Lt. Gen. E.A.Vas.(Retd)
In August 1947, the people of newly created Pakistan expected the Muslim-majority State of Jammu & Kashmir [J&K} to join Pakistan. The Maharaja could not make up his mind on whether to accede to Pakistan or India. He would have preferred to keep his state independent. Neither India nor Pakistan wanted this. The sparsely populated northern districts of J&K supported by local militia units, which were officered by the British, declared that they were a part of Pakistan. The Few State Force units, which were located in the area, withdrew into walled forts and later surrendered when they ran out of food. There was very little violence. Elsewhere in J&K, State Forces attempted to maintain law and order in a rapidly deteriorating environment.
Encouraged by the prompt secession of the northern districts, and the knowledge that India had no direct road communications with J&K, Pakistan launched several militia columns along the main roads leading from Pakistan into J&K. These were commanded by army officers. State force units fought gallant rearguard action as they fell back towards Naoshera, Poonch and Srinagar. When the Maharaja finally made up his mind and opted for India, Pakistani sponsored militia was already threatening Srinagar airfield. The Indian army was flown in using civilian Dakota aircraft. This action would not have been possible without the whole-hearted support of Sheikh Abdullah and National Conference workers who rallied public support and provided the army with civil trucks. In the days that followed, the road from Pathankote to Jammu was opened for military traffic. Our forces were able to push back the raiders on all fronts except in the northern districts A state force garrison of about three hundred men was still holding out in Skardu fort, some 90 km north of Kargil. Attempts to link up with this force along a mule track failed and the garrison eventually surrendered.
J&K's accession to India had been constitutionally legitimate. India took its complaint of Pakistani aggression to the UN Security Council. . In a three-part resolution, the UN firstly asked both parties to accept a cease-fire. Secondly, Pakistan was ordered to pull out of J&K and hand over charge to a UN peacekeeping force. Lastly, both were to accept a UN supervised plebiscite to ascertain the will of the people of J&K. Both countries accepted the UN resolution and a cease fore came into force on 1 January 1949. Pakistan refused to carry out part two of the resolution. So part three, the plebiscite, was never possible.
Period 1948 to 1965
UN personnel supervised the sanctity of the Cease-Fire Line (CFL). Pakistan was unhappy with this arrangement. Partition of the sub continent was based on religion and it feels that it has been cheated of its rightful possession of a Muslim majority state. India does not accept that a Muslim-majority state automatically gives Pakistan the right to assume possession (By that logic, the state should belong to India which has a greater Muslim population than Pakistan.) The accession of J&K to India is morally and legally correct Because of the towering secular presence of Sheikh Abdullah, Pakistan was afraid of a plebiscite, and therefore refused to abide by Part Two of the UN Resolution. Anyway, aggression should never be rewarded.
At that time, Pakistan supported the USA's anti-Communist policy. India adopted a neutral and non-aligned approach to the East-West confrontation. Thereafter, every debate on the Kashmir issue in the UN was mired by the aberrations of the Cold War with the US blindly siding with Pakistan whenever the Soviet Union backed India. Pakistan became an active member of the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) and the South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) which had been set up to contain Communism. To enable it to fulfil their role in those military pacts, the US began arming Pakistan with modern tanks, artillery and aircraft. This was upsetting the military balance in South Asia. India protested to the US but was told that American weapons would not be used against India.
The Sino-Indian Conflict (1962) resulted in an Indian debacle. Nehru died shortly after this and Shastri took over as Prime Minister. Pakistan assessed that India lacked the military morale and political will to fight. Pakistan's armed forces, thanks to US military aid, now had an edge over the Indian armed forces in aircraft, tanks and artillery. Pakistan felt that this was the best time to confront India and reopen the J&K issue to its advantage. As a preliminary step, it launched a regiment of tanks into a disputed part of the Rann of Kutch. India's military high command advised the government not to counter this challenge with force, as India had no tanks or military infrastructure in that area. We should guard against diverting our limited military resources from Punjab. So India's response to this challenge was to accept arbitration at the international court in The Hague.
India lost its case at The Hague. Pakistan was elated. This seemed to confirm their assessment that India lacked the morale and the will to fight. In August 1965 Pakistan launched guerrilla forces, led by regular officers, into Srinagar valley through the gaps between Poonch and Uri.. Indian infantry units, handled with skill, captured the entry points of the guerrillas, cut them off, and captured or killed most of the intruders. Stung by this set back, Pakistan began moving strong armoured forces towards Chamb. The Indian Prime Minister warned Pakistan that any attack across the CFL would be treated as an attack against India and would be countered with force everywhere. Thus, when Pakistan launched an armoured attack across the CFL against Chamb , Indian forces were ordered to attack across the international border.
The Indo-Pak War of 1965 was short and intense. It ended with an UN-imposed cease-fire. Many believed that the outcome was a draw. But Pakistan had suffered a grievous blow to its morale. It lost the cream of its armoured forces and large tracts of territory in Punjab and J&K. President Ayub was forced to declare an Emergency and later step down to make way for Prime Minister Bhutto . The Tashkent Agreement resulted in India withdrawing across the international border, and from vital tactical areas it had captured in J&K. The CFL was redefined. In the years that followed, Pakistan slowly built up its forces.
The Period 1971 to 1991
The Indo-Pak War of 1971 was the outcome of a political struggle between East and West Pakistan. Brutal killing of 300,000 East Pakistani Bengalis resulted in an exodus of over six million Muslim and Hindu refugees into India. (This was one of the greatest ethnic cleansings that has ever taken place after the Nazi Holocaust.) The War ended in a resounding victory for India, the creation of Bangladesh, the return of refugees and the surrender of 92,000 Pakistani soldiers who were taken prisoners of war. The Simla Accord, signed between Prime Ministers Bhutto and Indira Gandhi redefined the CFL. This was physically surveyed along the line of actual control, and then delineated on large-scale maps by a joint Indo-Pak military team. This was renamed the Line of Control (LOC). Both countries agreed that the LOC would not be violated by force and therefore required no UN supervision hereafter. The Kashmir issue would be resolved peacefully through bilateral talks.
