As the country commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Kargil war, former senior military officers said that lessons have been learnt from it and it is now impossible for Pakistan to repeat 1999.
In early May 1999, an intrusion by armed men, initially thought to be terrorists or ‘mercenaries’, was detected in the mountain peaks of Kargil sector in Jammu and Kashmir.
When the Indian Army launched an operation to evict them, it was found that the intruders were personnel of the Pakistan Army who were heavily armed.
A conflict ensued in the mountains of Kargil sector, which lasted around three months and cost India 526 soldiers.
The ‘Operation Vijay’, launched by India to evict the Pakistani Army entrenched in well fortified posts, ended on July 26.
It was an “intelligence failure”, former Navy Chief Arun Prakash told IANS, adding that the same has been well established by the Kargil Review Committee, headed by former bureaucrat K. Subrahmanyam, which was set up by the government after the war.
Former army officials said the Kargil sector was thinly manned till 1999 but after the conflict, everything has changed and the gaps have been plugged.
Brigadier (retd) Khushal Thakur, who was the Commanding Officer of 18 Grenadiers which was involved in capture of Tololing and Tiger Hill, also said that intelligence failure was the main reason behind the Pakistani incursion in Kargil.
He said a proper assessment was not carried out.
The Kargil war veteran added that all the gaps have since been plugged and the borders are well manned.
“In the last 20 years, a lot has changed. We now have better weaponry, technology and surveillance and Kargil-2 can never happen,” Thakur told IANS.
He said the capture of Tololing marked a decisive phase in the war.
“The purpose was to restore the sanctity of Line of Control (LoC),” he emphasised.
According to Brigadier (retd) J.S. Sandhu, the Pakistan Army chose Kargil because “it was a silent area”.
“Post-Kargil, everything has changed and India is much secure now. All the gaps have been plugged and prompt surveillance system is well in place,” he added.
The retired officer, at the same time, said that weapons and equipment constantly need upgradation as technology is moving very fast. “The men behind the guns get the edge when they have sophisticated weapons,” he said.
Lieutenant General (retd) Amar Aul, who was involved in the operations to re-capture Tololing , Pt 5140 and Tiger Hill as a Brigade Commander, said, “well, we learnt our lessons”.
“We had one Battalion to guard the LoC in Kargil in 1999. Today we have three Brigades under a Division’s command to guard the Kargil LoC,” he said.
He asserted that the Indian troops completely control and dominate the LoC in the entire Kargil district, “making it impossible for the enemy to repeat 1999 in the future”.
While analysing the weak links left permeable for the enemy incursions in 1999, he said: “The general perception that the Indian Army would vacate all its posts on the mountain tops in Tololing, Tiger Hill, Pt 5140, Mashkoh Valley and Batalik is completely wrong.
“We had two LoC posts namely Bhimbhate LC post and Marpola post which were never vacated even during the winters in 1999. The distance between these two posts is 35 to 40 km and it was this unguarded stretch of the LoC that was occupied by the enemy troops in 1999.”
He said the Pakistan Army also made incursions in the area west of Mushkoh where the Indian Army had no post.
“Interestingly, we never maintained any post close to the LoC in Batalik since the terrain is extremely difficult and till 1999 it was believed to be impossible to occupy. We never had any post close to the LoC in Batalik whether it was summer or winter till 1999,” Aul said.
“The enemy incursion in Batalik was an example of the fact that whatever the human mind can conceive, it can achieve,” he added.
Soon after the Kargil war got over, the then Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had set up a committee to look into various aspects of Kargil intrusion.
The Kargil Review Committee (KRV) was headed by former bureaucrat K. Subrahmanyam and had three other members including Lieutenant General (retd) K.K. Hazari, B.G. Verghese and Satish Chandra, Secretary, National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS).
In its report, the committee said the Kargil crisis arose due to grave deficiencies in the country’s security management system.