Shillong, May 24 (Calcutta Tube) Former Indian Army chief Gen. Ved Prakash Malik Monday cautioned India against trusting Pakistan, even if talks are on, pointing to the 1999 Kargil war with Pakistan that erupted soon after then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajapyee took a peace bus to Lahore.
Talking to reporters here, he also advocated training the paramilitary and the state police forces to tackle the Maoists rather than involving the army in the process.
‘You cannot trust Pakistani establishment even though political negotiations are on. Let the politicians do what they are doing, but army and intelligence should be vigilant,’ Malik, who is on a visit here, maintained.
‘Our security forces must be on the highest alert,’ Malik, who was army chief during the Kargil war, added.
Speaking about that conflict, he said: ‘Pakistan till the end was denying that its regular army was holding Indian posts (in the Drass-Kargil-Batalik sector), saying they were occupied by the mujahideen. The occupation, it was later learnt, took place when Vajpayee was on a visit to Lahore to strengthen bilateral ties.’
India did evict the Pakistani Army from Kargil but also suffered heavy casualties.
During his visit, Malik also visited the residence of Kargil hero Captain Keishing Clifford Nongrum, who was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, the second highest award for gallantry during war.
‘We have learnt good lessons from the Kargil war and one big lesson is that you can’t fight a war if you are not prepared,’ he added.
Asked about the possibility of a Kargil-like situation again developing, Malik said: ‘Trusting Pakistan totally would be ill-advised. When incidents like the (26/11) Mumbai attack happen and Pakistan’s panache to fund terrorists being well known and established, how can India trust Pakistan?’
‘I don’t want to sound entirely pessimistic, but hopefully, one day there would be adequate trust in the India-Pakistan relationship,’ he added.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday stated unambiguously that ‘trust deficit’ continued to be the biggest problem with Pakistan.
‘Trust deficit is the biggest problem. Unless we tackle that, we can’t make progress. It has been my effort to reduce the gap,’ the prime minister, who last met his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani three weeks ago in his continuing effort to improve ties, admitted at a National Press Conference in New Delhi to mark the first year of the second tenure of his United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
On tackling the Maoists, Malik said: ‘There is no coordination between the centre and the states. The police forces have not been trained to take on the Maoists and the government should make them more effective.’
As of now, he said there is no proper infrastructure by way of training and weaponry or proper man-management to tackle the Maoists.
‘You isolate them (Maoists) and then strike at them with force and side by side, take care of developing those areas (which they controlled),’ Malik said.
‘The primary role of the army is not to tackle internal security, and the army should only be used as the last resort if the other tactics fail,’ he stated.
On the insurgency in the northeastern states, Malik admitted that the region was alienated from mainstream India.
‘There has been a weakness on the part of India in integrating the northeast with the rest of the country. The development of the northeast was thought of by the authorities much later,’ he maintained.
He also favoured the continuance of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, whose repeal has been demanded by several rights groups.
‘Though there have been aberrations, they have not been deliberate… such things are not taught organizationally. But this is what happens if the army is used for long to combat internal conflicts,’ Malik pointed out.