Modi govt plans 1965 war carnival

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NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rightwing Hindu nationalist government has ordered India’s armed forces to organise a ‘carnival’ to mark 50 years of a war with Pakistan in 1965, The Telegraph reported on Tuesday.

The Kolkata-based paper said the three-week long event is set to reignite a debate on whether India lost on the negotiating table what it won on the battlefield.

“From September 1 to September 23 this year, on days coinciding with the duration of the war, the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force have been directed to organise tableaux, exhibitions, processions, public lectures and film shows. The venues would be in the heart of the national capital, on Rajpath, Janpath and around India Gate,” the paper said.

Also read: No engagement with Pakistan planned, says Indian minister

The proposed celebration appears to be part of a nationalist distraction Mr Modi’s government uses to change discussion away from the main theatre of politics where he has been criticised roundly at home and abroad for policy failures.

True enough, according to the paper, the war events are set to trigger public discourse on the legacy of the Congress government of the time headed by Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri with Yashwant Rao Chavan as defence minister.

The government’s objectives need not entirely be confined to pumping up national pride. There could be a political goal too, the paper said.

“Shastri has been identified with the slogan Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan — sections that are now perceived to be miffed with the Modi government because of the delay over one rank, one pension, farm distress and the land acquisition legislation. The government is unlikely to complain if the war carnival gives it an opportunity to ingratiate itself with farmers and soldiers.”

A major portion of the events planned during the ‘carnival’ are discussions on the post-war negotiations in Tashkent. Shastri died during the meetings in Tashkent.

An official account called The India-Pakistan War of 1965, a history (editor S.N. Prasad; general editor U.P. Thapliyal) issued by the ministry of defence’s history division — parts of which are not yet public — may be reviewed.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is personally supervising preparations for the events to mark the war, the Telegraph said.

In the Indian Army, there are many who believe that Shastri had surrendered at the talks in Tashkent in January 1966 the strategic Haji Pir pass that the army had captured.

The pass links Uri and Poonch on the Indian side but is today in Pakistan. Sources in the army say the pass is even today used by the Pakistani establishment to “push terrorists into India”.

In official records, India captured 1,920 sq km of Pakistani territory while Pakistan captured 550 sq km of Indian territory.

An official history by the government insinuates that Pakistan’s president during the 1965 war, General Ayub Khan, perceived India to be weak after its defeat by China in 1962, three years earlier. He wanted to take advantage of that and forcibly acquire Kashmir, the Telegraph report said.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2015


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