Sun, Aug 20, 2017 | updated 12:08 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 (ANI)

Telangana CM nominated for Agriculture Leadership Award 2017

Updated: Aug 19, 2017 23:36 IST     

New Delhi [India], Aug. 19 (ANI): Telangana Chief Minister Chandrashekhar Rao has been nominated for the Agriculture Leadership Award 2017 by the Indian Council of Food and Agriculture.

Full Story >>

Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh) [India], Aug. 19 (ANI): Rescue operations are over and restoration works have begun following the deadly Puri-Haridwar-Kalinga Utkal Express derailment, which has claimed 23 lives so far.

Full Story >>

Uma Bharti to take stock of UP, Bihar floods next week

Updated: Aug 19, 2017 23:34 IST     

New Delhi [India], Aug 19 (ANI): Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Uma Bharti chaired a high level meeting to review the flood situation in the country and the actions being taken at the national level in New Delhi today.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], Aug 19 (ANI): Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat will visit Ladakh on Sunday, to take stock of the security situation amid the continuing stand-off at Doklam near Sikkim.

Full Story >>

Ramdas Athawale bats for SC, ST reservation in Indian Army

Updated: Aug 19, 2017 22:40 IST     

Mumbai (Maharashtra), Aug. 19 (ANI): Union Minister of State for social justice, Ramdas Athawale on Saturday appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking reservation for the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) in the Indian Army.

Full Story >>

Srinagar: "Mysterious" blast near BJP office, no casualties

Updated: Aug 19, 2017 22:40 IST     

Srinagar (Jammu & Kashmir) [India], Aug 19 (ANI): A mysterious blast near the office of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) created panic at Jawahar Nagar in Srinagar on Saturday evening.

Full Story >>

259 killed in 27 train accidents under Modi Govt.: Congress

Updated: Aug 19, 2017 22:40 IST     

New Delhi [India], Aug. 19 (ANI): The Congress Party on Saturday launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the recent derailment of the Puri-Haridwar-Kalinga Utkal Express, near Khatauli railway station in Muzaffarnagar and accused the Centre for being careless regarding the safety of the passengers travelling with the Indian Railways which has claimed so many lives in past three years.

Full Story >>

Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh) [India], August 19 (ANI): The Northern Railways calling the Muzaffarnagar tragedy an "unfortunate incident," have said that there are over 30 injuries and few casualties where the actual figures are being verified.

Full Story >>

Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh)[India], Aug. 19 (ANI): The death toll in the deadly Puri-Haridwar-Kalinga Utkal Express derailment has mounted to 23, while the injured are being counted at 40 so far.

Full Story >>

Darjeeling blast: GJM writes to Rajnath seeking intervention

Updated: Aug 19, 2017 21:44 IST     

New Delhi [India], Aug 19 (ANI): Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader Bimal Gurung has written to Home Minister Rajnath Singh regarding an FIR filed against him on suspicion of the deadly bomb blast in Darjeeling, on Friday.

Full Story >>

Maharashtra: Woman stabs husband to death in Malad

Updated: Aug 19, 2017 21:43 IST     

Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], Aug 19 (ANI): The Maharashtra Police on Saturday registered a case against a woman after she allegedly stabbed her fifty-two year old husband to death over reported family disputes.

Full Story >>

Muzaffarnagar train derailment: 11 killed, over 30 injured

Updated: Aug 19, 2017 21:39 IST     

Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh) [India], August 19 (ANI): The Indian Railways has informed that 14 coaches of the Puri-Haridwar-Kalinga Utkal Express derailed near Khatauli railway station in Muzaffarnagar, adding that at least 11 people have died and over 30 have been injured.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], Aug 19 (ANI): President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday expressed condolences to the grieving kin of the victims who lost their lives in the derailment of the Puri-Haridwar-Kalinga Utkal Express, which took place near Khatauli railway station in Muzaffarnagar.

Full Story >>

Lokayukta can take independent decision for Yeddyurappa

Updated: Aug 19, 2017 21:20 IST     

New Delhi [India], Aug 19 (ANI): Taking a leap at the approval of the extension of Karnataka former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa's land de-notification case by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi on Saturday said that Lokayukta is an independent body and can take prompt decisions without being intervened.

Full Story >>

Bal Thackeray influenced entire Maharashtra: Jaitley

Updated: Aug 19, 2017 21:20 IST     

Mumbai (Maharashtra), Aug. 19 (ANI): Asserting that late Balasaheb Thackeray was a 'gifted communicator', Union Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday said he was one of the leaders who had the ability to directly convey his message to the people.

Full Story >>

Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh) [India], August 19 (ANI): Additional Director General Anand Kumar Srivastava confirmed that at least 10 have been killed in the Muzzafarnagar train derailment tragedy, further informing that Anti-terror squad (ATS) has been sent to the spot as precautionary measure.

Full Story >>

Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh) [India], August 19 (ANI): Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has announced ex gratia of Rs 3.5 lakh for the kin of those who have been killed in the Muzaffarnagar train derailment, Rs. 50 thousand for those who are seriously injured and Rs. 25 thousand for people with minor injuries.

Full Story >>

Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh) [India], Aug 19 (ANI): Terming the derailment of 14 coaches of the Puri-Haridwar-Kalinga Utkal Express which took place near Khatauli railway station in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh as 'unfortunate', Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Saturday said that he has sent two of his ministers to the accident spot to take a stock of the situation.

Full Story >>

Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], Aug 19 (ANI): Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs (Independent Charge) and Parliamentary Affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi flagged off the first batch of 300 Haj pilgrims from Mumbai at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport here today.

Full Story >>

Uttar Pradesh [India], Aug 19 (ANI): Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, on Saturday visited areas in Eastern Uttar Pradesh that have been affected by floods.

Full Story >>