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The Rediff Special/The Kargil Review Committee Report

'The fallacy of showing the LOC as running northeast to the Karakoram Pass must be exposed'

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

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

Part III: 'The Kargil battle was fought with less than optimum communications capability'

Part IV: 'Kargil highlighted the gross inadequacies in the nation's surveillance capability'

Part V: 'The country can no longer afford ad hoc functioning'

The Report clearly brings out that, beginning with Indira Gandhi, successive prime ministers displayed extreme sensitivity towards the nuclear issue and consistently supported an Indian nuclear weapons programme. They judged it necessary to envelop it in the utmost secrecy and consequently did not take their own party colleagues, the armed forces and senior civil servants into confidence.

This has caused many to believe that India's nuclear weaponisation programme is a capture from the traditional policy of merely keeping the nuclear option open indefinitely. The record must be set straight.

The contribution of India Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, V P Singh, Chandra Shekhar, Narasimha Rao, Deve Gowda and Inder Gujral to India's emergence as a nuclear weapon state, and the compulsions on them to ensure this, should be made known. The record clearly establishes that the Indian nuclear weapons programme had a much wider consensus than is generally believed.

The Committee, therefore, recommends the publication of a White Paper on the Indian nuclear weapons programme. This will also bring out the stark facts of the evolution of Pakistan's nuclear capability with assistance from countries who tirelessly decry proliferation, and the threats posed to India through nuclear blackmail.

Media Relations and information

Kargil was the first war which Indian correspondents covered by going to the front in significant numbers. It was also the country's first television war and one in which the Indian Army had to handle the media right on the battlefront. This has been a learning experience for the government, the armed forces and the media. Neither the northern army command nor HQ 15 corps nor the lower field formations had media cells which could cater to the requirements of the press corps. This reveals an obvious lacuna which must be plugged.

The army has decided to revive and upgrade its war correspondents course at the college of combat, Mhow. The media should avail of this opportunity so that there is a cadre of trained war correspondents at any time. Simultaneously, media relations and the techniques and implications of information war and perception management must form a distinct and important module at all levels of military training. It must also be recognised that the media has to be serviced at many levels -- national, local and international. None is less important than the other.

While dealing with the information issue, the Committee would also like to draw attention to the fact that Indian security forces are deployed year round in very difficult and inhospitable terrain ranging from high mountains to dense forests and sandy deserts. The US armed forces usually operate dedicated radio and television channels to entertain and inform their armed forces when deployed overseas.

The government should seriously consider similar dedicated facilities for the Indian armed forces. If such facilities had been available at the time of Kargil, some of the misleading reports and rumours that gained currency could have been effectively countered.

This report brings out the vast gap between the actual policies pursued by the government and developments on the ground on the one hand and popular perceptions derived from public pronouncements on the other. In a democracy, it is incumbent on the government to reduce any such gap.

While the country's nuclear programme must remain confidential, there was a failure on the part of successive prime ministers to educate the people on the realities of nuclear security confronting the country. In the case of Defence policy and insurgency situations, sufficient public information is not available.

There is no single, comprehensive official publication containing details of the Kashmir question, the UN resolutions and why they could not be implemented, as well as of the more recent developments in Kashmir through the years of proxy war, terrorism and ethnic cleansing together with Pakistan's involvement in all of these. The government must review its information policy and develop structures and processes to keep the public informed on vital national issues.

It would appear that one of the major factors influencing Pakistan's aggressive behaviour in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999 has been its self-image of martial superiority and a deliberately cultivated perception of an ineffectual Indian Army and a weak and vacillating Indian government.

Though Pakistan was discomfited in all the four military adventures it undertook, it has attempted to portray each of them as a narrowly-missed victory. Even the 1971 defeat is blamed on the Soviet Union. Developments in Afghanistan and its final denouement have been portrayed as projecting Pakistani military prowess in defeating the Soviet superpower.

India has not published authoritative histories of the 1965 and 1971 wars and to establish the facts. While this Report appends, with appropriate security deletions, the three service headquarters presentations of Operation Vijay, Operation Safed Sagar and Operation Talwar, that were made before the Committee, we recommend that an authoritative account of this unique high altitude war be published at an early date.

Further to these, communicating the scope, extent and history of India's nuclear weapons programme should be an essential part of the exercise of deterrence. The record needs to be set right, not through strident propaganda, but by a cold marshalling of the facts regarding contemporary events and past history.

The longstanding controversy between the services and the DRDO on drawing the line between 'make' or 'buy' resulted in the formulation of a new procurement policy in 1995. This liberalised the procedures for the import of equipment as against its indigenous development. However, this policy needs periodic review in the light of changing circumstances. Experience would suggest that such a review is presently overdue.

One problem the DRDO faces is that the armed forces borrow unique features from weapons and equipment on offer from advanced military suppliers around the world and marry these in their 'general staff requirements' to make 'impossible' demands. There is an element of truth in this assertion but none can be faulted for desiring the best.

