THE entire world knows that India had lost the Kargil War, as it could not recapture an inch of
the territory earlier captured by Pakistan Army, and that Pakistan was pressurized by the then US President Bill Clinton to withdraw unconditionally, yet India celebrated the victory on 20th anniversary of Kargil war. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi speaking at the event said: “Kargil victory was symbol of India’s might, determination and capability; wars are fought not by governments but by the whole country. The victory at Kargil still inspires the whole country…Kargil was victory of every Indian”. This claim is as ludicrous as was the recent claim of shooting down Pakistan’s F-16, and earlier winning 1965 war. According to reports, more than 500 Indian soldiers were killed in India’s attempt in May-July 1999 to clear military posts inside the Line of Control in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
The Kargil War was declared over on July 26, 1999, after the Pakistani troops had to withdraw after an agreement reached between the then President of the United States Bill Clinton and the then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Kargil War had lasted for about three months, and according to Indian media it all started when some local shepherds noticed some major activities in the foothills of the Kargil area on 03 May 1999 and the Indian Army was informed right away. According to their own account the Indian Army lost more than 500 officers and soldiers in the war and more than 1300 got critically injured. On the other hand, 400 Pakistani soldiers lost their lives when India bombed them during their withdrawal after President Bill Clinton had refused any talk on Kashmir issue with Nawaz Sharif unless Pakistan withdrew from area unconditionally. However, Pakistan lost at the table what it had gained on ground.
Aljazeera TV stated: “That year, Pakistan’s military and Kashmiri rebels occupied strategic positions on the Indian side of the de facto border between them (known as the Line of Control or LoC), prompting a counter offensive by India. The Kargil war, as it came to be known, lasted nearly three months, killed more than 500 Indian and nearly 400 Pakistani soldiers. While commenting on Kargil war, the Indian Express said: “An IAF pilot was almost ready to bomb Nawaz Sharif & Musharraf during Kargil war who were visiting base at Kargil in June 1999”. Bruce Riedel, President Clinton’s Special Assistant for South Asian affairs who played a key role in the US-Pakistan talks on the issue, said that after agreeing to withdraw Pakistani troops without any conditions, Mr. Sharif asked Mr. Clinton to play a role in resolving the Kashmir dispute.
He went on to say: “Mr. Clinton asked him to send an emissary to Washington once the Kargil crisis was over. Finally in September Nawaz Sharif sent his brother to Washington for the long-awaited discussions. Rick Inderfurth and I met with him for hours in his suite at the Willard Hotel. We tried to get a feel for how the Prime Minister wanted to pursue the Kashmir issue. Instead, Shahbaz Sharif only wanted to discuss what the US could do to help his brother stay in power. He all but said that they knew a military coup was coming”. From the Indian Express count, Nawaz Sharif and Pervez Musharraf had visited the base at Kargil in June, which means that there was complete understanding between Nawaz Sharif and Pervez Musharraf, but seeing the US pressure, Nawaz Sharif said that he was not taken into confidence before starting Operation Badr.
There is a perception that Kargil operation was started to avenge Sichen when in April 1984 India had airlifted troops in the region, what it claimed to pre-empt a Pakistani plan to occupy the territory. In 1984, Pakistan military was preoccupied on the western front since Soviet forces’ invasion of Afghanistan that Indian army occupied Siachen. The then COAS and President Zia-ul-Haq was focusing on the western border; hence he did not want to open another front. He had then said that Siachen is not important as there is no grass on Siachen. Anyhow, both countries had entered into negotiations maybe a dozen times, but to no avail. In 2005, the two sides were once again said to be nearing agreement to demilitarize the region, but again Indian military prevailed over the civilian government by insisting that India would lose the strategic advantage over Pakistan and China.
According to an agency report, in 2007 then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee while commenting on the dialogue had said that Pakistan was not willing to agree to an Indian proposal on the methodology of demilitarization. He said both sides agreed in principle to withdraw from their positions, but India wanted the troop positions delineated and authenticated in document. In 2004, India and Pakistan had started the composite dialogue but nothing concrete came out on Sir Creek, Siachen and Kashmir. After 9/11, India had tried to take advantage of preemptive paradigm adopted by the US, and more than once Indian and Pakistan forces were face to face on the borders. But the fear of nuclear attack makes adventurism less appealing. In the face of this reality, both countries being nuclear states should resolve the dispute to avert disaster, as war is not an option for them.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.