23 years ago, despite all the odds, Indian army secured a historic win over the enemy.
India won against the Pakistan army and ISI. It was 23 years ago that India won, but over 500 of our brave soldiers laid down their lives for us. This day is celebrated as Kargil Vijay Diwas. But, is India prepared for another battle like the Kargil if enemy knocks on the door?
23 years later – did we learn from our mistake?
Did we ask the right questions?
Did we implement the expert advices post war?
Do we support our army only by words, or do we ensure our forces get the best of support and technology?
Do we question government on that?
Let’s learn about the Kargil war and what we have learned from it.
The Kargil War
Historically, India and Pakistan were not able to maintain peace and stability in the region, and there have been skirmishes. It was shocking that in the first half of May 1999, attack started from the other side. Why was this shocking? Because, just 3 months ago, Prime Ministers of both the countries, India’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif, had met. There were talks of peace. Our Prime Minister was well received and everyone thought the situation between neighbours would improve after the Lahore Declaration.
We were expecting peace, whereas, Pakistan army was preparing for battle in the guise of terrorists, entering our region and occupying the Kargil. They crossed 80 km, climbed 16000-17000 feet and made bunkers there. From this height, they had tremendous advantage over us and disrupted the highway joining Srinagar and Leh.
Indian politicians were taken aback by this betrayal as they expected peace. Our initial reaction was not successful as we had no idea how many regulars had entered, how many bunkers were set up and how deep this betrayal was.
India Hits Back
After initial losses due to tactical disadvantage, we bounced back strongly against the Pak military. Our soldiers scaled many heights, crossed many trenches and walked in open, exposed in white ice with bravery. Pak regulars had an advantage to spot us from the top. We lost many of our courageous soldiers during this initial period of the plan, yet we succeeded ultimately in locating their bunkers. Having a bird’s eye view, our air force also played a crucial role in destroying the machine gun positions, bunkers and supply lines in the ridges. Our air force was told not to enter the region of Pakistan.
The dynamics of battle started to turn in our favour by the end of May. But this was a limited battle ground not a full blown war for political reason. But air force was also responsible for protecting and ensuring smooth operation of the Srinagar Leh highway and they did it quite well. As a matter of fact, the air force veterans say that they could have done more but there was a diplomatic reason why the role was limited.
On June 13, our forces secured Tololing peak from enemy troops after a pivotal battle. After this capture, Captain Vikram Batra said the famous line, “Yeh dil maange more” (the heart wants more). The victory was celebrated by everyone because our forces won against all the odds.
But why was there limited use of air force in the area? Because India wanted to show internationally that we didn’t want war and exposed Pakistan leaders Nawaz Sharif and Pervez Musharraf to the world, which built pressure on Pakistan. No one could point a finger on us. We wanted them to vacate our region, and on July 4,Tiger hill was recovered – a significant day. By 13th July, major peaks were captured and Pakistani intruders and regulars withdrew or killed.
On 26 July, the Operation Vijay was successful, and that is why we celebrate it every year as Kargil Vijay Diwas. We should also observe this day to show to the world and our neighbour that you may betray us but in the end we will emerge victorious.
Impact on Pakistan
Pakistan lost diplomatically as well – from ally of US to becoming known as terrorist harbouring nation. Pakistan exposed at International arena as Aggressor. Pakistan was placed on Grey list of Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
The terror activities in Pakistan, these days, are low, because then it would slide a black list and would not be a good news for their funding and economy. One of the biggest motives of Pakistan is that it wanted to internationalise the Kashmir issue by this war, as it would be raised by UN after stalemate and other countries would enter. Pakistan failed, as India successfully forced the enemy to withdraw by moving unilaterally and launching a big operation.
But India also showed the world that we are a matured power; we can defend our region within limit and not need an all-out war. Because of the strategy adopted, soldiers lost lives, but we emerged as mature power diplomatically. That is why, we can enter Pak territory and carry our surgical strike to eliminate terrorists without world pressure.
Steps Taken After Kargil
After celebrating the Kargil win, there were several lesson learned such as –
- Command & control of Chinar Corps required a change.
- A new corps with additional troops raised in Ladakh only for Border to stop outsiders from entering our country.
- “Limited war doctrine” was set up catering to Pakistan and China.
- Position of CDS created for centralised command and maintaining communication between various forces.
- Defence Intelligence agency was setup as we could not figure when and how so many intruders entered our region.
- Defence Procurement Board setup under Defence Secretary to obtain all resources for the armed forces on time.
