|More than a hundred soldiers have already died in the undeclared war in Kargil. Many more are lying injured in hospitals. No assistance is compensation enough for the mother who has lost her son or the wife her husband. But we, the citizens of this country, need to help, in however small a way. The Telegraph and Anandabazar Patrika are setting up a fund with that modest aim in mind. The fund is being started with an intial contribution of Rs 5 Lakh from the ABP Group. If every reader of The Telegraph and Anandabazar Patrika donates a small sum, we can raise a huge amount for the families of the soldiers killed or injured in action. As a token of appreciation, both papers will publish the names of donors contributing Rs 500 or more. This is a time to ask yourself what can you do for the nation.||Only account payee cheques and drafts - payable to 'ABP Kargil Fund' - will be accepted. Put the cheque/draft in an envelope with your name and address. Write 'ABP Kargil Fund' and mail it to or deliver (between 10 am and 6 pm except on Sundays) at |
6 Prafulla Sarkar Street
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By when withdrawal will be completed depends on the assessment the Pakistani army provides Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The time will be used by the political leadership to make a show of appealing to the Mujahideen to pull out.
The Indians are unlikely to crow about the withdrawal by the Pakistan army, persisting with its public posture that the ground situation has not changed and that operations to flush out militants will continue.
Home minister L.K. Advani made the position amply clear once again today. ?The military operation in Kargil will continue till the eviction of the last Pakistani intruder,? he said, adding that the war is not over yet.
To staunch any controversy over ?safe passage?, the Indian leadership would like to keep the covers on the question whether the army or the air force would attack withdrawing intruders.
Doubts about Sharif?s ability to fulfil the promise he made to President Bill Clinton were dispelled to an extent today with army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf saying there was ?complete understanding? between the Prime Minister and the army.
But Gen. Musharraf added that though an appeal can be made to the Mujahideen, it depends solely on them whether or not to respond.
?The appeal to the Mujahideen is the only cover left to the Pakistani leadership under which to start withdrawing its forces from Kargil,? an Indian foreign ministry official said. Delhi, however, feels that after having made a commitment to Clinton, it will be difficult for Pakistan to stall.
The official pointed out that the US has been categorical in its statement by saying that Sharif has agreed to withdraw the intruders. In private, the US administration concedes Pakistan army regulars have moved across the LoC along with an assortment of Islamic guerrilla outfits.
India also believes Sharif will have a tough time selling the deal ? described as a ?sellout? to the US ? to the domestic audience, which sees it as betrayal of the Kashmir cause.
The only thing he has to show in exchange for agreeing to pull out is an assurance by Clinton that he will take a ?personal interest? in south Asia, a statement the Pakistan leadership will demonstrate as a promise to dabble in the Kashmir dispute.
The local media have expressed perplexity at the Sharif-Clinton deal, asking why the infiltrators were sent across the LoC in the first place.
These are questions Sharif will have to answer when he returns from London where he has stopped over on his way back from Washington. An impromptu meeting was organised with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Neither the Pakistan embassy nor Blair?s aides could say what was discussed.
Before leaving for home, Sharif was expected to try and persuade influential leaders and financial backers of Islamic militant organisations to tell hardliners in Pakistan to accept the withdrawal formula.
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But the refugees are not returning home; the 18th Grenadiers, the 8th Sikh Light Infantry and the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry are counting their dead at Tiger Hill and the Indian army is pushing ahead in Kaksar and Batalik.
In Kargil, though, on the verandah of the tourist dak bungalow, the hunchbacked MLA from the constituency and Jammu and Kashmir power minister Qamar Ali Akhoon stretched after waking up late. Since last night, Kargil has been palpably quiet.
The blasts that reverberated in the arid hills were mostly those of Indian artillery firing at intruder positions in Batalik to the east and Kaksar to the west. Three shells fired from Pakistan landed near the television station perched on a ridge on the east bank of the Suru river. Near Kharbu point on the NH 1A, 20 km west of Kargil, a diesel tanker went up in flames after a direct hit. That is quietude by Kargil standards.
Rafiq Amman, who kept his general store open a couple of hours longer than usual in the bazaar, said he would wait awhile before deciding whether to move his family back to town. They were shifted to a relative?s place in Trespone in early May.
The bazaar this morning was a hubbub of activity. Despite the gallons that have roared down the Suru, it still bears traces of the time when Kargil?s caravans arrived and the river slaked parched throats of travellers on the Silk Route. Until 1947, Kargil was the centre of trade in Ladakh, linked to Gilgit (now in Pakistan) and the lower Indus valley.
There were a lot of people at the Changchik mosque for afternoon prayers. Most of the men wore traditional black and white robes and white turbans. They sported thin, trimmed beards. When prayers were over and they flowed out onto the streets, Kargil advertised its Shia character and its political and cultural contrast with the Sunni-dominated Kashmir valley. The Arabic script is common in Kargil. Most of the shops display posters of Ayatollah Khomeini.
