Kargil War-A Saga of Valour and Grit

“Valour, glory, firmness, skill, generosity, steadiness in battle & ability to rule – these constitute the duty of a soldier”.
– The Bhagwad Gita

“Unless India stands up to the world, no one will respect us; In this world, fear has no place; Only strength respects strength”.
Dr A P J Abdul Kalam

The Indian Army today is involved in the management of multifaceted and dynamic land borders with both our adversaries China and Pakistan and coupled with ongoing Counter-Insurgency (CI)/ Counter-Terrorism (CT) operations leading to a ‘No War No Peace’ Scenario. The predominant role of the Indian Army is to protect ‘National Interests’ and defend sovereignty, territorial integrity and harmony of India against external threats and internal insurrection both by deterrence and waging war. The prime approach of our Nation is to find the resolution of disputes amicably, with National Objectives to be achieved through a mix of Politico-Diplomatic initiatives.

Keeping its ethos high, the Indian Army registered a massive victory over Pakistan on July 26, 1999, in Kargil War. This war was fought for more than eighty days. The Pakistani Army taking the benefit of melting of snow betrayed the mutual trust of India and Pakistan that the posts would remain unoccupied during the winter season. It took command of the outposts of India. As usual, the Pakistani Army contested its connection in the war, stating that independent Jammu and Kashmir dissident forces caused it. However, credentials left behind by casualties and later statements by Pakistan’s Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff showed involvement of Pakistani paramilitary forces, led by General Ashraf Rashid. The Kargil war caused losses to both and ended when India recuperated control over the posts and threw the Pakistani Army personnel out of the Indian territory. Kargil Vijay Diwas is commemorated on July 26 every year in honour of the Kargil War’s Heroes.

At first, with slight information of the nature or range of the permeation, the Indian Army in the area presumed that the infiltrators were jihadis and declared that they would evict them within a few days. The subsequent discovery of infiltration elsewhere along the LOC and the difference in tactics employed by the infiltrators caused the Indian Army to realise that the plan of attack was on a much bigger scale. The total area seized by the ingress was between 130 km² – 200 km². The Government of India responded with ‘Operation Vijay’, a mobilisation of 200,000 Indian troops. A total of 527 soldiers from the Indian Armed Forces were martyred during this war while defending their motherland. They held the Indian Flag very high.

It is pertinent to mention that the Indian subcontinent was divided on 14/15 Aug 1947 based on two nations theory, and Pakistan attacked Jammu and Kashmir-when it decided to join India being a Muslim majority state. So the first war between India and Pakistan was fought in 1947-48 when Pakistan launched the naked aggression on Jammu and Kashmir. This resulted in the partition of Jammu and Kashmir and the creation of Pakistan Occupied of Jammu and Kashmir(POJK). In the 1962 India-China war, China illegally occupied part of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir called Aksai Chin. Pakistan again tried her luck in 1965 but failed miserably. Then again, in 1971, Pakistan tried to annex Jammu and Kashmir but India turned the table against Pakistan and helped East Pakistan (Bangladesh) to break away from Pakistan and become an independent nation.

After failing miserably in direct wars with India on three occasions in 1947-48, 1962 and 1971, Pakistan declared its policy of ‘Bleed India with a Thousand Cuts’. Pakistan military adopted this strategy after Indo-Pak of 1971 when Pakistan was divided into two halves. The policy entails pursuing clandestine war against India, employing mercenaries across India. According to scholar Aparna Pande, this view was put forward in various studies by the Pakistani military, particularly in its Staff College, Quetta. Peter Chalk and Christine Fair cite the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director explicating the strategy.

While addressing United Nations Security Council in 1965, Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, professed a thousand-year war against India. Former Pakistan Army Chief Gen Zia-ul-Haq gave form to Bhutto’s ‘thousand years war’ with the ‘bleeding India through a thousand cuts’ doctrine using covert and low-intensity warfare with militancy and infiltration. This doctrine was first attempted during the Insurgency in Punjab and then in Jammu and Kashmir using India’s western border with Pakistan. India’s borders with Nepal and Bangladesh have been used as points to insert trained terrorists into India. It is believed that Pakistan had decided to cut off the Northeast part of India and merge with East Pakistan before the 1971 war and, in the bargain, lost East Pakistan forever. In the early 1980s, they decided to merge Kahlistan with East Punjab of Pakistan.

The Kargil war is a fine example of high altitude warfare in mountainous terrain and caused momentous logistical difficulties for combating both sides. This war was the first ground action between the two countries after they had developed nuclear weapons. The area that experienced the intrusion and aggression was a 160 km long stretch of the Line of Control(LOC), dominating an important highway on the Indian side of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. In addition to the district capital, Kargil, the front line in the conflict encompassed the tiny town of Drass and the Batalik sector, Mushko Valley and other nearby areas along the Line of the Control(LoC). The military outposts on these ridges were generally around 5,000 metres (16,000 feet) high, with a few as high as 5,600 metres (18,000 feet). One of the main reasons Kargil was targeted explicitly for incursions was that its terrain lent itself to a pre-emptive seizure. It provided an ideal high ground for a defender similar to a fortress with tactically important features and well-prepared defensive posts on the high peaks. Any attack to dislocate the enemy and retrieve high ground in mountain warfare would necessitate a high ratio of attackers to defenders, further exacerbated by the high altitude and freezing temperatures. Moreover, Kargil was 175 km from the Pakistan town of Skardu, which was proficient in giving logistical and artillery support to the Pakistani combatants. All these strategic considerations and the Kargil district being a Muslim majority were probably contributing factors to why Kargil was chosen as the location to attack.

It took Indian Army two weeks to gauge the degree of intrusion and asset of the enemy, which is sure a recipe for defeat for any Army globally, especially in limited wars. The best to celebrate our remarkable success is to learn lessons from the early debacles of the Kargil War. These lessons are pertinent for the skirmishes or wars that we are expected to fight in the forthcoming time. Impending wars are going to be brief but of high ferocity. Our Indian military doctrine is proactive, and we will get involved from the word go. We cannot try and learn on the job. In such situations, victory depends on all-encompassing intelligence, a very high standard of training, and in-depth readiness.

The befitting way to celebrate the 22nd Kargil War Diwas would be to learn from lessons compiled by the Kargil Review Committee and Group of Ministers and complete the lingering holistic ‘National Security’ improvements. Let us resolve to fight the next battle with what we should have rather than what we have. Fortunately, India is moving forward in the right direction with the proper defence and foreign policies.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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