This is a discussion on Kargil War.The Real Facts. within the Military Strategy and Tactics forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; Background To The Kargil Episode
Kashmir has been the core issue of conflict between Pakistan and India and has led ...
Background To The Kargil Episode
Kashmir has been the core issue of conflict between Pakistan and India and has led to war between them on more than one occasion. In 1972, in the wake of the creation of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan signed the Simla Agreement - which India regarded as the new format for defining and guiding all future aspects of the Pakistan-India relationship. While Pakistan maintained that the new bilateralism which underlay Simla did not affect the international nature of the Kashmir dispute, India has always referred to the Simla dateline when Pakistan has raised the Kashmir issue within the UN and other international fora and asked for international intervention to resolve the dispute. Also, in the light of Simla, the LOC that both sides agreed to was demarcated through follow-up agreements to implement the Simla Accord.
1. Post-Simla Developments Along the LOC
After the signing of the Simla Agreement, India unilaterally banned the supervision by the UN Observers along the LOC - the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) - while still retaining their presence overall; Pakistan still cooperates with and recognizes the role of these observers. But as a result of the Indian action there has been no international supervision - on the Indian side - of India's subsequent and successive destruction of the inviolability of the LOC through a series of military encroachments.
In fact, India seriously undermined, de facto destroyed - the Simla Agreement almost immediately after it was signed, when, in 1972, the Indian military crossed the LOC in the Chorbat La sector and established 3-4 posts, 2-3 kilometres on the Pakistani side (around 10 sq. kms). A further erosion of the Simla Agreement came with the Indian occupation of Siachin in 1984, when Indian forces occupied the passes at Saltoro Range and laid claim to the Siachin Glacier. Then, in 1988, the Indians established three posts in the unoccupied Qamar Sector and, later, they increased these to twelve posts (33 sq kms). They also came across the LOC around the Dras area to set up the Bhimbet and Marpola posts. The Indian military also made additional ingresses, post-Simla, across the LOC.
2. Post-1998 Nuclearisation of South Asia
With India's 1998 nuclear tests, and in the intervening period before Pakistan tested, Indian belligerency reached new levels. Indian leaders like L. K. Advani threatened to occupy Azad Kashmir by force.48 Accompanying the declaratory threats, there was an upping of the military ante by India across the LOC, with massive targeting of villages along the AJK side of the LOC - which had begun just before the nuclear tests.49 For a number of reasons India probably felt that Pakistan was vulnerable at this time, given the limited military deployment along the LOC at the time by Pakistan. Also, the Indian side may have assumed that Pakistan's ability to conduct nuclear tests was not there, because of its massive foreign debt, financial crunches and internal political machinations. This assumption may have led the Indian leadership to run amok with their threatening statements. However, the threatening statements also revealed the ongoing Indian military planning to alter the LOC in such a way that the rest fell into its lap.
After Pakistan's nuclear tests, while India altered its diplomatic tack, it continued to sustain the raised belligerency level against Pakistan. July and August 1998 saw the most violent spell, in terms of military exchanges along the LOC, in a decade.50 For instance, in early July there were heavy civilian casualties in the Neelum Valley when Indian troops pounded the villages of Nakara, Dudunyal, Shahkot, Jura and Nauseri. During this firing from the Indian side, the Pakistanis also had to respond to Indian firing on villages in Pandu, Neelum Valley, Chakothi, Shaqma, Kargil and Bhimbet.51 According to news reports of the time, Pakistan had lodged complaints of ceasefire violations and unprovoked firing by the Indian army with the UNMOGIP.52 All in all, after coming to power, the BJP began a military build up along the LOC to further bolster the forward policy India had adopted along the LOC since the Simla Agreement.
Meanwhile, the diplomatic arena was used to build up a case against Pakistan by trying to build a proactive, peaceful image of India and a contrasting image of Pakistan as a state following an aggressive and revisionist approach. A major part of this image making exercise was the undertaking of the Bus Journey to Lahore by Prime Minister Vajpayee on February 20-21, 1999, as a camouflage to military plans in the making. This visit heralded the much-proclaimed Lahore process, which later Pakistan was accused of destroying through the Kargil episode. Whatever the value or otherwise of the Lahore process in diplomatic terms53 - and both Pakistan and India still hold on to it - the fact of the matter is that Prime Minister Vajpayee himself began undermining the process when he reneged on the agreements he had signed in Lahore, especially in relation to Kashmir, as soon as he was back in New Delhi. In fact, even before he left Lahore, he remarked, in connection with his commitment to discuss Kashmir in bilateral Pakistan-India talks:
"Only history can be discussed, not the geography of Kashmir. "54
Other members of his cabinet then began making statements that what had been discussed in Lahore had been Indian claims over Azad Kashmir. With this approach, bilateral talks were a non-starter despite Lahore, by the time the BJP government fell in April 1999.
As part of the continuing raising of the military ante before and after the Indian nuclear tests, during 19971998, the Indian Defence Minister, George Fernandes, visited the Ladakh region a number of times and these visits were followed by new procurements specific to snowbound operations. Also, during this time Advani threatened Pakistan with hot pursuit operations across the LOC.55
It was within this background that, by the end of 1998, reports coming in seemed to show that the Indian army was contemplating some form of operations for the summer of 1999, either in Siachin or some other area within the jurisdiction of the FCNA. Pakistan, on several occasions, conveyed to the Indian side, through diplomatic channels, its concern regarding the military build-up by Indian troops in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK)56. Some of the signals that were picked up by Pakistan regarding Indian plans for a major military operation along the LOC are listed below.
Â· To begin with, there were indications, through intelligence sources and communication intercepts,57 of a likely Indian action on two major posts along the LOC in the Shaqma sector, with the objective of denying Pakistan the ability to continue its interdiction of the Dras-Kargil road.
Â· And, in order to put the onus on Pakistan, from October 1998 to February 1999, India accused Pakistan of launching as many as 17 attacks on their posts in the Siachin area. They claimed that they had beaten back all these attacks. The manner in which these so-called attacks were leaked out - sometimes through media briefings from Indian military spokesperson, and, at other times, through the media supposedly having learnt of the attacks from "military sources" - showed the fabricated nature of the attacks. Pakistan had, in fact, not launched any such attacks and, from the Pakistani perspective, it was clear that the Indian intent seems to have been to create a rationale for their intended operation in Shaqma sector.
Â· Also, part of the Indian plan seems to have been to divert Pakistan's attention and draw its forces into the Siachin sector while Indian forces tried to take over unoccupied areas along the LOC running close to the Northern Areas of Pakistan. This would mean that Indian plans to attack in the Shaqma sector may well have been merely diversionary tactics for a much larger offensive.
Â· In the Pakistani intelligence assessment, another important development at the time was the reported presence of Russian technical experts who were assisting Indian troops in their trials of a high altitude bunker-busting missile system in the Kargil area.58
Â· Also, other Indian military moves in 1998-1999 bolstered the Pakistani assessments that India was planning some form of a tactical military action along the LOC. For instance, as part of its forward policy in the area, the Indian military usually occupies certain vacant posts - that is, earlier occupied by neither side - along the LOC in mid-May right up to November/ December. But in 1999, the Indians moved earlier and on April 30, they encountered one such post occupied by Pakistani troops in the Turtok sector.59 The Indians lost one soldier, whose body was handed over by the Pakistan Army. Another encounter took place in Kaksar area in early May 1999, with the Indians suffering 5 dead and India made much of the dead bodies having been mutilated, once they had been returned by the Pakistanis. What the Indians forgot was the fact that casualties on steep slopes fall down thousands of feet and therefore are bound to suffer some mutilation. Also, if they are subjected to accurate and intense artillery and mortar fire, they are mutilated in any case. Normally, during the winter months, Indian reserve formations (70 and 114 Brigades) in the Ladakh sector move to the Valley. However, during the winter of 1998-99, this did not happen and the troops were retained in the Dras-Kargil area, thus further aggravating Pakistan's threat perceptions.
Â· There were also reports coming in of additional dumping of supplies in the Dras sector, and the anticipation of aggressive Indian action was also supplemented by reports from local civilians, with relatives across the LOC, that indicated the presence of Indian reserve formations and their preparations for offensive operations in the area.60 All of this seemed to fit within the larger framework of the BJP's agenda of a more bellicose and militarist policy against Pakistan.
