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The Rediff Special/ The Kargil Review Committee Report

'The Pakistani establishment has a long and consistent history of misreading India's will'

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Over the next few days, will bring to you the executive summary of the Kargil Review Committee Report which was tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, February 23, 2000.

Against the backdrop of an animated public discussion on Pakistan's aggression in Kargil, the Union Government vide its order dated July 29, 1999 constituted a Committee to look into the episode with the following Terms of Reference:-

i. to review the events leading up to the Pakistani aggression in the Kargil district of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir; and

ii. To recommended such measures as are considered necessary to safeguard national security against such armed intrusions.

The Committee comprised four members namely K Subrahmanyam (Chairman), Lieutenant General (Retd) K K Hazari, B G Verghese and Satish Chandra, Secretary, National Security Council Secretariat who was also designated as Member-Secretary.

Given its open ended terms of reference, the time constraint and, most importantly, the need for clarity in setting about its task, the Committee found it necessary to define its scope of work precisely. To deal with the Kargil episode in isolation would have been too simplistic; hence the Report briefly recounts the important facets of developments in J&K and the evolution of the LOC, Indo-Pak relations since 1947, the proxy war in Kashmir and the nuclear factor.

However, the Committee's 'review' commences essentially from 1997 onwards coinciding with Nawaz Sharif's return to office as Prime Minister of Pakistan. This has enabled the Committee to look at developments immediately preceding the intrusions more intensively. The Committee has sought to analyse whether the kind of Pakistani aggression that took place could have been assessed from the available intelligence inputs and if so, what were the shortcomings and failures which led to the nation being caught by surprise.

However, the actual conduct of military operations has not been evaluated by the Committee as this lay outside the Committee's mandate and would have called for a different type of expertise. The Committee's recommendations for preventing future recurrence of Kargil-like episodes are confined to the country's land borders. Since some of these are generic in nature, they would have a bearing on future threats to the country whether on its land borders or otherwise.

The Committee approached its task in a spirit of openness and transparency with its focus on establishing the facts. It viewed its task as a co-operative venture with the concerned Ministries, Defence Services, Intelligence Agencies and other concerned organisations and avoided getting into adversarial relationship with the officials and non-officials with whom it was required to interact. Given this approach it was able to enlist the willing co-operation of all concerned.

Although the Committee was not statutory in nature, as a result of Cabinet Secretary's directions, it was able to secure the widest possible access to all relevant documents, including those with the highest classification and to officials of the Union and J&K Governments. In the pursuit of its task the Committee sought presentations from the concerned organisations and agencies. It held meetings with those who in its judgement were in a position to throw light on the subject.

In this process, it met former President R Venkataraman, Prime Minister A B Vajpayee, ex-Prime Ministers V P Singh, P V Narasimha Rao and I K Gujral, the Home Minister, External Affairs Minister, Defence Minister, the Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, the Governor and the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, the National Security Adviser, the Cabinet Secretary, the Defence Secretary, the Foreign Secretary, the Home Secretary and a host of other officials and non-officials, including media persons.

The Committee held over a hundred meetings, the records of which are appended to the Report. Detailed questionnaires were prepared by the Committee to elicit information. It made four visits to various parts of J&K to hold discussions with local officials and non-officials, and to get a better sense of the terrain and the prevailing field conditions.

It undertook a visit to Bangalore to obtain a first hand knowledge of certain defence research and development facilities and for discussions with experts regarding technological options. The Committee invited reliable information from the public pertaining to events leading up to the Pakistani aggression in Kargil through a press note in the national dailies and the regional media. It scanned a large number of news items and commentaries published in the national dailies, journals and magazines. Apart from this, it perused several books published in recent months on the Kargil episode.

The Committee's Findings are based primarily on official documents, authenticated records and copies of documents, while other parts of the Report draw on materials received by the Committee and views of experts and knowledgeable persons who were invited to interact with it.

The Committee's Report comprises 14 Chapters in addition to a Prologue and an Epilogue. Important documents referred to by the Committee are enclosed as annexures with the main Report. Other relevant documents, Records of Discussions and source materials have been put together in 15 volumes and appended to the Report. The Findings and Recommendations of the Committee are set out in the succeeding sections of this summary.

Developments leading to the Pakistani aggression at Kargil

The Review Committee had before it overwhelming evidence that the Pakistani armed intrusion in the Kargil sector came as a complete and total surprise to the Indian Government, Army and intelligence agencies as well as to the J&K State Government and its agencies.

The Committee did not come across any agency or individual who was able clearly to assess before the event the possibility of a large scale Pakistani military intrusion across the Kargil heights. What was conceived of was the limited possibility of infiltration's and enhanced artillery exchanges in this Sector.

A number of former Army Chiefs of Staff and Director Generals of Military Operations were near unanimous in their opinion that a military intrusion on the scale attempted was totally unsustainable because of the lack of supportive infrastructure and was militarily irrational. In the 1948, 1965 and 1971 conflicts, the Indian Army was able to dominate the Pakistani forces on these heights.

This area has been the scene of fierce artillery exchanges but minimal cross-LOC military activity. These factors, together with the nature of the terrain and extreme weather conditions in the area, had generated an understandable Indian military mindset about the nature and extent of the Pakistani threat in this sector.

