South Asia Citizens Web / South Asians Against Nukes
June 1, 1999
 Row over Defence briefing for BJP
 Why should I celebrate 'Youm-e-Takbeer'?
 The Enhanced Dangers of a Clash Over Kashmir
 Pakistan and Its Army Collide Over Kashmir
[From: The Hindu, June 1, 1999]
Row over Defence briefing for BJP
By Our Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI, MAY 31. A special briefing on the Kargil situation organised by
the BJP for its national executive committee members here this morning has
become a hot political controversy.
The Opposition parties say the BJP has set ``harmful precedents'' by
getting ``serving defence officers'' to brief its national executive
committee members. They said it was ``wholly inappropriate'' and that it
would undermine the ``political neutrality'' of the armed services
``established over long years.''
Apparently, many senior members of the BJP had wanted a special and
separate briefing for the party although only two days ago the Prime
Minister had called an all-party meeting on the subject. The BJP requested
the Defence Minister, Mr. George Fernandes and he agreed. The BJP then
called an emergency meeting of its national executive where Mr. Fernandes
and two senior officers, Lt. General N.C.Vij, Director General of Military
Operations, and Air Marshal S.K.Malik, Assistant Additional Chief of Air
Staff, briefed the party.
The BJP however said the ``other parties are also free to make requests to
the Defence Minister.'' Senior party leaders had no credible response when
asked why the BJP wanted a separate meeting just two days after the Prime
Minister had called an all- party meeting for this very purpose and whether
by doing so it was politicising a delicate matter. The BJP did not think it
was improper or inappropriate to get serving defence officers to a party
forum for a briefing. Nor was it a violation of service rules, they
thought. ``They had come as part of the team of the Defence Minister,''
party general secretary, Mr. Narendra Modi said.
However, Mr. Natwar Singh, Congress leader and former External Affairs
Minister, said it was ``wholly inappropriate for serving defence officers
to brief a political party at its forum.'' Other senior leaders of the
Congress said it would have been better for the Government to organise a
proper briefing for the Cabinet since ``conflicting statements were coming
from the Government.''
The CPI(M) Politburo deplored the Defence briefing to the BJP national
executive and pointed out that at a time when the entire country,
irrespective of political affiliations, were seriously concerned about the
Kargil situation, and were ready to extend their full support and
cooperation, such partisan actions by the BJP were ``unwarranted and will
set harmful precedents.''
The CPI(M) noted that the Indian armed forces enjoyed high respect which
had been established ``over years of political neutrality and
non-partisanship.'' This ``should not be undermined by asking officers to
attend the meetings of any political party, even if it is part of the
[From: Info Times: http://www.informationtimes.com
Pakistan Journal: http://www.egroups.com/group/pakistanjournal]
Why should I celebrate Youm-e-Takbeer? asks Farah Khan
LAHORE, Pakistan - May 28-June 3, 1999 (The Friday Times): By branding the
first anniversary of the nuclear tests as "Youm-e-Takbeer", Nawaz Sharif has
committed a great blasphemy. By attaching the word "takbeer" (ie "God is
great") to his decision to go nuclear last year, he is in effect insinuating
that his greatness via the nuclear blasts is comparable to that of God! This
is the limit. First he tried to grab absolute power in the name of religion
through the 15th amendment. Now he is trying to turn his dastardly act of
accelerating the production of nuclear weapons in an impoverished country
into an act of God.
How much longer are we going to tolerate Nawaz Sharif's monopoly on our
religion? His regime seems to operate by the rule of "when in doubt, use
religion". Just because the number of illiterates in this country outnumbers
the literates, Nawaz Sharif does not have carte blanche to pull the wool
over our eyes. The masses may be poor and ignorant but this much they know
is true: the nuclear tests may have been one step forward (according to the
government) but the economic situation that followed has been two steps
The past couple of weeks have seen a virtual blitz of ads on TV reminding
viewers of the "great" plans afoot to celebrate the day with "national
pride" and fervour. Looks like the entire cabinet has nothing better to do
than decide whether to have Abrar-ul-Haq sing his showstopper "Billo" on the
celebration programme or to get the more politically correct though rancid
Junaid Jamshed to sing a nationalistic ditty instead. What about more
immediate concerns like providing jobs to employees being laid off by the
hundreds thanks to the government's blind dash towards privatization.