India's purpose in attempting to undertake operations in the Shaqma sector seemed to be twofold: One, at the tactical level to occupy dominant heights and protect the vulnerable Dras-Kargil road; and, two, at the strategic level, to coerce Pakistan and the Kashmiri Mujahideen61 into capitulation on Kashmir, by trying to undermine Pakistan's military capability as well as show the futility of the Mujahideen's military struggle against the overwhelming military superiority of India. The end being sought here was the acceptance of the status quo on Kashmir, which meant accepting the conversion of the LOC into an international border between Pakistan and India as well as the permanent division and occupation of Kashmir by India. So the planned operation, devised by India, in the area seemed to be one piece of a larger picture and game plan.
The 1999 Kargil War took place between May 8, when Pakistani forces and Kashmiri militants were detected atop the Kargil ridges and July 14 when both sides had essentially ceased their military operations. It is believed that the planning for the operation, by Pakistan, may have occurred about as early as the autumn of 1998.
The spring and summer incursion of Pakistan-backed armed forces into territory on the Indian side of the line of control around Kargil in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian military campaign to repel the intrusion left 524 Indian soldiers dead and 1,363 wounded, according to December 1 statistics by Defense Minister George Fernandes. Earlier Government figures stated that 696 Pakistani soldiers were killed. A senior Pakistani police official estimated that approximately 40 civilians were killed on the Pakistani side of the line of control.
By 30 June 1999 Indian forces were prepared for a major high-altitude offensive against Pakistani posts along the border in the disputed Kashmir region. Over the previous six weeks India had moved five infantry divisions, five independent brigades and 44 battalions of paramilitary troops to Kashmir. The total Indian troop strength in the region had reached 730,000. The build-up included the deployment of around 60 frontline aircraft.
The Pakistani effort to take Kargil occurred after the February 1999 Lahore summit between then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bahari Vajpayee. This conference was believed to have de-escalated the tensions that had existed since May 1998. The major motive behind the operation was to help in internationalising the Kashmir issue, and for which global attention had been flagging for some time. The intrusion plan was the brainchild of Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, Gen Pervez Musharraf and Lt Gen Mohammed Aziz, the Chief of General Staff. They obtained only an 'in principle' concurrence, without any specifics, from Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani Prime Minister.
Pakistan's military aim for carrying out the intrusions was based on exploitation of the large gaps that exist in the defences in the sector both on Indian and Pak side of the Line of Control (LoC). The terrain is extremely rugged with very few tracks leading from the main roads towards the LoC. During winters the area gets very heavy snowfall making movement almost impossible. The only mountain pass connecting the Kargil area to the Kashmir Valley, Zoji La, normally opens by the end of May or beginning of June. Thus, moving of reinforcements by surface means from Srinagar would not have been possible till then. Pakistan Army calculated that even if the intrusions were discovered in early May, as they were, the Indian Army's reaction would be slow and limited, thereby allowing him to consolidate the intrusions more effectively. In the event, however, Zoji La was opened for the induction of troops in early May itself. The intrusions, if effective, would enable Pakistani troops to secure a number of dominating heights from where the Srinagar-Leh National Highway 1A could be interdicted at a number of places. The intrusions would also draw in and tie down Indian Army reserves. The intrusions would, further, give Pakistan control over substantial tracts of strategic land area across the LoC, thereby, enabling Islamabad to negotiate from a position of strength. The intrusions would irrevocably alter the status of the LoC.
Apart from keeping the plan top secret, the Pakistan Army also undertook certain steps to maintain an element of surprise and maximise deception. There was no induction of any new units or any fresh troops into the FCNA for the proposed operation. Any large-scale troop movement involving even two or three battalions would have drawn the attention of the Indian Army. The Pakistan Army artillery units, which were inducted into the FCNA during the heavy exchange of fire from July to September 1998, were not de-inducted. Since the exchange of artillery fire continued thereafter, though at a lower scale, this was not considered extraordinary. There was no movement of reserve formations or units into FCNA until after the execution of the plan and operations had begun with the Indian Army's response. No new administrative bases for the intrusions were to be created, instead they were to be catered for from those already in the existing defences. The logistic lines of communication were to be along the ridgelines and the nullahs well away from the tracks and positions of the Indian Army troops already in position.
After it was finalised, the plan was put into action towards the end of April. The main groups were broken into a number of smaller sub groups of 30 to 40 each for carrying out multiple intrusions along the ridgelines and occupy dominating heights.
The terrain of the Kargil and surrounding regions of the LOC is inhospitable in the best of times. Some of the characteristics of the region are jagged heights of up to 18,000 feet and harsh gusts of wind and temperatures plunging to about -60 degrees Celsius in the winter. The battle terrain of 'Operation Vijay' is dominated by high altitude peaks and ridgelines most of which are over 16000 ft. This region is part of the 'cold desert' region of Ladakh. Dry, and at the same time very cold, the Kargil Mountains are a formidable constituent of the Greater Himalayas. Unlike other similar high altitude areas, the Kargil Mountains lose snow cover rapidly as the summer progresses. Below the peaks and the ridgelines are loose rocks, which make climbing extremely difficult. If it is not the snow cover, then it is the rocks, which cause extreme hardships on the troops.
There had existed a sort of "gentleman's agreement" between India and Pakistan that the armies of either side will not occupy posts from the 15 September to 15th April of each year. This had been the case since 1977, but in 1999 this agreement was cast aside by the Pakistani army in hopes of trying to gain the upper hand in Kashmir and plunging the Indian subcontinent in brief and limited war and raising the spectre of nuclear war.
As events unfolded, Zoji La opened early on account of the unseasonal melting of snows and the Indian Army's reaction was far swifter than Pakistan had expected. Further, Pakistan also did not expect the reaction of the Indian Army to be as vigorous as has been demonstrated manifested.
Indian Army Patrols detected intruders atop Kargil ridges during the period 8-15 May 1999. The pattern of infiltration clearly established the participation of trained Mujahideen and Pakistan Army regulars in these operations in areas east of Batalik and north of Dras. Pakistan resorted to artillery firing from across the border both in general areas of Kargil and Dras. Indian army launched operations which succeeded in cutting off the infiltrators in Dras sector. Infiltrators were also pushed back in Batalik sector.
The Intruders on the heights were an amalgam of professional soldiers and mercenaries. They included the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 12th battalions of the Pakistan Armyâ€™s Northern Light Infantry (NLI). Among them were many Mujaheddin and members of Pakistan's the Special Services Group (SSG). It was initially estimated that there were about 500 to 1,000 intruders occupying the heights but later it is estimated that the actual strength of the intruders may have been about 5,000. The area of intrusion extended in an area of 160km. The Pakistani Army had set up a complex logistical network through which the intruders across the LOC would be well supplied from the bases in POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir). The intruders were also well armed with AK 47 and 56, mortars, artillery, anti aircraft guns, and Stinger missiles.
Indian Army Operations
The Indian Army detected the intrusions between May 3-12. From May 15 - 25, 1999, military operations were planned, troops moved to their attack locations, artillery and other equipment were moved in and the necessary equipment was purchased. Indian Armyâ€™s offensive named Operation Vijay was launched on May 26, 1999. Indian troops moved towards Pakistani occupied positions with air cover provided by aircraft and helicopters.
Operation Vijay in the Kargil district of Jammu and Kashmir during the summer months of 1999 was a joint Infantry-Artillery endeavour to evict regular Pakistani soldiers of the Northern Light Infantry (NLI) who had intruded across the Line of Control (LoC) into Indian territory and had occupied un-held high-altitude mountain peaks and ridgelines. It soon became clear that only massive and sustained firepower could destroy the intrudersâ€™ sangars and systematically break their will to fight through a process of attrition and, in the process, enable the gallant infantrymen to close in with and evict the intruders. Thus began a unique saga in the history of the employment of Artillery firepower in battle.
