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India's Kargil operation - An Analysis

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    India's Kargil operation - An Analysis

    PATRON Lt Gen (Retd) SARDAR FS LODI does a comprehensive analysis of the Indian side of the operations in and around Kargil

    The fighting in Kargil, in the Indian-occupied Kashmir has ended, and the guns across the L of C have fallen silent. The Kashmiri freedom fighters, the Mujahideen have vacated the Kargil heights on their own free will, and the Indian infantry is now in the process of moving up to occupy the heights unopposed. India has claimed a great victory in Kargil. Their clamour has been so hasty and loud that the reliability of their claims are in doubt and have been disputed by military experts.
    How did the large and well-equipped Armed Forces of India consisting of over a million and half men conduct themselves in the Kargil fighting. Where the opposition consisted of a few hundred Kashmiri Mujahideen fighting with small arms and no artillery, air or logistic support. This question is agitating the minds of knowing men in India and is the subject of an inquiry ordered by their government.

    It seems the Indian army in Kashmir became aware of the presence of Mujahideen on the Kargil heights on May 6, 1999, when they were informed by a shepherd, as reported by The Times of India, New Delhi in its issue of June 2, 1999. The paper goes on to say that it took six days for the information to reach the defence ministry in Delhi and another two days for the ministry to conclude that 'the infiltrators only occupied remote and unheld areas'. The paper bluntly suggests that 'there is something deeply wrong with our security decision making. The sudden switch from inaction to high-profile air strikes with their escalation potential testifies to the same flaws'.

    'On May 9 India launched a major assault to drive out some 400 or so Muslim guerrillas, allegedly trained by Pakistan from its side of the Line of Control (LoC) in the desolate, high-altitude Kargil sector of Kashmir' wrote M.R. Josse in the Rising Nepal of Kathmandu on June 9, 1999. This attack was apparently beaten back with heavy losses to the army which prompted a Colonel to remark 'we are dying like dogs here'. 'At this point, India lost three aircraft, two fighter jets and one helicopter gunship besides suffering 50 casualties' continued the paper. The initial Indian euphoria concerning the use of air power for the first time in Kashmir since 1971 has been dampened considerably'. The paper concluded by saying that, even a casual reading of Indian media accounts is enough to indicate that the Indian political and military leadership were 'caught completely off-guard by the Kargil militants'.

    Initially the Indian senior army officers in Kashmir seemed confident of crushing the Mujahideen and evicting them from the heights they were occupying overlooking Kargil and the strategic supply road from Srinagar to Leh. Consequently correct information was withheld from the ministry of defence in New Delhi. Often incorrect information was passed on. This is evident from a report published in The Times of India, New Delhi, in its issue of June, 12, 1999, which clearly stated, 'In fact, on the night of May 12, the Northern Area Commander, Lt. Gen. H. M. Khanna, had informed defence minister George Fernandes at the Siachin brigade headquarters at Partapur that a batch of about 100 intruders had occupied three ridges in the Batalik sub-sector and would be dislodged within two days'. This was a categorical statement by a senior officer of the Indian army, to the minister of defence, knowing fully that the statement was not correct.

    It was only after all the Indian attacks which were supported by heavy artillery and air bombardment had failed, with heavy losses in men and material that the Indian Army was forced to admit the actual position on the ground. The Times of India goes on to say that the magnitude of the incursion came to light only around May 18. It took several more days for the Army to realise 'that the intrusion was actually spread over four large areas along the 140 km LoC from Zojila to Turtuk. The estimate of the number of infiltrators had by then risen to about 800'.

    The Times of India report continued by saying that, 'Painting a grim picture, the sources said the Pakistani intruders had come 6 km inside the LoC in Mushkoh Valley and the Drass sub-sector, 2 km in Kaksar and up to 7 km in the Batalik sub-sector. The Pakistanis, they said, were holding strategic peaks which gave them a dominating view of the areas around'. The paper also reported that 'Both the Brigadier and a Colonel of the Kargil Brigade were on Thursday (June 10) removed from Command for negligence'.

