To attribute the occupation by Pakistanis of such extended stretches in Kargil to "an intelligence failure" is too facile. It is an evasion -- an evasion of the basic cause, an evasion of responsibility.
The basic reason why we are always taken by surprise lies in the notions of political correctness in which we have imprisoned discourse, and through that policy. Anyone who talks of the plans of Pakistan, its single-point programme to harm India, indeed anyone who talks about anything to do with our security is dubbed a war-monger. Agencies like RAW are routinely traduced. Hurling allegations at our security forces -- fabrications about human rights violations by them, and the rest -- is de rigueur. When persons who have put their lives on the line to save the country are encoiled in false cases -- as officers and men of the Punjab police have been encoiled -- not a soul raises a finger to support them.
You can do a little exercise. Look up papers or Parliamentary proceedings of the last year, and find out what happened each time Mr L K Advani drew attention to the continuing murderous activities of the ISI, and what they portended for the country, he was set upon -- in Parliament, in newspapers, in public meetings. War-monger, right-wing Hindu chauvinist, alarmist, deliberately embarrassing the Prime Minister who is trying to improve relations with our neighbour...
At my own minuscule level I have had this experience first-hand. I have had occasion to write about the way Pakistan perceives itself -- as "the not-India"; about the sway that fundamentalism has acquired there; about how this is drilled into the populace -- from quaidas to history books; about what organizations like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba are openly proclaiming as their agenda -- to break India, to kill Hindu kafirs; about the vast resources and facilities which Pakistan's ruling establishment is channeling to them.
Each of those write-ups has been based entirely on published material, on material published in Pakistan. But each time I have written on these things, I have invariably been set upon. He is pursuing an anti-Islam agenda, he is just using Pakistan as a device to malign Muslims and Islam, he is out to create disharmony between communities...
Consider a recurring example. Today we are very exercised about occupation of some spots in Kargil by Pakistani forces and mercenaries. They are a few hundred -- assume a figure higher than anything anyone has mentioned as yet, say they are a thousand. The peaks where they have dug in are isolated, uninhabited. Recall now that on the estimates put together by the Home Ministry -- not now, but in 1992 -- over two crore Bangladeshis have made their way into India. As a result of this demographic invasion, large tracts of our country -- for instance, in Assam -- are such that the state police does not dare to even enter them. But the moment the matter is raised, the shout, "Anti-Bengali," "Anti-Muslim"...
This shutting of eyes is being made worse by the new ideology. Take out the newspapers of the last three weeks, the period during which the enemy has been killing our soldiers, during which, diplomatese apart, we have been invaded and have been at war. Total up the relative space that these papers devoted to the cricket World Cup and to the fighting in Kargil. Now, it is not the case that the country has suddenly become sports-minded during the last five years. It is just that corporations invested vast amounts to make use of the event to advertise their products. Papers have reported figures ranging up to eight hundred crores. These amounts having been invested, a hype about it was created.
One part is the obscenity of it, I can think of no other word: that our soldiers should be laying down their lives, and our papers should be whipping up lather about matches in England. The other thing is the effect such hype has on, literally, the ability of a country to prosecute a war. Ridding an area so remote, an area with terrain of the type Kargil has is not a one-day match. Every inch has to be fought for, with lives. The engagement is bound to take long. And, given the singular aim of a country like Pakistan, wresting the area back is not going to be the end of the matter by any means: ensuring that Pakistan will not get an opportunity to reoccupy the place will require protracted, arduous, meticulous work. A people who hear about Kargil for three-four minutes in the evening news, and then settle down to watch the day's match for four-five hours will never have the staying power that defence against a focused, indoctrinated enemy requires.
It is this atmosphere -- not just the failure of some one agency -- which paves the way for an enemy. Mental habits are fatal by themselves But so feeble has our State and our society become that we will not be able to put even crass self-interest away for the defence of our land, certainly not in any substantial way, certainly not for more than a moment. Take the failure to detect the occupation in Kargil itself. To prevent intrusion in that kind of area requires continuous physical presence. It requires sophisticated equipment. Maintaining a presence in Siachin costs the country Rs 3.5 crores a day. Armymen say that maintaining an equivalent presence in the entire Kargil area will cost three to four times that amount. That would amount to 10 to 12 crores a day. A person like me certainly believes that as such amounts are required, they must be provided, that the way we are placed leaves us no option. And the amounts can be found: half the total amount can be found by cutting just one boondoggle -- just eliminate the 2 crores which is placed at the disposal of every Member of Parliament to spend on "development projects" in his constituency. You will get sixteen hundred crores by doing just that little thing.
But here is an exercise. Find the MPs who will agree to abolish this largesse they have conferred on themselves. Or find a group which will accept a reduction in the subsidy which it has wrested from the State.
So, when we say there has been an "intelligence failure" we are stating an important fact, but we are also just using a phrase. By it we are evading the basic cause. We are diverting attention from our own responsibility in the matter.
I have already dealt with what happens when, even on such a matter, we deal with our ministers and governments as if they were the enemy who is to be trapped, and made a fool of. That itself is just the symptom -- it results from the basic mental fashion: not to be finding fault with those defending our country, not to be denouncing those who are speaking up for it is seen as being a primitive. The release of the Parvez Musharraf tapes holds another lesson. At least on occasion we should have faith in what our governments are saying. Repeatedly, the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister hinted that what they had said about who had known what in Pakistan was based on evidence. But pressmen and politicians were so intent on finding fault that they paid no attention. And now?
A sense of priorities, a little faith, and an even more elementary thing: a little work. Pakistan, like all countries in our neighbourhood, is important for our future. But how many of us take the trouble to read even the newspapers of Pakistan? I will give an example of what we would have learnt if we had been glancing at those papers, and make a forecast based on them. The first has a dual advantage: it shows what we would have been alerted to, and it also nails what Pakistan has been trying to cover up.
