India, and far greater hardship to the armed forces.

Holding of the LoC in greater strength and equipping the armed forces with superior technology by India will also impose a corresponding burden on Pakistan. Over a period of time, it will hurt Pakistan more than it will hurt India. Conditions must be created so that the Pandits and Dogras, who have been pushed out of their homes to 'cleanse' or create Muslim majority areas, feel encouraged to return.

With passage of time, Pakistan will accept the conversion of the LoC into the international border. It must not be allowed to make a bid for enlarging and carving Muslim majority areas out of Jammu and Kashmir.

Lieutenant General (retd) Ashok Joshi has served in the Punj-Rajouri sector of Kashmir.

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