A local newspaper recently ran the banner line: “Keran Ops: ‘An Operation that never was’. The quote was attributed to General H.S.Panag, the former Northern Army Commander. The way the so called operation was started and concluded and a host of contradictory media statements issued during its running definitely created a doubt in its veracity! The operation coincided with the Samba attack which happened three days after the Keran operation. Both the events took place at the crucial time of the planned Indo-Pak Premiers’ meeting. Even the Union Home Minister has demanded explanation of the circumstances surrounding both the incidents. This is not the first time such an incident has taken place. It has been quite often observed that whenever there is a possibility of Indo-Pak détente taking place, some untoward incident takes place either on this side or the other side and as a result the whole process of patching up the differences gets derailed.
The recent disclosures by the former Army Chief General V K Singh have shown how the top brass in the Army can operate independently to achieve its own motives regardless of the overall consequences to the political and democratic set up. This behind the scenes role of the Army and other security agencies has been growing slowly and is now assuming alarming proportions. The political set up appears totally unable to either really probe it or in fact to stem it. In Kashmir, the Army has put all the mainstream politicians in the dock and has totally negated all claims of fair and democratic elections held since 1947.
On the other side, the Army has always been having a decisive say in all matters. They have practically taken over the reins whenever they felt like doing so ostensibly in the so called “National Interest” or what they always claim “for the safety and protection of their country”. Kargil was a stark example of the Army taking unilateral steps for the derailing of the peace process of Indo-Pak détente.
It had probably a twin purpose. The first was negating the loss of the Hathi Matha feature above Kargil town in 1971 war. That strategic location above the Kargil town was always a nightmare for the Indian Army. All the convoys going to Ladakh were in the direct line of fire from the Pakistanis. In fact, the Kargil town itself used to get a bombardment of shells quite often. The taking over of heights in Drass was another bid to cut off Indian link to Ladakh by keeping the route in the line of fire from the Tiger Hill and other high-altitude features. It was a meticulously planned operation by the SSG (Special Services Group) of the Pakistan Army once headed by General Musharraf. Normally, one would not expect the sharp Commando General to be so dull as not to consider the possibility that the occupation of these posts can’t be permanent and the operation would result in a bigger conflagration.
However, the other purpose which seemed more convincing and the real aim of the operation was to derail the Vajpayee’s bus ride to Lahore. While Nawaz Sharief was hugging Vajpayee, Musharraf was infiltrating his group across to take over the posts usually abandoned in winter by the Indian Army. The resultant conflict could only be sorted out by the American and Chinese joint intervention as these powers were wary of things going out of control and leading to a full-fledged war. The net result for the sub-continent was the end of the efforts for a rapprochement!
Thus, the real stumbling blocks for peace in the sub-continent are the two Armies. On this side they operate covertly while on the other side they are totally overt. Everything needs a nod from the Army whether overt or covert! The worst thing is that both the Armies have got communalised over the years with the Hindutva infiltration on this side and the Jihadi suicidal influx on the other side. The outsiders who are the real authors of the sub-continental divide engineered by them to keep their fingers in the pie, instead of bringing the two sides together try their utmost to keep the pot boiling. They are the real beneficiaries of the conflict. Their armament industries survive on the sub-continental and other conflicts in different parts of the world. USA is the largest manufacturer of arms and India is the largest importer from USA and other countries.
In these circumstances, peace has a very little chance if left to the intervention of outsiders. The only practical and real chance of peace in the sub-continent depends upon the leadership both political and military in the two countries. It would be worthwhile if the Army Chiefs of the countries start a dialogue whether overt or covert through back channels for coming to a gentleman’s agreement. If the military commands on two sides decide to call it a day in the larger interests of their countries and for the well-being of future generations, the political leadership will embrace each other! In the alternative, we will continue to see many more Kargils and Kerans.