A decade ago, when Indian forces launched a counteroffensive against Pakistani infiltrators around Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir, India was fuming at its western neighbour. Eight months have passed since Pakistani militants perpetrated an assault in Mumbai, and India is still fuming. And it still remains unable to decide the terms on which it interacts with Pakistan.
By the time the army declared victory in Kargil on 26 July 1999—now celebrated as Vijay Diwas (Victory Day)—India was infused with new patriotism and armed with a strong hand in diplomacy. But all this seemed to diffuse over the following months and years; India was never able to hold Pakistan accountable. Sound familiar?
Kargil may have been a military victory for us, but it wasn’t converted into a diplomatic one. In a TV interview this weekend, former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf went as far as to call Kargil a success—for Pakistan. He said: “How did we start discussing the Kashmir dispute? How was it that the Indians came, that we will discuss Kashmir and there must be a negotiated settlement? Before this, there was no such thing at all. Kashmir couldn’t be spoken (of).”
Musharraf also admits that the regular Pakistani army was involved in Kargil: But that doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone in India. What is surprising, though, is the clarity with which Musharraf—and, it’s safe to say, the entire military-jihadi complex in Pakistan—views bilateral relations unfolding since Kargil. “I think the Indian leadership then perceived that Pakistan is beyond coercion,” he said, forcing New Delhi to start dialogue with Islamabad. The same US pressure that led to Pakistan’s tactical defeat in Kargil actually proved to be Pakistan’s strategic victory by later bringing India to the negotiating table.
That cycle in India’s history may just be repeating itself all over again. What should have been a decisive diplomatic victory for India after 26/11 has renewed pressure from the US—particularly the Obama White House—on Kashmir. And if our government is now claiming that bilateral agreements are mere diplomatic papers without much strategic import, as it did last week regarding the accord signed with Pakistan in Egypt, then it’s Pakistan that should have been celebrating vijay diwas this weekend.
Does India’s military victory in Kargil mean anything? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org