    Owing to the Indian army's inability to dislodge the Kashmiri freedom fighters from the Kargil heights inspite of the mounting losses and repeated attacks to clear the heights, India's defence minister George Fernandes offered the Kashmiri Mujahideen a 'safe-passage' if they left the Kargil heights. India the nuclear power was losing face, the public outcry was getting louder and the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir were taking out processions in the capital Srinagar and chanting 'Mujahideens of Kargil, we are with you.' In 11 years of the peoples uprising in Indian-occupied Kashmir against the suppressive and brutal Indian illegal occupation, the ministry of defence in New Delhi was forced into the humiliating position of offering a 'safe-passage' to where, they belonged to Kashmir which was illegally occupied by India.

    India started to concentrate more troops and guns in the area and eventually launched 'Operation Vijay' (victory) to dislodge the Kashmiri Mujahideen from the Kargil heights overlooking the main supply route. The attacks were supported by heavy artillery and air bombardment. The head of United Nations Observer Mission based in Srinagar (Indian-held Kashmir) General Joseph Bali, described the situation on the LoC as the worst. This was reported by Cable News Network (CNN) and quoted by The News of Islamabad on June 8, 1999. CNN Correspondent based in Srinagar added, that according to Defence analysts, India has deployed some 30,000 troops in the region (Kargil).

    As the fighting in Kargil escalated with more troops being rushed to the area, the casualties started to mount and alarming headlines appeared in newspapers, such as 'Army loses 15 more in Kargil', The Statesman, Delhi, June 12, 1999. 'Major among 17 Armymen killed in Tololing', The Hindu, Delhi, June 15. 'Intruders destroy ammunition dump', The Asian Age, New Delhi, June 18. This prompted the India government to ban journalists from going to the front, so that the flow of information could be controlled. India also banned the seeing of Pakistan Television in India. Efforts were being made to keep the news of reverses and the high rate of Indian casualties from public view.

    Inspite of these precautions The Hindu of Delhi reporting from Kargil in its issue of June 4, had said, 'Informed sources in Kargil say the offensive has not been much impressive so far considering the casualties'. Similarly The Telegraph of Calcutta reporting on June 27, said, 'Exactly a month after Operation Vijay was launched, the army has made little gain, finding only a toehold in a few peaks in the Drass sub-sector, while most of occupied Kargil remains in the hands of the intruders.... The Pakistanis are showing no signs of ceding territory ... By the army's own admission, the success percentage is low'. The paper goes on to say that the Indian military establishment is refusing to give a fair indication of the number of ridges they have been able to recapture and how much territory - either in terms of kilometres or in terms of percentage - remains to be regained.

    The Indian army justified their losses and inability to gain ground by saying. 'The intruders are mobile, shifting from one ridge to another and their supply lines are intact'. Another problem they mentioned was that troops cannot be provided overhead cover on the ridges from incoming artillery fire therefore the casualties mount. 'The troops are yet to come to terms with this difficulty', they mentioned. The Hindustan Times, New Delhi reporting in its issue of June 23, that to protect the 100 km stretch of the 434 km long Srinagar-Leh highway from the firing and the shelling and to reach the original position on the LoC is not as easy a task as it was initially anticipated or calculated by the Army Commanders.

    'The task remains as difficult as it was ever before, despite recapture of Chorbat La and point 5203 in Batalik sub-sector and Tololing pass and point 5140 in Drass'. The Army officials say that the pounding of these positions has helped the Indian troops to some extent. But the successes have not been to an extent which would force the 'intruders' to leave. 'The high casualties on the Indian side', reports The Hindustan Times on June 23, from Srinagar, 'has given them the reason to prolong their stay, hiding in the natural rock covers when jets hover over them and coming out when the sky is clear and targeting the Indian positions'. It went on to lament. 'It is in this scenario that the Army is finding it difficult to retrieve the bodies of the officers and soldiers from the high ridges'.