Why should we celebrate our national "bum" [Bomb] day? Do we have any more
over our lives as a result of the nuclear tests of May 28 of last year?
Absolutely not and what's more, I am convinced that many of us have seen a
lot more slipping out of our reach - the hope of pursuing studies abroad,
the dream of buying a new car and maybe even owning one's own home. How many
more dreams will we be forced to give up on?
Nawaz Sharif has looted this country of its most precious possession. He has
deprived a 100 crore Pakistanis of their dream of pursuing a tangible future
in their motherland. He has prompted the exodus of scores of youth and
countless families to strange lands abroad. And he has done all this by
turning the destiny of this nation into the radioactive rubble of Chaghai.
What has this country gained by its nuclear tests? Our economic security is
hanging by the thinnest of threads and yet we are told to swallow our tears
of grief and bear it all for the sake of "national security". Why doesn't
national security include the safeguarding of the interests of the citizens
as its foremost consideration? Why is it only spoken of in military terms?
I am outraged at having my religion, especially its soul-stirring cry of
"takbeer", being hijacked to quench Nawaz Sharif's hunger for power. At
least the Indians branded theirs "Technology Day", the insipid sounding
epitaph cunningly used to neutralise the effect of any international
criticism. Needless to say, by branding ours "Youm-e-Takbeer", Nawaz Sharif
has once again ensured that come May 28 the image of Pakistan, co-mingling
with that of religious extremism, is flashed on TV screens all over the
(From: International Herald Tribune
Paris, Saturday, May 29, 1999)
The Enhanced Dangers of a Clash Over Kashmir
By Amin Saikal
CANBERRA - India and Pakistan are once again at a flashpoint over the
disputed territory of Kashmir. Although the two South Asian neighbors have
fought two wars before over Kashmir, there is a major difference this time:
both now have nuclear weapons.
An escalation of the conflict obviously has the potential for a nuclear
clash. Yet this very factor may constrain them from allowing the present
fighting to develop into a major war.
But two recent developments add dangerous tinder to the present round of
hostilities. The first is Pakistan's attempt to infiltrate Islamic
activists into Indian-controlled Kashmir as part of a drive by the Prime
Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan to 're-Islamize' Pakistan and divert
attention from a grim domestic situation.
Since its nuclear tests, in response to those of India, a year ago,
economic hardship and social and political disarray have increased
dramatically in Pakistan.
At the same time, Islamabad's continued support for the ultra-orthodox
Islamic Taleban militia in Afghanistan has backfired badly. It has isolated
Pakistan in the region, worsened its relations with the United States, and
radicalized the Pakistani supporters of the Taleban. They are now demanding
the establishment of a Taleban-type order in Pakistan.
Mr. Sharif has pandered to this demand and moved to promote theocratic
power. He has also cracked down on opposition and media critics. As a
result, the need to stir up the Kashmir issue, for both ideological and
diversionary purposes, has become more pressing. Hence Pakistan's support
for six hundred Islamic fighters, including many Taleban supporters, to
infiltrate Indian-held Kashmir in the last few weeks.
The second alarming development is in India. There, the caretaker
government, dominated by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata
Party, the BJP, under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, faces a tough
election in September. BJP leaders have always been keen to raise their
Hindu nationalist credentials by resorting to stirring actions.
A year ago, shortly after coming to power, they carried out a series of
nuclear weapons tests, prompting Pakistan to do likewise and thus sparking
a nuclear arms race in the region.
The BJP government undoubtedly sees some electoral benefit in the Kashmir
conflict. The more it appears to oppose the rise of Islamic radicalism in
South Asia, the greater its chances of improving its appeal among majority
Hindu voters in the coming election.
Despite such domestic political factors that tend to intensify the Kashmir
fighting, neither side has an interest in seeing it grow into all-out
military confrontation. The Indian and Pakistani governments are well aware
of the risk of a nuclear confrontation and its potentially horrific
consequences for both countries.
Yet the danger with the conflict over Kashmir - which is a highly emotive
and nationalistic issue for both sides - is that it could spiral into a
wider war that would be difficult to limit.
(The writer is a political scientist and South Asia specialist at the
Australian National University in Canberra. He contributed this comment to
the International Herald Tribune.)
[From: International Herald Tribune, Paris, Monday, May 31, 1999]
Pakistan and Its Army Collide Over Kashmir
By Pamela Constable Washington Post Service
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - While making proper noises about the need for
restraint and dialogue, Pakistani officials can hardly contain their glee
over India and Pakistan coming the closest in nearly two decades to
clashing militarily over the disputed territory of Kashmir.
