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A 'belligerent' nation and the sahib
August 10, 2006
India is facing a serious threat from terrorists and the nation seems to be losing faith in the efficacy of State instruments. But the party that accuses the present government of being soft on terror has been made to read a confession of its leader in the Rajya Sabha that he had a decisive role in stalling Operation Parakrama, after the attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001.
'Early during Operation Parakrama -- the name given to the mobilisation of India troops following 13 December 2001's attack on Parliament -- Raghavan had asked me about our own aims... I had written on a scrap of paper: 'to defeat cross border infiltration/terrorism without conflict, to contain the national mood of "teach Pakistan a lesson", and in the event of war, to destroy and degrade Pakistan's war fighting capabilities'. In this I faced two, really three challenges. The internal was the most taxing for it involved carrying conviction with colleagues. This sapped my internal resolve and resources. An adjunct to this was to carry the three service chiefs, also convincingly, with me... the chiefs so wanted a chance, 'to have a crack' as the military would put it -- I had not only to persuade but also to convince them otherwise.... the third challenge was to carry the country's mood, to contain its belligerence, its desire for revenge and retaliation, but to give it a sense of achievement, of having diplomatically defeated the enemy.'
Frankly, I couldn't believe this and had to read it twice.
This was a leader of a nationalist party and he was trying to 'contain the nation's mood' and to convince the three service chiefs who 'wanted a chance, "to have a crack".'
So, why did they mobilise troops at an astronomical cost to the state exchequer in the first place and on what considerations did the learned author, who was foreign minister then, try to stop soldiers from doing what they had been sent for?
Surprisingly he has not mentioned the role of the prime minister or defence minister in this affair but inter alia concluded that his move succeeded finally.
This is a serious and a very significant revelation because the then army chief, General S Padmanabhan had complained of a political indecisiveness that made Operation Parakrama unsuccessful.
In an interview to Praveen Swami in The Hindu (February 6, 2004) he said, 'Significant military gains could have been achieved in January 2002, had politicians made the decision to go to war.' These objectives, he says, could have included 'degradation of the other force, and perhaps the capture of disputed territory in Jammu and Kashmir. They were more achievable in January, less achievable in February, and even less achievable in March. By then, the balance of forces had gradually changed.'
He further added, reflecting the frustration in the army over the political masters' attitude, 'It remains unclear, however, just why the politicians who ordered the build-up finally chose not to use the military machine they had assembled. Everyone seems to feel that the US held us back... 'Perhaps they did; perhaps they didn't. I don't know anything specific on this...'
Who were the factors responsible for this kind of an unkindest dilly-dallying on a major security issue?
Who were playing with national sentiments and the army's morale? The entire nation across party lines and world opinion was solidly behind us in our war on terror. Did 'external factors' as hinted in General Padmanabhan's interview weigh heavy on the decision makers in Delhi?
The brutally bruised nation was made to believe that the government would certainly make the enemy pay a huge price for its terror acts, but at the end of the day, Indians paid a heavier price and achieved nothing diplomatically as events proved later.
In a brilliant analysis of the situation Timothy D Hoyt writes in his essay Strategic Myopia-Pakistan's Nuclear Doctrine and Crisis - Stability in South Asia, 'The United States again intervened diplomatically with a parade of high ranking officials in May and June and recommended the evacuation of all American civilians from India. The crisis was defused in mid July again with Pakistani promise to reign in infiltration across the LoC, but as of this writing the US officials admit that infiltration has not ceased. During this crisis therefore Pakistan succeeded in making no major concessions, despite a looming Indian threat and considerable US pressure.'
This is how a major opportunity to demolish terror factories across the border was missed, going against the desire of the nation and the mood of all the three service chiefs.
Since public memory is very short, one has to remind (readers) that in those turbulent days a unique flow of patriotism flowed across the nation. Even Jaswant Singh admits the 'mood', and it was not just a mood of the 'chauvinist war monger Hindu nationalists', about whom the author has described with embarrassment.
The whole nation wanted some action. Soldiers' leave was cancelled, including the unusual step of cancelling the Republic Day parade; All India Radio and other private channels were broadcasting patriotic programmes and jawans were waiting for orders. Nothing was allowed to happen and it did dampen the morale of the nation, especially of the forces.
If at all nothing was to be done, why was an unnecessary hype created? Who was befooling whom?
Tarun Vijay is the editor of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh weekly, Panchjanya.