Against the backdrop of an animated public discussion on Pakistan's aggression in Kargil, the Union Government vide its order dated July 29, 1999 constituted a Committee to look into the episode with the following Terms of Reference:-
i. to review the events leading up to the Pakistani aggression in the Kargil district of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir; and
ii. To recommended such measures as are considered necessary to safeguard national security against such armed intrusions.
The Committee comprised four members namely K Subrahmanyam (Chairman), Lieutenant General (Retd) K K Hazari, B G Verghese and Satish Chandra, Secretary, National Security Council Secretariat who was also designated as Member-Secretary.
Given its open ended terms of reference, the time constraint and, most importantly, the need for clarity in setting about its task, the Committee found it necessary to define its scope of work precisely. To deal with the Kargil episode in isolation would have been too simplistic; hence the Report briefly recounts the important facets of developments in J&K and the evolution of the LOC, Indo-Pak relations since 1947, the proxy war in Kashmir and the nuclear factor.
However, the Committee's 'review' commences essentially from 1997 onwards coinciding with Nawaz Sharif's return to office as Prime Minister of Pakistan. This has enabled the Committee to look at developments immediately preceding the intrusions more intensively. The Committee has sought to analyse whether the kind of Pakistani aggression that took place could have been assessed from the available intelligence inputs and if so, what were the shortcomings and failures which led to the nation being caught by surprise.
However, the actual conduct of military operations has not been evaluated by the Committee as this lay outside the Committee's mandate and would have called for a different type of expertise. The Committee's recommendations for preventing future recurrence of Kargil-like episodes are confined to the country's land borders. Since some of these are generic in nature, they would have a bearing on future threats to the country whether on its land borders or otherwise.
The Committee approached its task in a spirit of openness and transparency with its focus on establishing the facts. It viewed its task as a co-operative venture with the concerned Ministries, Defence Services, Intelligence Agencies and other concerned organisations and avoided getting into adversarial relationship with the officials and non-officials with whom it was required to interact. Given this approach it was able to enlist the willing co-operation of all concerned.
Although the Committee was not statutory in nature, as a result of Cabinet Secretary's directions, it was able to secure the widest possible access to all relevant documents, including those with the highest classification and to officials of the Union and J&K Governments. In the pursuit of its task the Committee sought presentations from the concerned organisations and agencies. It held meetings with those who in its judgement were in a position to throw light on the subject.
In this process, it met former President R Venkataraman, Prime Minister A B Vajpayee, ex-Prime Ministers V P Singh, P V Narasimha Rao and I K Gujral, the Home Minister, External Affairs Minister, Defence Minister, the Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, the Governor and the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, the National Security Adviser, the Cabinet Secretary, the Defence Secretary, the Foreign Secretary, the Home Secretary and a host of other officials and non-officials, including media persons.
The Committee held over a hundred meetings, the records of which are appended to the Report. Detailed questionnaires were prepared by the Committee to elicit information. It made four visits to various parts of J&K to hold discussions with local officials and non-officials, and to get a better sense of the terrain and the prevailing field conditions.
It undertook a visit to Bangalore to obtain a first hand knowledge of certain defence research and development facilities and for discussions with experts regarding technological options. The Committee invited reliable information from the public pertaining to events leading up to the Pakistani aggression in Kargil through a press note in the national dailies and the regional media. It scanned a large number of news items and commentaries published in the national dailies, journals and magazines. Apart from this, it perused several books published in recent months on the Kargil episode.
The Committee's Findings are based primarily on official documents, authenticated records and copies of documents, while other parts of the Report draw on materials received by the Committee and views of experts and knowledgeable persons who were invited to interact with it.
The Committee's Report comprises 14 Chapters in addition to a Prologue and an Epilogue. Important documents referred to by the Committee are enclosed as annexures with the main Report. Other relevant documents, Records of Discussions and source materials have been put together in 15 volumes and appended to the Report. The Findings and Recommendations of the Committee are set out in the succeeding sections of this summary.
The Kargil Review Committee Report was tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2000. Here are Findings from the Executive Summary of the Report:
Developments leading to the Pakistani aggression at Kargil
The Review Committee had before it overwhelming evidence that the Pakistani armed intrusion in the Kargil sector came as a complete and total surprise to the Indian Government, Army and intelligence agencies as well as to the J&K State Government and its agencies.
The Committee did not come across any agency or individual who was able clearly to assess before the event the possibility of a large scale Pakistani military intrusion across the Kargil heights. What was conceived of was the limited possibility of infiltration's and enhanced artillery exchanges in this Sector.
A number of former Army Chiefs of Staff and Director Generals of Military Operations were near unanimous in their opinion that a military intrusion on the scale attempted was totally unsustainable because of the lack of supportive infrastructure and was militarily irrational. In the 1948, 1965 and 1971 conflicts, the Indian Army was able to dominate the Pakistani forces on these heights.