The first major ridgeline to fall was Tololing in the Drass sub-sector on June 13, 1999 which was captured after several weeks of bitter fighting. The attacks were preceded by sustained fire assaults from over one hundred Artillery guns, mortars and rocket launchers firing in concert. Thousands of shells, bombs and rocket warheads wrecked havoc and prevented the enemy from interfering with the assault. The 155 mm Bofors medium guns and 105 mm Indian field guns in the direct firing role destroyed all visible enemy sangars and forced the enemy to abandon several positions. The arcs of fire trailing behind the Bofors high explosive shells and the Grad rockets provided an awesome sight and instilled fear into the minds of Pakistani soldiers.
The capture of the Tololing complex paved the way for successive assaults to be launched on the Tiger Hill complex from several directions. Tiger Hill was re-captured on July 5, 1999 and Point 4875, another dominating feature to the west of Tiger Hill and jutting into Mashkoh Valley, was re-captured on July 7, 1999. Point 4875 has since been re-named "Gun Hill" in honour of the stupendous performance of the Gunners in the Drass and Mashkoh sub-sectors.
Over 1,200 rounds of high explosive rained down on Tiger Hill and caused large-scale death and devastation. Once again, the Gunners of the Indian Artillery fired their guns audaciously in the direct firing role, under the very nose of Pakistani artillery observation posts (OPs), without regard for personal safety. Even 122 mm Grad multi-barrel rocket launchers (MBRLs) were employed in the direct firing role. Hundreds of shells and rocket warheads impacted on the pinnacle of Tiger Hill in full view of TV cameras and the nation watched in rapt attention the might of the Regiment of Artillery .
While the nation's attention was riveted on the fighting in the Drass sector, steady progress was being made in the Batalik sector despite heavy casualties. In the Batalik sector, the terrain was much tougher and the enemy was far more strongly entrenched. The containment battle itself took almost a month. Artillery OPs were established on dominating heights and sustained Artillery fire was brought down on the enemy continuously by day and night allowing him no rest.
Point 5203 was re-captured on June 21, 1999 and Khalubar was re-captured on July 6, 1999. Within the next few days, further attacks were pressed home against the remaining Pakistani posts in the Batalik sub-sector and these fell quickly after being pulverised by Artillery fire. Once again, Artillery firepower played an important part in softening the defences and destroying the enemy's battalion headquarters and logistics infrastructure.
The Indian Artillery fired over 250,000 shells, bombs and rockets during the Kargil conflict. Approximately, 5,000 Artillery shells, mortar bombs and rockets were fired daily from 300 guns, mortars and MBRLs. Such high rates of fire over long periods had not been witnessed anywhere in the world since the second World War.
From May 11 to May 25, ground troops supported by the Air Force tried to contain the threat, assessed the enemy dispositions and carried out various preparatory actions. Entry of the Air Force into combat action on May 26 represented a paradigm shift in the nature and prognosis of the conflict. In operation Safed Sagar, the Air Force carried out nearly 5,000 sorties of all types over 50-odd days of operations.
The Western Air Command conducted the three-week-long exercise Trishul three weeks before Kargil. During Trishul, the IAF flew 5,000 sorties with 300 aircraft using 35,000 personnel and engaged targets at high elevation in the Himalayas. The IAF claimed to have flown 550 sorties in Kargil, though just about 80 were on or close to the target. Soon after Kargil, both the commander-in-chief and senior air staff officer of the Western Air Command were mysteriously transferred to the Central and Eastern commands.
Operations in this terrain required special training and tactics. It was soon realised that greater skills and training were needed to attack the very small/miniature targets extant, often not visible to the naked eye.
The shoulder-fired missile threat was omnipresent and there were no doubts about this. An IAF Canberra recce aircraft was damaged by a Pakistani Stinger fired possibly from across the LoC. On the second and third day of the operations, still in the learning curve, the IAF lost one MiG-21 fighter and one Mi-17 helicopter to shoulder-fired missiles by the enemy. In addition, one MiG-27 was lost on the second day due to engine failure just after the pilot had carried out successful attacks on one of the enemy's main supply dumps. These events only went to reinforce the tactics of the IAF in carrying out attacks from outside the Stinger SAM envelope and avoiding the use of helicopters for attack purposes. Attack helicopters have a certain utility in operations under relatively benign conditions but are extremely vulnerable in an intense battlefield. The fact that the enemy fired more than 100 shoulder fired SAMs against IAF aircraft indicates not only the great intensity of the enemy air defences in the area but also the success of IAF tactics, especially after the first three days of the war during which not a single aircraft received even a scratch.
The terrain in the Kargil area is 16,000 to 18,000 feet above sea level. The aircraft are, therefore, required to fly at about 20,000 feet. At these heights, the air density is 30% less than at sea level. This causes a reduction in weight that can be carried and also reduces the ability to manoeuvre as the radius of a turn is more than what it is at lower levels. The larger radius of turn reduces manoeuverability in the restricted width of the valley. The engineâ€™s performance also deteriorates as for the same forward speed there is a lesser mass of air going into the jet engine of the fighter or helicopter. The non-standard air density also affects the trajectory of weapons. The firing, hence, may not be accurate. In the mountains, the targets are relatively small, spread-out and difficult to spot visually, particularly by pilots in high speed jets.
The Indian airfields nearest to Kargil were Srinagar and Avantipur. Adampur near Jalandhar was also close enough to support air operations. Therefore, the IAF operated from these three bases. The planes used for ground attack were MiG-2ls, MiG- 23s, MiG-27s, Jaguars and the Mirage- 2000. The Mig-2l was built mainly for air interception with a secondary role of ground attack. However, it is capable of operating in restricted spaces which was of importance in the Kargil terrain.
The MiG-23s and 27s are optimised for attacking targets on the ground. They can carry a load of 4 tonnes each. This could be a mix of weapons including cannon, rocket pods, free- fall and retarded bombs and smart weapons. It has a computerised bomb sight which enables accurate weapon delivery. These planes were, therefore, ideal for use in the mountainous terrain of Kargil.
However, on May 27, the MiG-27 flown by Flt Lt Nachiketa, while attacking a target in Batalik sector, developed an engine trouble and he had to bailout. Sqn Ldr Ajay Ahuja, in a MiG-2l, went out of the way to locate the downed pilot and in the process was hit by a Pakistani surface- to-air missile (SAM). He ejected safely but his body bearing gun- wounds was returned subsequently. The state-of-the-art Mirage-2000s were used for electronic warfare, reconnaissance and ground attack. This fighter delivers its weapons with pinpoint accuracy. In addition to carrying free-fall bombs, it also fires the laser-guided bomb with deadly effects. In fact, it was this weapon that caused considerable devastation to Pakistani bunkers on the ridges at Tiger Hill and Muntho Dhalo. In the Mirage attack on Muntho Dhalo, Pakistani troops suffered 180 casualties.
Because of the need to engage Pakistani targets in the valleys and on ridges, the slower helicopter gunship became an important requirement. The load-carrying Mi-17 was modified to carry 4 rocket pods with air-to-ground rockets. This helicopter proved effective in engaging Pakistani bunkers and troops. On May 28, while attacking Point 5140 in Tololing sector, one helicopter and its crew were lost to a Stinger heat-seeking missile. Thereafter, because of the number of SAMs being fired, helicopters resorted to evasive tactics but persisted with the attacks.
The operations restricted to Kargil area did not lend themselves to the use of air power. There was a constraint of not crossing the Line of Control (LoC) to the Pakistan side. The IAF was, therefore, not at liberty to destroy the Pakistani supply lines and smash the logistic bases across the LoC. However, such attacks were done on Pakistani facilities on the Indian side of the LoC. The targets were identified along with the Army and engaged by day and by night in precision attacks by Mirage 2000s and Jaguars. Supply lines, logistic bases and enemy strong points were destroyed. As a result, the Army was able to pursue its operations at a faster rate and with fewer losses.
To obviate the threat from SAMs, bombing was done accurately from 30,000 feet above sea level or about 10,000 feet above the terrain. In these high level attacks, the infantryman does not see his own fighters and, therefore, feels that air support is not there. It is estimated that in operation Vijay, about 700 intruders were killed by air action alone. The IAF has intercepted a number of enemy wireless transmissions indicating the effectiveness of IAF attacks.
