A Concise History of Kashmir. Part III


1999 - The Kargil War

In 1998, the  NDA (National Democratic Alliance) came to power for the first time in Indian history in a coalition government led by the Hindu-fundamentalist party BJP . Atal Behari Vajpayee assumed office as prime minister. Pakistan and India declared themselves nuclear states after conducting a series of controversial nuclear tests. Referencing NATO’s Cold War doctrine, Pakistan declared that “it may, under certain circumstances, use nuclear weapons first to neutralize India’s conventional superiority” But, on the contrary, India pledged that in no circumstances that it will use nuclear weapon first. In 1999, Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee, traveled to Lahore, Pakistan for peace talks with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with great hope for a new beginning. Not surprisingly, within short 5 months, India was betrayed again, as always happened before.

Kargil belongs to the district of Ladakh, a sparsely-populated isolated valley separated by some of the world's highest mountains. There lives a group of people with diverse linguistic, ethnic, and religious characteristics.

The Kargil conflict was initiated by a few Pakistani army officers known as the “Gang of four “, namely Pakistan army chief P. Musharraf, Chief of General Staff (Aziz) General Mahmood, and Brigadier Jabed hasan. They came up with a plan to invade territories in and around Kargil in retaliation for what the Indian Army achieved in Siachen .The truth is that Siachen conflict was also initiated by the Pakistani Army, just like they did previously in 1971, 1965, and in 1946. General Musharaff assumed that this would be a genius plan unlike all the other attempts which failed terribly.

The Pakistani objectives of this operation were the following: 

  • To sever or disrupt the link (logistics and supplies) between Kashmir and Ladakh so that Indian forces would withdraw from Siachen 
  • Ask India to exchange Siachen for Kargil
  • Internationalize the Kashmir dispute by playing the victim card.
  • To take a proactive role and boost morale of the decade-long rebellion in Kashmir.

The Pakistani Army sent its troops dressed and disguised in Mujahideen outfit into the Drass sector in Kashmir. A group of villagers walked into the Indian army camp and complained about a group of strangers causing trouble for the villagers by constantly asking for food and other necessities, using everything in their homes, and even abusing them. The army sent a five member team to the Drass sector to investigate the matter, but they never returned Later, the army received the dead bodies of the five member team in grossly mutilated and amputated form. This led to the outbreak of the Kargil War.

In January 1999, more than 200 specially trained commando forces were dispatched to Kargil by the Pakistani Army, later in March, more troops arrived in the same sector (note that all Pakistani troops appeared in Mujahideen disguises) . To their surprise, all the peaks were seized with no presence of Indian forces, hence they decided to encroach upon other areas, which included 140 more peaks. The Indian Army and administration was totally unaware of this. The infiltration was codenamed "Operation Badr". In severe winters, it is a common practice for both Pakistan and India to abandon some foreword posts, which sometimes cause infiltrations. This is due to the harsh, inhospitable cold weather in winter. On May 2nd, Captain Saurabh Kalia was tipped off by a shepherd that led to the exposure of an infiltration. Indian forces initially assumed that these were Jihadis and claimed that they would be evicted in couple of days. But upon further investigation into the matter, the army found that the plan of attack was much larger in scale and that “Jihadis” had encroached up to 200 kilometers. A radio conversation in Pashtun was intercepted by Indian intelligence which revealed that these were indeed Pakistani soldiers and not Mujahideen. Musharaff was on a trip to China at the time. A phone conversation between Musharaff and Azziz (chief of general staff) was also tapped.

Operation Vijay was launched by the government of India by mobilizing 200,000 troops in two divisions, and some 20,000 paramilitary forces along with the air force. 30,000 troops alone were deployed in  the Kargil-Drass sector. Operation Safed Sagar was launched by the Indian air force and Pakistani ports (primarily the Karachi port) had their supply routes cut off by the Indian navy’s Operation Talwa. The navy began aggressively patrolling the Arabian Sea, threatening to cut off all trade and supplies to Pakistan with both the Western and Eastern fleets of the Indian Navy. Thus, India could exploit Pakistanis dependence on fuel and other commodities. (Later, Nawaz Sharif admitted that, in the case of a total escalation, Pakistan would have had only 6 days of fuel left). Pakistan initiated communication with the US, seeking an intervention. However, President Clinton refused and suggested to pull back all forces back to the control line according to the Washington Accord of July 4th, 1999. But the Jihadi groups in Pakistan refused to climb down from the peaks. The United Jihad Council (an umbrella for extremist groups) coerced Pakistani forces to remain on Indian territory and fight. Finally, the Indian Army launched its final assault in the last week of July by instantly clearing the Drass subsector and the battle was over by July 26th. This day has since been marked as “Kargil Vijay Diwas” (Kargil Victory Day). The line of control was established as a default as per the Shimla Accord of 1972.