This area has been the scene of fierce artillery exchanges but minimal cross-LOC military activity. These factors, together with the nature of the terrain and extreme weather conditions in the area, had generated an understandable Indian military mindset about the nature and extent of the Pakistani threat in this sector.
The developments of 1998 as reported in various intelligence inputs, notably the increased shelling of Kargil, the reported increased presence of militants in the Force Commander Northern Area region and their training were assessed as indicative of a likely high level of militant activity in Kargil in the summer of 1999 and the consequent possibility of increased infiltration in this area.
The Pakistani reconnaissance mission in August 1997 in Gharkum village was noted and a patrol base established in Yaldor. An operation was also planned to apprehend the infiltrators if they returned in the summer of 1998. They apparently did not do so.
The nearest approximation to the events of May 1999 was a 15 Corps war-game in 1993 which envisaged a Pakistani long range penetration group positioning itself south of NH 1A and bringing the Srinagar-Leh highway under fire from both sides. Even that assessment did not visualise an intrusion to hold ground by hundreds of Pakistan Army regulars.
Intrusions across the LOC are not uncommon. Pakistan had in the past intruded into the Indian side of the LOC and the Indian Army had responded adequately. There had, however, been no intrusions since 1990. An attempt to capture a post or two on the LOC was, however, anticipated as revealed in the press briefing of the acting GOC 15 Corps on January 11, 1999. Even this was not the kind of intrusion that actually took place in the Mashkoh, Dras, Kaksar and Batalik areas.
The terrain here is so inhospitable that the intruders could not have survived above 4,000 metres for long without comprehensive and sustained re-supply operations. They were even running short of water at these heights towards the end of the operations. Though heavily armed, the intruders did not have rations for more than two or three days in many forward 'sanghars'. Re-supply could have taken place only if there was no air threat and the supply lines could not be targeted by Indian artillery.
In other words, it would appear that the Pakistani intruders operated on the assumption that the intrusions would be under counter attack for only a few days and thereafter some sort of cease-fire would enable them to stay on the heights and be re-supplied.
Such an assumption would be totally unsustainable in purely military terms. It would only be logical on the expectation, based upon political considerations, that Pakistan would be able to engineer international intervention to impose an early ceasefire that would allow its troops to stay in possession of the territory captured by them. Such an assumption could not have been made without close consultation with the Pakistani political leadership at the highest level.
General Musharraf has disclosed that the operations were discussed in November 1998 with the political leadership and there are indications of discussion on two subsequent occasions in early 1999. The tapes of conversations between General Musharraf and Lieutenant General Aziz, Chief of General Staff, also revealed their expectation of early international intervention, the likelihood of a ceasefire and knowledge and support of the Foreign Office.
In retrospect, such an expectation was unreal. The Pakistani establishment has a long and consistent history of misreading India's will and world opinion. In 1947, it did not anticipate the swift Indian military intervention in Kashmir when it planned its raid with a mix of army personnel, ex-servicemen and tribals under the command of Major General Akbar Khan. In 1965, it took Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's advice that India would not cross the international border to deal with Pakistan's offensive in the Akhbur sector.
In 1971, it developed high but totally unwarranted expectations about the likelihood of US-Chinese intervention on its behalf. The same pattern of behaviour was evident this time too. This is presumably the price the Pakistani leadership has paid for its inability to come to terms with the military realities. It has obviously been a victim of its own propaganda.
It is evident from Pakistani pronouncements and the writings of those with access to the highest decision making levels, that at least from 1987 onwards, when Dr A Q Khan conveyed a nuclear threat to India in a Press interview to an Indian journalist, Pakistan was convinced that its nuclear weapons capability would deter India's superior conventional forces.
Written accounts of foreign observers have highlighted that since 1980, the Pakistani military establishment had entertained ideas of deterring Indian nuclear and conventional capabilities with its nuclear weapons and of carrying out a brash, bold strike to liberate Kashmir which would go unchallenged if the Indian leadership was weak or indecisive.
Successive Indian Chiefs of Army Staff and Director Generals of Military Operations told the Committee that bringing to bear India's assumed conventional superiority was not a serious option in the last ten years for a variety of reasons; commitments in Sri Lanka, subsequent deployments in Punjab, the northeast and Kashmir, and a drastic reduction in Defence outlay. Pakistani writings over the years have highlighted the Indian Army's involvement in counterinsurgency in Kashmir and its perceived degradation as an effective fighting force.
Several Pakistani writers agree that the 'Kargil plan' was formulated in the eighties in the last years in General Zia-ul Haq. There are different versions on whether it was sought to be operationalised during the tenures of Benazir Bhutto and General Jehangir Karamat, Chief of Army Staff. General Musharraf's disclosure that it was discussed with the political leadership in November 1998 soon after he assumed office has been referred to in the Report. It is difficult to say whether the initiative for this move came from the Army or was politically driven.
