All posts in the Kargil category

India-Pakistan : Joining Hearts Vs Pointed Guns

Published October 12, 2014 by vishalvkale


An effort of peace, of bridging the gap, in the backdrop of blazing guns… and not the first, either. I was part of one such initiative : Jodey Dilon Ko, which was an interesting experience. In this post, I had observed : “Will this interaction {culture + trade} bridge the divide? All that lies in the future, and depends upon a peaceful coexistence between the two of us, devoid of terrorist attacks, and cross-border violence. That is the core, the non-negotiable reality. The ball is firmly in Pakistan’s court; I just hope the moderates in Pakistan win the day…”

Today, as we stare at yet another violation in the backdrop of this peace process, it is time for us to try and analyse whether these efforts are worth it, or are they a complete waste of time and energy. This is especially so, since we now have a Government that is intent on a firm stance – no talks in the shadow of the gun. This is a shift, a significant shift, that cannot be ignored, as it has far-reaching implications


It has been a real pleasure, seeing the response from the new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the Indian Government : No Talks, No Discussions in the shadow of the Gun. This, combined with an invite to the Pakistani PM for the swearing in ceremony, sends a clear signal – we are open to discussions, we are open to talks : but not until the Guns stop blazing. This has now been firmly established as a non-negotiable reality, a bottomline for normalcy. 

This seemingly over-the-top and ultra-hardline response is welcome, since we have soft pedaled the entire Pakistani intervention and violence for far too long; virtually everything has been tried. We have been talking to them for donkeys years with absolutely nothing to show for it. It seems to me, a lay citizen, that even those Pakistani commitments actually made in talks arent worth the paper they are written on. And, while we talk, blood has continued to flow, the flow stemmed only by the iron-will of our security forces, and their incessant sacrifices. The price we Indians have paid for Pakistani violence has been heavy indeed – a price the entire world ignores in totality. It is a story written in large amounts of blood, and the blood-soaked words on the parchment of history are still wet. 

This response is in reality, only mildly tougher, and eminently reasonable : it stands as one of the Narendra Modi-led governments successes, and acts of sheer brilliance. All The Government of India is saying is : Talk to us, and only to us; Dont create trouble while we are talking to each other; No Violence; And No intervention. This is, any which way you look at it, a completely reasonable stance, and sets a paradigm in which some progress can perhaps be genuinely attempted. 

Critically, it sets a bar for the Pakistanis – a bar that will have to be reached by them in order to demonstrate their genuine commitment to peace, and order. We are willing to talk – it isnt on our terms, as some in the Media have reported it. It is simply that we are willing to talk in conditions that can foster calm discussion, negotiation, genuine sharing of views in a conducive atmosphere. This is a basic minimum for talks, for discussions that can lead to a solution, and a win-win situation – howsoever remote that may seem under the current set of circumstances. 


It is in the backdrop above that peace moves and cultural interchanges have to be seen; it is in the above backdrop that the way forward has to be analysed. A full analysis is of course beyond the scope of this blog, but we normal citizens can at least get a grip on the entirety of the situation across the border, and view it in its entirety, not through our own views, opinions and experiences

There are 2 views in primacy – a view of enmity and perhaps open dislike, even hatred; and another view of bridging the divide or the gap, and moving on, side-stepping the violence. It is my submission that both are way off the mark; one being dangerous, and the other ludicrous.  On both sides, emotions can get away with themselves; leading to hasty statements. Such hasty statements, if made by people like you and me, may or may not have a significant impact; but such hasty statements made by someone in authority – perhaps influenced by public opinion, can be extremely effective in swinging things, if you get my point. 

The NaMo handling of this entire affair has set off jingoistic chest-thumping and showers of praise on side of the spectrum, with its attendant social media chatter. These are emotion-charged, and are extremely effective in building public opinion, which is vital in the modern world. While there can be no question that the entire matter has been handled with elan and class by NaMo, let us not go overboard. Please remember that Indians have died on the border; Indian blood has been spilt. Spare a thought for them. Fine, we didnt start the shooting, but that doesnt mean we celebrate or go over-emotional; not in this powder keg. 

A calm and satisfied response is, in my opinion, what is most called for : Calm and Satisfied since the violence has been  met, defeated, a stern message sent by an excellent Government, a hard spine has been revealed, and a tungsten core shown to the world, a view of a nation not in a mood for nonsense of any kind. That would also be the best support to this Government, and in keeping with our PMs quiet, firm and clear stance and words.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have events like the 2 referred to above, efforts which bring the people of the 2 warring nations together in cultural exchanges of views, or in trade, or other such peaceful activities. While no doubt welcome, we cannot set much store by such activities, for they completely ignore the ground reality of Pakistan, and its internal conflicts, and makeup; as also the one fundamental fact that is unalterable – Pakistan is in every way a nation that defines itself as Not-India. 

History is proof of the above – for example, even as the conference in Lahore was underway, and platitudes of peace were being stated, The Kargil War was being planned. There have been regular episodes of  violence from the other side, even as talks continued; terror was and is constantly being exported from that nation. This is a fact that cannot change; and is not likely to in the foreseeable future. What use is cultural interchange as a method of pushing peace, when that same nation is exporting terror to us? 

