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June 24, 1999
Government reluctant to order troops across LoC
George Iype in New Delhi
The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government is not inclined to allow the army to cross the Line of Control to complete Operation Vijay at this juncture as it is still hoping that the increasing external pressure will force Pakistan to withdraw its intruders from Kargil.
Even as air strikes and ground assaults to flush out the infiltrators continue, the army top brass had sought permission to cross the LoC. According to the army, this is essential to cut off the supply routes of the infiltrators from bases in Pakistan.
General Ved Prakash Malik, chief of the army staff, has himself admitted that his troops are facing "constraints" in evicting the intruders from Kargil without crossing the LoC.
But despite intense pressure from the army to allow it to exercise the critical option of crossing the LoC, the government is in two minds.
Senior officials pointed out that India has been stressing that its military action is purely within its own territory. So any move to permit the army and the air force to cross the LoC to destroy supply bases in Pakistan would immediately be taken as a declaration of war.
Encouraged by the positive global response to its diplomatic offensive, the government is hoping Pakistan relents and pulls out under pressure from the West.
Significantly, India is looking for some dramatic developments in the talks that a high-level delegation sent by American President Bill Clinton is currently having in Islamabad. The delegation, led by Marine General Anthony Zinni, commander-in-chief of the US central command, is meeting Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief and army chief General Parvez Musharraf.
An external affairs ministry official said the delegation would certainly ask Pakistan to "immediately undo" the aggression in Kargil. "We hope the external diplomatic pressure will have an immediate impact on Pakistan's stiff and unreasonable stand," he said.
"I think the government will consider the army's request to cross the LoC only if all diplomatic efforts fail," the official told rediff.com
Officials pointed out that the government has its own reasons to accomplish the Kargil mission through the diplomatic route as it is deemed the best possible way to silence Pakistan's attempts to drag the Kashmir dispute towards international mediation.
Army sources said ordinarily, in difficult operations such as the one in Kargil, the military requests should have set the pace for any government decision. But in the past month, the government has ensured that its diplomatic offensive leads the way to clear the Kargil hills of armed intruders.
"The danger of the military mission following the diplomacy in the Kargil case is that Pakistan is at an advantage. The Pakistani Army is now trying to open new fronts across the LoC to send in more infiltrators," an army source said.
The army official said the assessment within the forces is that diplomacy alone will not force Pakistan to withdraw from Kargil and stop further incursions on other fronts.
"We are waiting for a military strategy from the government," he said.
While the army is pressing for quick, surgical action to flush out the invaders, declaring the fourth full-fledged war with Pakistan is the most difficult decision facing Prime Minister Vajpayee these days.
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