There was a heady combination of circumstances and personalities. Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister, had successfully removed from office the President, the Chief Justice and the then Army Chief, General Karamat, in whose place he appointed General Musharraf who superseded two others.
General Musharraf himself served in Afghanistan and had ties with Osama Bin Laden and other extremists. He is a Mohajir and an ambitious, hard driving man. He had served in the Northern Areas for several years and had been associated with the crackdown on the Shias. He had commanded the Special Services Group with launched an attack on Bilafond La in Siachen but was frustrated.
'This rapid and strong Indian reaction was obviously not expected by the Pakistanis' Part I: 'The Pakistani establishment has a long and consistent history of misreading India's will'
Some Pakistani columnists claim that Nawaz Sharif thought that if he succeeded in seizing a slice of Indian territory in Kashmir, he would be hailed as a 'Liberator' and thereby enabled to gain absolute power through amendment of the Shariah law. There is no clear evidence on the basis of which to assess the nature and extent of Nawaz Sharif's involvement in the Kargil adventure. The balance of probability suggests that he was fully in the picture. This is borne out by the tapes referred too earlier and the repeated assertions of General Musharraf.
Those who know Nawaz Sharif personally believe that he has a limited attention span and is impatient with detail. Accordingly, it is reasonable to assume that Nawaz Sharif was at least aware of the broad thrust of the Kargil plan when he so warmly welcomed the Indian Prime Minister in Lahore.
Influential sections of the Indian political class and media have been outraged at the duplicity of the Pakistani leadership. Some argue that Nawaz Sharif could not have been so duplicitous and therefore tend to absolve him and lay all blame on General Musharraf. However, having a declaratory policy different from that actually pursued is not unknown in international realpolitik and diplomacy. This existentialist divergence between the two necessitates diplomatic interaction, continuous political analysis, Track-II diplomacy and intelligence collection, collation and assessment.
The Committee has not come across any assessment at operational levels that would justify the conclusion that the Lahore summit had caused the Indian decision-makers to lower their guard. This has been confirmed by the discussions the Committee had with a number of concerned officials. Nonetheless, there was euphoria in some political quarters, among leaders in and out of office, though some others saw serious pitfalls in the Lahore process.
The Committee has attempted a partial reconstruction of Operation BADR based on diaries and notebooks recovered from Pakistani personnel during the operation as well as intercepts. It would appear that reconnaissance parties comprising officers started crossing the LOC in late January/early February 1999. They established a first line of administrative bases within a limited distance across the LOC in February. March saw heavy snowfall and so they could move further forward only in April.
At that stage, more men joined them and perhaps the bulk of the intruders entered Indian territory in late April. This sequence of events appears logical as earlier induction of larger numbers would have added to logistic problems and increased the risk of detection. Care was exercised by the intruders to move only in the gaps between the Indian winter posts and to avoid detection by Winter Air Surveillance Operations. They were equipped for extreme cold and snow conditions. In the initial advance, they used Igloo snow tents and constructed 'sanghars' of loose rock.
Perhaps late in April, they moved up a further two to three kilometers. WASO helicopters and operational reconnaissance flights repeatedly flew over them as is evident from one of the diaries captured in Mashkoh Valley. A combination of factors prevented their detection: camouflage clothing; helicopter vibrations which hampered observation; opportunity for concealment on hearing the sound of approaching helicopters; and peace time safety requirements of maintaining a certain height above the ground and a given distance from the LOC.
Since the effort was largely to detect infiltration, most flights flew along valleys and not across the ridges. All these factors made the WASO patrols of negligible values as is also evident from the records of previous years.
After a lull in the winter from late December 1998, there was very heavy snowfall in March 1999 which compelled 121 Infantry Brigade to vacate one of its 25 winter posts in the South west Spur of Point 5299 in the Kaksar sector, popularly known as Bajrang post. Winter patrols sent out in early April 1999 were unable to carry out their task due to adverse snow conditions. The Pakistanis creeping forward also suffered avalanche causalities in the month of March 1999 as revealed by a diary captured in the Mashkoh Valley.
All the Indian military commanders the Committee met emphasised the point that while it would have been possible for patrolling to be carried out even under these conditions, it would have required the troops to be specially equipped to withstand glacial conditions, as in Siachen, and a willingness to accept possible casualties. Until now, this had not been considered necessary or acceptable.
It would appear from the locations of 'sanghars' that the plan was to avoid initially confronting the Indian forces by moving stealthily along the unheld gaps. The Pakistani intruders were meant to disclose themselves in the later part of May 1999 and demonstrate that they were in possession of the Kargil heights along a "new LOC" before the normal opening of the Zojila pass when regular patrolling by the Indian Army would commence.
