Service chiefs to salute 'Kargil Villain' Back   Home  

The three service chiefs would be present at the Rashtrapati Bhawan forecourt along with the President and other dignitaries to welcome Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf on July 14.

They have not raised any objection to saluting the man with whom they fought the Kargil war.

"He would be welcomed as the president," and not as the "villain of Kargil," a senior military official said.

On July 14, President K R Narayanan would formally receive Gen Musharraf along with almost the entire top rung of the Indian establishment, including the prime minister, and extend a ceremonial welcome to the visiting dignitary.

Later, he will host a state banquet for the Pakistani president.

An official, closely involved in the preparations for Musharraf's visit, said that the Pakistani president would be given a 'tri-service guard of honour' at the Rashtrapati Bhawan forecourt along with a 21-gun salute.

A tri-service guard of honour is offered only to heads of states or someone in charge of the three services.

General Henry H Shelton, chairman, joint chiefs of staff of the United States of America, would be one of the few non-heads of state to be honoured with a tri-service guard of honour.

President Musharraf would also be given a 21-gun salute, which again is accorded only to top dignitaries.

The three service chiefs, who are being consulted by National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra and others for their inputs on the Musharraf visit, have not expressed any reluctance in extending the ceremonial welcome and in saluting Gen Musharraf.

General Musharraf, it was widely believed, refused to come to Lahore during Vajpayee's high-profile bus journey to receive him with a ceremonial salute.

However, later Musharraf refuted such reports.

"Even at the height of Cold War, whenever Russian and US officials met, they never forgot courtesy and protocol," a senior military official pointed out.

"If he had come as the chief executive, there would have been some confusion. Now things are clear," a senior army official said.

"The Kargil war does not dictate our future relations with Pakistan. Passion and emotion have nothing to do with courtesy and protocol," he said.

However, the army feels that the visit could have been 'better timed'. The summer months are testing times in Kashmir with the highest number of infiltration attempts.

An untoward incident could have a bearing on the Vajpayee-Musharraf talks.

"We don't know the fall-out of the visit and the response of the militant groups," the officer said. He said a visit during winter would have been preferred.

"Winter is always the best time for a cease-fire. That is when infiltration is the least, and actions are also less."

This article was published in Kashmir Monitor Daily at the following URL