Pakistan Air Force fighters were picked up on the airborne radar of our fighters but the PAF planes did not cross to the Indian side of the LoC. Nevertheless, as a precaution, IAF , strike aircraft were accompanied by fighter escorts. After all, in the recent past no war has been won without control of the air space in which operations are conducted.
While the Army and the Air Force readied themselves for the battle on the heights of Kargil, Indian Navy began to draw out its plans. Unlike the earlier wars with Pakistan, this time the bringing in of the Navy at the early stages of the conflict served to hasten the end of the conflict in India's favor.
In drawing up its strategy, the Navy was clear that a reply to the Pakistani misadventure had to be two-pronged. While ensuring safety and security of Indian maritime assets from a possible surprise attack by Pakistan, the Indian imperative was that all efforts must be made to deter Pakistan from escalating the conflict into a full scale war. Thus, the Indian Navy was put on a full alert from May 20 onwards, a few days prior to the launch of the Indian retaliatory offensive. Naval and Coast Guard aircraft were put on a continuous surveillance and the units readied up for meeting any challenge at sea.
Time had now come to put pressure on Pakistan, to ensure that the right message went down to the masterminds in that country. Strike elements from the Eastern Fleet were sailed from Visakhapatnam on the East Coast to take part in a major naval exercise called 'SUMMEREX' in the North Arabian Sea. This was envisaged as the largest ever amassing of naval ships in the region. The message had been driven home. Pakistan Navy, in a defensive mood, directed all its units to keep clear of Indian naval ships. As the exercise shifted closer to the Makaran Coast, Pakistan moved all its major combatants out of Karachi. It also shifted its focus to escorting its oil trade from the Gulf in anticipation of attacks by Indian ships.
As the retaliation from the Indian Army and the Air Force gathered momentum and a defeat to Pakistan seemed a close possibility, an outbreak of hostilities became imminent. Thus the naval focus now shifted to the Gulf of Oman. Rapid reaction missile carrying units and ships from the fleet were deployed in the North Arabian Sea for carrying out missile firing, anti-submarine and electronic warfare exercises. In the absence of the only aircraft carrier, Sea Harrier operations from merchant ships were proven. The Navy also readied itself for implementing a blockade of the Pakistani ports, should the need arise. In addition, Naval amphibious forces from the Andaman group of islands were moved to the western sea-board.
In a skilful use of naval power in the form of â€˜Operation Talwarâ€™, the â€˜Eastern Fleetâ€™ joined the â€˜Western Naval Fleetâ€™ and blocked the Arabian sea routes of Pakistan. Apart from a deterrent, the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief later disclosed that Pakistan was left with just six days of fuel (POL) to sustain itself if a full fledged war broke out.
The Kargil Conflict
1.The Military Dimension 1
As the intelligence assessments about the suspicious movements of the Indian military in the late 1998-early 1999 period, started looking more credible, the high command of the Pakistan Army asked FCNA to evolve a plan to deny the Indians any adventurism/incursions along the LOC, given Pakistan's historical experience on this count, especially on the lines of what happened in Siachin. The assumption that some grand strategic plan was formulated on Kargil at a GHQ conference is not borne out by the facts, but in the light of enhanced Indian moves along the LOC, many conferences were held as is the routine in professional armies where a continuous threat evaluation has to be made and responses formulated. Such conferences are a matter of routine at the GHQ and are attended by the required Army commanders. Naturally, like any other army, the details of these conferences are divulged on a need-to-know basis.
2. FCNA Operation
Having been alerted to intensified Indian moves in the Shaqma Sector, HQ 10 Corps, on instructions from the Military Operations Directorate (MO), directed FCNA to carry out a realistic assessment of the situation and to take defensive measures in order to forestall Indian designs and avoid being caught off-guard. FCNA planned a defensive action with integral troops. No extra troops were provided to the FCNA, till these were called for after massive Indian attacks on Pakistani posts. This fact alone is sufficient to debunk the claim of a so-called strategic offensive operation planned by Pakistan at Kargil. Any major offensive would, obviously, have entailed some sort of additional troops and logistic build up which, given the terrain and Indian surveillance, would hardly have gone unnoticed just as the Indian moves had alerted the Pakistani side.
The operation was undertaken at the end of March 1999, after confirmation of Indian designs. The area of operation did not allow any additional build up of forces because of the closure of the Burzil Pass. The Pass remains closed to vehicular traffic from mid-October to mid-July and for foot/animal transport, from mid December to April. However, due to less snowfall in 1998, the passes became available a month in advance, and so, by the third week of March 1999, foot movement across Burzil was possible. Interestingly, on the Indian side, the Zojila Pass opened even a month earlier, somewhere in late February/early March 1999 - and this provided a lead time to the Indians.
In March 1999, with the improvement in the weather, the Pakistani holding battalions along with two reserve battalions were employed to occupy the watershed on the Pakistani side of the LOC. India claims that the Pakistani operational preparations were already underway when Vajpayee visited Lahore in February 1998, but this would have been physically impossible. As stated above, no movement across Burzil Pass was possible prior to mid-March.2 By keeping two well-equipped Indian brigades at Mashkoh/Dras, India possessed the capability to occupy positions in the Shaqma sector, as has been mentioned earlier. The positioning of local troops on the Pakistani side of the LOC was undertaken towards the end of March to forestall such an Indian action. Also important to remember is the fact that, at the time, the NLI was not part of the regular Pakistan Army but was a paramilitary force - a status that changed after Kargil when the NLI became a regular outfit of the Pakistan Army. The use of the NLI clearly showed that the Kargil operation was seen by the Pakistani military planners simply as a tactical operation to pre-empt further Indian adventurism in the Dras-Kargil sector. Hence, the occupation, by the NLI, of the watershed along the LOC.
However, given the nature of the terrain, the possibility of some of the NLI troops crossing the LOC, albeit at shallow depths (500-1000 meters), cannot be ruled out. In interviews with the military personnel involved on the ground in Kargil at that time, it is clear that once the Indian attacks opened up along the LOC, beginning with an attack in Turtok on April 30, 1999,3 some of the junior commanders did in fact go further ahead on more dominating heights primarily as advance patrolling and reconnaissance parties to act as early warning, as well as to provide depth and flank protection to NLI's vulnerable posts/complexes. But, in some cases, these advance partrols also acted as raiding parties to dislodge advance Indian posts. For instance there are the, now legendary, raids of NLI's Captain Karnal Sher Khan of June 22, 1999 and July S, 1999.
However, part of the difference in claims between the Pakistan and Indian sides on whether the NLI personnel crossed the LOC, or stayed along the LOC, can also be attributed to inaccuracy of maps, difficult terrain and difference in grids between the Pakistani maps - on the basis of which the post-Simla demarcation of the LOC was done on the official Pakistani maps - and the Russian maps which were being used by the Indian army. For instance, the Russian maps show one Northing (in certain cases two Northings) intruding into the Pakistani side of the LOC.
The Indian assertion that the operation was essentially planned across the LOC makes no sense, because if that had been the intent then the Pakistani troops would have attempted to recapture the Marpola and Bimbet posts that were established on the Pakistani side of the LOC by Indian troops in their many incursions across the LOC in 1988. How could Pakistan allow these Indian posts to remain intact even as Pakistani troops bypassed these positions, went across the LOC and occupied vast, inhospitable areas? Had the Pakistan Army gone across the LOC, then recapture of these posts would have been a major priority for them before going further ahead.
India, as per its plan, moved its troops to occupy the watershed on their side of the LOC4 and initially came across those Mujahideen who were familiar with the terrain and had moved to occupy some of the heights across the LOC to interdict the Indian supply route along the Dras-Kargil road. However, because guerrilla forces are not stationary, the Indian's found it difficult to cope with them and "dislodge" them.
