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Firing On The LOC:PAK ARMY STILL CALLS SHOTS, by Col (Dr.) P. K. Vasudeva, 2 June 2008 Print E-mail


New Delhi, 2 June 2008

Firing On The LOC


By Col (Dr.) P. K. Vasudeva

(Prof International Relations, ICFAI Business School)

When the Kargil operation of the Pakistani military was launched in 1999, India and Pakistan were well on their way to ushering in a new phase of bilateral relations. At the time, the then Prime Minister Vajpayee’s Lahore “bus diplomacy” was on the point of bearing fruit and the peace process would have followed soon in the interest of both the countries.

It was at that precise juncture that Kargil occurred. As everyone knows, Kargil was a Pakistani military operation, with which Pakistani politicians had precious little to do. It was conceived and conducted by the then ambitious and power-hungry Pakistani Army Chief, General Pervez Musharraf, and as revealed later the then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself was kept in the dark about it. This fact came to light only after the enemy was evicted from Kargil’s occupied posts.

However, the damage was done. Undoubtedly, Kargil put a long spoke in the wheel of “normalisation” of India-Pakistan relations.  So whoever engineered the military operation wanted — at that moment at least — to upset the Vajpayee-Nawaz Sharif applecart. Which, in fact, it did.

The Indian military could not have engineered Kargil, because it strictly abides by the stipulations of the Constitution. Thus, it could not have struck out on its own with the object of creating problems for the country’s Prime Minister and his policy.

The same cannot be said of the Pakistani military for reasons which are well-known the world over. Therefore, it stands to good reason to suggest that the top Pakistani military leadership did not like what was happening between New Delhi and Islamabad on the diplomatic front, which led it to engineer Kargil.

It is of course another matter that not long after Kargil, Nawaz Sharif himself had to go. He fell victim to the military establishment which replaced him with General Pervez Musharraf. Unfortunately, history is repeating itself. Presently too, the new Gilani-led Government is not stable and it is doubtful if the present coalition will survive. Already fissures have come to light.

Today, as far as public perception is concerned, President Musharraf is no longer in the ‘hot seat’ as it were, the politicians having “taken over”. Within the military itself, there has been some change. There is a new Army Chief.

But have things really changed in Pakistan today, as regards the politician-military divide? Seen differently, can one argue that the assassination of Benazir Bhutto has effectively moved the Pakistani military establishment to the second position? Have the recent elections, giving the civilian Pakistani society, led by its politicians, the power once again to call the shots?

Questions which have no easy answers. As it stands, the Gilani-led coalition Government has started showing cracks once again as Nawaz Sharif is threatening to withdraw his Party’s support of it. Primarily because the PPP Chief Asif Zardari is not ready to reinstate the ‘forcibly’ retired judges. Zardari seems to have joined hand with President Musharraf which holds dangerous signals --- of the Army coming back to power.

Significantly, the recent firing on the Line of Control (LoC) clearly suggests that nothing has changed in Pakistan as far as the power structure is concerned. The military continues to wield absolute power but is currently hiding behind the fig-leaf of the poll results which have, on the face of it, shifted the balance of power to the politicians.

The LoC firing cannot help the process of normalisation of relations between the two countries, just as Kargil did not in its day. The inference is that the Pakistani military is once again at work, telling the politicians that they really amount to nothing in the power structure of Pakistan’s society.

Moreover, by keeping the military pot boiling is Islamabad’s way of impressing on New Delhi that Pakistan is a force to reckon with. Further, whenever India test fires its Agni long range missiles Pakistan retaliates by test firing its Haft missiles. Islamabad’s signal is loud and clear: We also mean business.

More important is the extent of the hold, if any, which General Musharraf has on the Armed Forces, through his loyal lieutenants who still enjoy enormous clout in the military. The simple question is: Did Musharraf have any role to play in organising the LoC firing and sending infiltrators across the LoC to cause disturbance in Jaipur blasts and elsewhere in the country? The answer is yes.

Clearly, the Indian Armed Forces cannot lower its guard on its side of the LoC. It has to remain vigilant not only to ward off any untoward situation but also protect its positions on the LoC because the Pakistani military is capable of pulling of surprises as it did a la Kargil in 1999.

The Samba incident and subsequent firing is a live example of the type of adventurism the Pakistani Army is competent of launching. History is replete with such skirmishes before Islamabad launches actual operations.

The news of Musharraf leaving the country due to political pressure is a welcome sign but one has to wait and watch and keep our fingers crossed. ---- INFA

(Copyright India News & Feature Alliance)

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