119 years of Trust M A I L B A G THE TRIBUNE
Friday, June 11, 1999
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Of guns and dialogue

Mr Hari Jaisingh has aptly brought out in his June 6 article, “Of guns and dialogue”, the two-point agenda of Islamabad — to export militancy and sell peace — and our failure to learn from history.

I have served in the Army for more than 20 years and have commanded the forward posts in the extremely difficult high altitude terrains in Ladakh, Sikkim and NEFA. Everyday it causes me unbearable pain and anguish when I read about the casualties in the Kargil sector.

The battle is not yet over. We shall have to pay a heavy price for our complacency. These heights range from 14000 ft to 17000 ft. The artillery guns are generally not too effective although they have immense psychological effect. The enemy has to be wiped out in a hand-to-hand combat and the heights are to be captured by the infantry. These are going to be very tough operations as there are limited, mostly one or two approaches, to the defended localities on the hill-tops, and these approaches are covered by automatic weapons creating a wall of bullets.

However, there is no dearth of spirit of sacrifice and valour in our troops. The handicap, however, is that the majority of the Indian soldiers are from the plains. Compared to the enemy, they are more prone to the vagaries of weather. The Pakistanis have trained people from Gilgit, Hunza, Baltistan and the tribal territories in occupied Kashmir. To succeed in high altitude warfare, it is very essential that we recruit and train the people residing in high altitude areas.


DIVIDED LEADERSHIP: India’s politico-diplomatic response to Pakistan’s gameplan in the Kargil sector has been quite unsatisfactory. It is not for the first time that our intelligence agencies have failed in their basic task of information collection. They have often acted in an erratic and wayward manner to satisfy the whims of the political leadership.

It is an established fact that Pakistani helicopters had undertaken an extensive survey of these areas in January, but RAW and IB ignored this in the wake of the Prime Minister’s February Lahore-bus euphoria.

Secondly, our leadership is divided even in matters of national security and sovereignty. They tend to view such harsh realities in terms of electoral gains.


INDIA’S STAND: Never before has the world at large so unequivocally endorsed India’s stand as it has done in the case of the present conflict in Kashmir. Is it not an enough testimony to the capability of the present set of leaders , who have achieved this in their officiating status? Which other government could secure this much support from Russia as well as the USA in the past 50 years on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir?

Mr George Fernandes is a person who has spent a lifetime creating a mass base, but he is being weighed against those whose claim to fame is based on their marriage or birth in a particular family. What an irony!


SAFE PASSAGE OFFER: If, knowing the strength and morale of his men, and the adequacy of arms and armaments, a Defence Minister, confident of his troops’ success, asks the Pakistani Generals that if they have realised that their Kargil adventure was an exercise in futility, and if they care for the lives of their men, they can make a request through their civil authorities for safe passage for retreat, he, I believe, is adopting the right course for saving his men and material for use on another occasion.

Major GURMEJ SINGH (retd)

PEACE-LOVING NATION: Being a peace-loving nation is really praiseworthy. But when our national integrity is in danger, we should be ready to launch an attack with double force, both verbal and material. Demonstrating our capability to protect our national borders and our rights is the only answer. Once the offender is subdued, it can be dealt with in a cultured manner—-through high-level talks.


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50 years on indian independence

Return of Nachiketa

At times we lose our sense of proportion completely and absolutely. One such case is the return of Air Force pilot Nachiketa from Pakistani captivity. We make heroes when not warranted at all. It seems the government and the Air Force were in some desperate need to cover up their losses.

POWs are welcomed back to their country not as heroes but as ordinary members of the defence forces. As per conventions all returned POWs are screened and interrogated to find out the reason why they surrendered. Was it an act of cowardice? Or was it out of fear, just to save their lives? It is also enquired whether they made any effort to escape or resist. Whether they parted with some classified information. No such study seems to have been done in the case of Nachiketa.

He was flying the aircraft in his own country. It is learnt that there was some trouble with the engine, and he bailed out at the first available opportunity to save his life. He did not make sure to eject in his own territory. In his place, a Japanese or a German pilot would have gone down with the machine in war-time.

Once he landed safely (supposed to be armed with a pistol), what effort did he make to resist apprehension? Did he use his weapon? Did he try to escape? No such effort seems to have been made.

Once in enemy hands, he seems to have collaborated with interrogators, otherwise he would not have returned in one piece. As a tribute, the Air Force authorities paraded him before the President and the Prime Minister as if he was the sole saviour of Kargil. All sense of proportion seems to have evaporated at all levels, including the Press. I would not be surprised if he is decorated in due course.

In the Navy there is code that the captain of the ship sinks with the ship. Captain Mulla did that in 1971. There is a code in artillery that they never abandon their guns because gunners treat their weapons as “regimental colours”. Isn’t there any code in the Air Force that in war a pilot does not bail out in enemy territory. A living pilot in enemy hands is a great security risk.

The misplaced euphoria over the return of fighter pilot Nachiketa may send wrong signals to other pilots in distress. It may prove a dangerous trend.

Brig K.S. KANG (retd)

Need for a memorial

Bhagat Singh and his companions often sang, with zeal and gusto, the verse, “Shaheedon ki chitaaon par lagein gey har baras meley/ Watan par mitney waalon ka yahi baaqi nishaan ho ga.”

Only time will show if a “mela” (social gathering) is held every year to commemorate the supreme sacrifice of Bajinder Singh, a 24-year-old soldier of Nandloo village in Dehra subdivision (HP), who laid down his life while combating the Pakistani intruders in the Kargil-Dras sector of Jammu and Kashmir. But so far as the cremation of his mortal remains was concerned, both the Army and the civil authorities showed indifference of the worst kind in the matter.

Bajinder, a son of a soldier, embraced martyrdom on May 27. No intimation was sent to his mother. The plight of an aged widow, to whom the coffin carrying the decomposed body of her gallant warrior was brought all of a sudden after about a week, when there was no male member in the house to console her, can be better imagined than expressed.

There was no Army or civil official to place a wreath on Bajinder’s body or at the time when it was consigned to the flames. Even the Last Post was not sounded. The martyr was cremated like a nobody.

What is more painful was the indecorous behaviour of the SDM of the area with his relatives. Instead of expressing regret for reaching the village after the cremation had taken place and sharing their grief over the tragic event, he reportedly reproved them for having lit the pyre without waiting for him. Was it not tantamount to rubbing salt in their wounds? alas!

“Doosron key dard ka ehsaas hota hai kisey/Hans diya kartey hain gul shabnam ko rota dekh kar” (Who feels concern about the distress of others? The flowers smile when the dew weeps).

In order to atone for the utter disrespect shown to his mortal remains, the Army and civil authorities should build a suitable memorial in honour of the “shaheed”


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