But what really upset Indian planning along the watershed was the discovery of the forward defensive positions, which the NLI had taken along the LOC to counter any Indian offensive along the Line. Having intercepted some FCNA communication in the local languages, Pushto and Balti, and being unable to distinguish between these, the Indians thought that these were the dreaded "jehadis"5 whom the Indian military and media began referring to as the "ghusbaityas" or intruders.6 By the time the Indians discovered the involvement of the NLI, the Pakistani side thought it expedient to let the perceptual bias continue rather than refute it - a decision that would eventually prove to be very costly politically for the Pakistan military. Meanwhile, India was compelled to focus its attacks against these positions of the Pakistani NLI and, later, of the regular forces along the LOC.7
The FCNA, in planning the tactical operation to deny India any success in a contemplated offensive across the LOC, had made certain military calculations relating to such an operation.
Â· The first was the assumption that India would have to induct additional forces and extra strategic reserves - a costly exercise.
Â· There was also a calculation that a maximum of 4-5 brigades would be employed against the FCNA while approximately 2 strategic reserve divisions would be committed to redress the vulnerabilities opposite 12 Division and 23 Division areas. It was correctly assessed that this would reduce the possibility of India responding militarily, at the strategic level, in other areas.
However, it appears that beyond the immediate, tactical-level assessment, there was no overall strategic assessment of the politico-military fallout or unintended consequences - primarily because the contemplated maneuver, at the FCNA level, was seen purely in defensive terms where the occupation of the watershed was to be the main line of defence.
As stated above, in the wake of Indian moves and Pakistan's decision to deny India the advantage of the offensive, unlike in the case of Siachin and other Indian ingresses across the LOC, the FCNA took defensive measures by positioning troops on the heights/ features
Pakistan felt the need to induct one to two brigades additional strength into the FCNA. overlooking/ dominating Indian approaches/ routes which, in fact, had been mostly unoccupied previously. Within this operational strategy, the concerned brigades took the following defensive measures in their areas of operation:8
Â· 323 Brigade occupied some of the dominating features overlooking Turtok and Gora Lungpa by the third week of April 1999, in order to allow better observation of Indian activities and to provide flank protection to Pakistan's vulnerable posts in the Chorbat La sector. The battalions also readjusted and reinforced existing posts/complexes, especially the vulnerable/threatened ones.
Â· 62 Brigade conducted readjustment of battalion defences with special emphasis on the reinforcement of vulnerable posts and complexes of the Indus sector. There existed wide gaps between Brigades 323 and 62 over the Ladakh Range, which led the 62 Brigade to occupy vacant heights/ features covering Indian approaches/ routes through the Gragrabar and Gragrio Nullahs.
Â· 80 Brigade also readjusted the defences in their area of operation and vulnerable posts/complexes were reinforced. The watersheds in Shaqma and Buniyal sectors were occupied to guard against likely Indian approaches/ routes since they were sensitive to defence of the Shaqma sector. In the Gultari sector, features overlooking Batakulain Nullah were occupied.
As a result of the Indian counter attacks, which began after the Turtok encounter at the end of April 1999, numerous new posts were established and fighting patrols were pushed ahead for early warning and depth and flank protection. Apart from the NLI troops, individual local volunteers (Razakars) also joined the military's efforts in various ways - from logistics to fighting. Towards late June, additional elements also got inducted into the FCNA area of operations to bolster the FCNA effort.
Initially, the Indians launched counter attacks to dislodge the Pakistani troops from the watershed and heights. The FCNA had created a maximum of 15-16 forward posts, some of which may well have been across the LOC, but to a maximum depth of about a kilometre.9 Most Indian and American writings on Kargil refer to over 100 picquets/posts across the LOC that the Pakistanis established. Brian Cloughley, in his book, A History of the Pakistan Army refers to 130 picquets,10 and Indian authors on Kargil have cited his reference but used the term picquet interchangeably with the term post,11 despite the fact that Cloughley himself clearly sticks to the word picquet when talking of ingresses by the NLI across the LOC.
Here, there is some confusion over what a post is and what a picquet is. While the former is a hub with self-sustaining logistics, the latter is simply a temporary position to protect movement of forces. Each post has a number of picquets and some forward reconnaissance groups may also establish picquets. Also, the Mujahideen normally construct "sangars" for shelter on the heights - which are parapets of stones as opposed to the traditional army's cemented bunkers. By using the terms post and picquet interchangeably, the Indian analysts deliberately created an impression that the NLI had actually ingressed far further than what the reality actually was.
The Indian army, in the initial counter attacks, used elements of reserve formations that is, 70 and 114 Brigades of 3rd Infantry Division with integral artillery resources. These initial attacks were repulsed. In reaction, Indians went in for a major raising of the level of military force with the induction of the Bofors and the Indian Air Force. Their panicked response included the massing up of defensive and offensive forces in the Dras-Kargil area (including elements of strategic strike formations and the bulk of their artillery).
Interestingly, the heavy artillery India had inducted along the LOC in 1998 had never been `deinducted' in the first place - as the Indian Defence Yearbook 2000 pointed out.12 Nevertheless, this raising of the military ante in Kargil created a major imbalance for India in terms of its overall position along the international border with Pakistan, which prevented India from opening an all-out war front.13 India also inducted air and aviation into the combat but could not get a decisive military result.14 At the same time, Pakistan's intent of keeping the Kargil operation limited was reflected in the fact that Pakistan did not respond to the use of the IAF by calling in the PAF.
With Operation Vijay being conceived around May 11, 1999,15 a reinforced Indian attack was launched in the third week of May 1999, initially centering on Tiger Hill and Tololing. Between May 13-26, 1999, the total strength of the IAF was raised from one squadron to four in IOK - deployed at 4 bases: Srinagar, Awantipur, Leh and Udamphur. The IAF launched air strikes on May 26, 1999, and the Indian Ministry of External Affairs began a massive diplomatic offensive to try and show Pakistan as the aggressor. Two IAF fighters were shot down across the LOC by Pakistan on May 27, 1999, and there were reports of a third fighter having being shot down by Indian fire itself in Shyok Valley.16 Overall, the efficacy of the IAF in Kargil was extremely limited at best.
Frustrated by their lack of military success despite the vertical expansion of the conflict, by June 10, 1999, the Indians brought the following additional forces into the Kargil area:17
Â· 69 Mountain Brigade ex 6 Division in Kargil.
Â· 56 and 192 Mountain Brigade ex 8 Mountain Division in Dras.
Â· 70 Brigade ex 3 Infantry Division in Dras.
Â· 79 Brigade ex 19 Division in Dras. Artillery
Â· Approximately 24 Artillery Regiments were mustered which included 8x BOFORS Guns regiments.
Para /Commando Battalions (bns)
Â· Approximately 4-5 Para/Commando battalions were employed. PMF/ BSF Bns (4-S bns)
Â· 3xBSF Battalions
Â· 1xCRPF Battalion
The IAF also readjusted its operations under the code name Safeed Saghar launched on June 1, 1999. The changed format included high-level bombing by conventional aircraft. The initial use of MIGs did not give the desired results. So from June 5-10, 1999, the IAF used Jaguars and the Mirage-2000, but India still failed to clear the watershed posts or the forward early warning temporary posts and picquets. The IAF also began using high-altitude laser-guided bombs. The problems that beset the Indian military were reflected in the action taken to relieve the Commanders of the 15 and 16 Corps of their internal security duties as well as in the appointment of Lt. General Avtar Singh as the new Security Adviser and head of a unified command in IOK on June 19, 1999. This signified some high level assessment of an Intelligence failure on the part of the Indian Intelligence, including a lack of coordination.
Meanwhile, unlike Pakistan, India was extremely active on the diplomatic front with Vajpayee's National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra going to Paris to meet with the US National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, to deliver a letter for President Clinton, prior to the G-8 Summit scheduled for June 18-20, 1999. India managed to portray its lack of success in the military operations as restraint and adroitly played on Western fears of a nuclear war in South Asia. The central line being pushed was that it was Indian restraint that had prevented a nuclear conflict in South Asia. Indian External Affairs Minister, Jaswant Singh, visited China on June 14-15, following the visit of Pakistan's Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz to Beijing.
