T h e

K a s h m i r

T  e  l  e  g  r  a  p  h

Third Edition

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

July 2002


Spotlight    Romeet Watt

Top of Page        B Raman

Special Report Hamid Bashani

Fundamentals Subash Kapila

Economy            B N Kaul

InsideTrack          R Upadhyay

Himalayan Blunder              Romeet Watt

In Black & White B Raman

Statecraft             Romeet Watt

Bottomline           R Upadhyay


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Vietnam & Kashmir: A Comparison

Subhash Kapila

General Background

Pakistan to breakout of its frustrating bind on Kashmir spares no recourse or instrument to sensationalize the Kashmir issue. The latest canard being propagated is that India like the United States in Vietnam is getting bogged down in Kashmir militarily with more than 500,000 troops sucked in and a state of fatigue might set in. A similar view was earlier expressed by one of the retired chiefs of Pakistan Army.

Pakistan has been clever in devising this stratagem as Vietnam War memories evoke strong reactions and unpleasant memories amongst United States policy planners who then use the argument of a ‘hopeless’ war very persuasively with Indian policy planners, track II diplomats and academia. The Indian media without much analysis keeps highlighting the "unholy figure of 500,00 troops " in Vietnam, as if that were the sole cause of America’s debacle in Vietnam.

Pakistan has been far too clever in alleging widespread human rights violation in Kashmir. Michael Mandelbaum the noted American author and policy analyst in a talk in New Delhi in the early 1990s noted that with the end of the Cold War, the United States would adopt ‘human rights’ as an ‘ideological weapon’ in the absence of Communism, as nothing excites the average American mind than human rights violations. Here too, while foreigners were expected to lap up Pak propaganda, the drawing room liberalists of New Delhi of all hues vociferously try to outdo the Westerners. They conveniently forget that human rights apply to those who live within the ambit of the laws of the land and not for mercenary terrorists or outlaws.

Drawing comparison on what is happening in Kashmir today and the Vietnam war is not only illogical but also betray a poor sense of political and strategic analysis on the part of those accepting such comparisons. It would therefore be in order to highlight such absurd comparisons.

The absurdity of comparing Kashmir with Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was an offshoot of the extension of the Cold War in Asia-Pacific which first manifested in Korea. It was a component of the global superpower rivalry resting both on ideological confrontation and strategic considerations. Kashmir issue on the other hand is very much a local south Asian problem festered unceasingly by Pakistan and fuelled by its domestic political compulsions. As opposed to ideological causes, Pakistan claims Kashmir on the basis of the ‘two nation theory’ (separate homeland for Indian Muslims) which stood negated in 1947 and 1971 when East Pakistan fought its way out to become Bangladesh.

The Vietnam War emerged as a result of military intervention by the United States to shore up its regimes in the South. It began with limited intervention and then ballooned on to 550,000 at the time of the US withdrawal. India did not go in for military intervention in the state of Jammu Kashmir. The state acceded to India as per the Instrument of Accession accepted by India’s Governor General who happened to be a member of the British royalty, Lord Mountbatten. Indian forces moved in to repel the Pakistani invaders who had militarily occupied the state right upto its capital Srinagar. Pakistan still occupies one third of the state.

Unlike the Vietnam Wars where there was a mass upsurge against American military intervention, such a situation does not exist in Kashmir. The insurgency did not acquire a mass character of even that of Bangladesh variety. The insurrection in Jammu and Kashmir State has remained confined to the Kashmir Valley Muslims. The Gujjar Muslims and Shia Muslims of Poonch and Kargil have not been part of this insurgency. Today the military conflict in Kashmir is nothing but a proxy war launched by Pakistan through Islamic fundamentalist mercenaries from the radical states of the Islamic world and Pakistani madrassas. To call the disaffection of a section of the valley Muslims as a mass upsurge of the Vietnam variety is absurd.

Coming to the much touted comparison of numbers of troops deployed in Vietnam and Kashmir, the argument becomes totally illogical in terms of comparative analysis. In Vietnam, the Americans started with a token intervention of about a division worth of troops, as the stakes became higher, collaterally linked with the global strategic situation Vietnam ultimately sucked in nearly 500,000 troops, to no avail.

The Indian military deployment in Kashmir even before the valley disaffection started in 1989 is over two corps sized formations and independent brigades. These stood deployed for the defence of India’s territorial integrity as a result of Pakistani invasions in 1947, 1965 and 1971 and the Chinese invasion in 1962. Today, in terms of military deployments in Jammu and Kashmir, a third army corps has come into existence after Pakistani military incursions in Kargil in 1999. Addition in armed police forces is a natural corollary when a neighbouring hostile state launches a proxy war and whips up a law and order situation. Surely, the valley is no Vietnam.

The Vietnam war was an all-out war where ground, naval and air forces were applied on a full war scale. In the case of the Unites States it was an over application of force without results. In Kashmir, the Indian military responses have been limited both in terms of application of force, extent of force and the geographical spread. India has exhibited remarkable restraint even in the limited war in Kargil in 1999. The same was not the case in Vietnam. India’s military resilience in Jammu and Kashmir was demonstrated in 1999 when the Indian armed forces successfully tackled both the proxy war of Pakistan in the valley and Pakistan’s invasion of Kargil, simultaneously.

Concluding Observations

Pakistan has attempted to impose a Vietnam type situation on India in terms of its strategic objectives, namely, to bleed India through a proxy war, terrorist acts aimed at innocent civilians and widespread sabotage. It went a step further in terms of inciting an ethnic genocide against the valley Hindus. But Kashmir is not Vietnam, very much that Pakistan wished it so. Kashmir is not Vietnam war for three simple reasons

* In Kashmir, India did not resort to military intervention. Indian military deployments in Kashmir are designed for triple military threats of Pakistan, China and Islamic fundamentalism.

* Insurrection in Kashmir is confined to some section of the valley Muslims. It does not incorporate widespread support amongst other J&K Muslims besides the total opposition from the populace of the Jammu and Ladakh region. It is therefore not a mass movement.

* In Kashmir, India is not fighting somebody else’s war. India is fighting very much to defend India’s borders and the military challenges to its sovereignty in the form of Pakistan’s proxy war and Pak-sponsored Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. It is highlighted by India’s military resilience in 1999.

The United States failed in the Vietnam war because the American public did not support the US government’s military interventions and fighting other people’s war at the cost of US lives. On Kashmir, the Indian public support for successive governments of various political hues has been unequivocal i.e. Pakistani aggression has to be met squarely and defeated. The views of liberal fraternity of New Delhi’s drawing rooms do not reflect the Indian public opinion.  

By special arrangement with South Asian Analysis Group, New Delhi

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