In his dak bungalow, minister Akhoon was still worrying. Have the intruders on strategic observation posts stopped directing Pakistani artillery? Has Pakistani artillery stopped responding to their signals after Nawaz Sharif?s appeal? Can the army in Pakistan yet topple Sharif the way it did Yahya Khan in 1965? Will there be more militant activity to disrupt traffic on NH1A?
At another end of Kargil, a district headquarters town that is little more than the main bazaar road, ice cream man Anayat Ali worries too. But the proprietor of the Nishat Ice Cream factory, who has the answer to every shell in four delicious flavours, is determined to re-inaugurate his Nishat restaurant tomorrow morning. The chief guest: Brigadier Indra Jog of the 121 Brigade.
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Turtuk is an infinitely more intractable prospect, and perhaps least because it is a chicken neck lodged between Pakistani forces in occupied-Kashmir and the Chinese Red Army in Aksai Chin. The menace in Turtuk is not so much the preponderance of the enemy without but the abundance of the enemy within.
Last month, as the conflict over Kargil gained decibels, a man by the name of Ali Bhutto almost quietly achieved in Turtuk what it took entire battalions of Pakistani army regulars and mercenaries to secure in the ridges above Drass and Batalik ? alteration, however temporary, of the Line of Control in Pakistan?s favour. They needed to send in neither their troops nor Afghan freelancers; Ali Bhutto, resident of Turtuk, holder of an identity card as citizen of India, was there to do the job for them. He had amassed an awesome arsenal for insurrection: three rocket-launchers, five anti-tank rockets, three surface-to-air missiles, 27 Kalashnikovs, several kilos of RDX plastic explosives, remote-controlled detonators and a yet-unspecified amount of automatic weapon ammunition. And, of course, he had acquired the traitor?s most essential tool: A secret confederacy ready to take arms at the appointed hour.
Deployed effectively, the army contends, Ali Bhutto?s personal armoury would have been sufficient to push the LoC a little inward and drag Turtuk and a few surrounding hamlets ? Thang, Chulunka, Takshi, Pachathang ? over into Pakistan.
But then a quirk worked. Intelligence, that thing which had been failing all along the upper Kashmir frontier, ran into Lady Luck in Turtuk and actually picked up a scent. Ali Bhutto and several of his comrades were arrested and their stockpiles seized.
The rocket-launchers were found buried in the snows in the upper reaches of Turtuk, the smaller arms and ammunition were in ditches peppered all over nearby settlements. ?The preparations were for a lightning insurrection,? says a field major of the Ladakh Scouts, sentries of this lofty frontier. ?They could have taken us totally unawares in the middle of a border war.?
And even though Ali Bhutto and his mates-in-arms are now under detention in Leh, the major isn?t sure the danger is past. ?We have arrested some men and recovered some weapons but there could be more of both lurking in the region, waiting for the opportune moment. We can handle the shelling from across but the threat from within our territory seems more threatening.?
Flung at the far end of the sprawling Nubra Valley, Turtuk perhaps typifies the symptoms of what we call a border dispute. The uncertainties of its history and geography have alchemised a complex psyche ? Turtuk straddles a shifting line between India and Pakistan so perhaps it is no wonder its loyalties too shift.
Not too long ago, this was a dateline in Pakistan. During the 1971 war, Indian forces took over Turtuk and then a line was drawn in Simla attesting it as part of India. Overnight, Turtuk?s links with its age-old cousins ? the first Pakistani village called Thanu is only a two kilometre trek from Turtuk ? were cut off and its allegiance demanded by a new master. And last month, the shifting line trembled under Turtuk once again and it almost slipped back into earlier loyalties, into being a dateline in Pakistan.
?Loyalty is a problem subject here,? says an officer at the subdivisional headquarters at Diskit nearby. ?People have relatives across the border, they have land and financial interests, they even have active links. Turtuk is a fertile ground for Pakistani agent provocateurs.?
The irony is that at the moment at least, Pakistan is creating more foes than friends in Turtuk. Consistent shelling over the past month-and-a-half has driven all the population out in panic. Some are sheltered in Diskit and others in a closer mountain-fold called Tabay Nullah. ?They say Turtuk is full of Pakistani agents,? says Mohammed Ali, a refugee in the Nullah. ?But the truth is we are all victims of Pakistani shelling.?
Ali used to live in the securer of the two hamlets ? Yul and Pharul ? that comprises Turtuk but he had to flee Pharul despite the absence of shelling there because Pakistani guns were targeting the connecting bridge. The bridge blown, Pharul would perhaps have been under easier Pakistani grasp, specially with Ali Bhutto?s militia ready to join forces. But the bridge stands, protected by more and more guns and soldiers,and so does Turtuk?s link with India.
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Rainfall: 0.3 mm