This could be mischievous but you decide: It could be persuasively argued that Atal Bihari Vajpayee did us a singular disfavour, akin to Nehru taking the Kashmir issue to the UN, by not pushing beyond the LoC during the Kargil conflict when there were sound political and strategic reasons to do so. Don’t we have resolutions in our Parliament that promise that we will wrest each and every inch of our territory Pakistan now controls? We were in the thick of pushing the Pakistanis back militarily. Our Air Force and hurriedly procured Bofors guns were pounding our own territory. The world opinion was with us. It was a defining moment. Months after Kargil, President Clinton enunciated to Pakistan the need to respect the LoC, indicating Americans were for maintaining status quo. There were no doubts in anyone’s mind that Pakistan has a pronounced strategic taste for military and military-aided adventurism amounting to terrorism as state policy. Pakistan allows terror camps near the LoC and helps push infiltrators into our country by giving covering fire and other such specialised and palpable assistance. The world is cognisant of Pakistan’s ingrained ways.
The US, which is prosecuting a global war on terrorism, is playing merry hell all over Pakistan with its drones which kill terrorists. It does so without having to deploy personnel on Pakistani soil which reduces the chances of a political blowback by keeping US soldiers’ body count at practically zero. President Obama, the winner of the Nobel Peace prize, is so dependent on killer drones as the mainstay of his counter-terrorism policy that the US is thought to maintain up to 19,000 drones which are regularly deployed to spy on or kill terrorists in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iran and Somalia, countries which it is not at war with officially. More than 3,000 terrorists have been killed by US drones since they were first deployed a decade ago by Obama’s predecessor.
And despite the swirling controversies that the collateral deaths of civilians during the drone strikes amount to war crimes, the US has consistently held that what it is doing is lawful. There are only two exceptions to the drone strikes: according to published reports, “the drones would not target nuclear facilities and mountain camps where Kashmiri militants were being trained for attacks against India”.
If indeed the US and India are on the same page on terrorism, India needs to, through its bilateral counter terrorism mechanism with the US and with other nations, aggressively bring focus on the terror camps that continue to operate with impunity along LoC. Simultaneously, India should hold out a threat that if infiltration continues from those camps, drones will be deployed to target terrorists being trained there for deployment in India. Who would object once evidence has been persuasively shared? We did it once when we released tapes of General Musharraf’s conversations with his generals. After all, those terrorist camps are in territory that we legitimately claim as ours. Those camps train terrorists who will one day attack us if they are not stopped. Pakistan is not stopping them. Neither is the US. Why can’t we, then? If only Vajpayee had ordered a limited incursion into the Pakistani side of LoC and recalled our troops shortly afterwards and made the point to Pakistanis that we would be willing to do so again if the need arose, it would have stood us in good stead.