In fact, one of the problems that worked to Pakistan's disadvantage was that it got sucked incrementally into a larger military operation by India with the latter's induction of reinforcements, the Bofor guns and use of the IAF. Pakistan had not anticipated this since its objective was simply to preempt suspected Indian military actions along the LOC. In any case, from the Pakistani perspective, no grand strategic Kargil plan was envisaged because it would have been difficult to employ large scale forces in Kargil, in a sustainable manner, for a number of reasons:
Â· One, the FCNA did not have integral resources to launch a large-scale offensive operation. The FCNA is a defensive formation so it took defensive action to plug gaps and occupy vacant heights19 on the watershed by using holding units. No additional forward dumping was affected either.
Â· Two, offensive operations in such areas require massive logistic support to the tune of six porters for a combat soldier. If the operation was launched by 1500 troops, as claimed by India, this would require up to 9000 persons for support. Concealing the activity/movement of such a large number of people in that area would be impossible.
Â· Three, any large-scale induction into the FCNA cannot be concealed due to the Karakoram Highway (KKH) being the only highly visible supply artery. Had such a movement taken place, it would have certainly been picked up by normal intelligence gathering means, especially given India's satellite and other hi-tech surveillance resources.
Â· Four, India returned only two dead bodies of regular soldiers and six prisoners of war (POWs) to Pakistan, who were captured when a Pakistani patrol went astray across the LOC. This refutes their claims of having inflicted heavy casualties and captured a number of positions occupied by Pakistani soldiers on the Indian side of the LOC. If that were the case, the number of Pakistani casualties would have been far greater.
Â· Five, in contrast, the Indians came across the LOC and suffered casualties. Pakistan returned 7-8 dead bodies of Indian soldiers, shot down a number of aircraft and helicopters, which were on the Pakistani side of the LOC. India itself admitted to the shooting down of two of their aircraft and one helicopter.
The expansion of the conflict in vertical terms, militarily, and horizontally, in diplomatic terms, was partially the result of the initial panic on the Indian side. This panic was rather apparent, not only in the amassment of military hardware and troops but also in their haste to give military awards as a means of reviving the sagging morale of their soldiers. As a result they awarded their highest gallantry award posthumously to a soldier whose wife claimed that her husband was still alive and admitted in the hospital!20
On suffering heavy casualties in the early stages of the conflict, the Indians changed the technique of attack and started containing the front while attacking from the flanks. They attacked only a limited number of as objectives in each sub-sector at any one time, thereby ensuring maximum concentration of infantry and artillery fire. For instance, according to India Today,21 the attack on Tololing Ridge where it meets the watershed -Pakistan's ingress here was 1-2 km - was supported by 120 artillery guns which pounded the ridge for more than four hours, firing at least 10,000 shells (50,000 kg of TNT) before initiating the assault. Despite this, the Indians could not clear the whole ridge.
Notwithstanding the expansion by India of the military dynamics of the conflict, at the time of the forced withdrawal by Pakistan - following Prime Minister Sharifs dash to Washington on July 4, 1999 - according to Pakistani military sources, India had managed to retake only 10-11% of the area. This has also been confirmed by Indian sources, some of whom cite Col. Brian Cloughley's book A History of the Pakistan Army.22 Also, according to Pakistani military sources, at that time the Indian formations had also begun to fatigue.23
For Pakistan, militarily, the tactical aspects of the operation were successful - similar to a number of tactical actions undertaken by India along and across the LOC since 1972 in the form of ingresses - although the Pakistani ingresses were not comparable to Indian ingresses, in terms of greater depth across the LOC. Unfortunately, once India had amassed its forces along the LOC and because of political miscalculations, or lack of calculations by Pakistan, the whole Kargil episode was turned into a politico-diplomatic victory for India.
3. The Political Dimension
Post-Kargil, Pakistan's political elite tried to distance itself from knowledge of the Kargil action. But the reality on the ground was different. As is the pattern in Pakistan, the political leadership is periodically briefed on operational military matters. It was no different in the case of Kargil. Once the Indian intentions and capability to undertake offensive operation were identified, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was briefed on the impending threat and what could be Pakistan's response.
He received a number of briefings relating to developments along the LOC in 1999, beginning with a briefing in Skardu on January 29, and one in Kel on February 5, which specifically related to the interdiction taking place in that sector from the Indian side of the LOC. The ISI gave him a briefing on March 12, 1999, while the Military Operations (MO) Directorate at GHQ gave him briefings on May 17, 1999, June 2, 1999, and June 22, 1999.24 On July 2, 1999, there was a meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) where a briefing was given on Kargil by the Chiefs of the army, navy and air force. A further meeting was scheduled for July 5, 1999.25 So it is clear that, as Prime Minister, ' Nawaz Sharif was very much in the decision-making loop regarding Kargil. However, on the afternoon of July 3, 1999, Sharif and Clinton spoke on the phone and only two other people were present at the time - cabinet member Chaudhry Nisar and Chief Minister Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif.26 It is after this exchange between Clinton and Sharif that Sharif made his dash to Washington.
From discussions with some of the military leadership at the time, it is also clear that India was prepared to negotiate with Pakistan around mid-June, 1999. There had been a process of back-channel diplomacy going on between Niaz Naik (former Pakistani foreign secretary) and R. K. Mishra (ex-Congress Party member of parliament) on trying to find ways to diffuse the conflict.27 Apparently, it was reported on June 27, 1999, that an understanding had been reached on the final settlement of the Kargil conflict, which was to be signed in New Delhi by the prime ministers of the two countries.28 That is why at the time of the Pakistani prime minister's visit to China on June 27, 1999, apparently, the Indian side had suggested that Sharif make an "impromptu" stop in New Delhi on his wav back from Beijing. This is probably why Sharif suddenly cut short his visit to China - and why Sartaj Aziz had actually made a trip to New Delhi earlier on June 12, 1999. But once he did this, the Indian offer was suddenly cancelled, which left Sharif cooling his heels in Hongkong. So, somewhere between these developments, an external factor came into play, which further impacted the Kargil dynamics.
4. The External Dimension
There was little support for Pakistan in relation to the Kargil conflict from the key external actors - partly due to the fact that there had been no advance diplomatic preparation for the fallout. Pakistan's ally China called for de-escalation of the tensions along the LOC and Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz's visit to Beijing got only a statement of general support for Pakistan's sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.29 When Prime Minister Sharif visited China (June 28, 1999), all he got was support for Pakistan "in its efforts to de-escalate the situation along the Line of Control" and the Chinese urged both India and Pakistan to find a peaceful settlement to the Kashmir dispute.30 By not being specific in terms of Kargil, the Chinese leadership made it clear to Pakistan that it was not prepared to condone the Kargil action, even though it was prepared to reiterate general support for its longstanding ally Pakistan. This detached approach of China on Kargil did contribute to influencing world opinion into thinking that Pakistan was indeed culpable, as the Indians had claimed.
The June 18-20, 1999, G-8 Cologne Summit also, without naming Pakistan, termed "any military action to change the status quo (along the LOC) as irresponsible. We therefore call for the immediate end of these actions, restoration of the Line of Control and for the parties to work for an immediate cessation of the fighting, full respect in the future for the Line of Control and the resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan in the spirit of the Lahore Declaration. "31 However, the G8 statement, by not naming Pakistan, offered the latter some face-saving.
The US role in the Kargil conflict has yet not come out fully, but it was playing an active behind-the-scene role at the political level. General Zinni, the then commander-in-chief of CENTCOM, visited Pakistan on June 23, 1999, accompanied by G. Lanpher, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia32 - who then went on to visit New Delhi. It appears that Zinni may have given some understanding to the Pakistani side that the US was prepared to intervene between Pakistan and India because, after the Zinni visit, General Musharraf (COAS) referred to the possibility of a Nawaz- Clinton meeting on Kashmir.33 Rationally, it would appear that the US, or General Zinni, must have given some assurance that the US would be able to press India into starting a dialogue with Pakistan as a quid pro quo for Pakistani "withdrawal" in Kargil. At the time, General Musharraf also insisted that there would be no "unilateral withdrawal".34
But it is equally clear that the real US intent was not to play a neutral mediator in this conflict. Many military commanders, in interviews, insisted that it was the US that prevented India from coming to the negotiating table with Pakistan at the time of the Sharif visit to China. Even earlier, around June 9, 1999, Kissinger visited lndia35 apparently carrying a message from the US government not to negotiate with Pakistan.
