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We are better equipped today to fight a Kargil-like war: Praveen Swami

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Jul 26, 2013 at 04:30pm IST

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In the summer of 1999, India fought off the Pakistani intrusion in Kargil. However, the end of the war does not mean the beginning of peace for people on either side of the border. Author and senior journalist Praveen Swami joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on his book 'The Kargil War' on the 14th anniversary of Vijay Diwas.

Q. Do you think India still remembers the heroes who bravely fought in Kargil for our motherland? Asked by: sree

We are better equipped today to fight a Kargil-like war: Praveen Swami

Author and senior journalist Praveen Swami on his book 'The Kargil War' on the 14th anniversary of Vijay Diwas.'

A. I think yes-but probably not enough. In India, there isn't much of a tradition of remembering our fallen soldiers, and that has partly to do with the fact there's so little war history-writing.

Q. How did our intelligence forces could not track the intrusion to Kargil? Asked by: sree

A. Sree, actually they did-there were a whole bunch of warnings from various intelligence services, and from within the army, that weren't acted upon. If you do a quick google search for my name, and Brigadier Surrinder Singh and Brigadier Devinder Singh, you'll come across some stuff. It's a terrible story: the failure to act on intelligence sent our soldiers to their deaths.

Q. Your suggestions to young journalists, who want to be authors? Asked by: Isha

A. Just one suggestion: there's no way of writing other than to write. Get through 300 words a day, no matter what-and then put it away and do the next 300 words the next day. In a year, you'll have a book draft, which you can edit and improve.

Q. Can Kargil happen in future? Asked by: kk

A. Well, things rarely happen twice the same way-the Indian military today is much better prepared to deal with the kind of incursions that took place in 1999. There's a saying, though, that Generals are always preparing to fight the last war. In my view, the next war that happens will be very different in tactical terms-and our success will lie in how well we anticipate the possibilities.

Q. Some tricks to write an opinion article? Asked by: Isha

A. Condense your argument in just one sentence, fourteen words tops: what is the point you're trying to make? once you're clear in your head, then structure your piece: what is your point, what are the arguments and evidence, what are your conclusion! colour and style matter, of course-but they're no substitute for a clear, lucid argument.

Q. Who/what inspired you to write this book? Asked by: fatima

A. Well, I'd covered the war-I was the first journalist in-and wanted to put together all I'd seen and discovered in one place. There was a lot of hype and propaganda about at the time (there still is) so I wanted to do an analytical account, looking at why the war had come about in the first place-and all that had gone wrong in its course.

Q. Would this book appeal to non-Indian readers as well? Asked by: Sneha

A. Yes, there was a lot of interest in it overseas-especially among people interested in military issues. Remember, the war took place just after the 1998 nuclear tests in both countries-and demonstrated that, contrary to received wisdom, nuclear-armed states could have wars.

Q. The Kargil Divas maybe celebrated fair enough, but how far has peace been brought between the two nations since those days? Asked by: Karan

A. Well, it took a second crisis-the near war of 2001-2002-for the lessons of Kargil to really hit home. India didn't really win the Kargil war, in a strategic sense: violence in Kashmir actually went up in the two years after, in which we lost a lot more lives in the conflict itself. Pakistan was actually able to ratchet-up its covert war. In 2002, though, US pressure on Pakistan led it to scale back its support for th jihad in Kashmir-and violence has declined, year on year, ever since. Whether this will survive the 2014 US pullout from Afghanistan, no-one knows.

Q. How is India secure since Karil of 1999 with rise of terrorism levels in last decade? Asked by: Rohan

A. Pretty secure, I think-things are much, much better now than they were in 1999. If you look at the figures on violence in all Indian theatres of insurgency and terrorism, which you can find on www.satp.org, you'll see they've declined sharply.

Q. Is India equipped well to fight Kargil like intrusion today? Asked by: leena

A. Much better than it was in 1999, certainly-there's been a lot of investment in hardware, as well as in monitoring technology. Like I said, though, its unlikely the next war will be like the last one-while we learned lessons from Kargil, so did Pakistan. War-fighting involves constant learning and experimentation, just like life.

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