In the Pakistanis' triumphal assessment of last week's developments, the
renewed conflict has embarrassed their larger and more powerful neighbor
into overreacting against a handful of ''freedom fighters'' inside Indian
Kashmir. It has also exposed India as a territorial aggressor after two of
its military jets were shot down several kilometers inside Pakistani
Kashmir and focused world attention on an issue for which Pakistan has long
demanded international mediation.
''The issue of Kashmir is now on the front burner,'' Mushahid Hussain,
Pakistan's minister of information, said Saturday. ''The events of the last
week clearly demonstrate that the long-festering, long-standing dispute
cannot be brushed aside. Kashmir is the core issue on which the future
peace and stability of South Asia rests.''
But other observers, both in Islamabad and New Delhi, are drawing
different lessons from the flare-up. Some view it as a case of
muscle-flexing by Pakistan's powerful and independent armed forces, which
once dominated the country but may now fear becoming marginalized in a
While Pakistan's civilian leaders have been reaching out diplomatically to
India, an effort capped by the historic meeting of both prime ministers in
Lahore, Pakistan, three months ago, some experts say Pakistan's armed
forces have a vested interest in keeping alive the Kashmir conflict. The
Himalayan region has brought India and Pakistan to war twice and is still
heavily militarized on both sides of the 720-kilometer (450-mile) Line of
''Lahore or no Lahore, national security is still the purview of the
Pakistani armed forces,'' said Major General Ashok Krishna, director of the
Institute of Peace and Conflict in New Delhi. ''The army doesn't want to
relinquish its position in society, and its aim is to dismember India. It
may keep the civilian authorities informed, but it does not want any
Some Indian analysts say diplomatic initiatives are unlikely to bear much
fruit as long as the Pakistani military continues to support the cause of
Kashmiri insurgents. Several hundred of them are now dug into mountaintop
positions. Indian ground troops and air strikes have failed to oust them
since May 6.
''This is a clear case of aggression and there is only one solution: the
intruders must leave,'' said K. Subrahmanyam, a defense expert in New
Delhi. ''The government has no choice but to move forward diplomatically,
but it will be meaningless as long as the army keeps up such tactics. They
are threatening civilian authority in both countries.''
Pakistan has repeatedly denied Indian charges of abetting the insurgents,
although officials here say they provide moral and political support to a
''popular, indigenous'' movement by Kashmiris who seek self-determination
and freedom from Indian rule. The Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir is
occupied by several hundred thousand troops.
Now, authorities in Islamabad charge that India is the aggressor in the
current flare-up. They say it is using the insurgency as a pretext for
sending thousands more troops into the region and launching air strikes,
for which the true purpose is to push Pakistani forces away from the border
area, secure territorial advantage and possibly attempt to occupy the
strategic Siachen Glacier.
But some observers here, in an argument that mirrors that of their
counterparts in New Delhi, wonder whether civilian or military authorities
are calling the shots on India's Kashmir policy. They note that a caretaker
government is running the country and awaiting elections and that
hard-liners in the defense and policy establishment have been pressing
civilian leaders to teach Pakistan a lesson.
''A weak Indian government is caving into the hawks in the military,''
Shafqat Mahmood, a liberal Pakistani senator, wrote last week. The armed
forces ''initiated and instigated'' the air strikes because they were
humiliated and frustrated by the insurgent infiltration from Pakistan, he
argued, and ''the caretaker Vajpayee government just did not have the guts
to stand up and say no to the use of the air force in a volatile area.''
Other experts here expressed concerns that as India's elections approach
in September, if continued air strikes fail to drive out the insurgents,
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee may come under even more pressure to
look tough and ''settle scores'' with Pakistan, thus raising the chances
that the conflict could spiral out of control.
Although both countries' successful nuclear tests will probably act as a
deterrent to full-fledged war, they suggested, they also have dramatically
altered the region's military landscape in ways neither country has yet
fully digested and have added an uncertain new dimension to any renewed
hostilities, such as the current crisis over Kashmir.
''In Kashmir, they are playing a game of brinkmanship to see how far the
other side can tolerate a low-intensity conflict,'' said Rifaat Hussain, a
political scientist in Islamabad.''It's a dangerous game.''
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