Millennium Post

Dear Omar, Salman: it’s wrong to dismiss Keran as just a ‘skirmish’

Just 285 km from Kargil, Kupwara was in news over the last two weeks amid a host of other headline-worthy items – Lalu Prasad’s conviction, the battle over and now against Telangana, Rahul Gandhi’s intervention to do away with the ordinance on criminalization of politics, former army chief VK Singh’s claims that the army pays certain Jammu and Kashmir ministers for certain peacetime work, among others.

But Keran sector still managed to hold its place primarily for the gravity of the issue involved: it was one of the Indian army’s biggest offensive since the 1999 Kargil war as it foiled an infiltration bid by Pakistan-backed militants along the Line of Control (LoC).

Significantly, the media got the flak from both sides of the border for its continued coverage – from Pakistan’s high commissioner to New Delhi Salman Bashir, who called the report on infiltration ‘baseless’ as well as from J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah, who blamed the media for hyping the Keran encounter. 

‘In the last few days, the Indian media has been focusing on the Keran sector. There are concerns and we have concerns. Let us sit together and address them; that is the civilised way of dealing with this, instead of whipping up frenzy and creating hysteria. It does no good to anybody,’ Basir said while interacting with media in Hyderabad.

Teeing off the 17th All-India Police Golf Tournament in Srinagar on Wednesday, Abdullah said, ‘It is you (media) who gave it the hype. Did you hear the army saying that it was a second Kargil (war)? Did you hear the civil administration or government of India saying it was a second Kargil? The name of second Kargil was given by you people (media) – you create the hype and how can you blame the Army for that?’

To put it in context, though, this was an ‘operation’ that lasted 15 days – one of the longest battles by the Indian army against militants on the LoC since 1999. Army chief, Gen Bikram Singh, blamed Pakistan for the latest round of infiltration – and it’s not every day that the Indian army chief is blaming the neighbour in clear, unambiguous terms. ‘It is impossible for terrorists to do any activity along the LoC without the knowledge of the Pakistani Army,’ he told television channels.

‘The cover fire given to terrorists to allow them to infiltrate is given from the posts.’ It might, thus, be slightly rash to call the operation only a ‘skirmish’ – after all, the army does not go all guns blazing at operations to flush out militants every other day, and the media does not splash news of ‘skirmish’ along the LoC for days on end even with such hot news going around.

Significantly, Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister of Pakistan on both occasions, and both Kargil and Omar Abdullah’s much-derided ‘second Kargil’ took place soon after he had met his Indian counterpart. The Kargil battle began after then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took his ‘bus diplomacy’ to Lahore to shake hands with Sharif, though the Pakistan PM till date denies knowledge of the buildup along the LoC in the sector.

It was a similar cruel joke for New Delhi this time as well. The guns started going off in the Keran sector even as Manmohan Singh and Sharif discussed bilateral relationship and diplomacy on the sidelines of the UN general assembly.

Over the last 66 years, India has chased away many infiltrations along the border. Several rounds of talks at numerous venues have proved futile after a point. India surely can do with an accountable leader on the other side of the border who can not only promise but also deliver.
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