Why would the US adopt this approach? Because it had warned Pakistan not to take any action along the LOC and felt that Pakistan was playing a game of brinkmanship against US wishes.36 Also, by now the US-India strategic relationship was also evolving, after the initial problems following the Indian nuclear tests of 1998.
However, another factor that prevented a Sharif-Vajpayee meeting in June 1999, could have been the presence of the hardliners within the BJP, led by Advani - the same group that later is widely believed to have sabotaged the Agra talks.
Whatever the case, the external political factors played a critical role in the unfolding of the Kargil conflict.
1. This section is based on analysis of information received from briefings at GHQ and interviews with the officers involved in the Kargiloperation as well as evaluation of some of the published Indian works on Kargil. Including, The kargil review Committee Report and Musharaf's War. 2. Burzil pass, which is 13,770 feet high, is approximately 100 km away from the area of operations and served by a jeepable track, while on the Indian side, the Zojila Pass, which is 11,578 feet high 50 kms away from the area of operations and has a matelled road, allowed India early and quicker movement of troops. 3. A similar Indian attack was launched in the Batalik sector on May 5, 1999, and in the Dras sector on May 7, 1999. 4. India also wanted to take over some contentious points like Pt 5353. 5. A similar Indian attack was launched in the Batalik sector on May 5, 1999, and in the Dras sector on May 7, 1999.
6. India also wanted to take over some contentious points like Pt 1353.
7. Jehadi - traditionally a Muslim fighter for just causes, from social ssues to military war. This word has been distorted to refer to any nilitary fighter who happens to be a Muslim, regardless of the aim of us fight.
8. Indians use the word "intruder" for any non-Kashmiri fighter ighting against Indian forces in IOK.
9. When the Indians upped the military ante, around May 14, 1999, Pakistan felt the need to induct one to two brigades additional strength into the FCNA.
10. As informed in the FCNA briefing on January 12, 2003, at Gilgit, op.cit. and subsequently reconfirmed through interviews with the relevant military personnel.
11. FCNA briefing, Gilgit, January 12, 2003. Ibid.
12. Brain Cloughley, A History of the Pakistan Army, Second Edition, Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2000.
13. See, for instance, Maj. Gen. Rajendra Nath, op. cit.
14. See p. 78 of the Indian Defence Yearbook 2000. According to the Yearbook, the Bofor guns and the multi-barrel rocket launchers blasted Tiger Hill with nearly 30,000 rounds.
15. Since the Indians had taken troops required for strike forces to launch their offensive along the LOC, this resulted in an imbalance as they could not have generated the combat potential required for an offensive against Pakistan along the international border. For a good account of the massive use of Indian forces in Kargil, read General V. P. Malik (the then Indian COAS), "Lessons from Kargil" in the Indian Defence Review, Vol. 16 (S) 20. This lack of a serious conventional threat from India also belies the speculation about Pakistan readying its nuclear forces.
16. According to the Indian Defence Yearbook 2000, the IAF used laser-guided bombs. For the first time, India used its UAVs "adding a new hi-technology dimension to combat in the sub-continent." The Yearbook also notes that India had a major military advantage because, unlike Pakistan, India had been regularly modernising its equipment and arsenal.
17. General V.P. Malik in the Foreword to Musharrafs War, op.cit.
18. Pakistan Intelligence sources.
20. These heights were not those vacated by India in the winters but were those that had never been occupied by either side before.
21. The Indians also showed TV coverage of their soldiers offering Janaza (funeral) prayers for dead Pakistani soldiers - as a propaganda ploy aimed at the Pakistani public. But unfortunately they forgot that Muslims do not go into sajda (prostration) during these prayers!
22. July 5, 1999.
23. See, for example, Mai Gen Rajandra Nath's article, in Musharrafs War, op.cit.
24. FCNA briefing of J anuary 12, 2003, op cit The source for this assumption of fatigue seems to be Indian military transmissions.
25. On his return from Washington, Sharif visited Skardu on July 16, 1999, where he was also given a briefing on the latest developments relating to Kargil.
26. As confirmed by Mr Mushahid Hussain at the Kargil Seminar held at the ISSI on Januarv 13, 2003.
27. This was confirmed by certain people close to the participants of this event, at the ISSI seminar cited Ibid.
28. See "Secret Pak Mission to Delhi", in The Asian Age, June 28, 1999.
There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding this back-door diplomacy which continues to date. Partly this is the result of claims by many in the know - including Mr. Naik himself, that somehow India had been persuaded to move towards resolution of the Kashmir issue and a formula had been agreed to by both Pakistan and India. However, there is little to substantiate this - especially within the context of India actually agreeing to cede some territory of Occupied Kashmir to Pakistan. In September an Indian newspaper report clearly stated that India had denied any secret deal with Pakistan on Kashmir. See "India denies secret deal with Pakistan on J&K", in The Hindu, September 16, 1999. However, it seems highly probable that the two sides may have agreed on a methodology of bringing the Kargil conflict to an end.
29. Nasim Zehra, "Was there a deal that Delhi went back on?", in The News, June 27, 1999.
30. "China assures support for Pakistan security", The Nation, June 12 , 1999.
31. "Prime Minister cuts short China visit", The News, June 29, 1999.
32. See http://usinfo.state.gov/topical/eeon...9/g8region.htm
33. The News, June 24, 1999.
30. The News, (Islamabad) June 27, 1999.
35. "Kissinger calls on Vajpayee, Advani, discusses Kargil", Hindustan Tmes, (New Delhi) June 9, 1999.
36. For example, in mid-June President Clinton, in a telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, asked him to immediately pull out his forces from the "Indian territory" in Kashmir. In fact, Clinton made this a precondition for ending the fighting between the two countries. See, "Clinton asks Sharif to vacate Kargil sector" in Daily Excelsior, (Jammu) June 15, 1999.
Year-wise Induction of Additional Indian Security Forces in IOK: 1997-2002
Year Regular Troops Para MilitaryForces New Raisings
1997 . 9 Independent MountainBrigade 282 x units -
1998 . 9 Ind Mntn Brgde. 39 Mntn Div. ex Army Strategic Resrv71 Mntn Brgde. ex 6 Mntn Div.13 x lose units (3 x Inf, 3 x Armor, 4 x Mechanized Inf. Battalions & 3 x Air Def. Units). 50 X BSFCompanies . V & D Forces in the valley& Doda areas resectively. 2 x ad hoc RPFBattalions
1999 . 6 Mntn Div. ex Army Strategic Res.. 39 Mntn Div. ex Army Strategic Res.4 Inf Divisions. 27 Mntn Division. 9 Ind. Mntn Brigade. 24 x lose units. 2 Para Battalions . 325 x units . HQ 14 Corps. K Force for Kupwara area.
2000 . 6 Mntn Div. ex Army Strategic Res. 39 Mntn Div. ex Army Strategic Res.73 Mountain Div..16 x loose units 234 x units . R Force for Rajuari. 20-25 CRPF Battalions.
2001 . 27 Mntn Div.. 39 Mntn Div. ex Army Strategic Res.. 64 Mntn. Brigade ex 17Mntn Div. (Eastern Command). 17 x loose units 240 x units 157 x additional BSF Companies. 30 x additional Rashtria Rifle Battalions.
2002 . 6 Mntn Div. ex Army Strategic Res. 39 Mntn Div. ex Army Strategic Res.4 Inf. Div.. 27 Mntn Div.. 9 Ind. Mntn Brigade. Light Armored Bgde ex 1 Corps. HQ 3 Corps ex Eastern Command. 241 x units . 20 x ad hoc CRPF units
Military Geography Of The Kargil Conflict Area
1. The Indian Area
Part of the Ladakh region of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), the area of the Kargil conflict comprises approxi-mately 155 by 75 kilometres of harsh terrain, ranging bet-ween 9000 feet to 18,000 feet of high, craggy and snow-covered mountain peaks. It is bounded by the Zojila Pass on the west, Shyok River on the east, LOC on the north and the villages of Zojila, Sanko, Mulbek, Khalsi and Partapur form the southern flank. The area is sparsely populated with little rainfall, and therefore it is almost devoid of any cultivation and has practically no forests. Heavy snowfall in the winter together with the wind-chill factor lowers the temperature to between minus 30 to minus 40 degrees centigrade at night.
