General Delusions

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The only thing one can do is to sympathize with General Pervez Musharraf. After all, when he decided to ‘do Kargil’, he had obviously thought that this would be the crowning glory of his military career and make him a legend in his country. Unfortunately, his plan backfired and Kargil turned out to be the proverbial albatross around his neck. Perhaps that’s the reason why the General so desperately attempts to convince his people that despite being forced to withdraw from those icy mountain peaks, Kargil was a still “victory” for the Pakistan army. Since very few in Pakistan agree with his claim, the General has no other choice but to keep trying to peddle his victory story. Therefore, Musharraf’s latest claim that the Pakistan army had “caught India by throat” in Kargil is nothing more than just another desperate attempt by a General to vindicate his military reputation severely dented by this misadventure. 

In any war, there are winners and there are losers. The winner is the side that gets all that or most of what it had set out to achieve and therefore one does not have to be a rocket scientist to identify the victor and the vanquished. Hence, since nobody really agrees with his assessment on the result of the Kargil war, General Musharraf needs to precisely specify what were the objectives of his Kargil foray and what did he practically achieve? If his aim was to only get a chance to catch India by the throat and make sure that India will always remember the battle of Kargil, then he is surely the winner as he achieved both these goals. However, can the General justify the exorbitantly high price the Pakistan army had to pay in terms of the hundreds of young lives lost, just to catch India by the throat and make sure that India will always remember the battle of Kargil? 

The Pakistan army intrusion did take the Indian army by complete surprise. In Kargil, both the Indian and Pakistani armies routinely vacated vulnerable posts on the LoC just before onset of winters to save their soldiers from the grave risk of falling victims to the extremely cold climate and avalanches. However, both armies maintained the sanctity of the LoC by ensuring that neither side took advantage of the adversary’s absence by making any transgressions across the LoC.  So, while General Musharraf may have surprised the Indians by stealthily crossing the LoC, but this was at the cost of breaking an unwritten and mutually accepted military code of conduct. By doing so, Musharraf may have got the Indians by the throat, but in the process he only reinforced India’s stance dismissing the international community’s plea for demilitarisation of Siachen. Citing Pakistan army’s Kargil intrusion as evidence of its continuing untrustworthiness, New Delhi has effectively silenced its detractors on this issue and ‘killed’ the prospects of Siachen becoming a mountain of peace. 

Musharraf is also right in claiming that India would not forget the battle of Kargil. After all, this battle has helped India in more than one way and some of its positive spin-offs are –

By demanding that Pakistan unconditionally pulls back all troops to its own side of the LoC without asking India to do the same in Siachen (as Musharraf expected), the international community has legitimised the Indian occupation of Siachen glacier while recognising the inviolability of the LoC.

By showing restraint and not allowing the Kargil episode to escalate into a full scale war, India has passed the test of being a ‘responsible nation’ with flying colours. Due to this, the international community has made several concessions to provide nuclear material and technology to India despite the fact that it has flatly refused signing the Non Proliferation Treaty. 

In trying to portray the Kargil intrusions as the exclusive exploit of Kashmiri freedom fighters, Pakistan inadvertently admitted that it is providing military assistance to militants in Kashmir and this has weakened its own stated position of being a nation seeking resolution of the Kashmir issue solely through peaceful means.

How could a professional soldier like General Musharraf ever commit a monumental military mistake like Kargil? Did he really believe that New Delhi would remain silent when the Pakistan army crossed the LoC and occupied Indian territory? Did Musharraf seriously expect the international community to really believe that the intruders in Kargil weren’t Pakistani soldiers but “Kashmiri freedom-fighters” and thus put the stamp of legitimacy on these intrusions? The answers will be very hard to find, because General Musharraf is never going to admit that embarking on the Kargil war without analyzing its possible consequences was an unpardonable miscalculation on his part.

Contrary to popular belief, the plan to surreptitiously cross the LoC during winters and occupy the posts vacated by the Indian army in Kargil was not the brainchild of General Musharraf. There is evidence to suggest that this type of military action (called the ‘Kargil Plan) may have been conceived during the late 80s. It was never put into effect presumably since Islamabad knew that there was no way that the international community would accept such a flagrant act of hostility. However, it appears that for General Musharraf, the ‘Kargil Plan’ became such an obsession that he assumed that nothing could go wrong and when things did go awry, he couldn’t reconcile and accept reality with grace. This is the general problem with most Generals and probably that is why Georges Clemenceau, the French Prime Minister during World War I made a very keen and appropriate observation that “War is too serious a matter to be left to Generals!”

Nilesh Kumar

New Delhi

[email protected]>

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