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Behind Enemy Lines: Colonel writes to Gen

Posted by :) on April 26, 2009



Chidanand Rajghatta | TNN

Washington: In a military career that lasted nearly three decades till he took early retirement in 2000, Col Harish Puri never had a chance to venture behind “enemy” lines. Not even during Kargil conflict, when he was with the Army’s Signal Corps: it was the Pakistanis who crossed the Line of Control into India.
All that changed a couple of weeks
back, years after his retirement, when Col Puri made a daring incursion into Pakistan. It was an “intellectual infiltration” in full public view. Col Puri wrote an open letter, soldier-to-soldier, to the Pakistani Army Chief, Gen Pervez Ashraf Kiyani. That letter, published in The News of the Jang group of newspapers as an op-ed piece, has become a cause célèbre in blogdom and in the strategic community toast of the Indian side and thorn in the Pakistan side.
Much cut and thrust and parry has followed in the days since the article was published, with the paper
having to apologize for entertaining Col Puri’s submission. So what did Puri say that touched off such a firestorm?
Dear Gen Kayani, the letter begins: Sir, let me begin by recounting that old army quip that did the rounds in the immediate aftermath of World War II: To guarantee victory, an army should ideally have German generals, British officers, Indian soldiers, American equipment and Italian enemies. Then he continues: A Pakistani soldier that
I met in Iraq in 2004 lamented the fact that the Pakistani soldier in Kargil had been badly let down firstly by Nawaz Sharif and then by the Pakistani officers’ cadre.
Pakistani soldiers led by Indian officers would be the most fearsome combination possible. Pakistani officers, he went on to say, were more into real estate, defence housing colonies and the like. This, Pakistani respondents to the letter fumed, was the first of many subtle and insidious insults delivered to their country and their Army.
Indian officer’s war of words with Kiyani
Washington: Colonel Harish Puri wrote an open letter, mano-a-mano, soldier-to-soldier, to the Pakistani Army Chief, Gen, Pervez Ashraf Kiyani in which he compares the photograph of the Pakistani surrender in Dhaka in 1971 with the recent video of a teenage girl being flogged by Taliban, and says the latter incident “represents an even more abject surrender by the Pakistani Army.”
“The surrender in 1971, though humiliating, was not disgraceful. This time around, sir, what happened on your watch was something no Army commander should have to live through,” he writes.
Two weeks later, the retired Indian officer is still getting angry hate mail from Pakistan (and congratulatory letters from Indians) for what some — even Pakistanis — consider a brilliant hatchet job. “I have gotten about 200 letters,” Col Puri said in an interview from Pune.

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