Indian fundamentalist regime plans to attack Pakistan
Nasim Zehra ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - May 28, 1999 (Free Press Syndicate): Either the Indian calculation that violating Pakistani airspace will evoke no Pakistani response has been proven wrong or the Indian Government has opted to go to war with Pakistan. Whatever the case may be the shooting down of two Indian fighter jets by Pakistan, after the planes flew 18 kilometers into Pakistani territory does pull Indo-Pak relations into nearly a war zone. Unless international pressure combines with internal calls for restraint by India's Opposition politicians, India's BJP Caretaker Government may choose war over restraint. War with Pakistan over Kashmir, the BJP may unwisely calculate, could bring it an election victory in October.

As usual, the Pakistani warnings addressed to the international community, including the UN, regarding the heavy Indian military build-up in the Indian-Held Kashmir were ignored. Similarly, the Indians too, ignoring Pakistani advice to not further escalate military tensions along the Line of Control (LoC), launched air raids into the Indian-Held Valley for the second consecutive day. Having entered 18 kilometres into Pakistani territory on May 27 and having dropped at least 10 bombs into Azad Kashmir on May 26, two Indian MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighter planes were shot down. One pilot has been captured while the other was killed. Pakistani action taken under Article 5 of the UN Charter is completely in line with internationally recognized principles of self-defense.

Already on May 19 a senior Pakistan military official had warned that "any violation of LoC by the Indian Army or Air Force will mean a violation against Pakistan and that will be taken very, very seriously." He reiterated that it "would produce serious consequences." Interestingly, the Army Brigadier categorically stated that he did not believe that this build-up could be used by India against the Kashmiri freedom fighters or to go to war against Pakistan. Yet the Indians made the unprecedented move of combining air power with ground forces to attack Kashmiri freedom forces inside Indian-Occupied Kashmir. Menacing Indian attacks across the LoC into Pakistani territory does not rule out deliberate Indian provocation to engage Pakistan in direct military confrontation.

This current round of military activity which began early May along the LoC has occurred with a difference. It has not remained restricted to the usual cross-border shelling and firing. Neither has it produced only the handful of civilian, Kashmiri freedom fighters and military dead bodies that are easily forgotten even after some mourning. Instead, heavy Indian weaponry has been used in the battle between the Pakistani and Indian armies and the Indian Army and the Kashmiri freedom forces. The Indian Army is now engaged in a flared-up combat situation on two fronts.

Indian military build-up, including major troop concentration, airforce fighter aircraft and gunship helicopters at Srinagar, has been justified by the Indian authorities who according to a local May 14 Srinagar paper claim that "Pakistani troops" captured a village in Indian-Held Kashmir,160 kilometers southwest of Srinagar. Some Indian officials were quoted as saying that it were "militants" who were opening fire from "remote areas" in the mountains along the LoC. These were "militants" some officials claimed who the Indians sighted crossing over from the Pakistani side of the LoC. Likewise, Indian defense authorities have been complaining of "heavy shelling from Pakistan." According to AFP, local Valley newspapers quoting Indian defense officials said that "this shelling was meant to provide cover" for more than 300 'foreign separatists infiltrators'. According to the Indian officials, they have responded by launching a "massive retaliatory attack" on Pakistani positions along the LoC.

Media reports from Indian-based sources have also suggested that Kargil, 240 kilometers southwest of Srinagar has turned into a near war zone. Schools have been closed down and about 90 percent population of Kargil town have fled to safer places. In the Kargil sector the military buildup has been the heaviest. According to an AFP report filed from Srinagar, Indians claim that to deal with "400 Mujahideen, including Afghan Taliban fighters who had allegedly sneaked in under cover of Pakistani artillery fire since May 9," India has had "to move thousands of troops to dislodge the fighters."Although there was official blackout on Indian casualties, media reports from New Delhi have maintained that "dozens of soldiers are dead."

Pakistan meanwhile has blamed the flare-up on "unprovoked " shelling by Indian troops. Pakistani officials maintain that border towns on the Pakistani side including Leijot have been "pounded" by Indian shelling for the last one week injuring about eight civilians. Pakistan has rejected the Indian claim that its soldiers or nationals have captured territory in the Indian-Occupied Kashmir.

The battle of words between the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Offices over the so-called "infiltrators" issue has been hard and harsh. On May 20, the Indian Foreign Office statement claimed that Pakistan had pushed a "large number of armed intruders" into Occupied Kashmir. It asked Pakistan to "desist from violating the international boundary and the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir."

On May 21, Pakistan's Foreign Office retaliated by stating that "the bogey of infiltrators would bode ill for the efforts to improve the atmosphere since February this year." The Pakistani spokesman however added that "on our part we remain committed to the dialogue process." The following day Pakistan's High Commissioner to India Ashraf Jehangir Qazi was quoted by AFP on May 22 while telling Indian newsmen that "our perceptions of what has happened in Kargil area and across the LoC are different from yours."

The allegations and the counter allegations come as no surprise involving an issue on which the Pakistani and Indian positions remain diametrically opposed. This is the issue, the issue of Kashmir which superimposes itself on all other peace efforts, indigenous or imported, that are aimed at improving the diplomatic and economic relations between the two nuclear armed neighbors.

However, in the Indian side of the story there are many holes. For one as the Indian media itself is wondering how did hundreds of so-called "infiltrators" enter and plant themselves in Indian-Held Kashmir, one of the most heavily militarized area in the world? On the number of "infiltrators" too there has been confusion within the Indian establishment. The Indian authorities began with 150 and are now referring to "400 infiltrators".

Similarly, the Indian statements regarding the guerilla activity in Kargil began by referring to them as "militant", then talked of "infiltrators", then Afghan Taliban and finally "Pakistan Army regulars." Indians know that branding Kashmiri freedom fighters as Taliban will win them sympathy and even support in Western and regional capitals as well as in the media. However, whatever their labels, Indians have no evidence to support their allegations. In fact, Indians have consistently turned down the Pakistan request that UNMOGIP place neutral observers along the LoC to monitor movement along the LoC.

Finally, it is difficult to accept the Indian position that its major military buildup, including thousands of soldiers in addition to the 600,000 that continue to permanently occupy Kashmir and the heavy Air Force presence, was meant only to "flush out" 400 "infiltrators." This buildup of Indian armed forces appears more like a preparation of war with Pakistan.This Indian war plan is not out of step with what Indian Army Chief and the Indian Interior Minister L.K. Advani said before and after the Indian nuclear tests. That the possibility of a conventional war with Pakistan cannot be ruled out and that for India the issue is of reclaiming Azad Kashmir. Pakistan meanwhile may not want war but it will not shy away from taking up arms in self-defense, as already demonstrated by its shooting down of the two Indian fighter planes.