Crucial Issue – Why do we have to face these battles time and time again? In 1962, 1990, 2019! Nehru said “Hindi Chini bhai bhai” (Hindu and Chinese are brothers), and then the attack happened in 1962. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was pleased with the Lahore declaration and peace was expected, but then shocked by Nawaz Sharif and Gen Musharraf.
And recently, on the one hand, pictures of Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi was on a swing, and on the other hand, skirmishes between the forces, preparation of Galwan attack. We have trusted our risky neighbours more and must reduce that.
Another Kargil in the Making?
23 years later, there may be a similar situation in eastern Ladakh. We set up our operations and base in the cold desert area, because China has started to toy around the region. This is again because of the trust factor. We said everything is fine between China and India, whereas China entered the no man’s land and then into our territory.
We ignored some warnings before April 2020, just like we ignored few warnings before the Kargil war. We were naming it situation awareness and perception difference, but it was the opposite, and deadly. And we realised this on 15-16 June 2020, when twenty of our soldiers died at the hands of Chinese in Galvan Valley clash. China has not officially told how many of their soldiers were killed but it was a brutal clash. This is an urgent matter as it had never happened in LAC in 45 years, which shows China’s hunger for more land.
Our 500 soldiers laid down their lives in 1999, but now, we are not talking about 80-100 kms, but over 600 kms in Ladakh region, so imagine the number in case of battle. China is a big adversity.
Two pronged approach of military and dialogue needed to deal with China. Only dialogue won’t help against China. Both strategies should be adopted.
Being Blind to China’s Aggression
But our government is trying to be silent on China’s threat, 2 years after Galvan clash. They may have adopted the DDLJ strategy – deny, distract, lie or justify. Soldiers were killed in the Galwan Valley clash, but our Prime Minister was saying that no one entered Indian territory or captured any military post. What hasn’t been told to us is that we don’t have an access to the 1000 sq. km territory in which we could have patrolled 2 years ago – as the Chinese have settled it is now a disputed area.
We are told that this is perception difference, but it’s China controlled. Ministry of defence had to remove a report from their own website which said that the Chinese side had transgressed into the areas of the northern bank of Pangong Tso lake. It was shown in an image that China had built settlement in Arunachal village, but this was dismissed as perception difference.
Our army can achieve anything. When told to get back at enemy, the forces made settlements in Chinese positions, but government returned these advantageous positions as goodwill measure in Feb 2021. Many analysts say it was a wrong move, government could have demanded more.
Now China is building a bigger bridge on Pangong Lake for carrying heavy machinery. By how far they go in such high altitude conditions, you can understand the kind of threat China is.
Agnipath – playing with Fire
Now, let’s learn about the new structure of recruitment. When army needs modernization and resources, they are turned to employment scheme. How will this Agnipath scheme benefit the Army? How will it help to defeat China? How will it help to stop next Kargil from happening? These can’t be understood yet!
Reducing 15 years of service to 14 years is not understandable, except to cut pension. But, this is not a gig economy – what about those soldiers who lose army role after 4 years?
Shortage of military hardware
After the 1999 Kargil War, Indian Army had introduced a concept “Minimum Acceptable Risk Level” (MARL), a bottom-line requirement of ammo for 20 days of intense warfighting. Less than 10 days means critical level, and this shortage has been highlighted before by CAG.
Today, we aren’t aware of the amount of ammunition in the country. The stock comes from outside and it must be stored safely, used and replenished, because critical ammunition has an expiry date.
But sadly, the budget for the Army is lessening, hence a scheme like Agnipath, to reduce cost because % of GDP on defence shrunk. That is why, Indian Air Force has 30 fighter squadrons, whereas, we need 42. Navy has 130 vessels, the original goal was 200 vessels, reduced to 170. Because of weak economy, the power gap between India and China is rising.
The Enemy Within
Finally, about the enemy within, many soldiers lose their lives (more than in Kargil) in last 5 years. As per the data presented in parliament – 820 suicides (642 in the army, 29 in the navy and 148 in the Air Force) – because of working condition, stress.
We must focus on China and Pakistan, as well as on improving the systems internally, by taking measures – additional allowances, leaves, introducing counselling – ensuring mental health too.
Note – In the nutshell, I want to state through this article that we respect our brave soldiers, we salute and celebrate their heroism. But action is more important than words. Our armed forces sacrifice so much for us. We must ask as alert citizens whether they are receiving the right resources and treatment.
[ Images from the different sources through internet]
Mahabahu.com is an Online Magazine with collection of premium Assamese and English articles and posts with cultural base and modern thinking. You can send your articles to firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com ( For Assamese article, Unicode font is necessary)