And all operations by the navy, air force, and army were carried out without violating the sanctity of the control line

The Hurriyat (All Party Hurriyat Conference)

Hurriyat came into existence during the 1993 Kashmir Insurgency as an alliance of more than 26 political and religious organizations intending to struggle for “Kashmiri Independence.” According to Hurriyat, Jammu and Kashmir are a disputed province and the Indian administration is thus invalid. They adhere to the Pakistani claim of Kashmir being an “unfinished agenda “ of partition and agreed that all issues had to be settled in accordance with the “aspirations of the Kashmiri people.” Some critics claim that Hurriyat was a creation of the “Institute of Peace” , a Washington-based think tank under the leadership of Robert Oakley, a former diplomat to Pakistan. In 2011, the FBI revealed in a US court that the institute had close deals (payroll) with most separatist organizations in Kashmir, including possible links to Hurriyat. Syed Ali Shah Geelani has been criticized by the son of Sheikh Abdulla (Sheikh Mustafa Kamal) for working according to “diktats” given by ISI and often acting as “a double agent” on its “payroll.” The OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) issued Hurriyat an “observer” status and Pakistan has come up with open support for Hurriyat activities in Kashmir. Several Indian media have claimed that Geelani and his people are responsible for staging fake protests by paying unemployed youths. Several arrested stone0pelters have confessed that were paid around $7 to $10 a day (usually after Friday prayers in mosques) for hurling stones at police and the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force). The Pakistan-based LeT terrorists also participated in stone pelting. Sheikh Mustafa Kamal said "Geelani has tried to 'ignite and incite' people by 'hollow slogans and destructive emotionalism', whenever even a Pakistani clerk comes to India and summons this ex-lawmaker(Geelani), he rushes to Delhi to take orders about how to ensure that uncertainty prevails in the state”. However, the Indian government went too far in ignoring Hurriyat activities by participating in talks with them and by recognizing them as a serious “stake holder” in the Kashmir dispute. Hurriyat leaders enjoyed luxurious perks allotted by the Indian government such as flight travels, accommodation in high class hotels, etc., all the while accepting ISI and Middle Eastern funds on the other end. In 2016, the Modi government scrapped off all perks for Hurriyat leaders after discovering their financial inflow from the Middle East during the Kashmir Protest. However, there is potential that these could be real protests due to human rights violations (resulting in collateral damage).

In 2016, a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) was filed against Hurriyat in the Supreme Court which read: ”Declare the impugned release of funds from Consolidated Fund of India, without authority and valid permission for supporting separatist group for working against the country, as unconstitutional, illegal and amounting to a criminal breach of trust concerning section 409 of the IPC...," 

AFSPA – (Armed Forces Special Powers Act )

 The parliament of India grants special powers to the Indian Armed Forces in what each act terms "disturbed areas". The first such act passed on September 11th, 1958. Another act was passed in 1990 and applied to Jammu and Kashmir and has been in force ever since.

According to the act, the Constitution of India empowers state governments to declare a state of emergency due to one or more of the following:

  • Failure of the administration and the local police to tackle local issues.
  • When the return of (central) security forces leads to the return of miscreants/erosion of the "peace dividend". 
  • The scale of unrest or instability in the state is too large for local forces to handle.
  • In such cases, it is the prerogative of the state government to call for central help.

The officer in charge is vested with the following powers:

  • After giving such due warning, fire upon or use other kinds of force even if it causes the death of the person who is acting against law and order in the disturbed area for the maintenance of public order.
  • Destroy any arms dumps, hide-outs, prepared or fortified positions or shelter or training camps from which armed attacks are made by armed volunteers, armed gangs, or criminals wanted for any offense.
  • To arrest without a warrant anyone who has committed recognized offenses or is reasonably suspected of having done so. Force may be used for the arrest. 
  • To enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests, or to recover any person wrongfully restrained or any arms, ammunition or explosive substances for seizure. 
  • Stop and search any vehicle or vessel reasonably suspected to be carrying such person or weapons.
  • Any person arrested and taken into custody under this act shall be handed over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station with the least possible delay, together with a report on the circumstances of the arrest.
  • Army officers have legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, lawsuit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under this law. Nor is the government's judgment on why an area is found to be disturbed subject to judicial review.
  • Persons acting in good faith under this act and exercising the powers conferred by it are protected from any prosecution, lawsuit or other legal proceedings except with the sanction of the Central Government.

The implementation of the AFSPA has invited criticism from several international bodies. The constitutionality of AFSPA has been questioned within and outside of India, as it is not justified or in line with Article 4 of ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). A number of UN treaty bodies have pronounced it to be in violation of international law. The UN Commissioner on Human Rights called the law an "outdated and colonial-era law that breaches contemporary international human rights standards” and suggested to repeal it. On March 21st, 2012, the UN said that “it has no place in Indian democracy and thus need to be revoked.” The UN’s Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions said: ”During my visit to Kashmir, AFSPA was described to me as 'hated' and 'draconian'.