Pakistani military strategists realised that direct confrontation with India would not succeed.. They planned to conduct an indirect proxy war by secretly arming and training volunteers, calling them mujahideen (freedom fighters) and infiltrating them into the Muslim inhabited areas of J&K Very few of these volunteers were indigenous Kashmiris, so it would be more appropriate to refer to them as mercenaries or militia. The aim of the militia was to merge with the locals, commit acts of terrorism and foster insurgency under the guise of freedom fighters. To begin with this plan was successful because at that time, the Muslims of J&K no longer had confidence in the state government. Grass root administration in the State was corrupt. Law and order agencies were almost non-existent, and there were a large number of disgruntled locals who gave shelter to the infiltrators .
Though the army was deployed to defend the borders, it is impossible to seal a vast mountainous border against clandestine infiltration. Though a few infiltrators were detected at the border, many got through. Moreover, security forces were not deployed to deal with this form of internal unrest. The early 80s saw many acts of terrorism by mercenaries who gained the initiative and media attention. Pakistan's morale was boosted by the Soviet-Afghan War. Large quantities of US military aid were funnelled through Pakistan for Afghan freedom fighters facing Soviet troops. Pakistan siphoned off what it wanted for its own use.
But by the mid-90s, the strategic and tactical scene altered radically. Soviet Troops withdrew from Afghanistan. The Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Pakistan was no longer a key partner in US global strategic plans. US financial and military aid to Afghan guerrillas dried up. Pakistani army units already deployed in Afghanistan continued to provide military support to the Taliban. However many of the Pakistani-sponsored militia forces which could no longer be financed were forced to leave Afghanistan. Pakistan was engulfed by hundreds of seasoned mercenaries, who had been operating under their control. Among these were gangs, which were being funded by the proclaimed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. All were well armed and religiously motivated. Their morale was high as they had fought and defeated powerful Soviet forces. . Pakistan decided to clandestinely infiltrate the Afghanistan-returned militia into J&K as reinforcements for their proxy war against India.
Period 1992 to 1999
By the 90s, Indian security forces had redeployed and evolved new tactics to deal with infiltrators who found shelter in inhabited towns and villages. Also by then some of the locals had grown fed up with brutal Afghan, Pathan and Arab mercenaries who demanded free shelter, food and women. The army began receiving accurate information about the movements of intruders from some local sources. This enhanced their success rate against infiltrators. About 20 mercenaries were being killed or captured every week By 1995 it was evident that mercenaries who infiltrated into Kashmir were having a difficult time.. However there were certain areas where intruders continued to be given shelter.
Nawaz Sharif had been elected Prime Minister of Pakistan by a two-thirds majority on a "friendship with India" election manifesto. His political opponents disapproved of his moderate policies. They believe that India is not serious about finding a just solution to the problem. They welcomed the influx of militants from Afghanistan and sought their support for a more fundamentalist approach to social problems. In order to offset domestic pressures, the Prime Minister announced that he was introducing the Sharia Law. His critics were not satisfied with this. They were unhappy that friendly overtures were developing between India and Pakistan. They knew that a direct military confrontation with India was impractical. They demanded that Sharif at least display a more aggressive approach towards India. They wanted Pakistan to continue the policy of infiltrating mercenaries and whipping up insurgency in the state or creating a military incident, which would impel international intervention in J&K
In order to keep restless unemployed militia groups busy and political opponents quiet, Pakistani strategists suggested a scheme wherein the army supported by militia groups would establish a small enclave across the LOC at a place, which would be tactically strong and hurt India. They believed that India's conventional military superiority has been neutralised by Pakistan's nuclear weapons. There was therefore little risk of a modest incursion escalating into a full-fledged war, They were sure that this would result in the intervention of the US and UN and a reopening of the J&K issue to Pakistan's advantage. Nawaz Sharif accepted the concept in outline.
Pakistan's military officers chose the place and time of aggression with care. (See accompanying sketch map.) The area depicted in the sketch is at a height of 10,000 feet or more above sea level. Before 1948, a mule track connected Sonamarg and Leh . This was improved into a national highway (NH1A). About 300 military and civil vehicles ply daily on this road during the months from May to October. The LOC in this area runs north of NH1A along the crest line at heights between 15,000 and 17,000 feet above seal level. This has always been in Indian hands. At the nearest point the LOC is about 10 km north of NH1A.
The tree-line in this region ends at about 11,000 feet above sea level. Drass and Kargil are located on the tree line. These consist of groups of bleak stone structures, which are occupied in winter by nomadic shepherds who come down from the high surrounding grazing grounds. These also functioned as wayside inns and halting places in the days when mule columns used this track. Due to the presence of NH1A and army garrisons, these places have grown into prosperous little hamlets, with shops, schools, and small vegetable plots. Other places shown along or close to the LOC, such as Mushkoh, Tiger Hill, Tololing, Shangruti and Jubar are local names for landmarks and grazing grounds which are visited by herdsmen during the summer months. These are uninhabited in winter.
