India celebrates July 26 as Kargil Vijay Diwas ever since the country managed to throw out enemy troops from the heights of Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir in 1999. The enemy—read Pakistan Army—had captured these heights deceitfully the previous winter. Every winter, it has been a tradition in the armed forces, to vacate snow-bound inaccessible posts on the Pir Panjal ranges. General Pervez Musharraf, who was then the army chief of Pakistan, thought he could take a revenge for his defeat some 15 years ago on the Siachen glacier where he held a Brigade Command. Brave Indian troops had established the country’s firm control over the inaccessible icy heights of Siachen which Pakistan was in the process of taking over through subterfuge means.
There are of course many lessons that have been drawn from the Kargil War but one lesson stands out among all and this is a lesson which is rarely spoken out in loud and clear terms. It is even more relevant today—Pakistan cannot be trusted.
Remember the circumstances leading to the war. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a man of vision and friendship and he was keen to break the mould and reach out to Pakistan. He had no organic links with Pakistan. He was not a refugee. He wanted peace with Pakistan despite knowing very well about the latter’s proxy war against India. He extended his hand of friendship to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who, at least in public, reciprocated with a similar gesture. Prime Minister Vajpayee of course went several steps ahead and declared a unilateral ceasefire on the Line of Control and said he was willing to put all the relevant issues on the table, including Kashmir. This was an unprecedented declaration by an Indian premier. He said he will ride a bus to Lahore and sign the peace treaty in Lahore and not in Delhi. This was a magnanimous gesture from a big country. The bus did travel to Lahore from Delhi and the Lahore declaration was signed by the two Prime Ministers.
We know quite well that there were lot of things happening behind the scenes then. Even as the two Prime Ministers were talking to each other, Pakistan Army was planning to give an unpleasant surprise to Prime Minister Vajpayee who the Generals of Rawalpindi mistakenly thought to be a weak leader. Breaking all norms and traditions, Pakistani Generals first sent in jihadis to occupy the posts vacated by the Indian soldiers at the onset of the winter. During the winter, the troops moved in and consolidated their position in the Indian territory even as New Delhi and Islamabad were talking friendship and peace. It is another debate whether Nawaz Sharif knew about Musharraf’s plans. Some reports argue that he was unaware of the plans. Others raise the possibility of him being in the know of the conspiracy. Even if he was not explicitly told about the intrusion plan, it is difficult to believe that Nawaz Sharif, a seasoned politician from Punjab with deep links within the army, was not aware of the goings-on in Rawalpindi. This was too big a plan which required carefully planning and movement of troops, including cancelling of leaves of soldiers and officers, many of whom come from Punjab, to have been a closely held secret. Sharif brothers are not the ones without their ear to the ground.
So the only concession which can be given to Sharif is that perhaps he did not know the scale of the operations; only perhaps. The same Sharif is in saddle today. So when Prime Minister Narendra Modi extends his hand of friendship, may be more muted than his predecessor in 1999, it is a fact which cannot be overlooked. Sharif is in a similar state—he has his political fiefdom but the real and tough decisions are taken in Rawalpindi.
Quite like in 1999, he can pretend to be the premier, but key decisions are taken by another Sharif, Raheel, in Rawalpindi. This Rawalpindi Sharif is no different from Musharraf—he knows that there is nothing much he can do about terrorists harming Pakistan but he is more than happy to divert the blame to India. In many ways, he is more smarter than Musharraf. General Sharif has already paved the ground for another series of attacks against India by blaming every ill in his country on New Delhi. He and his men have been orchestrating for months now that India was supporting all kinds of terrorist groups operating out of Pakistan, some of them who till recently were under the patronage of the army. It is another matter that no one believes what General Sharif has been spreading but there are no shortage of gullible people in Pakistan who are more than willing to gulp these lies down. No one is telling the people it is just a clever way of diverting their attention from the utter failure of Pakistan Army to contain terrorism which has been eating into the innards of their country. Some one should stand up and tell General Sharif that he is not wearing any clothes! Ask him what happened to the military offensive his soldiers have been engaged in since June 2014. General Sharif has therefore turned his attention on India and his soldiers, defeated by terrorists on their own turf, are more than willing to get martyrdom on the eastern border!!!
Sixteen years after the Indian soldiers threw out the Pakistanis from the Kargil heights, nothing much has changed in Pakistan and its leaders, either in their attitude or in their mindset. For them, India is still the Number One Enemy and there is no sign of this animus changing in the near future. The Kargil War should always remind us that Pakistan is not a country which we can trust.