Cultural interchange can only bring about appreciation for each others similarity, or culture, or some such aspect. These aspects are of no importance in the sphere of politics and defence – and the issues are defence related issues. Further, the people of that other nation are in no position to alter the fundamental positions taken by their Armed Forces and politicians. Not now, not in the foreseeable future. Seen in that light, all such measures frankly make for good Media coverage, but have no impact on the relations between the two sides, inasmuch as the participants are completely unable to make a dent on their nations’ policies on one side of the border. Enough said. 

That is why it is far better to me middle of the road on this – not go in for too much jingoism, and not go in for too much hoopla over peace initiatives. There is precisely nothing to celebrate about – we, too have spilt blood. Fine, they started it first, and we have responded emphatically. We are not to blame, but try and tell that to the families of the dead or should I say, the martyrs. 

If anything, let us be thankful for our open society, democracy and tolerance that has ensured internal peace within a sea of violence all around us; for the presence of a strong-willed Central Government which knows how to handle this matter. Let us be thankful to the Armed Forces and the BSF for keeping us constantly safe, and pray for them, for their well-being. May God grant them continued courage and strength; May God Protect them from harm

Once again, from the bottom of my heart, Thank You, all the martyrs who have given their lives so that we may live in peace, and for the men who put their lives in danger for us. We live in  dangerous times; that we a are calm and peaceful nation in a sea of violence all around us, is also a tribute to the selfless sacrifices of these braves who have given their lives for us…

Book Review : India’s Military Conflicts And Diplomacy

Published March 5, 2014 by vishalvkale

The only good histories are those that have been written by the persons themselves who commanded in the affairs whereof they write; rest is hearsay – Michel Eyquem Montaigne, {from the Preface of the current book}
This is the second book by General V P Malik – and it is as good as the first; and in some ways, far more reader friendly. While the first – Kargil – was a deep and involved analysis of the Kargil War, this is one comprises a set of real-life incidences from his Army Experience; incidences which are known in almost every educated household in India. This takes up half of the book; the second half is a short, and to-the-point analysis of Military Diplomacy. Again, in this part as well, the author has delved into his personal experience, which gives the reader the entire story from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. 
This part will be the interesting part for those readers who are not too interested in Military Diplomacy or Foreign Policy. This part alone makes it worth the money spent on it. For, in this part you get to read about some of India’s most famous military operations – from a person who was an integral part of the entire matter. This lends considerable weight to the book, as well as makes it doubly interesting; you are not reading a third person telling a story. You are reading history as it happened, through the eyes of one of the major players in these historically vital events; you get a blow-by-blow account of things as they happened and when they happened. 
The events I am referring to are the IPKF, Kargil, Commando Operation in the Maldives, Nuclear Tests, and UN Peacekeeping at Sierra Leone. For those who dont have the patience to read the voluminous Kargil – From Surprise To Victory – this book will give a short but complete summary of the Kargil War, alongwith an insightful but interesting analysis. And for those who have read the first book, this book contains new material, including analyses and reports from retired Pakistani senior Military Officers and journalists who have ripped into the Pakistani ruling elite for the entire fiasco. 
For the first time, we get an understanding of the sad sequence of events that led to Rajiv Gandhi’s assasination; a true and no-holds-barred account of the entire IPKF saga that is disquieting and frank, honest and transparent in its appraisal. The book makes no bones about it : as the heading of the chapter itself states: Wrong From The Start. You feel sad – not just for Rajivji; but actually for all the needless lives lost in that entire IPKF mission. And yet, you also feel pride in the performance of our warriors despite the immense pressure and problems they had to face; the struggle of coming to terms with a sudden 180-degree turn in political orders, and the brilliant performance despite such factors. You feel a sense of pride, tinged with grief at what was inarguably the second-worst episode in our military history. This chapter will be a stunner to the uninformed; a punch to the solar plexus, since the entire saga goes far deeper than what is generally known; as well as will raise some very very pertinent questions for Indians.
Moving on from this, we are treated to a fast-paced and deeply interesting account of how India helped the Maldives President avoid a military coup, in all the classic detailing by a person who was there. Even here, the more informed will wonder at the turn of events, as a close relationship has gone slightly awry in recent times, as reported in the latest papers – educating us about the need for keeping good relations on a healthy level, and giving due importance. You get a ringside seat {in every chapter} of the decision making process; it is an experience to be savoured, as you read about momentous and well known decisions being made. 
Then you get to read the details of the Nuclear Tests, and the way India went about it – alongwith the international repercussions. You also get to read an insightful yet simply worded analysis of the Nuclear Issue, which is an education in itself. The last operation covered is a UN peacekeeping operation at Sierra Leone. Like the other chapters, this one is also chock-full of surprises that will bring questions to your mind; like the hardly known fact that Indian casualties in UN operations are the highest suffered by any nation, and that India is one of the most active members in peace-keeping missions in the UN. You cannot avoid a feeling of pride as you get to know how highly regarded Indian soldiers are in UN missions due to various factors. It is such simple insights, simple analysis and fast-paced narrative of actual on-ground operations that make this part of the book a highly engaging and energising read. 
This part is much shorter {happily so for those readers who are not inclined towards deep analysis}, but is equally – if not more – full of surprises and unknown or lesser known facts of the Indian Armed Forces. This part starts with the role of the Military in Diplomacy, which will be both a surprise to us, as well as a very highly informative and interesting look into a side of the Armed Forces that is not too well known. It contains a short but to-the-point and effective analysis of our relations in Military as well as diplomatic terms with China, Maldives, Nepal, Israel, Tajikistan, Myanmar and the USA. Again, you get a ringside seat on the authors visits to these places, as well as interesting background on how relations were repaired {Israel, for example – or Myanmar} and the role of the Military in these matters. 
The last 3 chapters are on Myanmar, Nepal, and an analysis of our strategic culture and the way forward for us. The chapters on Nepal and Myanmar are replete with surprises; I would prefer each reader discovers what they are for themselves. Suffice it to state that these are the most surprising of all, and contain the real meat of the book. These 2 chapters are the most engaging and informative, alongwith IPKF – and form the real meat of this fast-paced, interesting book that both educates us on our Military Operational And Strategic Culture, as well as raises some deeply disquieting questions.
This book  is a great resource for every educated Indian; a must-read for all of us, given that we as a nation do not have a very transparent culture on these matters, Further, there is little understanding of how a public discourse of these matters can help give shape to national policies, which are currently made in exalted halls, with little information being shared with the public, leading to a situation where the common citizens are just not aware of strategic matters, and thus cannot help shape the national dialogue, which is an essential part of any democracy. That is why this book, alongwith Pax Indica, is an important contribution towards a more open public discourse on matters relating to strategy, as they ultimately impact all of us… 