Pakistani military officers approached their task in a methodical professional manner. From April 1998 onwards, using Skardu as the headquarters, they moved a brigade group (about 5000 regulars) into the area and began preparing three strong defensive bases along their side of the LOC. Each of these was located at a height of about 10,000 feet above sea level and was occupied by about 1500 regular army personnel, artillery guns, anti-aircraft missiles and about 500 militia. Artillery guns were so located in the bases that these could engage targets moving on NH1A Once the men were fully acclimatised to operate at heights above 15,000 feet, each base began erecting sheds on the slopes close to the top of dominating features on their side of the LOC. Sheds were located below the crest line at a height of about 15,000 ft so that shepherds or patrols could not see them from viewpoints on the Indian side of the LOC. Mules and porters composed of mixed groups of militia and regulars were used to carry ammunition, fuel, snow clothing, mines, rations and other stores from the bases to the sheds, a distance of about 5 km. Each porter load had to be broken up into 25-kg packs. It is unlikely that any porter did more than two trips a day. This task was completed by September 1998, before the onset of snow. Mules and porters, except for a few men who stayed as sentries with the sheds, returned to the base for winter. Till now, Pakistan had not violated the LOC
In February 1999, the Prime Ministers of both countries met in Lahore and signed a Declaration of Friendship. Whilst this was happening a few hand-picked men disguised as shepherds were sent across the LOC to reconnoiter and select forward defensive positions overlooking Kargil, Drass an Batalik. The snows melted early in April 1999. Using their bases as a launching pad, Pakistan moved a mixed force of about 100 regulars and militia from each of the bases to the shed areas. Half the number began preparing strong defences 500m on the Indian side of the LOC. The other half, three batches each of about 50 men, guided by the "shepherds" advanced a further 5-km across the LOC into three widely separated sectors of Tiger Hill, Tuloling and Batalik. These were supported by mule transport. and about 100 porters, mostly mercenaries stiffened by a few regulars who carried essential stores from the sheds to the forward positions. The intruders included artillery observers. Soldiers were dressed as mercenaries and were armed with machine guns, mortars and hand-held anti-aircraft weapons. Pakistan knew that this intrusion would eventually be detected. They expected India to complain about Pakistan's breach of the sanctity of the LOC. They planned to counter Indian protests by stating that these were Kashmiri freedom fighters and disclaiming any control over them. The forward defences were located about 5000 feet above Drass, Kargil and Batalik. Intruders were confident that it would be very difficult for an attacking force to dislodge them from such formidable positions, which were supported by artillery fire. Pakistan assessed that Delhi would hesitate to widen the conflict by attacking elsewhere across the LOC. The USA had been their ally during the Cold War and the Soviet conflict in Afghanistan. America had sided with Muslim Kosovars against Christian Serbs on a human rights issue. Pakistan was confident that America would side with its old Muslim ally against Hindu infidels on the question of defending the human rights of Kashmiri Muslims. It hoped that the US and the UN would intervene to prevent an escalation of the fighting and would take prompt steps to settle the J&K issue in Pakistan's favour.
India's Initial Response to Aggression
Indian commanders only learnt about the intruders from shepherds in the first week of May. The intruders had had two months to prepare their defences. (This raises questions about the efficiency of intelligence agencies and poor surveillance by local ground forces. This is now being investigated.) Indian reconnaissance patrols drew fire and reported that armed hostiles occupied the forward slopes of Tiger Hill, Tololing and the hills north of Batalik. Local commanders thought that these were infiltration groups that had been detected whilst on their way into the valley. Fighting patrols were sent to round up the infiltrators.
A fighting patrol sent to the Tiger Hill-Tuloling area came under fire and lost radio contact; the men were reported missing, presumed killed or taken prisoner. The patrol to Batalik came under machine gun fire and gave accurate reports of the extent of intrusion. Troops sent from Turtok were able to intercept the arrival of a group of intruders and foiled its attempts to occupy positions across the LOC. In the third week of May separate columns were organised with orders to clear the enemy from Batalik, Tololing and Tiger Hill. Attacking Indian forces were subjected to heavy machine gun and artillery fire and suffered many casualties. Accurate artillery fire on NH1A brought all traffic to a standstill.
It was only now that the full strength of the intruders dawned on the military's higher command. These intruders were not like the infiltrators who had previously been operating clandestinely in inhabited parts of Kashmir. This was a deliberate act of aggression across the LOC by: armed men who had occupied uninhabited Indian territory and were claiming to be Kashmiri freedom fighters. This was an open challenge. A fresh assessment was made of likely enemy intentions. Orders were given to avoid further frontal attacks, to contain the intruders and keep their positions under observation. Meanwhile infantry and artillery reinforcements were moved to Kargil and Drass, where ammunition and supplies for further operations were built up. (Troops operating at heights above 10,000 ft above sea level have to acclimatised before being inducted; the process takes about ten days; a further period of at least one week's acclimatisation is required for those operating at heights above 15,000 feet above sea level.) The government told opposition leaders and the nation that this was no simple infiltration but an act of aggression. Pakistan, whilst talking of peace and signing the Lahore Declaration in February 1999 had been preparing for deliberate aggression. It had violated India's trust. The government admitted that pushing the intruders back across. the LOC would be costly and take time. Undoubtedly there are places, elsewhere along the LOC, where our troops have good observation over vital Pakistani targets, which could easily be dominated. However our air and ground forces were ordered not to violate the LOC. This was also conveyed to the world through diplomatic channels.
Air & Artillery Support for Infantry
All political parties supported the government's plans to evict the intruders using air power if necessary. The infantry offensive was resumed in early June, under artillery and air support. The defenders were clearly disconcerted by the air strikes. One fighter aircraft developed engine trouble and crashed near the LOC; the pilot was seen to eject. (He was captured and later handed over to our High Commission at Islamabad.). A missile shot down the aircraft that was sent to investigate this crash. The pilot ejected and was captured. Two shots fired at point blank range murdered him. (His body was later returned to India) A shoulder-fired missile shot down an armed helicopter and the crew killed. The bodies of six soldiers, captured in a first encounter, were also returned to India. Post mortem examinations revealed that the men had been brutally tortured and their bodies mutilated. Pakistan's treachery for plotting these operations whilst signing the Lahore Declaration of friendship, and the barbaric violations of the Geneva Conventions outraged the nation. There was an unprecedented upsurge of nationalism in India. There were demands that no handicaps be imposed on the armed forces who should be permitted to fight on ground of their choosing. Pressure grew for the waging of an all out war against Pakistan. The Prime Minister declared that he was confident that the armed forces would eject every intruder. But India would continue to preserve the sanctity of the LOC until national interests warranted a change of policy At this stage, the morale of the intruders was high Indian ground and air forces were put on alert in case Pakistan attempted an intrusion elsewhere along the international boundary. Powerful Indian naval battle groups were deployed off the Pakistani coast along with amphibian forces in preparation of a seaborne landing in case the conflict escalated.