Presumably they felt that with the advantage of the commanding heights, their better acclimatisation and by now their more secure logistics, the situation would be distinctly in their favour. The Indians would need time to assemble their forces, acclimatise their troops and build up their logistics which would be difficult before Zojila opened. They would also have to suffer unacceptable casualties in attacking the heights. This would ensure time enough for an internationally arranged ceasefire.
This was probably Pakistan's expectation. In fact, however, the intrusion was detected on May 3 1999, by "shepherds" who are occasionally retained by the Brigade Intelligence Team for forward information gathering. The patrols sent out in the next few days confirmed the presence of intruders on May 7. The Indian Army's response was very rapid and by May 9, two well acclimatised battalions returning from Siachen had been concentrated in the Batalik sector to contain the intrusion.
In the next few days, three more battalions were moved from the Valley into the Kargil sector to counter known and possible intrusions in other sub-sectors. By May 24, two additional Brigades had moved into the area and the Indian Air Force was committed on May 26. By the end of May an additional divisional headquarters had been inducted to take over command of a portion of the Kargil Sector from 3 Infantry Division.
This rapid and strong Indian reaction was obviously not expected by the Pakistanis. It was now their turn to be totally surprised. Simultaneously, Pakistan tried to lobby with the international community for a ceasefire, which would leave it with some Indian territory and thereby justify its misadventure. Initially, there was support for a ceasefire, but once Tololing fell and the Indian Government and Army exhibited their determination to clear the entire intrusion, the international community called on Pakistan to withdraw from and respect the sanctity of the LOC.
The sitrep issued by 15 Corps on May 11, 1999 was explicit on eight identified intrusions in the Batalik sector involving 160 to 240 intruders. The Northern Command had already made a request for the use of helicopter gunships on May 8. The Northern Command issued orders on May 12 that the whole J&K theatre be put on alert and additional troops be inducted into the Kargil sector.
There are obvious discrepancies between the documented responses of 15 Corps and the Northern Command and the information regarding the nature and extent of intrusions at that stage, then available in the Ministries of Defence and Home in Delhi as is evident from the statements of concerned officials.
Movement of forces within a corps is entirely within the competence of the corps commander and does not require clearance from any other authority. For the 15 Corps, an operation on a single brigade front was a 'localised' action. The record establishes that the 15 Corps Commander carried out his deployment with commendable expedition and competence providing adequate margins for all possible contingencies.
The Committee found that though the Corps Commander had moved adequate forces to contain the intrusion in the Batalik sector and followed it up with a similar deployment of forces in the Kaksar, Dras and Mashkoh valley sectors, there was still no clarity in the assessment of the magnitude of the intrusions and the composition of the intruders. This is evident from the statement of the Corps Commander on May 19.
Pakistan insists on projecting most of the intruders as Mujahideen, with NLI troops in a supporting role. The assessment of the nature and composition of the intruders was hampered by a number of factors. Pakistan deliberately violated the normal rules of war by sending in servicemen as Mujahideen and obfuscating their service identities.
Secondly, as pointed out elsewhere, there was inadequate coordination at the ground level among Army intelligence and other agencies.
This was lacking even at the Joint Intelligence Committee because of the low level of representation by DGMI at the assessment process and the DGMI representative not coming fully briefed on the latest situation. It is also apparent that the assessment was conditioned by the two-decade-old mindset that Kargil was unsuitable for cross-LOC military action.
There are reports in the media, some of which are said to have originated from young officers, JCOs and other ranks, that in the initial stages, the Indian Army suffered avoidable casualties, taken as it was by surprise. However, the progressive data of Indian casualties from May to July 1999 obtained by the Committee does not entirely support this hypothesis. The Committee did not go into the matter further as its terms of reference do not require it to do so.
There were also comments in the media that Army jawans were inadequately equipped for the extreme cold and hazardous conditions when ordered to assault the Kargil heights. Their weapons and equipment compared unfavourably with those of the Pakistani intruders. The Army had prescribed extra-cold clothing meant for heights between 9,000 to 13,000 feet in this sector for use in normal times, and special (glacial) clothing for heights above that. Special clothing is issued for use in the Siachen area and certain limited reserves were held in stock.
When hostilities commenced, this reserve clothing was issued to the men. Troops returning from Siachen duty discard their special clothing which is then usually disposed of by auction. However, in the previous year, the Corps Commander had ordered that part-worn serviceable Siachen clothing be preserved. This PWS stock was also issued to the troops during the Kargil action. Despite this, there was still an overall shortage.
This warrants a review of standards of provisioning for reserves as well as a policy of holding special clothing for a certain proportion of other troops in the Kargil and other high altitude sectors.
Though the new light rifle (5.56 mm Insa) has been inducted into service, most troops are yet to be equipped with light rifles. Adequate attention has not been paid to lightening the load on infantry soldiers deployed at high altitudes. In broader terms, increasing the firepower and combat efficiency of infantrymen has also suffered as has the modernisation process as a whole. This needs to be speedily rectified.
