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US diplomacy, not military ended Kargil

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    US diplomacy, not military ended Kargil

    Pretty candid statements, especially considering the jingoism in India about how they won the "war"

    By Iftikhar Gilani

    NEW DELHI: The chief of India’s air operations during Kargil war, Air Marshal (r) Vinod Patney, has admitted that the “intrusions” in Kargil were cleared because of deft American diplomatic manoeuvring rather than military strikes.

    Former US President Bill Clinton during his India visit had created a commotion when he reminded Indian parliamentarians of the American diplomacy during Kargil war.

    On the second anniversary of Kargil war, retired Vice Chief of India’s Air Staff Vinod Patney believed that India did not play its cards properly and favoured that the air force should have been allowed to strike early and across the Line of Control (LoC). He claimed India was well within its rights to cross the LoC.

    “Military, we were stronger and the embargo on not to cross the LoC reduced our strength markedly. We handed over the initiative willingly and unilaterally to the enemy,” said Patney in an article published in the Saturday edition of Chandigarh based The Tribune.

    He said that one possible reason for not crossing the LoC was the apprehension that the war could escalate. But, to Patney’s calculations, this apprehension was miscalculated. “Had Pakistan been strong enough, it would not have been a mute spectator when we started to combat its troops. The only reason of such restraint after the high stake gamble launched was the fear that in case of any further support to the intruders, we would launch attacks across the LoC,” added Patney.

    The former Indian Air Force official believed that actually Pakistan was hesitant to escalate the conflict. He revealed that India frontal assaults against well-entrenched opposition resulted in heavy casualties. “Our Air Force was seriously hamstrung. Finally, it needed deft diplomatic manoeuvring rather then military action to push the enemy back across the LoC,” wrote Patney.

    He said while Kargil war had established a precedent that India would not cross the LoC, Pakistan made no such commitment. He believed that India has forced itself into a defensive posture and it is expected of New Delhi to adhere the self-imposed restrictions.

    Asking the Indian government to lift the embargo on crossing the LoC, former air force commander demanded that at least air action should be permitted, as it is considered as less escalatory. “If this is accepted we need not maintain such large forces arrayed along the LoC at considerable cost. A limited number of troops duly kitted and acclimatized would need to be deployed, and regular ground and airborne surveillance carried out,” he added.

    In future, Patney suggested that in the event of any militant attack anywhere in India or in Jammu and Kashmir, India should immediately take appropriate action on both sides of the LoC and immediately scramble the air force. He further believed that in case of Indian intrusions into Pakistani territory President General Pervez Musharraf would not have been able to effect the coup that propelled him into power. Meanwhile, ‘Vijay Diwas’, celebrated to mark the Kargil victory in 1999, here went sans celebrations or memorial service for the second year running. No official function was organised to remember the 500 soldiers and officers who died during the conflict. Army officials when asked said this year they had received no intimation to mark the day.

    Last year, even at the height of border mobilisation with Pakistan, Defence Minister George Fernandes and the three service chiefs had laid wreaths at the martyr’s memorial here. But this year the function at India Gate was also not held.

    Official sources said the government took a conscious decision not to celebrate the victory in view of the thaw in Indo-Pak ties. On the first anniversary in 2000, the government had organised week-long festivities at the India Gate lawns, exhibiting films and weaponry used to dislodge intrusions. The second anniversary was a quieter affair marked only by lighting of candles by children near the India Gate.
    How can a man die better than facing fearful odds for the ashes of his fathers and the Temple of his Gods?