Tuesday, December 25, 2001, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



War on terror: we have to decide the options now

The nation gets into an emotional outburst every time terrorists strike. This is followed by a staccato of cries for hitting out at them across the line of control (LoC). The party in power is heard the loudest. Then everything dies down. But today people are glibly citing the American and Israeli examples without understanding the nuances. Since early days, Mr L.K. Advani, the hardliner, has been promising to wipe out terrorism over and over again, but the effect has been the reverse, with strikes getting deeper. For us it is rhetoric all the way. Foremost, such issues as crossing the LoC must remain outside public debate. The matter closes the moment an intention is aired.

This is a highly specialised and sensitive operation requiring the best military capability and costs lives of men. A military operation must only stem from a political policy and cannot become a stand-alone agenda for non-professionals. We neither have the wherewithal or preparation, indeed the will as the Americans and Israelis display. Why cite them when the scenario and force balances are entirely different. So here the nation is putting the cart before the horse.

The fact is that there is just no policy for J&K except carry on with firefighting, with the politicians and the military busy covering truth for expediency. We are thus actually abetting the unending low intensity war, to retain a status quo, which suits the power centres at Delhi. This has proved more than politically lucrative as long the threat remained confined to the State which is no longer so. So we must keep feeding the people with nonsense that Kashmir is not a core issue but an integral part of India when conditions on ground speak quite differently with people and forces being bled white. The attrition on the military is of course a direct bonus for Pakistan, fragmenting our military cohesiveness, eroding its institutional strength and conventional capability.


While Gen Musharraf has a stated objective, is straightforward in conveying it and pursuing this with single-mindedness, we are playing politics of confusion, unclear intent, and indeed misinformation. There was no public or media outcry when Kargil happened, and worst when we chickened out to exploit the local success and get across. That was another, perhaps the last moment lost to history after 1971, which could have matched our words with deeds, turning into a rushing torrent into PoK, changing the entire scene of insurgency and the very politics in Pakistan. Our weak-willed self-serving political and military leadership buckled, a great blessing for Musharraf, who must salute his adversaries for this.

However we may refuse to concede today, the General is leading Pakistan through a turbulent period but yet is politically more sure and decisively confident militarily, not to speak of the ground experience he carries. He has the factor of military-political cohesiveness totally in his favour.

So when we think of getting across the LoC, Parliament and the people must first demand an assurance from Defence Minister George Fernandes that the success rate of such missions would be high, that this is backed by a highly trained, motivated and appropriately equipped force with overwhelming moral and physical superiority over the enemy, that we would have very reliable real time intelligence about where and who to strike and that we have appropriate capability and resources for search and rescue.

One is sure such assurances can never come by since Mr Fernandes has neither the time nor inclination, nor even acumen for matters of this nature. Kargil only revealed the loss of trust and faith of the lower fighting material in their superiors, a trust which is more vital than weapons and which cannot be restored easily and when their leadership is busy with politics and money-making. We must not sacrifice our ever ready young soldiers and junior leaders on the altar of political expediency as we did in Kargil, when untrained and ill-equipped troops were pressed to keep a political timeframe for elections, which resulted in such heavy casualties. Both political and military leadership went unscathed for this betrayal of trust. But today we are again in no better position.

We have the same leadership in the driving seat. This time its true credentials unfolded by the murky deals in weapons and even coffins. How can any leadership, which can foster pursuit of greed and impropriety in governance at all be entrusted with the security of the nation or be expected to have any will for a bold action? We cannot afford to be naive any more and must recognise the hazards of this.

Consequently, the war against terrorism should start at the right place and focus on right things. We must start cleansing our politics and governance ruthlessly. This will help us evolve a consensus on a Kashmir policy, share this with people, debate it and prepare for its implementation without hiccups.

Since we are no longer disposed favourably for a military option, we must talk. The attack on Parliament is a message that we cannot afford to leave Kashmir in the bye-ways and must now accept that this is a core issue. We have to talk with Pakistan and get to know what alternatives and options Gen Musharraf has to offer. We must prepare ours and convey to him, while sorting out the problems in- house. We cannot lay down conditions for talks any more as ground situation will only worsen with time wasted. With this we shall retain the moral high ground, which is important. The issue of war and peace can then be handled more rationally at home and for the world opinion. September 11 has changed much and even for Kashmir. Itís not the General but we who have to decide the options now.

Maj Gen APS Chauhan (retd), On-e-mail

Cycling to work

There has been a long-required need to sound a clarion call for sanity to prevail on our roads. The editorial "Streamlining traffic" (Dec 11) was that apt call, sounded not too early. Besides the sharp rise in the number of vehicles, I would attribute the chaos on roads to lack of awareness of regulations and basic courtesy on the part of drivers. The traffic police should educate the public instead of launching punitive challan drives.

And as for using bicycles, wherever possible, I would like to add that it is non-polluting and a healthy form of exercise. In Europe it is fashionable too. It was a pleasure to see the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge and quite a number of Nobel laureates as well riding their bicycles to work. Many faculty members who commuted in their cars from the outskirts of the town would carry their bicycles fastened at the top. On reaching the town, they would park their car and cycle on to work.

To promote such culture here might require a sea-change in the midset of our younger generation. It is sadly considered below oneís dignity to ride a bike. There is a need to plan special cycle-paths to encourage this mode of transport. I am hopeful if sincere efforts are put in to make cycling enjoyable and fashionable, it would solve many of our traffic problems.




B.Ed examination

The B.Ed exam consists of internal and external parts. Panjab University awards B.Ed degrees for 1000 marks showing external 800 marks and internal 200 marks separately whereas the Punjabi University shows the same as a whole out of 1000 marks without mentioning the division of internal and external marks.

In the recent selection of masters/mistresses, a discrimination has been made by the Departmental Selection Committees, Punjab by considering the Panjab University B.Ed degrees of only 800 marks of external and no value to the internal 200 marks whereas Punjabi University degrees out of 1000 marks which include both internal and external parts. It is clear discrimination on its part. Will the Punjab Government review the situation?

SHALLU GARG, Rampura Phul (Bathinda)

Power to farm sector

Prof S.K. Aggarwal has rightly advocated continuation of subsidised power to the farm sector. I do not understand why people raise a hue and cry for this only action of the Punjab government in favour of the peasants. One cannot count favours the governments do to traders and industrialists from setting up a business to the declaring of it a sick one.

P.S. AZAD, Dhola (Sangrur)

Army curbs on roads

I endorse the views of Rashmi Jotshi Sharotri of Kasauli. The frequent closure of the Mall road in Jalandhar cantt to civilian vehicular traffic causes great inconvenience. The Army jawans deployed at various barriers demand identity cards issued by the military authorities and reject the identity cards issued by the civil administration.

WISSON FRANKLIEN, Jalandhar cantt

Avoid greeting cards

We should avoid or reduce the use of greeting cards as these are not eco-friendly. Please use the Internet (e-greetings), telephone, radio, TV etc for sending your greetings. Everyone should plant one tree on the arrival of the New Year to compensate the loss to the environment.

R. K. SAPRA, Ambala city


Name the five famous Ws of Ludhiana?

Answer: Wealth, Women, Wheat, Woollens and Wheel.

K.J.S. AHLUWALIA, Amritsar 

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