[ Government Security Deletion]
The Air Chief further maintained that if air power was to be used, the country should be prepared for a Pakistani response. Therefore, the relevant Air Commands and units were activated. The CCS finally authorised the use of air power on May 25.
[ Government Security Deletion]
'The Kargil battle was fought with less than optimum communications capability' Part I: 'The Pakistani establishment has a long and consistent history of misreading India's will'
Part II: 'This rapid and strong Indian reaction was obviously not expected by the Pakistanis'
It would not be unreasonable for Pakistan to have concluded by 1990 that it had achieved the nuclear deterrence it had set out to establish in 1980. Otherwise, it is inconceivable that it could sustain its proxy war against India, inflicting thousands of casualties, without being unduly concerned about India's 'conventional superiority'. Even as late as May 1998, when both sides conducted their nuclear tests, India had not used its conventional superiority during the preceding nine years of sustained proxy war by Pakistan in Kashmir.
Successive Indian Army chiefs and Directors General of Military Operations told the Committee that the idea of using India's conventional superiority did not arise for various reasons other than the nuclear factor.
The 1998 Pokhran tests were the outcome of a policy of consensus on nuclear weapons development among Prime Ministers belonging to the Congress, Janata Dal, United Democratic Front and BJP. For reasons of security, none of these Prime Ministers took anyone other than Chairmen of the Atomic Energy Commission (not all), and the Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister into confidence. The Chiefs of Staff, senior Cabinet Ministers and senior civil servants were kept out of the loop.
The nuclear posture adopted by successive Prime Ministers thus put the Indian Army at a disadvantage vis-a-vis its Pakistani counterpart. While the former was in the dark about India's nuclear capability, the latter as the custodian of Pakistani nuclear weaponry was fully aware of its own capability. Three former Indian Chiefs of Army Staff expressed unhappiness about this asymmetric situation.
Successive Indian Prime Ministers failed to take their own colleagues, the major political parties, the Chiefs of Staff and the Foreign Secretaries into confidence on the nature of Pakistan's nuclear threat and the China-Pakistan nuclear axis. The Prime Ministers, even while supporting the weapons programme, kept the intelligence and nuclear weapons establishments in two watertight compartments.
Foreign policy was being conducted without Foreign Ministers and Indian diplomats being apprised of the nature of the threat to the country or of India's own nuclear capability. It is quite likely that this secretiveness on the part of the Indian Prime Ministers and the country's inability to exercise its conventional superiority could have confirmed Pakistan in its belief that its nuclear deterrent had indeed been effective in Kashmir since 1990 and it could therefore pursue the proxy war and the Kargil adventure with impunity on the basis of its own prescribed rules of the game.
Pakistan fully understands that nuclear deterrence can work both to its advantage and detriment. In a speech on April 12, 1999, General Musharraf stated that though the possibility of large-scale conventional war between India and Pakistan was virtually zero, proxy wars were not only possible but very likely.
At the height of the Cold War, when mutual deterrence was in operation between the superpowers, it used to be argued by strategists that 'salami slicing' of small pieces of territory, which the adversary would not consider worth escalating to nuclear levels, was always feasible. To counter the risk, the US developed a strategy of flexible response. What Pakistan attempted at Kargil was a typical case of salami slicing.
Since India did not cross the LoC and reacted strictly within its own territory, the effort to conjure up escalation of a kind that could lead to nuclear war did not succeed. Despite its best efforts, Pakistan was unable to link its Kargil caper with a nuclear flashpoint, though some foreign observers believe it was a near thing. The international community does not favour alteration of the status quo through nuclear blackmail as this would not be in the interest of the five major nuclear powers. Pakistan obviously overlooked this factor.
The P-5 statement of June 4, 1998 and the Security Council Resolution 1172 of June 6, 1998 condemned the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests. It exhorted both countries to sign the CTBT and NPT and referred to Kashmir as a root cause of tension between them. This could have encouraged Pakistan to conclude that what its caretaker Prime Minister in 1993, Moeen Qureshi, claimed as the objective of linking Kashmir with the nuclear issue had been achieved and that Pakistan was in a position to implement a strategy outlined as far back as 1980, namely, to seize Kashmir in a bold, brash move when the Indian leadership appeared weak and indecisive.
President Clinton's statement in China assigning a role to that country in South Asia must have further encouraged Pakistan. The US also tilted in favour of Pakistan in imposing sanctions following the nuclear tests on the ground that its economy was weaker.
At the same time, Pakistan would have realised that the sanctions on India was only marginal and should the Jaswant Singh-Strobe Talbot talks make progress, the nuclear card might not be available for too long. With the passage of time, 'crying nuclear wolf,' even if linked to Kashmir, would progressively lose credibility.
