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Now go get Occupied Kashmir

Now go get Occupied Kashmir

Author: Sandhya Jain
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: May 21, 2002

It is difficult to remember when an Indian Prime Minister last visited even the Jammu region of troubled Kashmir. Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee's decision to visit the state is therefore a welcome assertion of personal confidence and national sovereignty.

As the visit will owe its success to the already overworked and emotionally overstretched police, paramilitary and security forces, it is hoped that Mr Vajpayee will not let them down by failing to avenge the grim outrage at Kaluchak.

No nation can be great that humiliates its own heroes and makes them weep. When women and infants are shot in cold blood in the presumed safety of their own homes, an entire nation stands debased. This feeling of disgrace is fuelling intense anger across the country; a government that fails to lead this quest for national vengeance will stand forever indicted at the bar of public opinion and also history.

The Indian people want an immediate end to the policy of inhibiting security forces from appropriate retaliatory action against militants. The BJP government's early rhetoric of hot pursuit of terrorist camps, followed by complete non-action, has been galling. Kaluchak has touched a very raw nerve, and taken the war into every home and heart. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa articulated these sentiments perfectly with her demand that India sever diplomatic ties with Islamabad and launch a full-scale war. She rightly hinted that the reaction to the assaults on Parliament and the J&K Assembly last year was timid and uninspiring.

There is now a national consensus that the time for firm action has come; vacillation will demean us in our own eyes. Already the morale of the armed forces is sapping, not for lack of valour, but because of lack of political will to give a fitting rejoinder to the depraved killing machine of a terrorist state. This is truly sad because the Indian Army is one of the best, most experienced, and professional armies in the post-Second World War era. That is why, despite what analysts say about the risks of open conflict, Indians have blind faith in the ability of the armed forces to make mincemeat of both uniformed and madrasa-trained jihadis across the border.

Unfortunately, the Government seems plagued by ad-hocism. Till date, we do not know what prompted the unilateral ceasefire against terrorism in the Valley, which enabled the scattered terrorist outfits to recuperate to the detriment of the security forces and the people, and ended in the extravagant fiasco at Agra. Right now, troops have been mobilised along the border for full five months, from December when temperatures were sub-zero in the Himalayas to May when the desert is simply scorching, and there is no clue of what will happen next.

Some commentators believe that the Government cannot take decisive action because it is unclear about the war goals. It is amazing that a political party branded as hyper-nationalist by its critics should, when in power, suffer any confusion in this regard. The goals are self-evident- the decimation of terrorist camps across the border, and the recovery of Occupied Kashmir. After the unanimous parliamentary resolution of 1995, there cannot be any compromise on this issue, nor any excuse for failure.

Reports indicate that intelligence agencies are aware of at least seventy camps across the border, most of which are makeshift, and can be quickly dismantled and relocated elsewhere. This need not be a disadvantage as surgical air strikes against the camps will have to be followed by mopping up operations on the ground. Once the army enters the area, it can deal with the jihadis (both in mufti and uniform), reoccupy legitimate Indian territory, and sit tight. This would be a golden opportunity for the army to vindicate its honour and wipe out the humiliation Jawaharlal Nehru inflicted upon the nation over five decades ago. In this context, the BJP Government would do well to recognise that it cannot have the luxury of condemning Nehru and the Congress party for 50 years and then sit and twiddle its thumbs when the occasion arises.

I am aware that some will ridicule this argument as simplistic. It will be claimed that war would be messy because the Government has talked for so long without doing anything, hence ground realities are far worse than they seem from a writer's cabin. It will also be said that the threat of a nuclear strike is very real.

My defence is multi-layered. Firstly, there can never be a better time to take back Occupied Kashmir. American troops are in virtual occupation of Pakistan's principal air and military bases on account of the action in Afghanistan, and they are unlikely to leave that country in the foreseeable future. This is particularly true after the US realisation that Osama bin Laden is alive and perhaps in Pakistan, or even in PoK! Hence America will ensure that Pakistan's nuclear button remains firmly sheathed.

Washington will also try to ensure that the theatre of action is limited to PoK and does not extend across the entire 1,800-kilometre-long border between the two countries. While India has the capacity to deploy forces and fight along the entire border, it is doubtful if Pakistan can do so.

What is more, corruption and politicisation have eaten deeply into the vitals of the Pakistani army; one has only to recall the swift capitulation of General Niazi in Dacca to realise that Islamabad does not have the stomach for open conflict. Even in Kargil, when it surreptitiously grabbed the heights, it was not prepared for the Indian Army's stupendous display of valour.

It should be kept in mind that General Zia-ul Haq's post-1971 Islamisation of the armed forces and his strategy of sponsoring militancy in India has given Pakistani leaders a false sense of power because New Delhi's responses have been tardy and because it did not enjoy international support for retaliatory strikes. But nations with right and might on their side find that the world falls in line quickly, and Islamabad is about to discover this harsh truth.

Finally, I am confident that our army prefers open conflict and the casualties of a heroic war to the daily deaths of civilians and targeting of security personnel and their families. The war of a thousand cuts has escalated into the war of a million cuts; there is an urgent need to guillotine this menace.

At a time when national sentiments are running high and people's emotions are roused, the Government would do well to realise that it cannot be seen to be tailoring its policy to suit faulty American calculations. The stakes are extremely high for India, and much time has already been lost.

For instance, in the wake of the attacks on Parliament and the J&K Assembly, it was felt that repudiating the Indus Treaty and starving Pakistan of water would beat some sense into the heads of its rulings generals and general populace alike; but South Block responded by looking at the rules for abrogation!

The choice now is between the dismemberment of India-first Kashmir, then Assam, West Bengal, and so on-and the maintenance of its territorial sovereignty. It is for the BJP to decide if it will live up to the rhetoric of 50 years or fall by the wayside.

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