Kargil Withdrawal and 'Rogue' Army Image


Former COAS Gen (Retd) MIRZA ASLAM BEG comments on the KARGIL episode and its after effects

Withdrawal is an emotionally loaded word with negative overtones. To quote David Halberstan in 1965 on Vietnam war: “what about withdrawal? Few Americans who have served in Vietnam can stomach this idea. Withdrawal ... means that the United States prestige will be lowered throughout the world; withdrawal means that throughout the world, the enemies of the West will be encouraged to try insurgencies like the one in Vietnam”. Withdrawal, however, was imposed on the Kashmiri Mujahideen, through the 4th July ‘99 Washington Declaration, and Pakistan was overawed by the diplomatic pressures to manage a victory for India, which otherwise was not possible militarily. Few hundred Kashmiri Mujahideen, humbled the military might of India, which any dispassionate historian of war, would depict a triumph of will - a historical legacy of Muslims fighting out-numbered and out-weaponed.

But it was a humiliation not too easy to swallow, therefore, to dilute the intensity of shame, it could not be the ‘Mujahideen’, and Pakistan Army was to be branded as the aggressor in Kargil and Drass heights using the Mujahideen’s cover as a ruse. The Times issue of July 13, 1999 carries a four page advertisement, which shows how desperate is India to tarnish Pak Army’s image, through an organized spy war effort, to tell the West that there is a state within the state in Pakistan, and that, the Army takes the major security decisions and that it has its finger on the nuclear button. The Kargil episode is being dubbed as an Islamic terrorist challenge to the Republic of India, the theme tailored to capitalize the West’s sensitivity to Islam - a green peril after the red dread of Communism.

Rogue state epithet was coined by USA, for those countries, who would refuse to be the camp followers of its policies and designs. Except for Cuba and North Korea, the remaining so-called rogue states, belonged to the Muslim world - Libya, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan. Pakistan, whenever it showed a recalcitrant approach, was manoeuvred to be compliant, by the threat of being dubbed a terrorist state. No such threat was ever given to India, even when it has crossed all limits of brutality and violence against the hapless people of Kashmir, who are only demanding an honourable fulfilment of the commitments made by the United Nations, and the solemn promises made by its most popular leader; Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Now, why is Pak Army being listed in the rogue category requires some pondering.

It is a singular tragedy that all through the periods when Pakistan was ruled under Martial Law, the US-Pak relations were at its peak and indeed very cordial. Just as the Shahan Shah of Iran was the hot favourite of USA, so were the successive Martial Law administrators in Pakistan. They served the US interest well and were least sensitive to popular sentiments in Pakistan. 1988 was the watershed in the political history of Pakistan, and I being the Chief of the Army Staff then, played my humble role in putting Pakistan firmly on the democratic path. There were many pulls and pressures from diverse quarters, on me to impose Martial Law, but I resolutely lived up to my convictions, and it is indeed gratifying that the democratic process continues uninterrupted. The Army has found its proper role and has no political aspirations. It has fully aligned itself with the will of the people and will not usurp their rights or work against their aspirations.

Qualitatively the Army today is much different from what it was till 1971. The orientation now has markedly shifted in favour of higher direction of war with institutionalized approach towards planning for war and preparations. Winning battles through tactical operations or remaining fixated on defence oriented concepts, have given way to broader strategic thoughts and vision, to achieve strategic gains. The concept of offensive defence was conceived and very convincingly demonstrated in the Zarb-e-Momin exercise in 1989 - the largest ever held in Pakistan. India and its supporters are quite alive to this transformation in military thinking and the professional ascendancy it has achieved. And added to it is the unfounded fear of the Pakistan Army having its finger on the nuclear button. It is on this account that the propaganda war has been launched, systematically orchestrated through the Indian and western lobbies, to tarnish its image and create dissension’s between the Pakistan Army and the civil Government, by floating a pernicious theme that Army, on its own planned and executed the Kargil operation and the government came to know of it only when the Kargil and Drass heights were occupied by the Mujahideen. Nothing could be farther from truth. The fact of the matter is that, as early as January this year, meetings were held at Joint Staff Headquarters, and the Government was apprised of the impending Mujahideen plan, who, being totally disenchanted by the so-called peace parleys and Bus Diplomacy, thought of putting military pressures on India, to focus world attention on Kashmir and to bring their armed struggle to a logical end. This is the genesis of the Kargil encounter, in which India was practically unnerved and defeated, yet succeeded diplomatically, to force withdrawal on the Mujahideen.