In reading what follows please bear in mind that while small, stray news items had been appearing earlier, it was only on the 27th of May, the day after air-strikes were launched, that Kargil became big news in our papers.
On 9 April, 1999, The Nation of Pakistan carried an interview with Zakiu Rehman Lakhvi, the Amir of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, one of the most rabid organizations which has been spawned by Pakistan's intelligence agencies. "We are extending our network inside India," he declared, "and have carried out various attacks on Indian installations successfully in Himachal Pradesh last year." An open, unambiguous claim. Also a revealing one, for it gives us a glimpse into the mentality of this kind: the "installations" they annihilated were poor workers constructing a road -- such is their concept of jihad in the cause of Allah! But I am on another allusion in the interview: the paper reported him as saying, "the task to hit specially the Indian artillery targeting Azad Kashmir's border population has been given."
On 7 May, apropos nothing, The Nation suddenly reported a huge attack from India, and claimed that it had been repulsed. It said that Indian forces had launched an unprovoked attack in the Shyok sector, and that "valiant Pakistani troops, displaying traditional courage and determination to defend every inch of the country's territory, thwarted the attack in which a large number of intruders were killed and several others injured. The Indian Army withdrew in disarray and even failed to retrieve the bodies of its soldiers..." India denied any such attack, saying the Pakistanis had fired at a routine forward patrol. But the patriotic reporting told the tale: a case was being prepared.
On 15 May, successes of the Pakistani Army were being claimed on the authority of "a senior Indian official"! "A senior Indian official," The Nation claimed in a dispatch datelined New Delhi, "confirmed that the Army Headquarters and the Ministry of Home Affairs received a message on May 13 evening that Pakistani troops had advanced in Kargil and wrested five posts in a 5 km radius from the township...." Could a Pakistani correspondent really have access of that kind? Would "a senior official" in New Delhi be sharing such information with him?
The News of 16th May was more specific. It reported -- ostensibly from Srinagar! --that there had been intense shelling and deployment by Indians, and said that these had come "amid reports that Pakistani troops on May 14th captured a village after bombarding the frontier town of Drass, some 160 km southwest of Srinagar." "Some 40 shells pounded snow-covered Drass and adjoining areas before Pakistani troops took control of the village located on the Line of Control."
By the 17th of May, several papers were proclaiming triumphs, and attributing them -- not to some ghostly mujahidin but -- to the Pakistani Army. "With shelling and firing between Pakistani and Indian troops on the LoC continuing for the last seven days," The Nation observed in its editorial, "our forces have captured another seven Indian posts in the Kargil sector..., captured a village after bombarding the frontier town of Drass..., and severely disrupted the Indian Army's logistics by taking control of important passes in the Kargil sector, choking off the Jammu-Kargil highway. The Indian troops in the Ladakh region too are facing pressure from the Pakistani forces as well as Kashmiri freedom fighters... It is gratifying that the state of preparedness and capability of our armed forces have prevented Indian adventurism on the LoC from making any gains..."
That very day, that is on 17 May, The Frontier Post reported, "Indian troops after having been defeated in the Kargil sector where the Pakistan Army seized five very important Indian posts with a radius of more than 28 km, have opened fire in almost all the sectors of the LoC... The gain of the Pakistan Army at Siachin has disrupted the communication system of the Indian troops..."
"War between India and Pakistan has started in the Kargil sector," proclaimed the Jasarat of 17 May. "According to Army sources, in this war some special units of the Pakistan Army are participating as they are full of martyrdom sentiments for the country..."
The paper from Lahore, Khabrain, reported on 18 May, "Twelve Indian Army posts have come under the control of Pakistani forces. The Indian Army movement on the Ladakh-Srinagar road has completely stopped..."
In its editorial the next day, the Nawai Waqt said, "Clashes are continuing between the Indian and Pakistani forces along the Line of Control in the Kargil sector..."
Reviewing developments over the preceding days, on 27 May, The Nation observed, " ...The concentration of Indian troops in the Kargil sector started taking place after they suffered heavy losses at the hands of the Pakistani troops..."
No circumlocution about who had scored the victories, is there? As countries began blaming Pakistan more and more, references to the Pakistan Army disappeared, and were replaced by acclaim for the so-called mujahideen!
Our Government had the Parvez Musharraf transcripts all the while. Their statements were in part based on these. Had our papers been keeping us posted about what was appearing in Pakistani papers we would have been quite up-to-date on our own.
Nor would we have needed any confidential briefings about what the objective of the Pakistan Army has been. In prescribing what should be done, General Hamid Gul, the pir and ideologue of fundamentalism within the Pakistan Army, revealed what the aim has been. Speaking to Nawai Waqt he said that Pakistani men who had occupied the heights in Kargil must at all costs be enabled to continue there for four or five months. The area would become totally inaccessible after that. They would then be able to choke off the Indian highway completely. India would have to vacate Siachin, and after that it would lose Ladakh...
And now for the forecast. Look around Tamil Nadu. It is at peace. There are no communal clashes. There are no caste clashes. But listen to the former head of the ISI, Lt. General (retd.) Javed Nasir. The Jang of 23 April reported his talk to the Jang Forum. "Gen. Javed also said that if the Kashmir issue goes on for three years more, then Tamils will also rise against India and the country would disintegrate within three years...." That is not an astrologer's forecast. It reveals one of the key areas that ISI is concentrating on. Surprised at the explosives that keep turning up in the state?
In a word, a sense of proportion, some faith in our agencies and authorities, and a little work -- don't wait to get hold of some secret document, read what is being published. Specially what is being proclaimed over loudspeakers by the opponent.
Intelligence is too important to be left to intelligence agencies.
June 14, 1999