Further, Pakistan's image was damaged by its association with the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and increasing Islamisation. Within Kashmir, the Indian security forces were steadily gaining ascendancy over militancy. It is possible that Pakistan's political and military leadership concluded that the window of opportunity for internationalising the Kashmir issue by projecting it as a nuclear flashpoint was fast closing. Pakistan, therefore, needed to act in 1999.
This conclusion is borne out by the veiled nuclear threats held out by Pakistan's political leaders and officials at the time of the Kargil crisis. Except for one irresponsible editorial in an Indian party paper, there were no analogous pronouncements in this country.
Some accounts claim that the Kargil intrusion was planned in 1997 and that preliminary reconnaissance and training of personnel commenced that year. If this is accepted, while Pakistan's reliance on its nuclear deterrence to prevent India from escalating would still be important, the actual nuclear tests conducted in May 1998 would not in themselves be all that significant as nuclear deterrence between the two was in place as far back as 1990.
CI Operations, Kargil and Integrated Manpower Policy
In going on alert to deter any Pakistani escalation and then focussing on eliminating the intrusion at Kargil, the Army had to withdraw battalions deployed in J&K from their counterinsurgency role. This caused consternation in the State Government and some worry even to the paramilitary forces, which were largely reliant on the Army in this regard.
The heavy involvement of the Army in counterinsurgency operations cannot but affect its preparedness for its primary role, which is to defend the country against external aggression. This point has often been emphasised by Pakistani analysts.
Such a situation has arisen because successive Governments have not developed a long-term strategy to deal with the insurgency. The Army's prolonged deployment in a counterinsurgency role adversely affects its training programme, leads to fatigue and the development of a mindset that detracts from its primary role. However, the Ministry of Home Affairs, state governments and paramilitary forces tend to assume that the Army will always be there to combat insurgency.
This was vividly demonstrated when the Committee was referred to the Union Home Ministry's Action Plan for fighting military and the proxy war in J&K prepared in May 1998. This defined the role of the Army as being to ensure 'zero infiltration' across the LOC.
The paramilitary and Central Police Forces are not trained, raised and equipped to deal with trans-border terrorism by well-trained mercenaries armed with sophisticated equipment who are continuously infiltrating across the border/LOC. Over the years, the quality of these forces has not been appropriately upgraded effectively to deal with the challenge of the times and this has led to the increased dependence on the Army to fight insurgency.
The net result has been to reduce the role of the Indian Army to the level of a paramilitary force and the paramilitary forces, in turn, to the level of an ordinary police force. Pakistan has ruthlessly employed terrorism in Punjab, J& K and the North-East to involve the Indian Army in counterinsurgency operations and neutralise its conventional superiority.
Having partially achieved this objective, it has also persuaded itself that nuclear blackmail against India has succeeded on three occasions. A coherent counterstrategy to deal with Pakistan's terrorist-nuclear blackmail and the conventional threat has to be thought through.
The Committee believes that a comprehensive manpower policy is required to deal with this problem. In the present international security environment, proxy war and terrorism have become preferred means of hurting a neighbour's social, political and economic wellbeing. Given Pakistan's unrelenting hostility towards this country, it is necessary to evolve a long-term strategy to reduce the involvement of the Army in counterinsurgency and devise more cost-effective means of dealing with the problem.
There has also been criticism that redeployment of military units from CI duty in the Valley to the Kargil sector resulted in providing easy passage for a large number of hardened militants who were infiltrated by Pakistan across the Shamsabari Range into the Kupwara-Uri area and even South of the Pir Panjal.
The Unified Command was also reorganised, with the Director General Rashtriya Rifles being brought in from Delhi to replace GOC 15 Corps. The latter was relieved of this responsibility to enable him to devote full attention to his principal national defence task. However, within weeks of the conclusion of Operation Vijay, the status quo ante was restored. DG RR returned to Delhi and GOC 15 Corps resumed his place in the Unified Command.
The Committee also found Unified Command HQ's intelligence structure lacking in timely and continuous analysis and assessment of intelligence, which is critical of the success of CI operations.
More thought must be given to all these issues. Unified Command HQs have also been set up in Assam from time to time under different circumstances and with a somewhat different structure. But whether in J&K or Assam, there has sometimes been tension both between the Army and paramilitary/CPO/Police formations and between the civil and military authorities. This is an unhappy state of affairs and should not allowed to linger. The kind of manpower reorganisation the Committee proposes could provide a partial answer, but would still leave untouched the question of how best to structure Unified Command HQs in the future, wherever they might be required.
The decision taken two years ago to reduce the Indian Army's strength by 50,000 men and reinvest the savings on establishment costs in force modernisation, was a wise one. This reduction in numbers had no bearing on the Kargil crisis and it would be a gross misunderstanding of military realities to believe otherwise.
