Is there any connection between the arrest of Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan and the International Court of Justice order on Kulbhushan Jadhav? The two seem to be separate incidents, but the truth is India’s ruling dispensation has worked hard for both. Has India buried its half-hearted, vague policy regarding Pakistan? Have we really started walking on the path of not sparing those who drenched our land in blood?
I recall the Kargil war, when Pakistan imposed one more battle on us. Initially, we were taking it in a very half-hearted manner. I am using the word “half-hearted” because in those days, the passion and enthusiasm were absent in the people which were there during the previous two wars and witnessed after the Pulwama attack. The leaders of the time avoided putting forth strong claims during the initial phase of that fight. Why? Was it due to the tradition of political and state decency and hesitation or something else?
I consider it something else. Much before the sequence of incidents during May-July 1999, we knew that some Pakistani soldiers had infiltrated the snow-clad mountain peaks of Kargil. According to the available evidence, the headquarters of the Northern Command in Srinagar did not act as promptly as required during the sensitive phase. The intelligence unit of the Border Security Force had alerted them in a letter weeks earlier that some people have gathered on these peaks with heavy arms and ammunition.
This was just the beginning of the half-hearted approach.
When this news reached Delhi, the first meeting regarding this was organized under the leadership of prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The atmosphere was not full of enthusiasm. During the initial part of the meeting, senior intelligence officials admitted their mistake and left their own fate in the then prime minister’s discretion. The mature Vajpayee said upon this that whatever happened, has happened. Now what should we do? Instead of devising a combined strategy of all the three branches of the Army, officials were plagued with internal conflicts.
Whatever news reached us through sources revealed that the Army said if we engaged in the fight on the ground, there will be a considerable loss of lives and property. It would be better if we launch attacks from the skies. Air Force officials disagreed. They felt that this can trigger a full-scale war. The Army argued how the neighbouring country could respond to these attacks because it is neither claiming that its soldiers have infiltrated in our border, nor does it have any right to protest the action we take on the ground within our borders. This argument carried weight but our Air Force was not ready for it since it did not have the required weaponry.
It is said that Israel at that time had provided bombs and in the coming days, the Air Force along with the Army played a significant role in this campaign. Current chief of the air staff V.S. Dhanoa was also one of the bomber pilots at that time. Now he claims the Indian Air Force is ready for any challenge.
We certainly won the Kargil war but in that, 527 soldiers were martyred and 1,363 were injured.
Our ruling dispensation seemed vague and distracted for many reasons at that time. The biggest reason was that Vajpayee was in a state of shock, since a few months earlier, he had reached Lahore riding on the India-Pakistan friendship bus and had signed a historical declaration with the then Pakistan premier Nawaz Sharif. The betrayal shattered his trust. Besides, paramilitary forces and security forces were not ready for any such attack and had no concrete strategy in place. Moreover, in the initial days, attempts were made to call it just a minor clash.
Our jawans fought the Kargil war with courage but even after 20 years, the question remains: What has our ruling dispensation learnt from this so that the blood of our jawans is not shed in future? About three and a half years ago, during the attack on a military camp in Pathankot, the reality of coordination and the strategy to tackle such attacks was exposed. The death of 40 jawans in Pulwama once again raised this question. It’s a different matter that with the attack on Balakot, the Narendra Modi government changed the entire narrative that the new India will not hesitate to retaliate.
The arrest of Saeed also indicates that international pressure on Pakistan, created by India, is increasing, although it can be considered accomplished only when Saeed is punished and Jadhav returns home safe.
Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan.
The views expressed are personal.