7 Blunders That Will Haunt INDIA

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    No 1: The Kashmir Mess

    Major General Mrinal Suman

    History is most unforgiving. As historical mistakes cannot be undone, they have complex cascadingeffect on a nation's future. Here are seven historical blunders that have changed the course of

    independent India's history and cast a dark shadow over its future. These costly mistakes willcontinue to haunt India for generations. They have been recounted here in a chronological order

    with a view to highlight the inadequacies of India's decision-making apparatus and the leadership's

    incompetence to act with vision.

    There can be no better example of shooting one's own foot than India's clumsy handling of the

    Kashmir issue. It is a saga of naivety, blinkered vision and inept leadership.

    Hari Singh was the reigning monarch of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947. He was

    vacillating when tribal marauders invaded Kashmir in October 1947, duly backed by the Pakistan

    army. Unable to counter them, Hari Singh appealed to India for assistance and agreed to accede to

    India. Indian forces blunted the invasion and re-conquered vast areas.

    First, India erred by not insisting on unequivocal accession of the state to the Dominion of India and

    granted special status to it through Article 380 of the Constitution. Secondly, when on the verge of

    evicting all invaders and recapturing the complete state, India halted operations on 1 January 1949

    and appealed to the Security Council. It is the only case in known history wherein a country, when

    on the threshold of complete victory, has voluntarily forsaken it in the misplaced hope of winning

    admiration of the world community. Thirdly and most shockingly, the Indian leadership made ahighly unconstitutional offer of plebiscite in the UN.

    Forty percent area of the state continues to be under Pakistan's control, providing it a strategic land

    route to China through the Karakoram ranges. As a fall out of the unresolved dispute, India and

    Pakistan have fought numerous wars and skirmishes with no solution in sight. Worse, the local

    politicians are holding India to ransom by playing the Pak card. Kashmir issue is a self-created

    cancerous furuncle that defies all medications and continues to bleed the country.

    No 2: Ignoring Chinese Threats and Neglecting the Military

    Memories of the year 1962 will always trouble the Indian psyche. A nation of India's size had lulled

    itself into believing that its protestations and platitudes of peaceful co-existence would be

    reciprocated by the world. It was often stated that a peace-loving nation like India did not need

    military at all. The armed forces were neglected. The political leadership took pride in denigrating

    the military leadership and meddled in internal affairs of the services to promote sycophancy.

    Foreign policy was in shambles. The intelligence apparatus was rusty.

    Even though signs of China's aggressive intentions were clearly discernible for years in advance,

    the Indian leadership decided to keep its eyes shut in the fond hope that the problem would resolve

    itself. When China struck, the country was caught totally unprepared. Troops were rushed to

    snowbound areas with summer clothing and outdated rifles. Despite numerous sagas of gallantry,

    the country suffered terrible embarrassment. India was on its knees. With the national morale and

    pride in tatters, India was forced to appeal to all nations for military aid. Inept and incompetentleadership had forced a proud nation to find solace in Lata Mangeshkar'sAe Mere Watan Ke Logo.

    7 blunders that will alwayshaunt India

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    No 3: The Tashkent Agreement and Return of Haji Pir Pass

    Following the cease-fire after the Indo-Pak War of 1965, a Russian-sponsored agreement was

    signed between India and Pakistan in Tashkent on 10 January 1966. Under the agreement, India

    agreed to return the strategic Haji Pir pass to Pakistan which it had captured in August 1965 against

    heavy odds and at a huge human cost. The pass connects Poonch and Uri sectors in Jammu and

    Kashmir and reduces the distance between the two sectors to 15 km whereas the alternate routeentails a travel of over 200 km. India got nothing in return except an undertaking by Pakistan to

    abjure war, an undertaking which meant little as Pakistan never had any intention of honouring it.

    Return of the vital Haji Pir pass was a mistake of monumental proportions for which India is

    suffering to date. In addition to denying a direct link between Poonch and Uri sectors, the pass is

    being effectively used by Pakistan to sponsor infiltration of terrorists into India. Inability to resist

    Russian pressure was a manifestation of the spineless Indian foreign policy and shortsighted

    leadership.

