M A I N   N E W S

Spat between former IAF, Army chiefs continues
IAF ex-chief’s remarks over Kargil war create flutter
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 11
The spat between the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Army over former Air Chief A.Y. Tipnis saying that the Army was reluctant to inform the government about the intrusion by Pakistan in Kargil and that it did little initially to jointly plan and evict the intruders, seems to be ballooning out of control with former Chief of Army Staff Gen V.P. Malik today releasing correspondence in which the former air chief had applauded the courage and devotion shown by the Army personnel.

On the other hand, the former IAF chief again reiterated that helicopters were used in the Kargil operations against his wishes, but his differences with General Malik had no impact on the overall campaign to evict the intruders.

Even as the spat continues, defence experts were of the opinion here that this airing of views by the two former chiefs was only creating further friction between the two forces, which should be brought to a stop. Not wanting to named, the experts said rather than bringing about a synergy in the three forces such comments would only increase differences between them.

“At a time when the armed forces around the world were pooling in resources for better management and operations, such a spat would only bring to a naught all such efforts being made here,” said an expert. He also said it was time that the Ministry of Defence should intervene to keep the damage to the minimum.

That there were differences between the two forces over the action being taken to evict the intruders was a known fact even in 1999 when the intrusion took place. The reason behind the former air chief writing an article now to disclose the same was not understandable, said another expert.

In the letter released here by General Malik and purported to have been written by the former air chief to him on July 7, 1999, Air Chief Marshal Tipnis said, “The whole nation has been witness to the courage, tenacity and single-minded devotion of our Army officers and jawans in Kargil”.

“All personnel of the Air Force join me in applauding the indomitable spirit of our Army. We are happy that we were able to contribute to the joint effort”.

He further said, “We salute our brave comrade-in-arms of the Indian Army who have fought so valiantly and set a shining example of self-sacrifice in the cause of our motherland”.

Air Chief Marshal Tipnis created a flutter last week by stating in an article in a defence magazine that the Army was reluctant to inform the government about the presence of Pakistani intruders in Kargil. He further added fuel to the fire when in an interview with Karan Thappar on CNBC-TV18 he said that helicopters were used in the operations against his wishes.

Reiterating his stand that air support could not have been used in Kargil without political clearance, the former air chief said it appeared that the Army did not have a satisfactory reply to a query raised at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) about the assessment of the enemy’s intentions in early 1999.

“This is something that he (General Malik) wanted. I had done it against my wishes and against a better judgement,” he said in the interview with reference to the use of helicopters.

When asked about what transpired at a meeting of the three service chiefs on May 24, 1999 ahead of the meeting of the CCS, he said General Malik had stormed out of this meeting after being refused helicopter support in evicting the intruders from Kargil.

“Yes, he walked out. I went to the corridor and told him he can have the helicopters,” Air Chief Marshal Tipnis said. With that commitment the three service chiefs were again at the same level, speaking the same language “except that something had been done which was not to my liking”.

However, he said, the differences with General Malik did not affect the Kargil operations. “We may have professional differences but we knew we had to project a united front and it came naturally to us,” he said.



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