In spite of continuing counterinsurgency operations over the past many years, there has been no integrated equipment policy in respect of the Army, paramilitary and Central police forces. The manpower integration proposed would also ensure compatibility of equipment and render it easier for the Army and the other forces to operate side by side effectively when required to do so.
There is an equally pressing need to fashion an effective border management policy which covers not only terrorist infiltration, but illegal migration, smuggling and the flow of narcotics. These are all matters of national concern but are being looked at compartmentally. The inevitable result has been sub-optimal border management at a time when the narcotics trade has been playing a crucial role in Pakistan's promotion of cross-border terrorism.
Technology has added significantly to the potential of armies and terrorists. The AK-47 has transformed the lethal potential of the terrorist who has often outgunned the country's security forces in Punjab and J& K. The terrorist comes equipped with rapid fire, stand-off weapons, high explosives, wads of currency (real and fake) and sophisticated communications equipment. He can act alone and also as a member of an integrated team. He is highly motivated and often a person conditioned by years of fundamentalist schooling.
Despite the challenge of terrorism over the past many years, the Indian Army and other security forces have lagged behind in the quality of their surveillance and communication equipment although technologically superior equipment is readily available the world over. Only after the Kargil intrusion was direction finding equipment acquired in increasing numbers. Helicopters employed for air surveillance patrolling do not have sophisticated monitoring and sensing devices. The Kargil battle was fought with less than optimum communications capability.
While self-reliance and indigenisation are sound principles, the availability of critical equipment in time of combat is the supreme consideration that must govern acquisition policy. This does not appear to be the case at present and there is no mechanism to monitor that the process of equipment acquisition serves the best interests of the country.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation and the chain of defence laboratories under its jurisdiction is responsible for indigenising and constantly upgrading the country's weapons and equipment inventory and related supplies. The dilemma has always been to determine the correct balance between 'make or buy.' There are obvious constraints such as of foreign exchange and the non-availability of state-of-the-art technology from advanced nations which are at best only prepared to share these with their military allies. As a non-aligned power, India has not had access to some of the Western technologies that have flowed to Pakistan. Dual-use technology-denial regimes have also operated against India.
These considerations demand that the country develop a degree of self-reliance in defence-related technology and military hardware. Considerable progress has been made in this direction. The achievements in this field can neither be denied nor denigrated.
Nevertheless, a number of instances were brought to the notice of the Committee in respect of which there have been significant cost and time overruns in the development and induction of indigenous weapons and equipment for the three Armed Services. While extenuating circumstances can be cited, the fact is that the Services have had to do without such items whereas Pakistan has not been similarly handicapped. Some of these issues were in fact examined in detail by the Committee on Defence Expenditure (1990-91). This report has unfortunately not been made public and, the committee understands, many of its more substantial recommendations await implementation.
Media Relations and Information
If the media served the country well, much of the credit goes to the initiative it itself took and to some individuals within the Government and the Armed Forces. Information is power, especially in this Information Age. The media moulds national and international opinion and can be a potent force multiplier. This was evident at Kargil -- India's first television war.
All things considered, coverage by the print and electronic media was by and large satisfactory. Yet it was apparent that, with some exceptions, media personnel lacked training in military affairs and war reporting and that the Armed Services lacked training and preparedness to facilitate the task of the media and counter disinformation.
Defence Public Relations is routinely handled by the Ministry of Defence through regular Information Service cadres. This establishment is not equipped to handle media relations during war or even proxy war. The briefing function during the Kargil crisis was taken over by a triad of senior military and civil spokesmen. Army Headquarters set up an Information and Psychological Warefare Cell under an officer of the rank of Major General with direct access to the Army Chief. This enabled Army Headquarters both to monitor and disseminate information is a better calibrated manner than would have been the case otherwise.
Reporting on the campaign revealed a lack of public information about the command structure of the Armed Forces and how responsibilities are distributed within the national intelligence framework. While arrangements were made for official briefings at Delhi, there were inadequate arrangements at the Corps, Division and Brigade levels. Nor were there arrangements to brief officers and men at the ground level on daily developments nor to interface with the civil authorities.
The result was generation of a lot of inaccurate information such as the reported capture of a number of Indian Army bunkers (whereas the enemy only occupied one permanent patrol post which had earlier been vacated on account of extreme weather conditions), the existence of three-storeyed enemy bunkers equipped with television sets, and the purchase by the intruders of cement from the Dras-Kargil market.
A number of simple misperceptions became apparent in newspapers reports questioning the absence of the Army Chief in Poland during the early part of May 1999 and the Northern Army commander going to Pune about the same time. The early military appreciation was of limited infiltration in Kargil. Nevertheless, the Corps Commander, in whose area of responsibility the intrusion (as it was subsequently discovered to be) occurred, had acted promptly and vigorously to deal with even larger eventualities. There was no need to cancel the Army Chief's visit which had been long planned and was of some political significant.
