Rediff Logo News Rediff Book Shop Find/Feedback/Site Index
June 9, 1999


Search Rediff

The Rediff Interview/ Professor Sumit Ganguly

'I am appalled the Indian political authorities failed to anticipate the Pakistani onslaught'

E-Mail this interview to a friend

Sumit Ganguly, professor of political science, Hunter College, City University of New York, is an expert on South Asia. He discussed the Kargil issue in an e-mailed interview with Archana Masih.

What has been your reading of the military operation in Kargil?

The military operation in Kargil represents a new dimension of Indian military strategy. For the first time, since the 1971 war, the Indian armed forces have been able to carry out a seemingly well-coordinated air and ground operation. However, I am appalled that the Indian political authorities failed to anticipate the Pakistani onslaught in Kargil and Drass. This was a colossal intelligence failure.

The Indian government believes they are Pakistan-supported-infiltrators -- largely Pakistan army regulars supported by Afghan rebels. Do you think the Pakistan army would get involved with such a risky military adventure?

There is little or no question in my mind that the infiltrators are supported by Pakistan. Some of them could also be Pakistani army regulars. After all, it needs to be recalled and underscored that Pakistan had tried markedly similar strategies in 1947-48 and again in 1965. Yes, I believe that they would take on such a risk-prone strategy.

In your understanding of the India-Pakistan equation, can this be regarded as a deliberate attempt by Pakistan to alter the Line of Control?

That would be a by-product of this strategy. I believe the real goals were twofold. First, to try and revive the insurgency in Kashmir and second, to focus international attention on the region and thereby bring adverse pressure on India.

Defence Minister George Fernandes said the Pakistan army acted independent of the Nawaz Sharief government and the ISI. Do you believe this can be true?

It is entirely possible that this is the case. I have long maintained that the ISI amounts to a "state within a state".

Is it possible the current crisis was caused by Pakistan army officers who were unhappy with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief's diplomacy -- as you will remember, they did not go to Wagah to greet Prime Minister Vajpayee -- and determined to derail the peace process if the Lahore visit could be called that?

Yes, I do believe that many Pakistanis in the armed services and portions of the civilian bureaucracy have an inveterate hatred of India. Also, do bear in mind that in the unlikely event peace breaks out between India and Pakistan, the corporate privileges of the Pakistani military would have to be trimmed. They have been feeding at the public trough for years.

According to one source in Pakistan, some 38 per cent of the national budget goes to the military. If peace came, the military would have to make suitable adjustments. The voracious appetite of the armed forces would have to be curbed. Accordingly, their eating habits would have to change dramatically.

Do you believe the Pakistan army has an agenda to dismember a part of India -- Punjab at first, then Kashmir -- as India did East Pakistan?

Of course they do. This has been a long-standing dream of many Pakistanis in senior positions in the government and the military. Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto openly speculated about it in his book, The Myth of Independence. In fact, elsewhere I have documented that this belief led Bhutto to prod Ayub Khan into starting the 1965 war with India.

How would you describe the men currently at the helm of the Pakistan army? Are they men driven by their faith? Are they good soldiers, or are they Islamic renegades?

I do not quite know what the term "Islamic renegades" means and will thereby duck that part of the question. Some of the Pakistanis at the higher levels of military office are able soldiers but infused with an undying hatred of India especially because of India's role in the creation of Bangladesh.

Commentators in India say the Lahore Declaration was a Trojan Horse to disguise the Pakistan government's real intentions to foment trouble across the LoC. Would you agree?

Probably. It was mostly a stage-managed public relations exercise for Sharief. He wanted to appear reasonable before the international aid donor community. Furthermore, I do not have much stock in these mutual security pledges unless they are backed up by very specific and implementable provisions. Bear in mind that now Pakistan is in flagrant violation of the Simla Accord if one believes, and I do, that it is backing the guerillas in Kargil and Drass.

In your opinion, how has India projected its case to the United States and the Western world on the Kargil issue? Do you think the US is finally willing to see India as the country wronged, which is trying to protect its territorial integrity? Do you think there is concern in Washington about Pakistan's intentions, especially in the light of the Cox report?

Indian diplomacy, especially in the midst of a crisis, has been characteristically inept. Instead of harping on the infiltration and offering "safe passage" to the guerillas, India should have held a series of high-level press briefings in major capitals of the world. No such effort was undertaken. Through individuals in the IFS are extremely able, the organisation as a corporate body, is still stuck in the age of the telegraph. They are slow, ponderous and lacklustre in presenting India's very legitimate case before the world.

Apart from the Edwardian prose press release, which no one but their secretaries read, the Indian missions have done little or nothing to publicly press India's case. Yes, there is some level of concern in Washington, DC but it is largely unrelated to the findings of the Cox report. Again, Indian diplomacy which appears intent on appeasing the PRC has failed to draw any explicit links between the contents of the Cox report and India's legitimate security needs.

Do you see international mediation in the Kashmir issue as inevitable? If yes, how soon do you see this happening?

No, despite the ridiculous fears in New Delhi and the fond hopes in Islamabad there is little or no likelihood of international mediation. The world has too much on its plate right now with Kosovo.

The Rediff Interviews

Tell us what you think of this interview