New Delhi – Indian Air Chief Marshal (Retd.) A.Y. Tipnis, former Chief of Staff, speaking to India America Today in a candid interview, pointedly described the former Pakistani General Pervez Musharraf as a habitual liar. Musharraf proclaimed in late March that he was “proud of Kargil operation,” during which Pakistani troops crossed the Line of Control (LoC) and occupied positions on the Indian side in 1999. Musharraf was the army chief when the operation was launched. He later toppled the government of Premier Nawaz Sharif and assumed power.
Former Air Chief Tipnis was the Chief of Air Staff in early May 1999 when the Kargil intrusions by the Pakistan Army took place. General Musharraf was the architect of the secretly planned and controversial foray to snatch the commanding strategic heights along the LoC from under the Indian Army’s nose, and cut India’s road link to and from Ladakh.
Asked to comment on General Musharraf’s assertions that there were about four incursions into India, of which India knows only one (Kargil), Air Chief Tipnis said, “Well, when Musharraf talks, one doesn’t know what to take. Because Musharraf has lied, I think not only to India, he has lied to his own government, lied to his own army, he has lied to his people. Just a few years ago when the Kargil incursion took place, they denied in totality, going so far as not to even claim the dead bodies of their soldiers killed in action. This is the worst thing that any soldier can do and this is what the army chief did to his soldier. I believe that he can tell any lie.”
On the repeated claims that General Musharraf crossed the LoC in a helicopter and spent a night at a location 11 km inside Indian territory, claims which Musharraf has not denied, Tipnis told India America Today, “I don’t believe Musharraf in a least bit. Musharraf, after so many years, talks as if he himself came across into the Kargil area during the Kargil war. I think this is a publicity stunt. He is trying to get greater attention on himself. He wants to project himself as a man of great strategic vision, as a man who has grand design for neutralizing the overwhelming dominance that India has always shown over Pakistan and everything that has started from their side.”
Tipnis insisted that there was never one instance where India instigated action against Pakistan. “It is Pakistan who has started every war and in every war they have come second best. And yet year after year they continue to do the same thing,” said Tipnis.
“Today there are many Pakistan writers who write so disparagingly about Musharraf,” Tipnis noted. “They say he is the guy not to be trusted. There are Pakistani military strategists, air force, army who denounce Musharraf and say that his adventure in Kargil was an absolute non-starter. I mean it has no strategic value. They also knew that it couldn’t possibly gain even any short term advantage. In fact, the results show what exactly it was. Both sides lost people for no reason. At least we kept our faces up – they have lost face too, and yet some years later, against the person who should have been in ashes, today has tried to resurrect himself.”
On Musharraf’s motives, Air Chief Tipnis said, “I think he is trying his desperate efforts because he thinks by claiming such tall achievements he would impress the people who are radically inimical towards India. He feels he would get their support. What he doesn’t realize today, the intellects, and I include the military intellects in Pakistan today, realize the folly of Pakistan over the years, they realize that India’s greatest strength has been it’s democracy in whatever forms that it is been exercised today, for all the criticism that has piled from within India. They say that is what it is.”
Even the Pakistani top brass is looking at both sides with honesty, observed Tipnis, adding, “There are couple of Pakistani Generals who have actually said that you know whose GDP is growing at this rate and whose going down at this rate, do you know the scientific capabilities, the technological capabilities.”
Tipnis pointed out that genetically, Indians and Pakistanis come from the same stock, but the only difference is the presence of democracy in India. “Our history is the same, and they realize today that unless the Pakistani army reduces its grip on the political scene of Pakistan, there is no hope for Pakistan. I think Musharraf should never for a moment be taken seriously in his tall claims of achievement,” concluded the former chiefs of staff.
In a conspicuous departure from strict protocol requirements, then Air Chief Marshal Tipnis did not salute visiting Pakistani President General Musharraf in 2001 at the ceremonial reception in Rashtrapati Bhavan (Presidential House), only shaking hands with him.
Within a month of his return from exile, Musharraf’s political ambitions were crushed after he was barred from contesting the May 11 polls, following disqualification of his nomination papers from all four constituencies. He is now struggling to stay afloat in the quagmire of the ongoing election session in his country.
Former Pakistani President Musharraf was remanded in custody for two weeks last week by an anti-terrorism court over allegations he illegally ordered the detention of judges in 2007. His next court appearance in the case is set for May 4. It is these allegations which comprise the basis of the calls for Musharraf to face treason charges, which can carry the death penalty.
There are other allegations, as well, relating to negligence and unconstitutional acts. It appears Musharraf seems to have miscalculated badly in his assumption that he would be greeted warmly upon his return and ride his past support back into public office.