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June 5, 1999


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The Rediff Special/ Amberish K Diwanji

'The entire top brass in Islamabad are hardliners when it comes to Kashmir'

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"To say that the Pakistan government was not aware of the Pakistan army's plan to send in armed intruders into Kargil is completely wrong," declares Dr Savita Pande of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.

Dr Pande, who had done her doctoral thesis on Pakistan's nuclear policy a few years ago and now specialises in South Asia and Pakistan, debunked the claims of George Fernandes and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The defence minister and prime minister had excused the Nawaz Sharief government and the Inter-Services Intelligence from any role in the Kargil war.

She pointed out that as far as Kashmir was concerned, the entire Pakistan establishment was united in its thinking. "The entire top brass in Islamabad are all hardliners when it comes to Kashmir," she added.

The present Pakistan chief of army staff, General Pervez Musharif was handpicked by Sharief after his row with the previous chief, General Jehangir Karamat. Musharif superseded two other generals in his rise to the top job.

Similarly, the present ISI chief, General Ziauddin, is also considered a Sharief appointee. Pande pointed out that Ziauddin's brother is a member of the Pakistan national assembly and belongs to the Pakistan Muslim League, Sharief's party.

"When you consider all these facts, it becomes clear that the defence minister's statements holds no water," said Pande, who firmly believes that Sharief was very much aware of what was happening in Kargil even as he and Vajpayee signed the Lahore Declaration and spoke of friendship.

In fact, Pande categorically blames the Bus Diplomacy and the Lahore Declaration for the current fiasco. "We in India overreacted when the Indian prime minister took the bus to Lahore and later signed the declaration. And in doing so, we missed out crucial points in the declaration which go against India," said Pande.

These vital aspects, according to the IDSA senior fellow, are:

the Kashmir issue has been separated from other issues;


no mention was made about ending the low-intensity conflict that has raged on since 1989.

"The prime minister read out a poem Jang Na Hone Denge (We will not let war happen) all along forgetting that a proxy was has been going for a decade now," said a worked up Pande.

The IDSA senior fellow blamed a "bunch of people" who believe that Track 2 Diplomacy and symbolic gestures of friendship would resolve the Indo-Pakistan issues.

"How can we let Kashmir bleed while the rest of India becomes friends with Pakistan?" asked Pande, "after all Kashmir is a part of India and until Pakistan changes its policy on Kashmir, India cannot get too close." She added that even on the day the prime minister took his bus ride to Lahore, some people were killed in Kashmir.

Analysing the reason for the Kargil conflict, Pande said it was to block the Srinagar-Leh highway. "Every summer, food and other supplies are stocked up in Leh since the highway is difficult to use in winter. The Pakistan plan was to prevent this stocking up of supplies from taking place, which would make the entire Ladakh region vulnerable to Pakistan," she said.

Capture of Ladakh would allow Pakistan to gain easy access to the Siachen Glacier and get close to the Karakoram highway which goes through the Xinjiang province in China. "Pakistan could even link up through the Karakoram to China," said Pande.

Another reason, according to her, was to start a war in another sector so that the number of troops deployed in the Poonch-Rajouri sector is reduced. "Since the number of troops are limited, the idea is to force India to move troops from Poonch to Kargil so that infiltration from Poonch-Rajouri becomes easier," the IDSA fellow added.

She pointed out that the Poonch-Rajouri sector was the most favoured infiltration route, whereas Kargil, involving high mountains and temperatures that make it the second-coldest place on earth, is not an easy place for infiltrators.

Pande sees no intrinsic worth in the visit of Pakistan Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz to India. "Any further talks can only be based on the intruders going back and Pakistan agreeing to end this low-intensity conflict against India," she said, adding that unfortunately, India had a habit of sweeping key issues under the carpet.

She also flayed suggestions of giving the intruders a "safe passage" back. "There is no question of giving them a safe passage. We must throw them out! They are not even soldiers who deserve to be treated prisoners of war," she stated.

However, despite the conflict having gone for quite some time, Pande doubted it would become a full-fledged war. "Pakistan's military doctrine is based on the fact that India has conventional superiority. In fact, it is because they know they cannot defeat India in a conventional war that they keep indulging in low-intensity conflicts," she declared. However, she was sure that the day Islamabad was convinced it could actually win a war against India, Pakistan would attack.

Moreover, she pointed out that unlike the Siachen Glacier which was an undemarcated territory and therefore open to conflict, in Kargil the border is clearly defined and thus there is no scope for ambiguity. "The entire world accepts the Line of Control," she said.

Lastly, Pakistan has not yet owned up to the intruders, still calling them as Kashmiri freedom fighters. "This means they have no legal commitment to back the intruders," added Pande.

She warned that after Kargil, Pakistan may try and create trouble in the Nalagalli sector, popularly known as the NG sector, which lies close to Kargil.

With India unlikely to change its policy on Kashmir, Pande sees only one way out for India. "We have to increase our defence expenditure. We cannot be complacent about Kashmir nor expect the present low level of defence expenditure to suffice for Kashmir. No doubt the Kashmir dispute can only be resolved through talks, but India must bargain from a position of strength, not weakness. Let our conventional superiority be so great that Pakistan would dare not even question us," she said.

Dr Pande will appear on the Rediff Chat on Monday, June 7, 2000 hours IST (1030 hours EDT). Don't miss it!

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