The Kargil Conflict: A Critical Analysis

The Kargil War was a military conflict fought between India and Pakistan in 1999 over the disputed Kargil region in the northernmost part of the Indian subcontinent.

In the War of 1971 India had occupied some posts of Kargil being violation of LOC since that time it was being planned to retrieve these posts. In the past such plans had been presented to president Zia ul Haq as well as to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto but were turned down due to one or the other reasons.

In 1996 one of the ISI Chief planned to repossess the Kargil territory from India and presented to the at that time Army Chief General Jehangir Karamat,

“Around 1996 a senior general within the ISI retrieve the Kargil plan came to revive it. General took the plan to the Chief General Jehangir Karamat.” (From Kargil to Coup by Nasim Zehra page 44-45)

Undoubtedly, it was purely a patriotic thought to repossess the Kargil through Siachen but patriotism and passion to work for one’s motherland is not guarantee for success.

This plan was presented to General Jehangir Karamat and he sent this plan for further assessment to various departments of Army.

“The paper trail begin. First it arriaved at the planning directorate, from where it was sent to the Director General military operations for his review. ISI too was involved. A little-notice inter-services to conduct a comprehensive study of the plan. It had representatives from the air force, Navy SSG and the army. The informally convened team actually traveled to the proposed area of operation.” (From Kargil to Coup by Nasim Zehra page 45.

“The team ruled out both possibilities suggesting that the plan was not viable. They concluded that while the plan was technically plausible, strategically it was a Nightmare. The sealed report was formally presented to the ISI.” (From Kargil to Coup by Nasim Zehra page 46.

The plan was rejected and returned to the ISI arguing that through this plan occupied territory can be retrieved but its possession would scarcely be sustained. ISI submitted the sealed report to GHQ.

The officer and General who intend to perform this operation called in team member that has assessed environment and timing. Informally reprimanded him.

“Interestingly one general keen to implement the plan called in a member that has assessed the environment and timing. Informally he reprimanded him, “You people come from abroad after studying and you think you can teach me strategy.” The general trashed the report. However the ISI as an institution did not consider it its mandate to execute this Kargil plan” (From Kargil to Coup by Nasim Zehra page 46.

In 1988, significantly the new Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Aziz Khan successfully captured and occupied 28 highest peaks having crossed the LOC including highest peak 3535 which is still in the possession of Pakistan.

“Significantly the new Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Aziz Khan who had successfully launched the important Daulunang Operation across the LOC in 1988 was as strong proponent of Pakistani Troops crossing the LOC and occupying the heights of the Indian side. During the Dalunang Operation Pakistan has captured 28 peaks ” (From Kargil to Coup by Nasim Zehra page 91.

General Muhammad Aziz was strongly confident about the success of his plan but unfortunately his plan has been rejected. He was waiting opportunity to accomplish the task. At last, he got the opportunity when Mr. Nawaz Sharif got resignation from General Jehangir Karamat and General Pervez Musharaf became the new Chief of Army Staff on October 1998.

In October1998, General Pervez Musharraf sanction this operation and this operation was “KOH PAIMA” operation head was General Muhammad Aziz and General Javed Hassan was on front line who was FCNA Commander and NLI was also under General Javed Hassn. This operation was accomplished by NLI (Northern Light Infantry).

But according to General Pervez Musharaf, it was not his and other three Generals’ plan. But he elaborates it as in those days India was bringing weapons and other lethal war heads, snow scooters and snowmobiles in large quantity.

“India also brought in and tested special bunker-busing equipments in the autumn of 1990. We know that the Indian army had procured large quantities of high-altitude equipment, special weapons, and new snow scooters and snowmobiles. India appeared on the verge of an attack across the LOC. Our sources of information were very reliable.” (In The Line of Fire by Gen. Pervez Musharaf Page # 88).

He also added during the summer and autumn of 1998 Indian defense minister
George Fernandes repeatedly kept on visiting Kargil and Siachen and it seemed India intend for more offensive operations.

“Finally, frequent visits of the Indian defense minister, George Fernandes, to the Siachen and Kargil area during the summer and Autumn of 1998 suggested that India was considering more offensive operations.” (In The Line of Fire by Gen. Pervez Musharaf Page # 96).