With improved infantry-air tactics, our ground forces in Kargil began steadily capturing ground behind the intruders and isolating them from their bases and the LOC. Indian diplomatic efforts also began to yield results. The USA appreciated India's restraint. It issued a statement advising Pakistan to withdraw the intruders, abide by the Simla Accord, honour the sanctity of the LOC, and maintain the spirit of the Lahore Declaration. The Group of Eight nations later repeated this advice to Pakistan. France held up the delivery of Mirage fighter aircraft and submarines, which had already been paid for by Pakistan. The Prime Minister of Pakistan flew on a six-day visit to China but returned after two days. China urged Pakistan to honour the LOC.
In the middle of June, army patrols operating at night behind the intruders intercepted a mule column of about 40 animals. Night patrols also began ambushing porter and enemy relief teams. By day the infantry attacked the flanks whilst the artillery and air force kept pounding targets. Extremely good results were reported under difficult flying conditions. When Tololing was cleared most of the enemy dead were found to be regular Pakistani soldiers. The enemy had planned to melt snow and use this as drinking water. Heavy artillery shelling contaminated the snow surrounding the defenders who grew desperately thirsty. He was also short of rations and ammunition, and under pressure from the rear and flanks He began to withdraw from his forward positions and was now denied close observation of NH1A. Only Tiger Hill and a small enclave north of Batalik remained in their possession. Restricted road traffic was resumed on NH1A, which however was still being subjected to random artillery fire. (There was never any fear that Leh and Siachen would be cut off. An alternative, safe but longer route to Leh, via Himachal Pradesh had already been constructed to safeguard against this very contingency.)
Prelude to a Cease-Fire
The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) met towards the end of June. The foreign ministers of Islamic countries passed two resolutions. One lauded Pakistan's peace initiatives on Kargil. The other condemned human rights abuses in Kashmir. However, Pakistan was otherwise isolated in the international community. Realising that his gamble had failed, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif began looking for a face saving exit. Requests to open negotiations on the Kargil issue were turned down by New Delhi. India had nothing to discuss until Pakistan vacated the area, accepted the sanctity of the LOC and the Simla Accord. The intruders found themselves under growing military pressure every day.
On top of this was the realisation of world-wide condemnation, a spiralling economic crisis and China's refusal to back Islamabad. Pakistan suffered its last diplomatic jolt in early July when a US Congressional Panel demanded an immediate Pakistani withdrawal from the Indian side of the LOC and urged the Clinton Administration to explore all options, including blocking of loans from international financial institutions, to force it to vacate Indian territory. Nawaz Sharif was forced to accept the failure of what was universally regarded as foolhardy and overreaching adventurism. He urgently sought a meeting with President Clinton amid signs of panic.
On 3 July, the army launched a final assault on Tiger Hill under the support of strong artillery and air cover. This coincided with Nawaz Sharif's visit to Washington. The Indian Prime Minister was also invited but declined the invitation as it was inconvenient for him to leave Delhi. On 4 July, our forces captured Tiger Hill after fierce hand to hand fighting. A counter attack was beaten back with heavy casualties to the enemy. Most of the enemy dead was found to be regular soldiers. Direct observation of traffic on NH1A had been eliminated. Normal traffic on NH1A was resumed the next day.
In Washington, Nawaz Sharif was given no face-saving exit. Pakistan was told that it had to withdraw and accept the sanctity of the LOC. Sharif's request for US mediation or UN intervention was rejected. Islamabad was forced to accept the bilateral approach. The only concession was Clinton's word that he would take "personal interest" in the bilateral efforts, but that too, only "once the sanctity of the LOC is fully restored." Sharif announced that he had ordered the withdrawal of intruders. He delayed his return to Pakistan, stopping at New York and then London. It appeared that he was anxious for public anger against his agreement with Clinton to die down before he returned home.
Meanwhile Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Sartaj Aziz, began making confused statements in London He suggested that a Pakistani withdrawal in the Kargil sector was contingent on an Indian withdrawal from Siachen. (A US spokesman immediately said that Kargil and Siachen were not connected issues and added that Aziz's remark was not justified.). Aziz also kept stating that Pakistan had no direct control over Kashmiri freedom fighters. This statement lacked credibility; it was well established that a majority of the intruders were not Kashmiris but regulars and a few Islamic militants. (A US spokesman pointed out that the intruders were entirely dependent on Pakistan for their daily rations and supply of ammunition, and artillery support. If Pakistan cut off this support they would have to withdraw.).
On 9 July, our troops reported that enemy resistance on all fronts was crumbling Pakistani helicopters were observed ferrying reinforcements to defences near the LOC. On 11 July, at Pakistan's request, senior military officers from both countries met at the Attari border post to discuss the modalities for a Pakistani withdrawal. Both sides agreed to keep 1000m away from the LOC and not prepare any new defences in that zone. India agreed to suspend ground and air attacks upto the morning of 16 July, by which time all intruders must be withdrawn The next day front line soldiers confirmed that enemy rearward movements were taking place. Pakistan later requested an extension of the deadline by one day. India agreed to this. Pakistan reported that the withdrawal was complete on 17 July, Till then, our armed forces had suffered 414 killed, including 25 officers; 596 wounded including 35 officers, and 4 missing. It is estimated that Pakistan suffered fewer casualties; but one brigadier and 40 officers had reportedly been killed.
Our ground forces edged forward towards the LOC with caution as the area was strewn with abandoned wounded men and many dead bodies, booby traps and anti-personnel mines. On 21 July our troops whilst approaching the LOC were subjected to intense artillery shelling and came under heavy machine-gun fire from enemy positions about 500m ahead of the LOC. By 26 July the enemy had thinned out everywhere except from small localities on the LOC itself, and some positions on the Indian side of the LOC opposite Mushkoh, Drass and Batalik. It would be impossible for our forces to adopt envelopment tactics to dislodge them without crossing the LOC The alignment of theLOC in this area is quite clear. The presence of these intruders was a breach of Pakistan's assurance that it would withdraw beyond 1000m on their side of the LOC. Negotiations are taking place to clear any misunderstanding. Meanwhile sporadic shelling continued and our troops suffered another 50 casualties
Anxious citizens ask, "can the armed forces prevent a repetition of such intrusions?" The simple answer is "No". Improved intelligence and surveillance systems may provide early warning of hostile intentions, so that forces can be alerted and vital targets protected. But no army in the world can protect every inch of its national soil against a Kargil-type incursion. The sanctity of a border between two nations is a matter of trust. An aggressor, who breaks his word and crosses a border, only does so because he calculates that this will benefit him. The best insurance against a prospective aggressor is to always make it obvious that he will suffer militarily, diplomatically and economically if he crosses your border.