    Image: General (then a major) Ranjit Singh Dayal (3rd from right) and his men relax at the

    strategic Haji Pir pass after routing Pakistani soldiers in a surprise attack at 11 am, 28th August,

    1965. The pass was returned to Pakistan following the Tashkent Agreement signed on January10, 1966. Picture courtesy Col (retd) and military historian Anil Shorey. Unauthorised

    reproduction prohibited.

    No 4: The Simla Agreement

    With the fall of Dhaka on 16 December 1971, India had scored a decisive victory over Pakistan.

    Over 96,000 Pak soldiers were taken Prisoners of War (PoWs). Later, an agreement was signed

    between the two countries on 2 July 1972 at Shimla. Both countries agreed to exchange all PoWs,

    respect the line of control (LOC) in Jammu and Kashmir and refrain from the use of threat or force.

    Additionally, Bhutto gave a solemn verbal undertaking to accept LOC as the de facto border.

    India released all Pak PoWs in good faith. Pakistan, on the other hand, released only 617 Indian

    PoWs while holding back 54 PoWs who are still languishing in Pakistani jails. The Indian

    Government has admitted this fact a number of times but has failed to secure their release. India

    failed to use the leverage of 96,000 Pak PoWs to discipline Pakistan. A rare opportunity was thus

    wasted. Forget establishing permanent peace in the sub-continent, India failed to ensure release of

    all Indian PoWs - a criminal omission by all accounts.

    The naivety of the Indian delegation can be seen from the fact that it allowed Pakistan to bluff its

    way through at Shimla. The Indian leadership was fooled into believing Pakistan's sincerity.

    Unquestionably, Pakistan never intended to abide by its promises, both written and verbal. Fruits of

    a hard-fought victory in the battlefield were frittered away on the negotiating table by the bungling

    leadership.

    No. 5: The Nuclear Muddle

    Subsequent to the Chinese Nuclear Test at Lop Nor in 1964, India showed rare courage in carrying

    out its first nuclear test on 18 May 1974 at Pokharan. Outside the five permanent members of the

    UN Security Council, India was the only nation to prove its nuclear capability. The whole country

    was ecstatic and every Indian felt proud of its scientific prowess. But Indians had not contended

    with their Government's penchant for converting opportunity into adversity and squandering hard-

    earned gains.

    Instead of asserting India's newly acquired status of a nuclear power and demanding recognition,

    India turned apologetic and tried to convince the world that it had no nuclear ambitions. Strangely,

    it termed the Pokharan test as a 'peaceful nuclear explosion' - a term unheard of till then. The

    Defence Minister went to the extent of claiming that the Indian nuclear experiment was 'only for

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    mining, oil and gas prospecting, for finding underground sources of water, for diverting rivers, for

    scientific and technological knowledge.' It was a self-deprecating stance. Displaying acute

    inferiority complex, India did not want to be counted as a member of the exclusive nuclear club.

    Criticism and sanctions were expected and must have been factored in before opting for the nuclear

    test. Whereas a few more assertive follow-on tests would have forced the world to accept India as a

    member of the nuclear club, India went into an overdrive to placate the world through a self-

    imposed moratorium on further testing. It lost out on all the advantages provided to it by itsscientists. It suffered sanctions and yet failed to gain recognition as a nuclear power. The country

    missed golden opportunities due to the timidity and spinelessness of its leaders.

    No 6: The Kandahar hijacking

    The hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft to Kandahar by Pakistani terrorists in December 1999

    will continue to rile India's self-respect for long. According to theHindustan Times, India lost faceand got reduced to begging for co-operation from the very regimes that were actively undermining

    its internal security. The hijacking revealed how ill-prepared India was to face up to the challenges

    of international terrorism.

    The eight-day long ordeal ended only after India's National Security Adviser brazenly announced

    that an agreement had been reached for the release of all the hostages in exchange for three

    Kashmiri militants including Maulana Masood Azhar. Sadly, the Prime Minister claimed credit for

    forcing the hijackers to climb down on their demands. The worst was yet to follow. India's Foreign

    Minister decided to accompany the released militants to Kandahar, as if se