A true partnership must be established between the services and the DRDO to ensure that the latter gets full backing and funding from the services and the former, in turn, get the indented equipment they require without undue delay.

The design and development of special material as well as defence stores and equipment often entails working at the frontiers of technology. It is, therefore, possible and desirable to harness national talent wherever it lies -- in the universities and IITs, and in the private and public sectors -- not only within the DRDO and designated defence undertakings.

Casting the net wider would be advantageous and would ensure a greater degree of competition and technological spin-off into the civil sector. This would also facilitate defence exports, the better utilisation of highly sophisticated industrial capacity and related manpower and enable defence laboratories and defence undertakings to concentrate on those areas which cannot be hived off to the civil sector, public or private, on grounds of high security or limited applicability of end use for civilian purposes. There is a whole gamut of issues here which merits consideration.

Civil Military Liaison

The establishment of a civil-military liaison mechanism at various levels, from the ranking Command HQ to the operational formations on the ground, division, brigade or battalion, is most necessary to smoothen relationships during times of emergency and stress, like war and proxy war, and to ensure that there is no room for friction and alienation of the local population. Situations of no-war no-peace call for norms and procedures that avoid delay and endless red tape.

Relocating villages behind the army's forward defence line in J&K can best be done through an initially limited experimental move and further action on the basis of policies evolved as a result of that learning experience. Likewise, steps should be taken to issue ID cards to border villagers in certain vulnerable areas on a priority basis, pending its extention to other or all parts of the state. Such a policy would also be relevant in the North-East, Sikkim and part of West Bengal.

The Kargil sector and other areas along the LOC have suffered loss and damage on account of war and shelling. A rehabilitation programme for Kargil must be put in place as a precursor to a longer term development package that includes the completion of by-pass roads for strategic movements between Zojila and Leh. This will render NH-1A an exclusively civilian highway and not a military target, skirting as it does a part of the LOC in this sector.

The dedication and valour of the Ladakh Scouts and J&K Light Infantry merits recognition through the raising of additional units of these regiments with a higher component of men from Kargil being inducted into the Ladakh Scouts.

Declaratory Policy for LOC

More attention should be given to monitoring and analysing developments and trends in Azad J&K and the northern areas which are in ferment and whose fate and future cannot be divorced from any consideration of the Kashmir question. Likewise, the Kashmiri diaspora overseas must be kept better informed about the situation in J&K and what happened in Kargil.

Misperceptions and ambiguities about the Siachen/AGPL sector need to be dispelled and the facts of 'cartographic aggression' here made known. There is no warrant for departing from the logic of extending the LOC from NJ 9842 and 'thence north to the glaciers' as set out in the delineation of the ceasefire line under the Karachi agreement of July 29, 1949 which was subsequently converted into the Line of Control by the Simla Agreement in 1992. This broadly upholds the current actual ground position line. The fallacy of showing the LOC as running northeast to the Karakoram Pass must be exposed.

The country must not fall into the trap of Siachenisation of the Kargil heights and similar unheld unpopulated gaps in the high Himalayas along the entire length of the northern border. The proper response would be a declaratory policy that deliberate infringement of the sanctity of the LOC and wanton cross-border terrorism in furtherance of proxy war will meet with prompt retaliation in a manner, time and place of India's choosing.

Pakistan and the world must know that India's defence of the integrity of its own territory, including that within its own side of the LOC, is not and cannot be held to be escalatory and that the aggressor and his victim cannot be bracketed and placed on par.

Such a declaratory policy must be backed with credible measures in J&K to win back alienated sections of the population, attend to genuine discontents, political and economic, and enable the victims of ethnic cleansing to return to their homes in the Valley or elsewhere in the state with security and honour. To this end, the Union and state governments must jointly initiate a twin policy of reform and devolution to and within J&K and a dialogue with Pakistan.

India's commitment to maintaining the sanctity of the LOC/AGPL and the international endorsement of this position won during the Kargil crises has within it the seeds of a larger, long-term settlement that can bring enduring peace and tranquility to J&K and stable and cooperative Indo-Pakistan relations on the basis of the Simla-Lahore process within the framework of SAARC.


The Committee's review brings out many lessons that the armed forces, intelligence agencies, Parliament, government, media and the nation as a whole have to learn. These have been set out in the preceding findings. These should stimulate introspection and reflection, leading to purposeful action. The Committee trusts that its recommendations will be widely discussed and acted upon expeditiously so that the sacrifices made will not have been in vain.

The best tribute to the dedication of those killed and wounded will be to ensure that 'Kargils' of any description are never repeated.

There is both comfort and danger in clinging to any long established status quo. There will be many who suggest the most careful deliberation on the report. Procrastination has cost nations dear. Others will no doubt advocate incremental change. Half measures will not do; synergy will be lost. The Committee has after very wide interaction sign-posted directions along the path to peace, ensuring progress, development and stability of the nation.

How exactly the country should proceed to refashion its security-intelligence-development shield to meet the challenge of the 21st century is for the government, Parliament, and public opinion to determine. There is no turning away from that responsibility.

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