A Three Phase Strategy
Those who ask, "Who won the war?" do not appreciate that this war is not yet over. Wars are fought on five fronts; the diplomatic, economic, social, psychological and military front Nawaz Sharif had a political aim: to checkmate his domestic opponents by reopening the J&K issue. Once he had defined the political aim, his military and diplomatic advisers planned a three phased strategy. In phase one, the military was to carry out limited intrusion and employ mercenaries who had spilled into Pakistan from Afghanistan. Having gained a foothold in a sensitive area, Pakistan hoped to gain the intervention of a UN peacekeeping force so that its diplomats could launch phase two and three of the strategic plan. The Kargil conflict was no more than a battle , which formed phase one of the war.
What did Pakistan achieve in phase one? It undoubtedly gained military surprise. Indian forces reacted late and initially suffered heavy casualties. They soon adopted suitable tactics to meet the situation. They then did a wonderful job against a determined enemy in very difficult terrain. The defenders were disconcerted by night attacks on their supply columns, by the courage of our infantry officers who lead attacks on their flanks, by the scale of our artillery bombardment and devastating air strikes. They were forced to withdraw from the lower spurs, and later from the dominating heights. They fell back to well-prepared alternative defensive positions adjoining their side of the LOC from where they were supported by bases located in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
It would have been very costly for our troops to throw them out from there without crossing the LOC Their continued presence there was of no military significance, but it would have been a blow to India's political prestige and military pride. Their army had suffered heavy casualties but kept the flag flying and only pulled back when ordered to do so. There were public demonstrations in Pakistan by mercenaries protesting against Nawaz Sharif's "sell-out" to Washington. Fundamentalist sections of the army have never liked the Lahore Declaration. This faction also regrets the fact that politicians forced a withdrawal on the military. But it appeared unlikely that these diffused resentments were strong enough to engender an immediate backlash from the military.
It was Sharif's political and diplomatic miscalculations in phase one that discomforted him. . America had turned a blind eye to the arming and training of the Taliban and other fundamentalist groups by Pakistan for employment against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Pakistan did not realise that the situation had changed radically since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Sharif underestimated the alarm aroused in the Group of Eight Nations and China at the growing nexus between Pakistan and terrorist groups. [Missionaries from Osama bin Laden's Harkatal Jehad Al Islami (HJAI) are known to be secretly entering Sinkiang Province (China), India, Bangladesh and Myanmar, where they preach the gospel of terrorism, recruit followers and try to establish HJAI cells] Osama is reported to have left Afghanistan and "disappeared" somewhere in the mountainous unadministered boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan. There have been public demonstrations in Pakistan urging the government not to bow to American pressure. Fanatics have warned that there will be bloodshed if Osama is arrested and handed over to US authorities
Sympathy for Pakistan's claims on Kashmir was virtually wiped out by international perception that its leaders flirted with nuclear disaster in Kargil. Pakistan was not able to win Western or Chinese support, nor get the US or UN to intervene directly in J&K Nawaz Sharif's only success in Phase One was that President Clinton gave his word that he will take a personal interest in future talks on J&K This advantage encouraged Pakistan to prepare for the struggle that lies ahead. It commenced "fighting" phase two of its strategic offensive: to win the information battle before the talks commence.
Phase Two: The Information Battle
In this phase, Pakistan makes persistent and strident demands on every available media platform for a prompt resumption of Indo-Pak talks. India, quite rightly, has said that there can be no talks till Pakistan respects the sanctity of the LOC everywhere and an atmosphere of trust is once again developed. This implies no further Pakistani violations such as the clandestine infiltration of sponsored terrorist groups, the shooting of innocent farmers tilling their fields near the border and the firing of artillery shells across the LOC. Training camps for terrorists must also be closed down.
Pakistani-trained terrorists, who had already been infiltrated into J&K and have been lying low in safe havens, have been activated. They have begun attacking soft targets; a Hindu marriage party, a pilgrim bus and unarmed labour camps and. massacring innocent citizens. Additional gangs of fanatics from Afghanistan are being infiltrated across the LOC into the Valley. Some are intercepted and killed, but a few keep getting through. They have begun carrying our rocket attacks against police and military posts. They will no doubt try to kill prominent Muslim National Conference leaders, civil servants and magistrates Pakistan disclaims any responsibility for these terrorist attacks. It protests that it cannot be held responsible for the actions of indigenous freedom fighters operating within J&K. Along with this, there has been a marked upsurge of violent incidents by Pakistani inspired terrorist gangs in Northeastern India. At least three major attempts by Pakistan to smuggle huge quantities of explosives into India via the eastern and western borders have been intercepted.
In August 1999 a Pakistani naval Atlantique reconnaissance plane carrying sophisticated intelligence gathering equipment, whilst on a spying mission, penetrated 10km across the international border in Gujerat. It was challenged by Indian fighters, disregarded signals to land, adopted an offensive mode and was shot down killing all 16 crew members. Debris of the aircraft was strewn in a Kutch creek across the international border. Helicopters were able to recover a few items about 2 km within Indian territory. Pakistani ground forces unsuccessfully fired ground-to-air missiles at an unarmed Indian helicopter, which was carrying a media team to the crash site. Pakistan said that India had committed a cowardly and barbaric act by shooting down an unarmed plane, which was on a training flight along the international border. India stated that the 1991 Indo-Pak Agreement on Violations of Air Space prohibits combat aircraft of both countries from flying within 10 km of the border. Anyway, India does not accept that the Atlantique was on a training mission. A US spokesman whilst denying any attempt to be judgmental said that India had over-reacted.