    Having failed to clear the Kargil heights the Indian army was preparing to cross the LoC. The Asian Age of New Delhi reported on June 15, that, 'The government is under tremendous pressure from the defence services to give them a 'free hand' to tackle the Kargil infiltration'. The defence Chiefs met President K.R. Narayanan without defence minister George Fernandes. The paper reports that the defence advice is against allowing the Kargil conflict to carry on indefinitely, as the 'winter will bring an automatic ceasefire leaving the occupied areas in Pakistan hands. The territory will be as good as gone if it remains with them till next year'. The paper goes on to say that the Army has pointed out that the terrain and the heights make it impossible to successfully flush out the infiltrators who are at positions of strategic advantage. 'The conflict will have to be taken across the LoC for a quick solution'. Indian military assessment was that the world powers would move in at some point of time, and it was imperative for the government to secure the borders as a first priority.

    The Army's inability to clear the Kargil heights was becoming apparent to the Indian government. The army's desire to cross the LoC was seen as a face-saving device by the Army Chief, General Ved Prakash Malik. In desperation the Government of India sent secret emissaries to Pakistan. Mr R. K. Mishra, Editor-in-Chief of the Business and Political Observer, accompanied by Mr Vivek Katju, Joint Secretary (Pakistan) in the Indian External Affairs Ministry travelled to Islamabad on June 1. The former Pakistan Foreign Secretary, Mr Niaz A. Naik left for New Delhi by a special aircraft on June 26 on a 'secret mission'. This was reported by The Hindu of Delhi on June 28. It seems the Indian team made a few more trips between June 1 and 26.

    India is an arrogant local bully who has treated her small neighbours with scant regard and would certainly not have sent secret emissaries if she was in a strong military position in Kargil. In fact her military position was somewhat perilous. The government was therefore forced to send other emissaries to Europe and the United States. The Asian Age, New Delhi reported on June 19. 'At the time of writing this, India is waiting with bated breath for the G-8 resolution. Principal Adviser to the Prime Minister and National Security Adviser, Brajesh Mishra has been sent post-haste to Paris to convince the member nations that India is in the right on the Kargil issue ... The visit has a touch of desperation as obviously the Vajpayee government requires the international community to bail it out of a situation that can otherwise lead to a military conflict, which India and Pakistan can ill afford'. In the end it was the United States that bailed out India.

    It is surprising to note that the Indian army was unable to evict the Kashmiri freedom fighters holding the Kargil heights. The Indian infantry battalions took a mauling and heavy casualties inspite of considerable fire support. Over 500, 155mm Bofor howitzers were firing day and night often in direct-fire role. But the infantry advance was slow and determination lacking.

    'Frontal attacks too have proved futile at several places'. In other places 'plans to encircle the intruders and 'starve them out' had met with only limited success because of the terrain'. The Asian Age, New Delhi said on June 15. 'Meanwhile the Army is getting restless with the casualties far higher than the results achieved. As the source pointed out, the infiltrators were in positions from where the Indian soldiers were easy targets as was the Leh-Srinagar road'.

    For the slow progress of Indian infantry or no progress and excessive casualties one often came across comments to indicate that 'it is a gradual process and will take time'. 'It will take another three months,' said an officer. 'It is difficult to fight in the hills, it is not like the plains'. The point is that the 3rd Division based in Leh and now moved to Kargil is a mountain division designed and trained to fight in the mountains. So are the brigades at Siachin, Kargil and the 70th Brigade at Ganderbal, now at Kargil. The 8th Mountain Division rushed to the area is also designed to fight in the high terrain.

