Islamabad: The Pakistani military’s decision to launch a covert war against India in Kargil in 1999 has made Islamabad “progressively irrelevant” internationally, a columnist said Wednesday. “In the context of Pakistan-India relations, 1999 can be called one of the most significant years of the post-Cold War phase,” wrote columnist Qaisar Rashid in the Daily Times.
He said the Kargil war “suggested that India could persuade or coerce the US to intervene in (a) regional conflict and rein in its (US) ally, Pakistan, which had to eventually withdraw its forces from Kargil.” He said that after the conflict, India and the US cosied up to each other at the cost of Pakistan.
Pakistani troops disguised as militants and Islamist guerrillas sneaked into India in 1999 and occupied the Kargil hills along the Kashmir border, provoking a bitter war between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif claimed that he was kept in the dark about the military adventure by its chief Pervez Musharraf, who later that year ousted Sharif and sent him into exile. Sharif returned to Pakistan in 2008 and became prime minister again.
The US and India had moved closer and Pakistan was fast becoming irrelevant, according to Rashid. “Currently, the balance in the region — South Asia — is tipped more towards India.” What really hurt Pakistan was a lack of realisation that it was fast losing in 1999. “Pakistan lost its credibility in the eyes of both India and the US.”
The article noted that the peace initiative undertaken by then Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, when he travelled to Lahore in a bus in 1999, tried to “clear the air of misgiving that has existed between both countries since 1947”. “Can Pakistan launch another Kargil war to accentuate the Kashmir issue? The answer is in the negative,” the article said. “Even China does not approve of that. Any such adventure will invite severe international reaction.” “Today, India knows that Pakistan cannot dictate directly its terms of engagement and disengagement.”