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Vasant Valley            3

Letter to the Editor

The Editor

Vasant Valley Today

Dear Sir,

This is with reference to Saionton Basu's write up on Kargil operations. His candor and concern appealed to me and I must congratulate him for the article, which was both interesting and thought provoking.

I would like to put down a few points for consideration of our readers, so that we get closer to an accurate perspective.

Without accurate information, passing judgement may not be fully justified.

It is inappropriate to form an opinion based on some media reports (that are often highly questionable because of the media person's urge to "break" the news and therefore, try to create a sensation)

In the Army, responsibilities are pin - pointed quickly and actions initiated to avoid further mistakes.

Chain of Command in the Army is very clear and operational. The Commander of the Kargil Brigade was under a Divisional Headquarters. The question of information travelling directly to Army Headquarters does not arise.

People are quoting vague hearsay reports dating them to August 1998.

The Defence Minister has precious little to do with the ground level operations.

Unlike the Pakistani Army, which does not even want to give a decent burial to their soldiers, the Indian Army provides accurate information about its casualties - because we care.

Occupying the areas, where intrusions took place, on a round the year basis, is prohibitively expensive. Therefore, the practice for the last 50 years has been to pull back in winter, and reoccupy posts in summer.

True, there was an intelligence failure, especially by the RAW, who are specifically responsible for external intelligence.

On hindsight (a sort of CYA exercise) people are saying they gave information on different occasions while the truth is nothing at all reached the people in the field. If they could not pick up the information regarding the Pakistani Army buying fifty thousand pairs of climbing boots, all the RAW agents must have been sleeping.

We have been singularly "fortunate" in having uneducated Defence Ministers all along. But given the circumstances, the present government has not done badly.

If the response of the Army, especially the Infantry was not quick and intense, we would have had a very sad tale on our hands indeed. A word of praise for the leadership at the ground level would not be out of place... the number of officer casualties indicate that leadership is in very good hands and we should be proud of that.

The issues involved here are not only macro but also very complex.

My suggestion is, that we should refrain from passing judgement with little knowledge or hear-say knowledge. Perhaps we should ask someone, from the Army to interact with the students and teachers on the Kargil Issue so that we all understand the situation better. It is not important to make a comment, it is far more important to make a comment with understanding and empathy.

Through the TV ( thank heavens we are not dependent on Doordarshan) brought a lot of the front news into our living rooms, don't get carried away by what was shown, because the knowledgeable people still laughed at the coverage. We kept seeing the same clips of the Bofors guns firing and the reports from the front were from the roadside, because our correspondent were not fit enough (perhaps it had something to do with personal safety) to go to places where the actual fighting was going on...climbing 17 to 18 thousand feet is not a joke in the best of times.

Sadly, in the Indian context, there are no war correspondents, if you know what I mean.

But kudos to Saionton for taking so much interest in this vital subject.

Yours Sincerely

Sumitra Mukherjee

Department of Social Science


Dear Mrs. Mukherjee

It was very encouraging and enlightening to read through your response.

I based my article not on "hearsay reports" but on printed documents, which are now, part of the secret Army files. These were published in the Outlook magazine verbatim. They are open for you reference. Your point about information not travelling directly to the Army headquarters is true. But what do you do when you notice intrusions and your immediate superior does not respond. It is a fact, in fact a well-publicised one that Brig. Surinder Singh had directly communicated with the Army headquarters.

It is not just "interest" that I'm taking this subject, I am appalled at the degree of callousness in which Kargil had been allowed to balloon into this bloody battlefield. Let me assure you that I am as proud as you or for that matter any other Indian of our Jawans, who laid down their lives due to the folly of the politicians (the Defence Minister to be specific).

I'm not really "passing a judgement" but just stating the facts of the case, which should have been evident from the contents of my article.

Yours sincerely

Saionton Basu

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