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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 43 New Delhi October 13, 2018

Parakram Parv — at What Cost?

Monday 15 October 2018

by M.M. Khajooria

It is established that there have been surgical strikes across the LoC in the past. So what was special about the last surgical strike meriting so much of publicity and controversy culminating in observance of the Parakram Parv anniversary? The Vice Chief of Army Staff has finally placed the episode in perspective. In answer to a question of the anchor on a national TV channel, the Vice Chief cited three distinguishing features of this particular controversial surgical strike. One, the political executive was on board this time while the predecessor strikes were purely military ops decided and persecuted by the Army in secrecy. Two, the arc of ops across the LoC was much wider and embracing a number of launching pads wherein trained, armed and highly motivated terrorists were holed up, awaiting orders from their Pak ISI bosses to infiltrate into Kashmir to conduct terrorist operations. Three, the Pakistan Army was informed after the successful strike and the information placed in the public domain.

It was claimed to be the first ever surgical strike, the credit for authorising which was given to PM Modi. The BJP leadership and PM proudly marketed it for the party’s benefit and electoral gains. The Opposition contested this and referred to similar strikes in the past. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi went to the extent of terming the exploitation of a professional military action as “Khoon ki Dalali”. The BJP latched on to the expression and accused the Congress of insulting our brave soldiers and martyrs. While the selection of the words by Rahul Gandhi was unfortunate and inappropriate, the criticism clearly was aimed at the PM and had no connection whatsoever with the martyrdom of our brave officers and jawans. The slanging match between the politicians can be expected to continue till elections 2019.

The subversion of the apolitical character of the Defence Services, mandated as such by the Constitution, is however a much more serious matter. It is the responsibility of the political class, the media, intelligentsia as well as the government and party in power to uphold this cardinal principle of our democratic polity. The Army, nay the Defence Services, leadership is duty bound to ensure that under no circumstances the Defence Services are allowed to be dragged into the political chess-game between the contending political parties. When I speak of the Defence Services leadership, I am not only referring to the Service Chiefs but also Corps Commanders and their Air Force and Navy counterparts. They hold the neutrality of the services as a sacred trust by the nation and can be party to any compromise only at the cost of their sacred oath of allegiance.

It is amazing that no one in the government, especially in the External Affairs Ministry, considered the obvious far-reaching implications of the official and public declaration of crossing the LoC by our troops which tanamounted to repudiation of the Shimla Agreement. To cap it, the Chief of the Army Staff has repeatedly asserted his determination to cross the LoC at his will. True, Pakistan violated the LoC on a regular basis but was always in denial. The entire world was cognisant of this fact but Pakistan managed to get away with her lies. Only the other day, the newly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, took the position that the contentious Kashmir issue remained unresolved. The people of Kashmir, he alleged, were being subjected to untold atrocities by the “Indian occupation forces” to suppress the indigenous war of liberation. The people of Pakistan were gravely concerned about the human rights violation and brutalities inflicted on their fellow Muslims in Kashmir. Many were provoked to rush to their assistance unmindful of the restrictions on the LoC. “We do try to stop them. Sometime we succeed, sometime we do not. Similarly, India tries to prevent their entry into the territory under their control. They also sometime succeed, sometime do not,” he claimed. Pakistan offered them only “moral and diplomatic support”, he asserted. Of course, this is a web of blatant lies. But that is the official Pakistani position. The international community does not buy these lies but no one contests these either. Advantage Pakistan.

The Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir is the product of the Shimla Agreement under which we repatriated 93,000 Pak Prisoners of War and returned chunks of territory occupied by our forces after bloody battles. This indeed was a heavy cost. In fact in all our engagements and contests in international fora we use the sanctity of the LoC and its violation by Pakistan to place that country in the dock. And look what we have now done. In a fit of bravado it was even forgotten that the Kargil war was brought to an end by US President Clinton telling Pakistan PM Nawaz Sherif that “the LoC was sacrosanct and inviolable”, and therefore Pakistani forces be immediately withdrawn from the “Indian territory”. And that is how we extricated ourselves from the conflict that cost us both in men and material.

The mess that we have voluntarily landed in has many, to put it mildly, adverse dimensions and implications. The professionals in the North Bloc were no doubt aware of these. It should be hoped that at least they have not been swept off their ”feet by the deafening political rhetoric and sickening ‘jumla bazi’ of the leaders”. The nation expects them to devise some means to salvage the Shimla Agreement and the advantages that flow from it. The prestige of this great country cannot be allowed to be jeopardised at the altar of political chicanery.

The author is the Chairman, J & K Ex-Policemen’s League, Jammu.

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