According to General Pervez Musharaf that Mujahideen had established about hundred posts alongwith the LOC in Indian-held Kashmir on hundreds square miles.

“Subsequently, in late October 1998 and early November 1998, I received reports of another five such make-believe attacks. We late discovered that this probably was related to activities by the mujahdeen (freedom fighters), We knew that thousands of mujahdeen, mostly indigenous to India-held Kashir but also supported by freelance sympathizers from Pakistan did operate against the Indian forces.” (In The Line of Fire by Gen. Pervez Musharaf Page # 87-88).

Pak-Army is deputed on Pakistani held LOC and Indian Army is deputed Indian-held LOC and both forces cannot cross the LOC without prior permission and if either of these Armies does so, it is considered a War. It is worth mentioning that LOC is not considered an international border.

Most of the Army officers and journalists as well do not agree with General Pervez Musharraf on this matter.

General Pervez Musharraf had not got official permission for this operation from the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and he had admitted in his interviews and expressed in his book In “The Line of Fire.

“All Military information is shared the “need to know” basis, and before this juncture they had little need to know it.” Page # 97).

This operation was not an easy one and in the first phase of this operation military personnel had to send and after that weapons to be sent later but it was almost an impossible task being huge canons had to be sent on the posts. Later it was decided to send these weapons in parts and should be re-assembled having sent to posts. For this purpose Russian helicopter M17 was used.

Neither politicians nor even army’s own principal intelligence agencies were in the loop. For example in one case a field officer from the MI conveyed information to the MI chief Lieutenant General Ahsan ul Haq regarding major deployment taking place from FCNA areas of Gilgit and Skardu, under the 10 Corps. Surprised, the MI Chief shared this deployment information with army chief. Musharaf did not engage on the issue but instead Lt. General Mehmud command 10 Corps summoned the MI chief and queried him about what he know and his sources. Subsequently, the vigilant intelligence officer who had reported the deployments and relocation of troops to the MI chief was summoned and reprimanded by the commander. (From Kargil to Coup by Nasim Zehra page 154)

Perhaps Kargil operation could not become as major as it is if this operation would have been kept according to the finalized initial planning in operation “KOH PAIMA”. In October 1998 chief of Infantry Command Masood Aslam landed through parachute along with some officers and they found there is no Indian Army on hundreds of square miles and then these four generals changed their plan to expand the posts upto 196 instead of 12 posts. They established these posts but supply of food and other things was according to the 12 posts that caused a serious disaster and consequently armed forced deployed on these posts had to fight without eating anything except that the a spoon of sugar.

Now the question arouse what was happening on the other side of i.e. Indian-held LOC. Indian army was unaware about this operation at all. But in January 1999 somehow they were being informed about some movements in this area.

“In January 1999 Col. Puspinder Oberoi, had warned in a letter to his commander Budhwar of weak defenses against Pakistan infiltration in the Tiger hill area. ..the 3 infantry Commander rejected Oberoi’s assessment.” (From Kargil to Coup by Nasim Zehra page 139-140)

This operation had advanced much more and none of the Armed forces i.e. Army, Air Force and Navy were not taken into confidence. The prime minister nor even Lieutenant General Shahid Aziz know about the operation and he was informed the same after three months. Furthermore, Lieitenant General Tauqeer Zia whose responsibility was to provide resources for military operations, was completely not aware about the operation and he too was informed about KP operation after three months.

“The revered day of Jummatul Wida the last Friday of Ramadan the sacred month of fasting was picked for a formal approval of operation Koh Paima. On 16th January in the operation room of military operation directorate, operation KP was approved although the bulk of the plan was already underway.” (From Kargil to Coup by Nasim Zehra page 139-117)

On 16th January 1999, there in Rawalpindi a meeting was conducted of all four these Generals who were master mind of operation “KOH PAIMA” and also there was present a most important character who was Lieutenant General Touqir Zia. It was first time that the most important personality of this operation was being taken in confidence.

“The meeting was chaired by army chief General Musharraf was attended by Lt. General Aziz Khan (Chief of General Staff), Lt. General Mehmud Ahmed (Corps Command 10 Corps) Lt. General Touqir Zia (Director General Military Operations), Major General Javed Hasan commander of FCNA, Brigadier Masood commander 323 progate, Brigadier Nadeem Ahmed (Director Military Operations) and Col. Nisar Ahmed (GI Operations)” (From Kargil to Coup by Nasim Zehra page 117)

In this meeting General Aziz wanted that Lt. General Touqir Zia who was a new entrant in his clique, should take ownership of this operation i.e. Koh Paima operation. But Lt. General Touqir Zia barely even move from his slouching position.

