Mon, Apr 24, 2017 | updated 10:56 AM IST

Kargil, a long unfinished war, but lessons still not fully learnt

Updated: Jul 27, 2016 09:02 IST      
Kargil, a long unfinished war, but lessons still not fully learnt

By I. Ramamohan Rao

New Delhi, July 27 (ANI): India observed the 17th Kargil Vijay Diwas yesterday to honour the sacrifices made by Indian soldiers in a war for which the country was not prepared.

The high altitude mountain war fought by two nuclear armed neighbours in the summer of 1999 lasted longer than the earlier three wars that India fought with Pakistan (1948, 1965 and 1971).

The Kargil War taught the country many lessons, which have still not been fully absorbed.

India was complacent when the war erupted, as it broke out soon after Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee undertook a bus ride to Lahore to open a new chapter in India Pakistan relations.

General Pervez Musharraf, who had been appointed Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff by then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif even though he was ranked third in terms of seniority and in the line of succession to the coveted post, planned the 'war', supposedly without the knowledge of his Prime Minister.

General Musharraf claimed that he had briefed Sharif, but the details that have emerged suggest that Sharif was unaware about the movement of troops till the war broke out.

That General Musharraf was not telling the truth was evident when on June 11; India released intercepts of a conversation between him and Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen. Aziz Khan while Musharraf was on an official visit to China. That intercepted conversation revealed that Musharraf wanted to know Sharif's reaction to his decision to move units of the North Light Infantry across the Line of Control (LoC) and occupy the Kargil Heights. The war had begun.

A boastful General Musharraf later claimed that he wanted Pakistan to hold India by the throat by occupying the Kargil Heights which overlooked a road that connected Srinagar to Leh.

As far as the Indian Army was concerned, it emerged that the division commander under whose jurisdiction the Kargil sector came was busy 'developing' areas around Leh and had not released funds to pay the workers whose job it was to gather information in the winter when the army vacated the posts.

The sense of complacency was justified later on the premise that due to the warm exchanges between Prime Ministers Vajpayee and Sharif; nobody thought about the Pakistan Army simultaneously moving its troops into Indian Territory.

Some Indian intelligence agencies had information about unusual activities taking place in areas vacated by Indian troops in the winter, but that input wasn't taken seriously. There was little sharing of facts in the Joint Intelligence Committee.

During the first week of May 1999, India received reports of infiltration in the Kargil sector. Initially, it was claimed that the infiltrators were Mujahideen, and then Defence Minister George Fernandes confidently said they will be 'thrown out' soon. Soon more accurate facts emerged and he was informed that regular Pakistani armed forces had occupied heights overlooking the Srinagar-Kargil Road.

The Indian Army tried to reoccupy the posts overlooking the Srinagar-Leh Road, but faced gunfire from Pakistani forces. There was also heavy shelling by the Pakistan Army and the number of infiltrators increased in Dras, Kaksar and Mushkoh sectors.

The then Indian Army Chief, General Ved Prakash Malik, was abroad on an official visit when he was informed of the actual facts related to the infiltration. On his return, an assessment was made and it was realized that the Pakistan Army had occupied the posts vacated by the Indian Army during winter. These posts overlooked the road between Leh and Srinagar. Thereafter, the Indian Army prepared for the conflict and decided to shift troops from the rest of Kashmir into the area around Dras.

The shifting of troops took time. Meanwhile, the help of the Indian Air Force was sought and it went into action. One IAF combat aircraft and a helicopter were shot down by the Pakistan on May 28.

The fiction that those who occupied the Kargil Heights were 'Mujahideen' was exposed when India released documents captured from Pakistani soldiers on June 5.

On the defensive, the Indian Army suspended access to media outlets while troops were being inducted into the area. However, Gaurav Sawant, a correspondent representing a New Delhi newspaper, stayed back and was in Kargil for nine weeks, during which he reported on the war and his experiences. He has since written a book titled "Dateline Kargil: A Correspondent's Nine-Week Account from the Battlefront".

India's losses during the war were 527 soldiers killed, 1,363 wounded and one captured.

It was only after the induction of army formations from the rest of Kashmir, that media organisations were taken to visit Kargil.

Indian television coverage, which provided a near live telecast of events, proved beyond a shadow of doubt that the Pakistan Army had occupied posts vacated by the Indian Army during the winter.

Initially, the battles were fought by the Indian artillery, which deployed Bofors guns, which proved effective and saved the day for the county.

The Indian Army started recapturing the Kargil Heights steadily, but suffered heavy casualties. Tololing was recaptured on June 13, Point 5060 and Point 5100 on June 29 and Tiger Hill on July 4.

When the facts of Pakistani intrusion became known the world over, and that too after Atal Behari Vajpayee's attempt to establish better relations with Pakistan, Sharif tried his best to defend his country's actions. There was a fear that a nuclear conflict may erupt.

On the defensive, Sharif said he had been kept in the dark by General Musharraf, while Musharraf maintained that he had briefed the Pakistan Prime Minister.

Then United States President Bill Clinton rang up Sharif on June 15 and told him to pull his troops out of Kargil. Sharif rushed to Washington to explain Pakistan's actions, but was firmly told to pull out his troops.

A joint statement issued by President Clinton and Prime Minister Sharif underlined that the Line of Control (LoC) would be respected and that Pakistan had agreed to pull out its troops from the posts along the Kargil Heights. The crisis officially came to a close on July 26.