The three major rivers that flow through the area - running generally from south-east to north-west are the Shyok, Indus and Shingo. There are two major roads leading into the area - the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh (NH-1) road and the Manali-Leh road which is an alternative, unhindered and much deeper road link, far away from the LOC. The NH-1 closes in the middle of November, due to heavy snowfall whereas the Manali-Leh road, which passes over heights of above 14,000 feet, closes for traffic by the middle of October each year.
Kargil Tehsil itself has 88.4% Muslim population, most of them belonging to the Shia sect. However, Zaskar Tehsil has an overwhelming Buddhist population. The area provides an important road link between the Valley and the Northern areas of IOK, including to the Siachin Glacier, running close to the LOC.
2. The Pakistani Area
The Pakistani side of the Kargil Conflict region is similarly inhospitable, glaciated and consists of snowcapped mountains ranging from 10,000 to 18,000 feet. The area is bounded in the north by Skardu, in the south by the LOC, in the east by the Siachin Glacier and the Indus River and in the west by the Neelum Valley. The Shyok and Indus are the two major rivers that cut across the LOC, while the Neelum River flows westwards astride the LOC, after its entry into IOK. Surrounded by the massive Karakoram and Himalayan Ranges, the area is not very densely populated and is served through only one narrow road, which links Skardu with the area, across the Burzil Pass. The road remains open only for four months during the entire year and can barely sustain the civilian population of the area and the logistical requirements of army troops deployed to defend the area. It is vitally important to note that the road cannot support the logistical buildup for sustaining any sizeable offensive military operation.
3. Defence of the Pakistani Area 1
The defence of this region comes under the responsibility of the FCNA, which has an area of operation stretching from Siachin to Anzbari - a total distance of 175 kms. This is divided into four sectors:
Â· Baltoro sector, located north west of Siachin Glacier, which includes access to some of the world's most famous peaks, including K-II, Broad Peak, the Gasherbrum series, Choglisa and Masherbrum.
Â· Dansum-Shyok sector, which is bounded by River Hushe in the West, the Rimo Mountains in the East, Indira Koli Pass in the North and the Ladakh Range in the South. The Siachin Glacier lies to the Eastern end of this sector. To the West of Siachin is the Saltoro Range, which is also the Line of Actual Contact (LAC) between Pakistan and India. This region is largely a mass of glaciers and snow-covered peaks with heights in the range of 18,000 - 22,000 ft. Being snowbound for most part of the year, the area is extremely difficult to negotiate.
Â· Skardu sector, which extends from the Ladakh Range and includes the Indus and Shingo Valleys. Kargil and Batalik are visible from some of the posts of this sector.
Â· Minimarg sector, which extends from Shingo Valley to Anzbari. This sector is within the Great Himalayas and is separated from Skardu by the Deosai Plains with an average height of 14,080 ft. Burzil Pass provides the main access to this sector. The heights in the sector vary between 7,500 ft to 17,500 ft. A portion of the NH-1 - the Dras-Kargil Road - is visible to the Pakistani troops in this sector.
There are four approaches to the FCNA's area of responsibility:
I. The Siachin Glacier approach, which provides access to Dansum and further on to Khaplu on the Pakistani side.
II. The Shyok Valley approach, which connects Leh and Thoise with Skardu. India can isolate Siachin Glacier and unhinge defenses to its advantage.
III. The Indus Valley approach, which connects Leh with Skardu.
IV. The Kaksar-Shagma-Gultari-Burzil Pass app-roach, which begins from Kaksar and goes over Shagma-Gultari-Burzil Pass.
This approach is supplied by a number of small approaches through various nullahs. The FCNA has the following forces at its disposal for carrying out its responsibilities:
I. The HQ FCNA, located at Gilgit.
II. 323 Brigade, deployed at Dansum.
III 62 Brigade, (including one Wing of Civil Armed Forces) deployed at Skardu.
IV. 80 Brigade deployed at Minimarg.
V. FCNA Artillery, deployed along the entire front.
VI. 1 Reserve Battalion at Gilgit.
Within this operational framework, the FCNA is assigned the following tasks:
I. To defend the area of responsibility as far forward as tactically possible, so that no loss to territory occurs.
II. To deny India any success in so-called hot pursuit operations.
III. To be able to sustain these responsibilities while being prepared to detach some integral elements on order, for redeployment in other sectors.
IV. To ensure the protection of vulnerable areas/points against aerial operations, para operations and commando raids.
Within such a geographical terrain and India's past record, certain military conclusions have been drawn by the Pakistan military. For instance, both Pakistan and India adopt an exaggerated forward defence posture because of the susceptibility of the LOC to violations. Also, for Pakistan there are three strategic objectives to be preserved in the FCNA area of responsibility. These are defence of Skardu, Gilgit and prevention of severance of the Karakoram Highway. The capture of any of these, through a ground offensive alone is not possible, so the danger which Pakistan has to guard against is in the case of a full-fledged Indian offensive which would include air attacks and airborne elements. Beside these strategic objectives, some intermediate objectives also need to be guarded.
Military Options in this Zone of Operations
Even though Pakistan has the advantage of operating on interior lines of operation here, given the difficult terrain and the absence of adequate laterals, it would require a fair amount of time to shift reserves and firepower from one sector to another. So all these sectors need to be packed with dedicated reserves and fire power. For the Indians, the need would be to try and secure some depth for their vulnerable line of control through offensive options opposite Dras and Kargil at the operational level. At the tactical level, the Pakistan army has calculated that the Indians will continue to try and establish posts on the unoccupied heights as part of their post-Simla forward policy in Occupied Kashmir.
The scale of operations will primarily be limited to division/ brigade levels. Because of the extreme friction on the ground and insufficient communication infrastructure for deployment, large formations and large-scale operations along each approach is not feasible. The whole area can only allow the use of one or two divisions at a time, and that too after extensive logistic and troop build-up, which would give away the secrecy element. The speed of operations will also be very slow because of terrain and weather.
There is little flexibility available in terms of planning and conduct of operations and reorientation of direction of operation, subsequent to their commencement. Heavy reliance has to be placed on correct grouping, assessment of time and space, decentralization and self-sufficiency. The terrain and weather also create inaccuracies in mapping, surveying and information gathering and collation. For the offensive side, secrecy is critical in terms of assessment of forces, logistic build-up and gaining of the initial foothold. The maintenance of logistics support is critical for offensive operations. Perhaps the most important aspect with regard to any operation is to acclimatise the regular troops along with the need for specialized troops. The former process requires four to six weeks. Finally, the physical geography of the area has its impact on the high altitude military operations because the troops have to contend with extremely low temperatures - which fall to minus 30 to minus 40 degrees - as well as blizzards, limited visibility and white-out conditions. In addition, there are deep and narrow gorges in the glaciers, which give way, causing destruction of life and equipment. Simply moving on or negotiating glaciers also requires special training and equipment. Soldiers have to face pathological and psychological problems related specifically to high altitudes. So this is not an area where a large-scale strategic offensive military action can be planned and retain a semblance of secrecy.
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While kargil type mis-adventures of pakistan did result in casualties and destruction, there is one thing, such forays does serve as a good kick in the b---t for the Indian civil politico-bureaucratic establishment to take care of its forces. Being a democracy the inertia of the Indian Political and civil bureacracy is quite strong.Like many, God and soldiers are remembered only in times of need.
The Army too had its lessons even if some of the lessons are learnt it would benefit india greatly in the future.
can there be any thing but emotions coming out of anything to do with india and Pakistan, well frankly no.
very nice article
however the reliability of anything written about kargil is really not credible as both of the nations are known to use the propoganda machine to the max.
example india will often quote(even in this article) that pakistan refuses to take the bodies of its own soldiers and pakistan will say india is dumping the bodies of kashmiri ppl. on pakistan. So well the details of the conflict will never be neutral coming from any source, hence the conflict should be remembered for what it was, a terrile waste of human life, people who died on all sides will be missed by there loved ones. That should be it.
Last edited by funtz; August 28th, 2007 at 01:28 PM.