This Atlantique episode is the first such incident outside of J&K in nearly 28 years. It tested the good sense and statesmanship of both Prime Ministers more severely than Kargil. Pakistan complains to the world that India is escalating the Kargil episode and is not serious about resuming peaceful bilateral talks. Meanwhile, by stepping up its terrorist attacks is hoping to send a message that India cannot win the war in J&K.. It is telling the state government in J&K that it is not going to be allowed to run a peaceful administration or carry out peaceful elections. It is telling India and the world that the J&K talks must begin without delay or else the war may escalate. India stands firm to the principle that fruitful talks can only take place in an atmosphere of trust. India must make it clear that even when talks are eventually resumed, should any major violation of the LOC or the international border occur, it will break off the talks till Pakistan displays an appropriate response. Indian security forces continue to be on alert and are prepared to deal with an upsurge of terrorism in J&K, and elsewhere as required Our forces are confident that every single killer will be rounded up no matter what the cost.
Every time an intruder is captured or killed in J&K, Pakistan conducts a propaganda barrage condemning India for repressing "freedom fighters" and violating human rights. It appeals to Amnesty International and the conscience of the world to safeguard helpless Muslim victims. India's should draw attention to the axiom that the best indicator of state sponsored persecution is an out-flow of terror-stricken refugees. Examples of this occur all over the world. Nearer home, in 1971 when the Pakistan army killed 300,000 Bengali dissidents in erstwhile East Pakistan, (largest organised ethnic cleansing carried out after the Nazi Holocaust,) over six million Muslim refugees fled to India. That was the indicator, which shocked and disillusioned even diehard Pakistani supporters. Bengali refugees only returned to their homes after the Indian forces intervened, captured 92,000 Pakistani prisoners of war, and the new nation of Bangladesh was created. That tragic episode has undermined the concept of Pakistani nationhood based on religion, and has left a strong impact on the people of South Asia who have come to realise that religion by itself is a poor foundation for nationhood. Using the yardstick of the "refugee indicator", the world should note that very few Muslims from J&K have fled to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir over the past five decades. In fact a number of those who did leave Kashmir have begun returning over the past few months On the other hand, over 200,000 Hindu Kashmiri Pandits have been forced to flee from their ancestral homes in Srinagar Valley in order to escape from Pakistani inspired terrorists.
The government is aware of the importance of the information battle and concerned by the inroads that Pakistan TV has made in J&K. It has decided to spend Rs 430 crores to upgrade and boost the broadcast capacity of Doordarshan and All India Radio in the state. Whilst "fighting" the information battle, India must guard against the illusion that international condemnation of Pakistan for the Kargil episode signifies a turning point in Indo-US relations. America, is a great power. It has no permanent friends or enemies. It has security interests, which change depending of their view of global events. Its prime security aim in the past five decades has been containment of Communism. During that period, Pakistan (or any other state, which professed to be anti-Communist) was its ally. Non-aligned India was treated as an outcaste.
With the end of the Cold War and the break up of the Soviet Union, USA's strategic aims have changed. Today, America's four major interests are to create a nuclear-free world, to subdue international terrorism, to encourage the spread of democracy and to uphold human rights. In mid-October, when a newly elected government was installed in Delhi, America began to pursue its primary interest, the creation of a nuclear-free world. New Delhi must make up its mind about the CTBT or face a continuation of American economic and technological sanctions. India should never adopt an opportunist nuclear policy merely to win favour with the USA. (The pros and cons of signing the CTBT and the wisest nuclear weapon strategy for India to adopt has been discussed in detail by the author in the book entitled The Nuclear Menace: The Satyagraha Approach, 1997, and those aspects are outside the scope of this paper.)
A Brief Historical Interlude
Many mistakenly look upon the Kashmir dispute as a Hindu-Muslim conflict. Some say this is a continuation of a struggle that has been taking place over the past thousand years and will continue forever. India has been warding off invasions from northwestern India long before the birth of the Prophet Mohammed. After the advent of Islam, the First Battle of Panipat (1556) was fought between two Muslim armies. This was a simple power struggle. Indians welcomed the Moghul Emperor Akbar. The world's history books refer to him as Akbar the Great because he was a wise and tolerant ruler who understood the Indian psyche and embraced the concepts of unity in diversity. Akbar's policies laid the foundations for stable Moghul rule, which lasted over 200 years. It is only when Emperor Aurangzeb adopted intolerant laws, which violated the acceptance of pluralism and diversity that his empire began to crumble. He provoked dissent from his subjects and tore the delicate fabric of unity, which resulted in the eclipse of the Moghul Empire. (Not surprisingly school history books in Pakistan extol Aurangzeb and not Akbar.)
In the dying days of the Moghul Empire, East India Company's initial aim was to expand and safeguard the scope of its commercial operations in India. They did this by raising mercenary forces and through alliances with cooperative Indian rulers. The Great Indian Mutiny of 1856 was a joint Hindu-Muslim attempt to revive Moghul rule and fight against creeping proxy rule by foreigners. The attempt failed. But Britain's parliament was forced to intervene, curb shameless commercial depredations, freeze the territorial boundaries between British India and the princely states, and establish formal governance over the Indian sub-continent under its jurisdiction. The Raj replaced commercial greed by the rule of law, appointed enlightened civil servants, provided tolerant governance and projected the prospect of preparing India for eventual self-rule. Over the years, which followed, India came to admire British administration and laws, their new educational systems, their inspiring political doctrines of democracy and liberty, and the English language.
The gradual establishment of elected local civic bodies, municipal corporations and provincial assemblies gave British Raj credibility and stability. This was a period of a bourgeois Indian Renaissance, which threw up a galaxy of outstanding Indian scientists, writers, politicians and leaders in every walk of life. Then the Raj began to lose its credibility. Anglo-Indian relations, which had been based on democratic ideals deteriorated into an imperial master-slave relationship. The Raj lost its reputation for impartial governance and began encouraging religious differences in an attempt to divide and rule, so that a British presence in India could be perpetuated as an arbitrator between warring communal forces. Indians resented this and fought for freedom from repressive rule. There was never a religious quarrel between Hindu India and Christian Britain. It was, as always, a freedom struggle between arrogant autocratic rule and democracy.
