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May 28, 1999
'The boys have to fly dangerously low to the targets which makes them more vulnerable'
General Suneeth Francis Rodrigues (retd)
There are very few forces in the world whose soldiers are ready to die for their country. Ours is one of them.
When someone violates your territorial integrity you have to hit him so hard that he doesn't have the courage to do it again. Much as I would like to see the Indian forces to go after them, I think we have applied the correct strategy in dealing with the infiltrators in Kargil. We have seen in the past that whenever we have fought for something we believe in, they (Pakistan) have been driven away.
Our defence forces are far more experienced, and proud of its credentials. We really don't know the ground situation but in the given circumstances air strikes are exactly the right thing to do. It is very likely that ground troops may be asked to advance after the air strikes have weakened the position of the infiltrators. To ascertain the number of casualties among the infiltrators -- super critically this is next to impossible. Like I said it is very difficult to talk about facts and figures.
There is little disagreement that there are an excess of 500 infiltrators. It is also been established that they have entered our territory with deliberate plans. To flush them out -- to isolate them is easier said than done. The terrain is terribly inhospitable. There are barren, rocky cliffs. No civilisation. The air strikes are trying to clear the ground position from 15,000 feet above. This could be a preparatory move because it is not always possible for the ground forces to advance on one side along the steep ridge.
Pakistan says our aircraft entered their side of the Line of Control. Air Vice Marshal S K Malik has said the aircraft could have ventured into the other side after being hit -- in a tailspin -- anyone who is engaged in professional warfare knows that these kind of situations do occur. For the Pakistani information minister to say they have 'captured' one of our pilots is proof of their modicum of knowledge. We are not at war with each other. Humanitarian instinct demands that our pilot should be returned to us.
When you are aiming at a target there is always a probability of error. It happens in the most uniform of terrains. The range of difference (between target and where the aircraft strikes) can vary from 5 to 6 metres, in Kosovo there was sometimes a difference of 500 to 600 metres. In a hostile terrain -- the process of lining up with the target, flying steadily to pick the target -- is difficult. The boys have to fly dangerously low to the targets which makes them more vulnerable. In a military operation you always have to take into account the worst case scenarios. Murphy's Law is a fact of life.
There are approximately 7,000 kilometres of undemarcated boundary at the LoC. I think there has been a lack of coordination in the intelligence services. On one hand we have Kasturirangan and the advances being made in satellite communications, on the other we have instances where information about the infiltrators couldn't be picked adequately. It was not as if there were only two men and a dog coming into our territory from the other side, here are over 500 men. Perhaps if this information was made available earlier, the defence strategy would have had more time to deal with the situation effectively.
Pakistan was qualified as a rogue state many years ago. This is a deliberate attempt by that State to change the LoC. The LoC does not qualify as an international boundary, so Pakistan thinks it can violate it with impunity without international cognisance. Pakistan is trying to publicise the issue because it is a State pressurised from all sides due to its internal matters -- there is Benazir Bhutto making allegations against the Nawaz Sharief government etc.
I don't think it'll be long before the world realises what India has been saying for so long about Pakistan. Sanity will prevail at some stage.
Former army chief General Suneeth Francis Rodrigues (retd) spoke to Archana Masih.
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