    High casualty rates in Kargil is one of the main causes of faltering of the infantry attacks. The second major cause is their long employment in internal security duties where they had to deal with the unarmed civilian population. But whenever they came across the Kashmiri Mujahideen, they lost men. It is estimated that during the present uprising in Kashmir covering the period 1990 to 1998 the Indian security forces have lost over 6,000 officers and soldiers killed and double that amount wounded. It was reported in The Nation of Lahore on May 5, 1999 that General Ashok K. Mehta writing in The Sunday of September 19, 1998 had said 'The most stunning fact is the sudden and exceptional spurt in army casualties. 4 officers, 3 JCOs and 58 soldiers killed and 6 officers, 12 JCOs and 170 soldiers wounded, all in 40 days ending August 16, 1998. This is the highest 40 days toll of losses since the engagement began nine years ago'.

    The Nation of May 5, 1999 goes on to say that the fatigue factor was discussed in the Indian Annual Army Commanders Conference in Mhow, over which the incumbent Chief of Army Staff, General V.P. Malik presided. The infantry commanders complained that 203 infantry battalions out of a total of 365, were engaged in suppressing insurgency all over India and stress was beginning to bite. A major chunk comprising 37 per cent of total Indian infantry were employed in Kashmir. The infantry commanders prevailed upon the Indian Chief to induct half a dozen of mechanised infantry and armour regiments in Kashmir so that the overstretched infantrymen get reprieve. The prolonged employment in an internal security role is having adverse effects on the fighting capability of the Indian army. As Field Marshal Montgomery was to write about Southern Ireland, were troops were engaged in internal security duties in 1920, in his memoirs that such employment 'developed into a murder campaign in which in the end, the soldiers became very skilful. But such a war is thoroughly bad for officers and men; it tends to lower their standards of decency and chivalry.

    After the Kargil fighting India has inducted more troops and raised another Corps for Leh the 14th under Lt. General A.B. Masih. It is initially to consist of 3 Mountain Division already in Leh and an additional 9 Mountain Division moved up during fighting. An additional 100 battalions of army and paramilitaries were later on sent into Kashmir, some under the pretext of election duties. Prior to the Kargil fighting the ratio of troops and paramilitaries to ground was 15 per sq km in Kashmir and 13.3 per sq km in Jammu, with 1.3 per sq km in Ladakh. Military experts consider this very high. With the induction of more troops the ratio will rise. Will the induction of more troops improve their fighting capability or is India planning a short and sharp operation across the LoC in Kashmir to raise morale.

    Gen. Lodi has done extensive [chaan been], of
    Indian papers and sources to validate his
    claims, which is kind of ironic to say the
    least. Yet, he seems to have done a good job
    with them. Kudos to him!.

    Capt. Gulsheer Khan Sahib, I have read some
    of your posts and you seem to be, on the up
    and up. You mentioned in another post, about
    going across the LoC for an operation. I am
    sure, that you and your peers are in a good
    position, to know firsthand information about
    the travails and conditions that our soldiers
    and the Mujahideen's are facing and courage-
    ously overcoming, in order to fight a protr-
    acted guerilla war in Kashmir.

    I have read an account from a [Bhagora] off.
    of the Pakistan Army. He was sent to fight
    in Siachin and he could not deal with the
    intensity, hardships and heights of that war.
    He gave a secret accounting of the battle
    conditions there and they did seem quite
    horrific, esp to the civilians out there.

    Eg:- All soldiers didn't have all of the
    gear that is needed to fight on those heights
    and same with the food rations. Water would
    run out and people would have to eat solid
    blocks of ice on the ground, because you
    could not start a fire in a stove, lest you
    invite the Indian artillery with the smoke.

    People would foam at the mouth, get into
    seizures, with height sickness. A minority
    of the population cannot withstand walking
    around, breathing the air up there in the
    mountains. But those soldiers were not allowed
    to transfer back. They were told to stick it
    out there and one soldier, allegedly died in
    front of our [Bhagora] officer.