The hypothesis is being built that India would have crossed the LoC and gone for an all-out war with Pakistan is founded on totally wrong presumptions. India could never venture a war with Pakistan with more than half of its ground forces committed in Kashmir, and if it did, it would do so at its own peril, and Kashmir could be liberated earlier than one could anticipate. The National Security Council of India, therefore rightly advised the government to seek decision in Kashmir, where they enjoyed preponderance of troops. The Indian army thus used its superiority of troops, guns and aircraft with great advantage to maintain pressure on the Mujahideen. Our political leadership however succumbed to the diplomatic pressures, and Mr. Clinton masterminded India’s extrication from military quagmire. Thus, the Mujahideen have been deprived of the fruits of struggle, just as the Afghan Mujahideen were and still continue experiencing the trauma after defeating the Army of the former Soviet Union. Pakistan Army, despite its limitations to operate from within the parameters of LoC, has given a convincing demonstration of its capability, while India continues to target civilian population, killing innocent children, men and women because, that is the option of the weak and the timid.

So strong is the predilection for converting everything through lies and propaganda, that the Indian media twisted my statement in my article: Kargil - the Drop Scene. I had said: “during the past two months along the L of C, hundreds of civilians, soldiers and about forty young army officers have embraced shahadat for the cause of Kashmir and Pakistan” yet, the Indian media distorted my statement, by saying that Pakistani army suffered those casualties across the L of C, on Drass, Batalik and Kargil heights. Our officers and men did not cross the L of C. They defended the territory along the L of C and suffered casualties due to heavy enemy artillery fire. Pakistan Army has exercised maximum restraint not to violate LoC and it would do so only under extreme provocation.

Mujahideen and Pak soldiers may be psychologically one entity, linked in the bond of brotherhood, but are not synonymous. Mujahideen’s struggle is essentially indigenous. The Home Minister of India, Mr. Advani himself has admitted in February 1999, “that during the past several years, as many as 1,008 foreign militants were killed among whom were 266 Pakistanis, 157 Afghans, besides militants from Sudan, Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, Bahrain, Chechnya and Bosnia etc.” The war of liberation is undoubtedly expanding as it does in all cases, but to find an easy scapegoat in Pakistan Army, cannot put the lid over the ground realities.

Support for the Afghan Jehad, was spearheaded by the CIA, which carried out the largest covert operation, undertaken most overtly since World War II. Pakistan Army had nothing to do with the operations, and the gun running. Unfortunately, however, the ill effects of the gun-running, drug trafficking, and spread of terrorism through Kalashinkov culture, misappropriation of funds earned in the name of Jehad, were wrongly attributed to the Army. Accountability is yet to be established as to who were the beneficiaries.

The nuclear status of Pakistan, coupled with the qualitative edge that Pakistan Army now enjoys, is a matter of grave concern for those who do not want Pakistan to possess this capability. A mischievous theme is thus floated that the command and control of nuclear weapons is in the hands of irresponsible and impulsive Pakistan Army. Whereas the ground reality is just the opposite. Eversince Pakistan achieved nuclear capability, it has remained in control of the highest civilian authority. The nuclear restraint, which does not occur in the Indian military lexicon, was exercised by the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) in 1989 under the leadership of Benazir Bhutto, who wished to keep a non-weaponised nuclear deterrence at a very minimal level.

India would be well-advised not to overblow its jingoistic aspirations through propaganda ploys, what it could not achieve militarily. The Mujahideen are well equipped to sustain their struggle. What they lacked was strong political and diplomatic support. Now with their credible display of their courage to withstand India’s repressive forces, there is a marked sympathy wave in Pakistan and outside, not only of the extreme rightist groups, but of the broad masses, who feel cheated through Washington declaration. The support for the Mujahideen will therefore increase, adding new dimensions to the Kashmir struggle.

The withdrawal of the Mujahideen is not a seal on their struggle. Why did President Clinton do the favour to India, is still enigmatic. The US Deputy Assistant Secretary of States Gibson Lampher, who accompanied General Zinni to Islamabad recently, flew to New Delhi, to break the news of Nawaz Sharif’s acceptance of withdrawal of Mujahideen, and reportedly, as a quod pro quo, got the assurance of facilities in Kashmir, to launch missile attacks on Usama Bin Laden hide-outs in Afghanistan. But even if President Clinton’s motives are accepted as a positive step to prevent war in the sub-continent, he has to bear in mind, what President Franklin Roosevelt once said: “More than an end to war, we want an end to the beginnings of all war.” This is only possible if moral side is adhered to. One would wish USA to rise and fulfil the imperatives of Wilsonian democratic values, and transcend the realpolitik game.