The COAS remained in touch with developments at home and there was no vacuum in the higher military leadership because of his absence abroad during the early phase of Kargil developments. The Army Commander, in turn, went to Pune for a briefing from his predecessor, Lieutenant General S Padmanabhan, now Southern Army Commander. He too was in constant touch with his Command and HQ 15 Corps and had already set in motion various precautionary measures.
Some of all this is inevitable in the fog of war. But efforts have to be made to review information handling procedures within the Armed Forces and their public dissemination. The Army needs such improved public relations capability even otherwise when deployed on counterinsurgency duties. Public relations are presently managed by the Ministry of Defence and at the formation level by military officers who have no media background.
A comprehensive account of the Kargil operations remains to be brought out. Pakistani political and military leaders have repeatedly highlighted their nuclear capability and their will to use it. Accounts have also appeared in Pakistan of how India was thrice deterred by its nuclear capability. India's reticence in setting the record straight about the earlier conflicts and the developments in the nuclear field appear to have influenced the Pakistani mindset and led to the adventurous miscalculation over Kargil.
The first overall briefing on the Kargil situation in the Military Operations Room was given to the Defence and External Affairs Ministers on May 17 with the Chiefs of staff committee in attendance. This was followed by a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security chaired by the Prime Minister on May 18 and a briefing of the Prime Minister and Defence Minister on May 24, with the COSC in attendance, by when the magnitude of the Kargil intrusion had been more or less fully assessed. The Army Chief had returned from Poland by May 20 when the CCS met again on May 25, with the COSC in attendance, and the use of the air power was cleared.
War and proxy war do not leave the civil population untouched. Human rights violations, civilian casualties, destruction or commandeering of property, refugee movements and the disruption of infrastructure and livelihoods must be expected. This calls for the creation of a civil-military interface at various levels to deal with a whole range of problems on an emergence basis. Such liaison was lacking during the Kargil action and points to a deficiency that must be made good.
The outcome of the Kargil operation was both a military and diplomatic triumph for India. The Pakistani intruders were evicted with heavier casualties than those suffered by India. The sanctity of the LOC received international recognition and Pakistan was isolated in the comity of nations. While attending to such shortcomings as have been brought to light, the nation can be proud of the manner in which the Armed Forces and the people as a whole acquitted themselves.
Was Kargil Avoidable?
A Kargil-type situation could perhaps have been avoided had the Indian Army followed a policy of Siachenisation to plug unheld gaps along the 168 km stretch from Kaobal Gali to Chorbat La. This would have entailed establishing a series of winter cut-off posts with communications and other logistic support and specially equipped and trained troops to hold these positions and undertake winter patrolling despite risk of cold injuries and avalanche casualties which would have had to be accepted.
Such a dispersal of forces to hold uninhabited territory of no strategic value, would have dissipated considerable military strength and effort and would not have been at all cost-effective. If, however, it has had to be done now, such a policy can only be regarded as no more than a temporary expedient. The alternative should be a credible declaratory policy of swiftly punishing wanton and wilful violations of the sanctity of the LOC. This should be supplemented by a comprehensive space and aerial and based surveillance system.
The Findings bring out many grave deficiencies in India's security management system. The framework Lord Ismay formulated and Lord Mountbatten recommended was accepted by a national leadership unfamiliar with the intricacies of national security management. There has been very little change over the past 52 years despite the 1962 debacle, the 1965 stalemate and the 1971 victory, the growing nuclear threat, end of the cold war, continuance of proxy war in Kashmir for over a decade and the revolution in military affairs.
The political, bureaucratic, military and intelligence establishments appear to have developed a vested interest in the status quo. National security management recedes into the background in time of peace and is considered too delicate to be tampered with in time of war and proxy war. The Committee strongly feels that the Kargil experience, the continuing proxy war and the prevailing nuclearised security environment justify a thorough review of the national security system in its entirety.
Such a review cannot be undertaken by an over-burdened bureaucracy. An independent body of credible experts, whether a national commission or one or more task forces or otherwise as expedient, is required to conduct such studies which must be undertake expeditiously. The specific issues that required to be looked into are set out below.
National Security Council
The National Security Council, formally constituted in April 1999, is still evolving and its procedures will take time to mature. Whatever its merits, having a National Security Adviser who also happens to be Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, can only be an interim arrangement. The Committee believes that there must be a full time National Security Adviser and it would suggest that a second line of personnel be inducted into the system as early as possible and groomed for higher responsibility.
Members of the National Security Council, the senior bureaucracy servicing it and the Service Chiefs need to be continually sensitised to assessed intelligence pertaining to national regional and international issues. This can be done through periodic intelligence briefings of the Cabinet Committee on Security with all supporting staff in attendance.