    Lastly, in the frozen, ice bunkers of Siachin
    the soldiers had only room enough to crouch.
    They could no stand, they could not lie down,
    because of room restrictions. The artillery
    fire, according to him, was incessant and un-
    ceasing. It went on, night and day and at any
    time, they had the possibility of being hit.
    This, along with food rationing and lack of
    sleep, played havock on the nerves of these
    battle-softened men. They would crack.

    I was wondering if you had any contact with
    those men, who fought in Kargil...what are
    some of the problems, difficulties and hard-
    ships that those army men and Mujahideen's
    faced over there. There was constant bombing
    from the ground and air in Kargil. Supposedly
    the rations had gone dry, after the supply
    lines were cut by the Indians, who at the
    later stages of war, wanted to come into PAK
    and cut any/all supplies to them.

    It must have been ... difficult holding on
    to their positions, in holes in the mountains
    with only the sound of indian artillery to
    keep them company. These were young men. I
    look around me, and I see the young PAK men
    and women abroad who would throw hissy fits
    and tantarums, if they were seperated from
    their CD Player, or MTV for a day. Same ages
    of the youth, up there on the hills, teaching
    the Indian officers, a lesson in HUMILITY.

    I think we would all be well-served, if you,
    would share some stories and accounts, of the
    brave men who served their country with dis-
    tinction, along with the Mujahideen's, who
    continue to fight for their freedom. It would
    force some soft hands and minds here, to maybe
    reconsider their priorities and perspective
    on life, generally.

    Needless to say, I reserve the highest honor
    and respect for any man in uniform, that has
    decided to put his life and limb, on the line
    for his country. We are all indebted to those
    men and women who serve in the armed forces
    of Pakistan, to preserve and protect the
    boundries of our country against overwhelming
    odds and a wily enemy. God bless you all and
    God bless Pakistan!.



      Excellent Article


        Great stuff. Look out for an update of my Patriots of Gupshup thread in the General section. I will be adding to it as there are some people surfacing here who look like they might actually reflect the opinion of ordinairy Pak public.


          also check this stuff.


            come on ZZ yaar!
            everyone knows that rediff is a biased Indian site, yaar I odnt know about others but I dont want to visit Biased Indian sites, I can give you several links too, but try to stick ot the facts yaar!


              well.. it is report of subrahmaniam committee.

              well.. this site is of some interest since the committe in question had access to sensitive data and enquired almost everyone. it may have done a better job than 'analysis' which consists of selective clippings of newspapers.


                Janab ZZ saheb!
                This Article is not from any Pakistani news paper as it has been written by Retd General Lodi, who only rights or this international magaizine known as the defence journal. Once again the General has provided facts, dates etc are exact. Meanwhile I have Rediff reposts they are not like this!


                  this article is mainly patting on one's back. rediff article is not like that, nor it is meant to be.


                    why not an analysis of kargil from pakistani viewpoint? what went wrong? why nobody believed that paki army is not involved? why ur godfather china not come for help? why ur mentor saudis did not utter a word for u? why french stopped supplies and not a single nation stood by u?
                    why military was lulled into believing that they can continue and win this game?



                      Excellent articles, Pakistanis have amazing capacity not to see the truth even if is staring in their face. To recognize the truth and learn from it takes lot of courage and wisdom which they don't seem to have. All they have is empty talk convoluted reasoning.


                        Excuse me!
                        haha! who doesnt have the courage the ones giving lame excuses of Indian occupation of Kashmir or us?


                          Read History not the version taught in Pakistani schools, but real History - Kashmir is and has been part of India from thousands of years.


                            Read History not the version taught in Pakistani schools, but real History - Kashmir is and has been part of India from thousands of years. The question of occupation does not arise. Anyways, Good attempt to change the subject from the topic at hand.


                              A request to moderator, this Mr. Gulsher Khan must refrain from personal attacks and stick to the topic only. Personal attacks should remain outside this forum regardless of nationality. I hope you agree