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May 26, 1999
Govt 'failed' to act early
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
The three-week delay in taking 'appropriate action' against Pakistani infiltrators in the Kargil, Drass and Batalik sectors has now forced the Indian government to resort to air strikes, top defence officials told Rediff On The NeT today.
Though the presence of the infiltrators including Afghan mercenaries was first detected on May 6, the political leadership did not authorise the Indian Army to engage the intruders at an early juncture. The government was afraid of largescale casualties on the Indian side.
The officials indicated that the infiltrators had occupied strategic positions in the upper reaches of these sectors. This not only made more infiltration possible but also emboldened them to undertake further misadventures on the Indian side of the Line of Control.
While the army authorities were raring to have a go at the infiltrators, the political leadership allegedly displayed a marked lack of political will to engage them, they said.
The officials hinted that the casualties suffered by the Indian side could be much more than was being claimed by the South Block functionaries.
They said the government was now trying to unnecessarily blame the intelligence wing.
Asked if there was no 'intelligence failure' at all in this regard, the officials said the actual cause was that Drass was the "second coldest place in the world after Siberia".
This forced the Indian Army personnel posted there to ''leave for warm places. But when they tried to come back to their original positions, they found it a hard bargain. By then, the Pakistani infiltrators started firing at them from the upper reaches.'' This was the reason for heavy casualties on the Indian side, they said.
Asked why the government 'suddenly' decided to undertake air strikes today, the officials pointed out, ''It dawned on the government that if the infiltrators were not repulsed at this juncture, the situation could go out of control and result in a full-fledged war with Pakistan.''
They claimed that, as a result, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had spoken to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharief. Though the gist of their conversation was not known, it is understood that Vajpayee had warned Sharief of grim consequences if there were more Pakistani infiltration.
The officials said the infiltrators would soon be on the run, thanks to the air strikes. Also making their lives difficult would the melting snow.
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