Mr. M.A.Jinnah was a shrewd Congress politician who was stanch secularist before he resigned from the Congress because he disagreed with Gandhi's mass disobedience movement. He joined the Muslim League, and took advantage of Britain's "divide and rule" policy to side with the British and thereby gained a political edge over the Congress during India's freedom struggle. He kept branding the Congress as a Hindu organisation. He played on Muslims' fears of Hindu hegemony. He appealed to the religious fervour of simple people in order to win his short term political ambitions. There was nothing religious about the creation of Pakistan. Ironically after Partition more Muslims remained in India than the number in Pakistan.
Jinnah knew that religion was a poor foundation for statehood. He felt that once he came into power, he could control events to suit his larger purpose. . After partition, he tried to wipe the communal slate clean. In his inaugural speech to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly on 11 August 1947, he publicly launched a plea for secularism when he said, "In course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities will vanish.....We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.....I think we should keep that in front of us as an ideal, and you will find that in due course of time Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Hindus and Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state." But Pakistan's ruling elite lacked his perception and did not share his views on secularism. Jinnah soon came to realise that he had awakened communal forces, which were beyond his control. On his deathbed he confessed to his doctor that "the creation of Pakistan has been the greatest blunder of my life."
>Problem of Conducting a Plebiscite
Views on the conduct of a plebiscite in J&K have fluctuated over time. To begin with, India was prepared for the UN to conduct a plebiscite to ascertain the will of the people. It was confident that Sheik Abdullah would win popular support. A plebiscite was never held as Pakistan refused to abide by Part II of the UN Resolution which stated that Pakistan should withdraw from J&K as a prelude to the holding of a plebiscite under Part III of the Resolution.
There are 7m people living in the area under Indian jurisdiction in J&K. Of these, 3m are Muslim Sunnis, 2m are Shias, 1.5m are Hindus and 0.5m are Buddhists. India till now has not allowed any non-Kashmiri to migrate to J&K. On the other hand after 1948, Pakistan permitted the free migration of their citizens into areas occupied by it. This altered the demographic composition of those areas. Any plebiscite if held today will not be a true reflection of the will of the original inhabitants of J&K.
From the 50s, the Muslims of J&K began to lose their enthusiasm for India. Some began to think of Pakistan as a better alternative, others thought of independence. However, after 1971 and the break up of Pakistan with the creation of Bangladesh, many came to appreciate that their future could not be linked with Pakistan. The current mood appears to be an equal disillusionment with both countries. J&K has seen the rise of regional political parties, (as has happened elsewhere in India.) Some extremists may talk about independence, but the majority view favours a continued association with India under constitutional safeguards to guarantee minimum autonomy.
Pakistan will never accept that any portion of Indian administered J&K be granted independence because it fears that this will generate similar requests from parts of Kashmir occupied by it. Pakistan seems to favour a solution by which it will continue to hold what it has, and India will continue to hold Ladakh. The remaining area (population 6.5m) should be partitioned into a Hindu-majority area (1.5m) and a Muslim-majority area (6m).[It is uncertain how Pakistan visualises two such homogenous areas on a map] The former area will merge with India and the latter with Pakistan. India would not like any portion of Kashmir to remain under its jurisdiction by force of arms. Nor will it accept that the wishes of the people be circumscribed by illegitimate influences of religious fundamentalists and terror tactics. Should any such a proposal be discussed, India should certainly insist that the Muslim inhabitants of the area being claimed by Pakistan be consulted about whether they wish to join Pakistan or not.
India's Constitution is committed to safeguarding and preserving varied ethnic, linguistic and religious communities. Experience tells us that few non-Muslims are prepared to live under a Pakistani-type theocracy. The proposed partition is therefore bound to result in some non-Muslims becoming refugees. Over the past 50 years India's political system has painstakingly ensured that volatile communal forces are kept delicate balance so that various communities may live in harmony with one another. No Indian wants that this harmony be undermined by another irresponsible partition, which may result in a ghastly exchange of populations and an undesirable communal backlash elsewhere in India.
India's stand in J&K rests on acceptance of four realities: firstly, both India and Pakistan have divergent interests in the state; secondly, these differences cannot be decided by force; thirdly, ascertaining the wishes of the people is important, and lastly, this dispute can only be resolved by bilateral talks as outlined in the Simla Accord.. The "partition" proposals by Pakistan, which have been floated in the press and discussed above, will remain academic scenarios until these can be presented formally when the talks commence. And that is not going to happen at the point of a gun. The quicker Pakistan realises this and begins normalising relations with India and fostering a spirit of trust, the sooner will the talks commence.
Phase Three: The Diplomatic Battle
When significant Indo-Pak talks do commence, we must be ready to face phase three of Pakistan's strategic plan: and win the diplomatic battle After Pokhran II and its Pakistani counterpart, the international community feels it has a stake in Indo-Pak peace The Kashmir dispute, whether we like it or not, has become the world's concern. There is as yet no international consensus on the LOC. World opinion is divided, and is likely to be influenced more by practical realities than by moral rights and wrongs. One school suggests that because this dispute threatens peace in a nuclear environment, both countries should be pushed into converting the LOC into an international border. Another school is afraid that Pakistan's fragile political system is under unsustainable pressure. Even those who accept that Pakistan engineered the Kargil crisis feel that India, being the larger stable country, ought to be prepared to lean towards Pakistan so that Nawaz Sharif can keep the nation together and is given an opportunity to create a moderate Islamic state.
Many Pakistanis are under the misapprehension that fostering a peaceful atmosphere and honouring the sanctity of the LOC implies tacit acceptance of its eventual conversion into an international boundary. India has always treated the LOC as a confidence building border. India has an open mind and is prepared to consider any meaningful and fair proposals for resolving this long-standing dispute. It is in India's interest to push the debate forward and not go on repeating moral arguments. India should be prepared to make concessions to ensure a mutually acceptable international border. However, as already pointed out, India must insist that any final solution be administratively viable and psychologically acceptable, so that no backlash is caused due to an uncontrolled exodus of refugees.