“General Aziz lead among the clique, promoted him to ask some questions. Aziz has keenly watched the disinterested and somewhat baffled Zia during the meeting. Aziz needed him to be involved and interested. He wanted this key general to take ownership. Zia, whose mandate was to oversee the increasing requirements of troops and all logistics of all military operations, lounging in his chair, barely even move from his slouching position.” (From Kargil to Coup by Nasim Zehra .page 118)

First time in this meeting General Pervez Musharraf sanctioned regular approval for the operation Koh Paima and asked as well what would happen if anything goes wrong. On this Major General Javed Hasan who was leading this operation replied “if anything goes wrong my neck is available.” His commander, Mehmud, quickly responded and took the responsibility and said “Why yours? My neck will be on the line since I have cleared it.” On this General Pervez Musharraf replied “It would not be your necks. It would be in my neck.”

“He then raised his hand to his throat and said, “if anything goes wrong my neck is available.” His commander, Mehmud was quickly took responsibility. “Why yours? My neck will be on the line since I have cleared it.” As if taking the cue, in the stepped the next man up in the hierarchy, the chief himself. “No it would not be your necks, it would be in my neck.” (From Kargil to Coup by Nasim Zehra .page 119)

From 29 January 1999 to 12th of March 1999 three meeting were held with the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on different occasions and he had been informed that it is inevitable that army has to be proactive and will have to make local operations on the LOC as the position of armed forces is becoming weak in the area but, prime minister did not ask even a single word nor asked any probing question was raised about the Kargil operation. Although it was the time when Prime Minister had signed Lahore Declaration with Prime Minister Vajpayee to resolve all issues through table talk including Kashmir dispute. This was the time when South African President Nelsen Mandela had to visit Pakistan after nine days and Mr. Nelsen Mandela appreciated this declaration.

13th May 1999 Pakistani soldier were digging for posts near Balata and two shepherded who were wandering there saw them and informed Indian brigade about it. Actually they were informer of Indian army and were working for them. In order to confirm this, Indian army sent some force and Pakistan army reacted severely consequently armaments depot and a bridge destroyed in the result. Now the war became all out war which was being kept confidential, had to disclose before the Prime Minister.

Now, the Indian armed forces who were thinking about a zoo in that region had to make arrangements for war. Consequently, Indian army deployed war heads made alert as well the Air Force, Army and Naval Forces in order to cope with the circumstances.
Under such circumstances Pakistan was not in a position to deployed weapons. If such weapons were deployed it would a sign for the commencement of a conventional war that might have been converted into a nuclear war later.

However, ultimately, Pakistan had to withdraw armed forces. Safe withdrawal of soldiers is always a difficult task when you are going on back foot. When soldiers were returning, Indian army cowardly opened the fire which caused many causalities and martyred. In this situation a brave son of Pakistan soldier Lalac Jaan came and hold a machine gun so that his soldier companions could safely be withdrawn. He made the Indian army restricted for many hours at last he wounded because of a breast fire from Indian soldier. Also Col. Sher Khan played a vital role in this operation.
Pakistan could not fight this war alone and unfortunately no one stood with Pakistan on the cause of Kargil, however on cause of Kashmir, China and other some countries were with Pakistan.

Now, the situation was clear and Pakistan wanted any most influential country for both India and Pakistan to get resolve the matter. Undoubtedly, that was USA, therefore prime minister Nawaz Sharif had to visit in emergency to Mr. Clinton where they met one to one and the third one was Mr. Reidel who was taking notes says that after agreeing to withdraw forces without any conditions. Mr Nawaz Sharif asked Mr. Clinton to play roll in resolving the dispute of Kashmir. Mr. Clinton asked him to send an emissary to Washington once the Kargil crisis was over.

In this operation Hawaldar Lalac Jaan and Col. Sher Khan played vital rolls and martyred, they were awarded “Nishan e Haidar” for their bravery.

Written by Muhammad Ishaq