Thursday, January 17, 2013

Jan 02, 2013

Lt Gen S.K. Sinha

Saints have preached that to forgive is nobler than to take revenge. When slapped on one cheek, offer the other cheek. All this may be very laudable from spiritual or moral points of view, but it cannot be the basis for state policy.
During the Kargil War, Capt. Saurabh Kalia and four jawans were taken prisoner. They were brutally tortured and their mutilated bodies were handed over in that state. When this news broke out there was great indignation. The media highlighted this for a while. The then NDA government did not do much about it. Today, in the wake of the officer’s father seeking justice in the Supreme Court and his plans to go to the International Court of Justice, this issue has been revived. The UPA government has been too busy hosting Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister, to take notice. The latter has rubbed salt into the wound by saying that Capt. Kalia may have been killed due to bad weather. Weather is more merciful than barbaric brutes and does not gouge eyes or mutilate private parts of the human body.
What happened to Kalia and his men is nothing new. Pakistan has been doing such acts of barbarity repeatedly. On November 7, 1947, we liberated Baramulla from Pakistani invaders led by Maj. Gen. Akbar Khan. Apart from the horrendous massacre of men and rape of women, Maqbool Sherwani’s body was nailed to a cross. He was crucified near the Baramulla Convent. In March 1948, we captured Rajauri. The most ghastly sight awaited us there. Three pits, each 50 square yards, were filled with corpses.
During the 1947-48 winter, the Srinagar Valley was totally isolated with surface and air communications closed due to snow. When communications reopened in May, we reinforced our forces and launched our summer offensive towards Muzaffrabad on May 22, 1948. By June 1, we had advanced 10 miles, when the UN Commission came to the sub-continent. It appealed to both countries to suspend offensive operations while it negotiated a peace arrangement. We had an isolated garrison at Skardu Fort in Baltistan under Lt. Col. Shamsher Jung Thapa, besieged by Pakistani forces. A large number of Hindu and Sikh refugees had taken shelter in the fort. During winter we had not been able to reinforce this post. With Pakistan also agreeing to suspend offensive operations we were hopeful that the Skardu Fort would be able to hold out. However, supplies were rapidly dwindling and we could not carry out airdrops. Our transport planes did not have the capability to carry out airdrops at that height. Thapa had to surrender. Pakistani forces now occupied the fort. We intercepted a wireless message from the Pakistani commander at Skardu to his higher headquarters: “All Hindus Sikhs killed and women raped.” During the 1971 war, Pakistani forces massacred some one million Bangladeshis. In February 2000, Ilyas Kashmiri captured Sepoy Talaker of 17 Maratha Light Infantry, beheaded him and presented his head as a war trophy to former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. He got a reward of `1 lakh. Photos of this grisly act were published in newspapers in Lahore. While we were hosting Pakistan foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, two soldiers of 20 Kumaon Regiment captured in Kupwara were beheaded as reported by an Indian news magazine.
I do not for a moment suggest that we stoop to the level of Pakistan and in retaliation carry out such barbaric acts. I only want our peaceniks with bleeding hearts burning candles at Wagah and our human rights activists to take note of these incidents. The latter are very vocal in condemning the so-called human rights violations by our security forces but remain totally silent on violations by Pakistan forces or Pakistan-sponsored terrorists. India has a proud record of treating Pakistani prisoners in a humane and civilised manner. I was in charge of looking after 92,000 Pakistani PoWs after the 1971 war. We went much beyond the provisions of the Geneva Convention in our treatment of them. We tried sending them back to Pakistan as ambassadors of durable peace in the subcontinent. We organised religious lectures by Islamic clerics, mushairas, film shows, and “Bara Khana” on Id. I attended the latter myself. Besides, cricket matches between our officers and Pakistan prisoners were also organised. A team of American journalists visited the PoW camp in Roorkee. They were allowed to interview any individual in-camera they liked. I personally knew some of the pre-Independence senior officers who were now prisoners with us. Lt. Gen. Niazi, the Chief of the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan, and I had served together as captains in Indonesia in 1945. We revived our old association and would share a drink when I visited the camp where he was held. The Los Angeles Times reported that never in history had prisoners of war been treated better than in India. When the prisoners returned to Pakistan, their Cabinet secretary, Mohammad Nawaz, who had been my friend and also had been in the Army in Indonesia, wrote a gracious letter of appreciation to me. During the Kargil War, Pakistan maintained that freedom fighters and not the Pakistan Army had intruded across the Line of Control. They refused to receive the dead bodies of the so-called “freedom fighters” killed in the battle. These bodies were buried by us, with military honours, and Islamic religious practice was duly observed.
In our anxiety to reach out to Pakistan, we have been acting as a soft state pursuing a pusillanimous policy. We have been virtually offering the other cheek to Pakistan. Former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee went to Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore, which commemorates Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s call for Partition in March 1940, and conveyed a message of peace and brotherhood. Senior BJP leader L.K. Advani laid a wreath at Jinnah’s mausoleum in Karachi and lauded his secular opening address to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. Unlike other international dignitaries who pay homage at Gandhi Samadhi, no Pakistani leader has ever done so. The NDA government convened the Agra Summit, inviting Musharraf, the aggressor of Kargil. He was even allowed to freely rant at a press conference in Agra. We have been hosting Pakistani leaders who make inimical remarks against us on our soil, violating all canons of diplomacy. The most recent example is Mr Malik. Not only this, there have been occasions when we have bent over backwards in our policy of appeasement. Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh referred to Osama bin Laden as “Osamaji”. Our worthy home minister Sushilkumar Shinde prefixed “Shri” to Hafiz Mohammed Saeed’s name in Parliament two or three times.
We should by all means continue with our efforts to build bridges with Pakistan but this should be done in a more realistic manner without bending over backwards and acting like a soft state. This only whets Pakistan’s appetite to do us down. We have been repeatedly doing so from Havana to Sharm el-Sheikh, and now while hosting Pakistan delegations.

The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as Governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir

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