Following the two-month-long war, a report on it was prepared by the renowned strategic thinker K. Subrahmanyam. Later a Group of Ministers, headed by then Home Minister L. K. Advani, suggested changes to enable the country to face and counter future challenges. The changes recommended included reorganisation of the armed forces into unified commands and the appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff.

One of the reports suggested changes in the releasing of defence information.

Many of the suggestions made on the Kargil conflict remain in cold storage. Initially, there was reluctance to call the Kargil conflict a "war". After many years, it has been accepted that the day the 'war' ended be observed as a Vijay Diwas.

Mr. I. Ramamohan Rao is a former Principal Information Officer (PIO) of the Government of India. He can be reached on his e-mail raoramamohan@hotmail.com (ANI)

Mumbai [India], Apr 24 (ANI): Following reports of a track fracture between the Vashi and the Mankhurd stations, local train services in Mumbai were affected on Monday.

Full Story >>

BJP will meet Congress' fate soon: Shiv Sena

Updated: Apr 24, 2017 09:50 IST

Mumbai [India], Apr 24 (ANI): The Shiv Sena on Monday took a jibe at its ally the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and said its saffron partner in its incumbent times was enjoying the same political status as Congress used to do in its glorious time and hence, will meet a similar fate soon.

Full Story >>

Chennai (Tamil Nadu) [India], Apr 24 (ANI): A security guard at late Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa's Kodanad estate was killed on late Sunday night by unidentified men.

Full Story >>

Hyderabad [India], Apr 24 (ANI): Amid the raging debate over 'Triple Talaq' and the rights of Muslim women, another case of the age-old practice has emerged in the by-lanes of Hyderabad.

Full Story >>

Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) [India], Apr 24 (ANI): A crucial Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Uttar Pradesh Government coordination meeting will take place here today.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], Apr. 24 (ANI): In the wake of the current turbulent atmosphere in the Valley, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti will call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi today to discuss the situation and possibly formulate a solution.

Full Story >>

Bengaluru/Lucknow, [India], Apr 24 (ANI): Hailing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Niti Aayog meeting, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday said that all political parties should work for the welfare of the people without politicising developmental endeavors.

Full Story >>

New Delhi, [India], Apr 24 (ANI): The Supreme Court will today hear the plea seeking a direction for filling up the vacancies in the police forces in six states.

Full Story >>

New Delhi, [India], Apr 24 (ANI): The Supreme Court will today hear the plea filed by former Additional Solicitor General (ASG) and senior counsel Indira Jaising in connection with the designation of senior lawyers.

Full Story >>

New Delhi, [India], Apr 24 (ANI): Former Border Security Force (BSF) jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav, who was dismissed from the BSF over his viral video of poor food quality for jawans, is likely to appeal against his dismissal from service in a Delhi court today.

Full Story >>

New Delhi, [India], Apr 24 (ANI): A Delhi court on Monday is likely to pronounce its order in a fake passport case allegedly involving noted gangster Chhota Rajan and three others.

Full Story >>

New Delhi, [India], Apr 24 (ANI): A Delhi Court on Monday, is likely to take cognizance of the charge sheet filed against Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh in a Disproportionate Assets (DA) case.

Full Story >>

BJP condemns Amroha triple talaq shocker

Updated: Apr 24, 2017 06:26 IST

Mumbai/Lucknow, [India], Apr 24 (ANI): The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday condemned the 'Amroha triple talaq', saying it is high time to abolish the Islamic practice to dissolve marriage which was destroying Muslim women's life.

Full Story >>

New Delhi, [India], Apr 24 (ANI): Rubbishing Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's allegation of EVM tampering during the MCD polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the former is making such remarks out of the fear of failure, adding that he should introspect on his government's performance instead.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], Apr. 24 (ANI): After a marathon 10-hour grilling on Sunday, the interrogation of ousted All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader T.T.V. Dinakaran will continue today by the Crime Branch office of Delhi Police here, where he will be probed in a case involving bribing of an Election Commission official to get the party's 'two-leaves' symbol.

Full Story >>

Mumbai/Lucknow, [India], Apr 24 (ANI): Reacting sharply to West Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Dilip Ghosh's controversial remark, Congress on Monday accused the saffron party of trying to promote its communalism agenda everywhere, adding that the ruling dispensation is threatening people and inciting Hindus in the name of 'Ram'.

Full Story >>

New Delhi, [India], Apr 24 (ANI): The Supreme Court Monday will hear the plea filed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ashwini Upadhyay, seeking a direction to make Hindi a compulsory subject nationwide for students up to class eight.

Full Story >>

Congress dubs NITI Aayog a 'flop'

Updated: Apr 24, 2017 06:11 IST

New Delhi/Kolkata, [India], Apr 24 (ANI): Launching a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Congress on Monday dubbed the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog as a 'flop', adding that the Central government needs to understand the feelings and problems of the state governments rather than harassing them.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], Apr. 24 (ANI): Taking to Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted legendary South African cricketer Jonty Rhodes' daughter 'India' on her second birthday.

Full Story >>

Thane (Maharashtra), [India], Apr 24 (ANI): Shiv Sena chief Uddhay Thackeray has demanded that the country's highest civilian award 'Bharat Ratna' be bestowed upon freedom fighter Vinayak Damodar Savarkar .

Full Story >>