The developments of 1998 as reported in various intelligence inputs, notably the increased shelling of Kargil, the reported increased presence of militants in the Force Commander Northern Area region and their training were assessed as indicative of a likely high level of militant activity in Kargil in the summer of 1999 and the consequent possibility of increased infiltration in this area.

The Pakistani reconnaissance mission in August 1997 in Gharkum village was noted and a patrol base established in Yaldor. An operation was also planned to apprehend the infiltrators if they returned in the summer of 1998. They apparently did not do so.

The nearest approximation to the events of May 1999 was a 15 Corps war-game in 1993 which envisaged a Pakistani long range penetration group positioning itself south of NH 1A and bringing the Srinagar-Leh highway under fire from both sides. Even that assessment did not visualise an intrusion to hold ground by hundreds of Pakistan Army regulars.

Intrusions across the LOC are not uncommon. Pakistan had in the past intruded into the Indian side of the LOC and the Indian Army had responded adequately. There had, however, been no intrusions since 1990. An attempt to capture a post or two on the LOC was, however, anticipated as revealed in the press briefing of the acting GOC 15 Corps on January 11, 1999. Even this was not the kind of intrusion that actually took place in the Mashkoh, Dras, Kaksar and Batalik areas.

The terrain here is so inhospitable that the intruders could not have survived above 4,000 metres for long without comprehensive and sustained re-supply operations. They were even running short of water at these heights towards the end of the operations. Though heavily armed, the intruders did not have rations for more than two or three days in many forward 'sanghars'. Re-supply could have taken place only if there was no air threat and the supply lines could not be targeted by Indian artillery.

In other words, it would appear that the Pakistani intruders operated on the assumption that the intrusions would be under counter attack for only a few days and thereafter some sort of cease-fire would enable them to stay on the heights and be re-supplied.

Such an assumption would be totally unsustainable in purely military terms. It would only be logical on the expectation, based upon political considerations, that Pakistan would be able to engineer international intervention to impose an early ceasefire that would allow its troops to stay in possession of the territory captured by them. Such an assumption could not have been made without close consultation with the Pakistani political leadership at the highest level.

General Musharraf has disclosed that the operations were discussed in November 1998 with the political leadership and there are indications of discussion on two subsequent occasions in early 1999. The tapes of conversations between General Musharraf and Lieutenant General Aziz, Chief of General Staff, also revealed their expectation of early international intervention, the likelihood of a ceasefire and knowledge and support of the Foreign Office.

In retrospect, such an expectation was unreal. The Pakistani establishment has a long and consistent history of misreading India's will and world opinion. In 1947, it did not anticipate the swift Indian military intervention in Kashmir when it planned its raid with a mix of army personnel, ex-servicemen and tribals under the command of Major General Akbar Khan. In 1965, it took Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's advice that India would not cross the international border to deal with Pakistan's offensive in the Akhbur sector.

In 1971, it developed high but totally unwarranted expectations about the likelihood of US-Chinese intervention on its behalf. The same pattern of behaviour was evident this time too. This is presumably the price the Pakistani leadership has paid for its inability to come to terms with the military realities. It has obviously been a victim of its own propaganda.

It is evident from Pakistani pronouncements and the writings of those with access to the highest decision making levels, that at least from 1987 onwards, when Dr A Q Khan conveyed a nuclear threat to India in a Press interview to an Indian journalist, Pakistan was convinced that its nuclear weapons capability would deter India's superior conventional forces.

Written accounts of foreign observers have highlighted that since 1980, the Pakistani military establishment had entertained ideas of deterring Indian nuclear and conventional capabilities with its nuclear weapons and of carrying out a brash, bold strike to liberate Kashmir which would go unchallenged if the Indian leadership was weak or indecisive.

Successive Indian Chiefs of Army Staff and Director Generals of Military Operations told the Committee that bringing to bear India's assumed conventional superiority was not a serious option in the last ten years for a variety of reasons; commitments in Sri Lanka, subsequent deployments in Punjab, the northeast and Kashmir, and a drastic reduction in Defence outlay. Pakistani writings over the years have highlighted the Indian Army's involvement in counterinsurgency in Kashmir and its perceived degradation as an effective fighting force.

Several Pakistani writers agree that the 'Kargil plan' was formulated in the eighties in the last years in General Zia-ul Haq. There are different versions on whether it was sought to be operationalised during the tenures of Benazir Bhutto and General Jehangir Karamat, Chief of Army Staff. General Musharraf's disclosure that it was discussed with the political leadership in November 1998 soon after he assumed office has been referred to in the Report. It is difficult to say whether the initiative for this move came from the Army or was politically driven.

There was a heady combination of circumstances and personalities. Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister, had successfully removed from office the President, the Chief Justice and the then Army Chief, General Karamat, in whose place he appointed General Musharraf who superseded two others.

General Musharraf himself served in Afghanistan and had ties with Osama Bin Laden and other extremists. He is a Mohajir and an ambitious, hard driving man. He had served in the Northern Areas for several years and had been associated with the crackdown on the Shias. He had commanded the Special Services Group with launched an attack on Bilafond La in Siachen but was frustrated.

'This rapid and strong Indian reaction was obviously not expected by the Pakistanis'

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