Monday, July 27, 2009

Has anything changed since Kargil?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

The nation observed the 10th Anniversary of the victory at Kargil yesterday. For one day the people and media drove their attention from the politicians, the never ending recession and reality shows to the men in uniform. It is just another fact that on all other days we hardly bother to think about the soldiers sitting in the icy heights of Siachen, the jungles of North East or the deserts of Rajasthan. For many of us soldiers are nothing but professionals who are being paid to their job.

The Government and bureaucracy on its part has always glorified the Kargil war to hide the loopholes that led to the conflict. Former Pakistani President Gen Musharraf who had choreographed the entire intrusion has said that Kargil was success for Pakistan as India started taking Kashmir seriously thereafter. Although Indian establishment will refuse to accept this argument there is surely some half-truth in his story.

Kargil caught us unaware but the bravery and camaraderie of our soldiers and young officers saved the day for us 10 years back. It was a failure on the part of the top brass of the armed forces and intelligence. Senior officers sitting in the forward bases were found to be medically unfit. The soldiers lacked proper clothing, arms and ammunition in the initial stages of the war. The Air Forces was called in late as many Army commanders felt it was against their honour to seek help in what they thought was just another intrusion.

The government did not have enough coffins to send the bodies to the martyrs to their homes. An US firm provided with the coffins not before it had paid bribe to Indian officials to get the deal. The soldiers did not have snow boots and in many case climbed the icy peaks bare foot when their leather boots turned slippery. They did not have night vision binoculars to deal with the enemy at night. Most of the advanced patrols did not even have artillery cover to save their lives.

The defence purchase that the government makes are less need based and more greed based on part of the middle man. India is buying a $2 billion dollar aircraft carrier where as we have lost more soldiers in counter insurgency operations and guerilla warfare than in the four major battles we have fought since independence. Aren't bulletproof jackets and better weapon more necessary than having a aircraft carrier which may never see action in its service life.

10 years on we should have learnt more lessons from the Kargil war considering the hostile neighbourhood that surrounds us. But things aren't any different now and if there is a conflict the men in uniform will be sent not to win a war but to die. Do we honour our soldiers? Have we done enough to save valuable lives in the event of a conflict? The answer of both these questions are not just sad but are a national shame.


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