A Man Abandoned: Capt Kalia

Published October 11, 2013 by vishalvkale

The government has informed the family of Kargil martyr Captain Saurabh Kalia that it would not be “desirable” to take up his case at the international level as India was committed to resolving its differences with Pakistan only through bilateral negotiations.

“Defence Minister A.K. Antony has said the government cannot deal with Capt. Kalia’s case under the Geneva Conventions. Raising the case on an international forum would not be desirable,” Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar said in a release. The Minister had told him in a letter that, “India is committed to settling differences with Pakistan only through bilateral negotiations.

In his letter, the minister has mentioned that as per the Simla Agreement, India has pledged to settle all differences with Pakistan through bilateral talks only without referring to any other treaty.”

Thank you, Government Of India. What a lovely dussehra gift. I have nothing to say here; nothing to state – except —–> Pakistan takes every opportunity to internationalise every issue; we keep silent. Pakistan attacks us at every chance, we keep silent. Pakistan supports terrorism, we keep silent. Pakistan foments trouble in India, we keep silent. Pakistan tortures our soldiers, we keep silent…

Think of that last bit again: a soldier dies in brutal torture, against all humanity. A Soldier dies in such pain, a Soldier who does everything to protect the people – which, incidentally, includes the political class. And we cant even try and vociferously, vigorously go after his inhuman torturers? Even the UNHRC initiative was taken up by a solitary MP and the poor man’s father… 

Abandoned by the very state for whom his son gave his life.

Hard words, but I am too disgusted with the Government of India to state anything else. For the first time, I am ashamed of the pusillanimous and cruel approach taken by the Government.. Shame on you, Sir! Shame, Shame! You have shown insensitivity on a monumental scale. 

Note the lines above – especially the Simla Agreement bit. It is fine if Pakistan internationalises things; we cant do so? Pakistan breaks the agreement in letter and spirit at every juncture, and we cant even fight for our own soldiers? Is this justice? And precisely what has been done even at the Indo-Pakistani level? Why cant our geniuses in Government make it a precondition for talks with Pakistan? Whose bloody side are you on, anyway? And what message does this send to the people of India, and most importantly its Armed Forces Personnel? That you dont care enough? 

No one is asking for the peace dialogue to be derailed; this was an event that was shocking beyond normal description. It was an extraordinary event; it deserves to be taken up strongly with all concerned avenues. As it is, we are not talking to Pakistan since 2008. Even then, this disgusting attitude towards your own citizen? Not only are we not talking, we are not even asking for justice? In heaven’s name, why? 

If we were in the middle of a dialogue, I could understand. But there has been no substantive dialogue. And yet, despite this, we are choosing to ignore this monumental crime against humanity? On what grounds? How will taking this up vitiate the atmosphere? As it is, we are not talking! Then why in the name of all that is Holy on the Earth are we not fighting for a man who gave his life for the country? Is that the message we are sending to our people? We are indeed a soft state; anyone can do any bloody damned thing to us, and we remain silent! Thank you very much, UPA-2. Brilliant Strategy! Absolutely Brilliant! Do nothing, close your eyes – and the problem will go away, right?