October 1999 News

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Meeting the threat in Kashmir

12 October 1999
The Hindustan Times
By Balraj Puri

The election campaign was dominated by national security issues. The BJP sought credit for the Kargil victory and accused the previous governments of ignoring the needs of the defence forces. The opposition charged the Prime Minister with being so mesmerised by the bus yatra that he became complacent about national security. It was pointed out that a number of lapses in the intelligence system and defence strategy facilitated the infiltration into Kargil.

Such an exclusive emphasis on military aspects of national security projects a partial view of it. In fact, it does not draw full lessons even from the Kargil experiences. For India's nuclear power and decisive superiority in conventional weapons over Pakistan could not deter incursions into Kargil and the increase in militancy in Kashmir after India's victory. Again, failure to anticipate the incursions was not entirely due to inadequate intelligence but also to the failure of intelligent interpretation for which political insight and knowledge through other sources were required.

The importance of diplomacy has been duly conceded in the contest of Kargil. But Pakistan's international isolation that forced it to withdraw its infiltrators is not entirely due to better diplomatic skill of the present government or the belated appreciation by USA and other foreign powers of the expanding economy. Pakistan could not justify the sending of armed intruders, mostly of its army, across the internationally recognised LoC, in support of freedom fighters who did not exist. In contrast, the restraint shown by the Indian Army won India universal acclaim.

That the international support to India was Kargil-specific and not a paradigm shift is obvious from the fact that lack of restraint by India while shooting down the Pakistan surveillance plane put it at par with Pakistan in international opinion which greeted India's draft nuclear doctrine also critically. As far as Pakistan is concerned, the challenge in not merely military but also political, ideological and diplomatic. In this context Pakistan's failure to enlist active support of Muslim countries for its Kargil misadventure is significant.

Nor has India adequately appreciated the way liberal opinion in Pakistan sharply criticised Nawaz Sharif's Kargil policy. No doubt its humiliating and caused a fundamentalist backlash but it does not serve India's security interests to write off the other rational opinion. Fundamentalism cannot be met with fundamentalism. One brand strengthens the other. Only a secular India can effectively meet the fundamentalist challenge from across the border and help similar forces there to meet it whereas jingoist or communal response would weaken India's ideological defences against Pakistan.

India's most vulnerable security point in relations to Pakistan is, of course, Kashmir. Whenever it was politically strong there, it was more than a match to Pakistan diplomatically and military. But whenever it was weak, Pakistan was tempted to create trouble. When a politically naive ruler of J&K state aspired for independence in 1947, Pakistan sponsored tribal raids on Kashmir.But it was the solid support of the people of Kashmir that enable the Indian Army to evict the raiders.

In 1965, the same people were angry over a series of hasty steps to erode the autonomy of the state and Pakistan found another opportunity for an armed intervention. The seventies and eighties remained trouble free as alienation of the people had subsided mainly because of Indira-Shiekh Abdullah accord which brought back the hero of Kashmir to power. The Rajiv-Farooq accord which brought Farooq to power after he agreed to share power with the Congress and manipulated the elections of 1987 revived the sense of alienation to such an extent that Kashmiri youth crossed the LoC and returned after getting arms and training for a militant revolt.

Pakistan was then able to engage India in a costly "proxy war". A really secular democratic country and a satisfied state of Jammu and Kashmir should therefore be the most vital components of national security against any threat from Pakistan. Finally, "let us remember", as President K. R. Narayanan reminded us in his Independence Day message, that "a country is defended not by arms alone by by wise policies and the strength of its economy; by the justice and cohesion of its society; by unity of the people."


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