India, till now, has refused to accept any mediation in its bilateral talks with Pakistan. President Clinton has given his word to Nawaz Sharif that he will take a personal interest in the resumption of future Indo-Pak talks on J&K The talks will receive wide media attention. This is a fact of life in today's information age, and is an indirect form of passive "interference". This is not to India's disadvantage provided we do not look upon the world's legitimate concerns as unwarranted; and provided we understand how to use information technology and the need for transparency to our advantage and deal with global curiosity intelligently.
Transparency and truth are powerful weapons. India has nothing to hide. Each proposal and counter proposal in the forthcoming talks deserves to be heard by every Indian and Pakistani. We ought to consider asking Pakistan to agree that the talks be public and open to the media. Many Indians may consider this a dangerous and irresponsible step. But if we have faith and confidence in our people and our approach to the dispute, we should be prepared to throw such a challenge. Will Pakistan be prepared to accept this challenge? During the talks there should be plain speaking and a willingness to take hard decisions. Whatever the final out come, clearly many people in both countries will have to swallow some bitter medicine. Will the leaders and people in both countries be able to stomach this?
The Constant Battle for Freedom
Twenty-three years after Partition, South Asia was to witness a political power struggle between Muslim West Pakistan and Muslim East Pakistan. India was not directly involved in that ethnic struggle. But because of West Pakistani repression, over six million Muslim refugees poured into India; which was forced to enter the fray as a concerned third party. There was nothing religious about the Indo-Pak War of 1971, which undermined the rationale of Pakistan as a separate religious state. No wonder a law has been enacted in Pakistan making it a criminal offence to discuss the desirability for the creation of Pakistan. The penalty for violating this law is imprisonment. In order to unify their country many perpetuate the myth of Islam under threat from Hindu infidels.
After Partition, more Muslims were left in India than in Pakistan. Indian Muslims form a substantial minority group, which is spread all over India. To begin with they were bewildered and felt overwhelmed by the majority community and abandoned by the Muslims who migrated to Pakistan.. Extremist Hindu organisations accused them of being Pakistani fifth columnists and told them they were not welcome in India and should migrate to Pakistan Hotheaded Hindus and Muslims were quick pick a quarrel. If the police were slow to react, this would flare up into a major communal riot. The wounds of Partition took some time to heal However, once the dust of those dark days settled down, India kept faith with its ancient philosophy that all religions lead to God, and with its tradition of tolerance. Over the years that followed, India was able to hold numerous fair and free elections to state and central assemblies, create an independent judiciary, uphold a free press, and effect a steady economic growth. The establishment of numerous independent democratic institutions strengthened Indian secularism and the concept of unity in diversity.
Pakistan wasted those formative years warring with India and feeding its people with negative and intolerant ideals. Unable to consolidate and build democratic institutions the country's political system was slowly undermined. This lead to a succession of military regimes, which kept on using the J&K issue as an excuse for perpetual confrontation with India. Many believed that this was the only way to keep their country unified. During the first 45 years of its existence Pakistan lived in the shadow of US power and the Cold War. This blinded it to the realities of history and geography.. It built up an inflated image of its role and military potential in South Asia.
Muslim India has broken out of its "minority" complex. Many individual Muslims have become Indian icons in the fields of art, literature, music, sport and in the film world. Young India has no quarrel with Islam or the existence of Pakistan or the people of Pakistan, but only with those who sponsor senseless cross-border terrorism. Pakistanis who know this and understand the practical need for friendship with India dare not to speak the truth. Those that do speak out are beaten up and branded as traitors. Pakistani religious zealots (like their Hindu counterparts in India) fear literacy, democracy, modernity, diversity and tolerance, a free press and the liberation of women.
It would be wrong to look upon the past 52 years of tension on the border with Pakistan as a Hindu-Muslim quarrel. From that day in August 1947 when Jinnah delivered his inaugural speech to Pakistan's Constituent Assembly, till today, there is a power struggle taking place within Pakistan between the forces of intolerant oppressive religious bigotry and liberal Islam. (This is not something unique. Ideological struggles take place continually within India, and within other societies all over the world because the struggle to uphold truth and freedom is never ending.)
On 11 October, PM Nawaz Sharif announced the premature retirement of General Musharraf, the COAS, whilst the latter was flying home from Sri Lankain a commercial aircraft which was ordered to divert and not land at Karachi, The Army reacted swiftly and took over Karachi airport and placed the PM under house arrest. Within a few hours of landing at Karachi, Gen Musharraff was able to resume command of the army. He later announced the suspension of provincial and central assemblies. Some have tried to explain this as a direct fall-out of the Kargil debacle. But it is more likely that this is a symptom of the internal struggle and a combination of many factors which came to a head with the sacking of the COAS. The army believes that it has a special place in Pakistan's ideology of nation-building. Nawaz Sharif has been challenging this special postion when he earlier got rid of two naval chiefs and one army chief. He felt that he was strong enough to do the same to Musharraf who was no fundamentalist and a moderate mohajir. He hoped to replace him with the chief of the ISI, Gen Ziauddin, who was not in the established chain of command for the assignment of COAS. He failed to appreciate that the army was no longer prepared to tolerate political interference in its accepted sphere of administration.
India should be prepared to deal with yet another military ruler who has proclaimed himself the Chief Executive of Pakistan. That is not the problem. The problem is how to deal with a militarised polity which has the potential to manufacture nuclear weapons, which sponsors cross-border terrorism, which harbours extremist elements that are obsessed with Islamic fundamentalism, which has cultivated a visceral hatred for India and a schizophrenic mindset detached from economic and social realities about its military capabilities, and which has created a romantic national aim of presiding over the break up of India.
It is for the people of Pakistan to decide what type of governance they want. If liberal democratic forces prevail, there will be peace on our western borders. If the religious bigots or irrational autocrats prevail then there will be tensions on our western border. All we can say as neighbours is that the direction in which Pakistan is likely to move in the coming years is uncertain and unpredictable. So whenever talks on J&K take place, let there be goodwill and prudent concessions but no complacency. The armed forces must be kept up to strength, and ready to face any eventuality while phase three of the Kargil episode is taking place.