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archive: Parroting the Pak line

Parroting the Pak line

T.V. R. Shenoy
The Indian Express
July 29, 1999


    Title: Parroting the Pak line
    Author: T.V. R. Shenoy
    Publication: The Indian Express
    Date: July 29, 1999
    
    Introduction: When the Congress crosses the LoC
    
    
    In her bid to win power, Sonia Gandhi has been striking up alliances
    left, right and centre. (Especially 'Left'!) But there is no real
    convergence of views between her and the likes of Jayalalitha, Jyoti
    Basu and Laloo Prasad Yadav. (The former is the woman who rhetorically
    demanded whether a nation of nine hundred million couldn't produce a
    Prime Minister without looking at foreigners; both the latter advised
    Sonia Gandhi to sit at home.) Is there anyone who genuinely has a
    broad area of agreement with the Congress president?
    
    Well yes, step forward Mian Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf Hussain.  The
    Prime Minister of Pakistan and his Goebbels have much in common with
    Signora Gandhi.  Both parties seek to (a) downplay the reach of the
    Indian achievement in Kargil, and (b) drive a wedge between the
    Government of India and the Indian Army.  The sole difference, if you
    want to call it that, is that the Pakistanis are content to stop
    there, whereas the Congress president and her courtiers are trying to
    drag in the President and the Attorney-General into some other
    schemes.
    
    What else would you make of the brouhaha over the telecom contracts? 
    Pranab Mukherjee and Somnath Chatterjee initially promised to support
    the move to rationalise the tariff structure; predictably both are now
    trying to wriggle out of their commitments.  This might qualify as the
    usual political fun and games, but the Congress is definitely going
    over the line when it tried to drag in the Army. (When I say
    "Congress" its allies - which definitely includes the Communists - are
    implicitly included).
    
    Compared to former crises, the attempted invasion of Kargil was
    handled extremely competently.  After the Sino-In-than War of 1962
    several thousands of square miles of Indian territory continued to be
    under Chinese occupation.  In 1971 the gains of war were thrown away
    across the table for no perceptible reason.  That simply isn't true of
    1999.  But there is more: Pakistan is more isolated, more friendless
    than at any time in its existence.  But Sonia Gandhi, like Nawaz
    Sharif, cannot afford to tell the truth.
    
    I remember the Congress president saying, "We will ask questions at
    the right time!" (Of course, she also said the Kargil issue shouldn't
    be politicised.- and became the first to disregard her own
    admonition.  Perhaps it was just a case of two different speech
    writers putting words into her mouth?) But what is the question she
    wants to ask?
    
    There is little to criticise in the actual con-duct of the war. (The
    total casualties, Pakistani as well as Indian, were fewer than those
    incurred in Rajiv Gandhi's Sri Lankan misadventure -which, of course,
    has never been investigated properly.) But Sonia Gandhi can
    legitimately demand to know if there was a failure to anticipate the
    Pakistani move in Kargil.
    
    Who exactly was responsible for- not - knowing that the Pakistanis had
    occupied strategic heights overlooking the Srinagar-Leh road, points
    as close as three and a half kilometres away from the high-way?  Even
    Sonia Gandhi doesn't say the Prime Minister should have been on patrol
    over there in person!  But can you blame Atal Behari Vajpayee without
    dragging senior Army commanders into the controversy?
    
    Congressmen have been talking some pretty fine nonsense about how that
    great democrat Jawaharlal Nehru summoned Parliament for a full
    discussion of the conflict with China.  Lay aside for the moment the
    inconvenient fact that the Lok Sabha lies dissolved thanks to Congress
    machinations.  Just look at how the Nehru ministry-actually-dealt with
    the facts.  Permit me to quote from Defence Minister Y.B. Chavan's
    statement in the.  Lok Sabha on September 2, 1963 (almost a year after
    the war) regarding the Henderson Brooks Report on the conduct of the
    war.
    
    "I am sure the House would appreciate that by the very nature of the
    contents it would not be in the public interest to lay the report on
    the table of the House.  Nor is it possible to attempt even an
    abridged or edited version of it, consistent with the consideration of
    security, that would not give an unbalanced or incomplete picture to
    you ... The publication of this report which contains information
    about the strength and development of our forces and their locations
    would be of invaluable use to our enemies.  It would not only endanger
    our security but affect the morale of those entrusted with
    safeguarding the security of our borders."
    
    Is that what the Congress claims was a full, frank, and free
    disclosure of the facts?  And all this, please note, came in 1963, by
    which time the Chinese had amply proved that they know -all -about the
    weaknesses of the Indian Army prior to 1962.  Today, however; the
    Congress wants a public revelation of the resources that made for an
    Indian success.  So that, presumably, Pakistan won't make the same
    mistakes twice!
    
    That doesn't mean senior Opposition members should be kept in the
    dark.  The Vajpayee ministry offered the Congress the opportunity to
    be briefed directly by the Army.  This was rejected on the weird
    ground that it was the government that was responsible, not the Army. 
    Since when has the Army-not-been considered a wing of the Government
    of India but a separate entity?  That may be true of Pakistan, but not
    of us.
    
    And what happened when the Prime Minister-did-try to brief the
    Opposition?  Sonia Gandhi was the -only -invitee to refuse; she
    claimed a prior engagement an election rally.  Her priority, quite
    evidently, was not national defence but polls!
    
    Actually, I personally believe there should be a thorough
    investigation of the whole Kargil imbroglio.  The Prime Minister and
    the Chief of Staff of the Army have, separately, ordered probes. (This
    is probably the first time that an Indian success, rather than a
    debacle, is being probed).  I hope too that the fruits of these
    investigations shall be disclosed at least to Parliament, if not the
    general public, unlike the Henderson Brooks Report which has been
    gathering dust for 36 years.
    
    Of course, I doubt the Congress is willing to wait until the
    investigations are complete; with a general election a mere six weeks
    away the Congress - following the lead given by the Pakistani
    Information Ministry - is only too happy to present Kargil as an
    Indian failure.
    
    There is such a thing as a Line of Control in politics as in war.  By
    making the Army a matter of electoral rhetoric, the Congress and its
    haughty president have crossed that LoC.
    



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