CONGRESS PARTY AND THE INDIAN ARMY
Date: 03 Jan 2009
courtesy: INDIAN EXPRESS
Thursday, July 29, 1999
Parroting the Pak line
In her bid to win power, Sonia Gandhi has been striking up alliances left, right and centre. (Especially `Left'!) But there is no real convergence of views between her and the likes of Jayalalitha, Jyoti Basu and Laloo Prasad Yadav. (The former is the woman who rhetorically demanded whether a nation of nine hundred million couldn't produce a Prime Minister without looking at foreigners; both the latter advised Sonia Gandhi to sit at home.) Is there anyone who genuinely has a broad area of agreement with the Congress president?
Well yes, step forward Mian Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf Hussain. The Prime Minister of Pakistan and his Goebbels have much in common with Signora Gandhi. Both parties seek to (a) downplay the reach of the Indian achievement in Kargil, and (b) drive a wedge between the Government of India and the Indian Army. The sole difference, if you want to call it that, is that the Pakistanis are content to stop there, whereas the Congress president and her courtiers are trying to drag in thePresident and the Attorney-General into some other schemes.
What else would you make of the brouhaha over the telecom contracts? Pranab Mukherjee and Somnath Chatterjee initially promised to support the move to rationalise the tariff structure; predictably both are now trying to wriggle out of their commitments. This might qualify as the usual political fun and games, but the Congress is definitely going over the line when it tried to drag in the Army. (When I say ``Congress'' its allies -- which definitely includes the Communists -- are implicitly included).
Compared to former crises, the attempted invasion of Kargil was handled extremely competently. After the Sino-Indian War of 1962 several thousands of square miles of Indian territory continued to be under Chinese occupation. In 1971 the gains of war were thrown away across the table for no perceptible reason. That simply isn't true of 1999. But there is more: Pakistan is more isolated, more friendless than at any time in its existence. But SoniaGandhi, like Nawaz Sharif, cannot afford to tell the truth.
I remember the Congress president saying, ``We will ask questions at the right time!'' (Of course, she also said the Kargil issue shouldn't be politicised -- and became the first to disregard her own admonition. Perhaps it was just a case of two different speech writers putting words into her mouth?) But what is the question she wants to ask?
There is little to criticise in the actual conduct of the war. (The total casualties, Pakistani as well as Indian, were fewer than those incurred in Rajiv Gandhi's Sri Lankan misadventure -- which, of course, has never been investigated properly.) But Sonia Gandhi can legitimately demand to know if there was a failure to anticipate the Pakistani move in Kargil.
Who exactly was responsible for -- not -- knowing that the Pakistanis had occupied strategic heights overlooking the Srinagar-Leh road, points as close as three and a half kilometres away from the highway? Even Sonia Gandhi doesn't say the PrimeMinister should have been on patrol over there in person! But can you blame Atal Behari Vajpayee without dragging senior Army commanders into the controversy?
Congressmen have been talking some pretty fine nonsense about how that great democrat Jawaharlal Nehru summoned Parliament for a full discussion of the conflict with China. Lay aside for the moment the inconvenient fact that the Lok Sabha lies dissolved thanks to Congress machinations. Just look at how the Nehru ministry -- actually -- dealt with the facts. Permit me to quote from Defence Minister Y.B. Chavan's statement in the Lok Sabha on September 2, 1963 (almost a year after the war) regarding the Henderson Brooks Report on the conduct of the war.
``I am sure the House would appreciate that by the very nature of the contents it would not be in the public interest to lay the report on the table of the House. Nor is it possible to attempt even an abridged or edited version of it, consistent with the consideration of security, that would not givean unbalanced or incomplete picture to you ... The publication of this report which contains information about the strength and development of our forces and their locations would be of invaluable use to our enemies. It would not only endanger our security but affect the morale of those entrusted with safeguarding the security of our borders.''
Is that what the Congress claims was a full, frank, and free disclosure of the facts? And all this, please note, came in 1963, by which time the Chinese had amply proved that they know all about the weaknesses of the Indian Army prior to 1962. Today, however, the Congress wants a public revelation of the resources that made for an Indian success. So that, presumably, Pakistan won't make the same mistakes twice!
That doesn't mean senior Opposition members should be kept in the dark. The Vajpayee ministry offered the Congress the opportunity to be briefed directly by the Army. This was rejected on the weird ground that it was the government that was responsible, notthe Army. Since when has the Army not been considered a wing of the Government of India but a separate entity? That may be true of Pakistan, but not of us.
And what happened when the Prime Minister did try to brief the Opposition? Sonia Gandhi was the only invitee to refuse; she claimed a prior engagement an election rally. Her priority, quite evidently, was not national defence but polls!
Actually, I personally believe there should be a thorough investigation of the whole Kargil imbroglio. The Prime Minister and the Chief of Staff of the Army have, separately, ordered probes. (This is probably the first time that an Indian success, rather than a debacle, is being probed). I hope too that the fruits of these investigations shall be disclosed at least to Parliament, if not the general public, unlike the Henderson Brooks Report which has been gathering dust for 36 years.
Of course, I doubt the Congress is willing to wait until the investigations are complete; with a general election a mere six weeksaway the Congress -- following the lead given by the Pakistani Information Ministry -- is only too happy to present Kargil as an Indian failure.
There is such a thing as a Line of Control in politics as in war. By making the Army a matter of electoral rhetoric, the Congress and its haughty president have crossed that LoC.