Gen VP Malik's book on the Kargil war was well received but
as usual and as Amratya Sen observed in his book, we are "The
Argumentative Indians". The book was criticised in some quarters,
especially the Intelligence community, which seems to have become a
power unto itself. Gen Malik clearly replied to the controversy
about the IB chief’s report, he was also the officiating RAW head in
June 99. It only talked of training camps. He accepted issues like
his trip to Poland and the IAF not providing air support
immediately, as issues that did take place .But he likened the war
to a football game –– the other side may score first and we can
quibble about it but in the end who won matters. Coming from a
humble Army background Gen V P Malik was under great pressure but he
rose to the occasion for the nation despite the many political
pressures also put on him. He had decided to reduce the strength of
the Army by 50,000 to get money for modernisation –– but Kargil let
that slide and haphazard purchases under the pretext of Kargil were
made. So his interview must be seen in that light.
In any case a healthy debate about any war and Intelligence
failures is a good thing and the Kargil Committee report was done
very professionally by Security and Intelligence Doyen K
Subrahmanyam and he too alluded to Intelligence failures. He could
have taken months but was swift and the
Ambassador Satish Chandra and his team did a quick printing and
released most of it.
PM Nawaz Shariff has now come out with the full truth that
the Kargil intrusion was totally planned and executed by Gen Pervez
Musharraf. He as PM was tricked and
India needs to bear
this fact of Musharraf's mode of operations in mind. Despite
Pakistan being the cradle of terrorism and home to the Taliban, he
managed to trick the Americans to get aid and unstinted support
possibly in exchange for all of Pakistan's nuclear codes and bases
which no one can visit.
US based articles have also confirmed that he was the architect of
Kargil and if Dr A Q Khan ever gets questioned by outside powers
some more revelations of the funding of his nuclear exports to Libya
and Iran may really trip US–Pakistan relations. So even USA is not
pressing for Dr A Q Khan and accepts Muaharraf's plea and we wonder
if USA really wants democracy in Pakistan? In that light we post Gen
Malik's interview which clarifies issues that were raised on his
book. (Separately we have posted ‘The Navy War Room Leak and
“Kargil: From Surprise to Victory” –– Questions and Answers
Q 1. How is your book ‘Kargil: From Surprise to Victory’ doing?
A 1. The book is doing well. It has received good reviews.
The strategic community is very appreciative of this effort.
Q 2. The book has
raised some question marks on our national intelligence and its
incapability to make correct assessments, particularly during the
initial stages of the Kargil war.
A 2. Yes! In the book, I have mentioned about systemic
failures and the assessments that were received from R & AW,
IB and Joint Intelligence Committee at the politico-military levels
of the Government during the period 1998–99. I have summed that up
by stating, ‘The failure to anticipate and identify military
action of this nature on our borders by
reflected a major deficiency in our system of collecting, reporting,
collating and assessing intelligence’.
Q 3. But this has
been questioned by at least two former officers of national
intelligence agencies in the media?
A 3. I have read
their statements. Their reaction is more in anger and in turf
defence than with any logic! Firstly, they have not contradicted any
intelligence assessments cited by me of the period one year
before the war i.e. 1998–99. We must appreciate that at the level of
CCS and COSC, strategic decisions are taken on the basis of
assessments and not individual reports. Second, one of them has
referred to IB Director’s note of June 1998. I have written about
this note in the book, which was about militants’ training camps and
their preparations in the Force Commander Northern Areas
There was no mention of Pakistan Army’s preparations for
a military attack by infiltration in this note. I wish
the IB had brought up this issue with the Prime Minister, CCS or the
NSA, if it was felt that this report was so very important. Third,
this note was written on 2nd or 3rd June 1998.
General Pervez Musharraf planned and initiated the war after
mid October 1998, after he took over command of the
Pakistan Army. How could a military action be
perceived six months before it was decided and initiated by
Pakistan? Fourth, in a briefing to an American delegation in January
2003, Major General Nadeem Ahmed, then commanding
FCNA, categorically denied presence of any Mujahideen/militants. I
have cited this briefing in the footnotes of the book.
I have not tried to cover the surveillance lapses on the
ground. There are several pages on this subject. My point is of the
intelligence assessments. If the intelligence agencies had made
correct assessments, and were so convinced, then Prime Minister
Vajpayee should have been stopped from going to
in February 1999. The heads of R & AW, IB and JIC were meeting him
and NSA Brajesh Mishra much more frequently than I did.
Q 4. Were there any
tactical and strategic consequences of wrong intelligence
assessments and our inability to differentiate between militants’
and Pakistani military intrusion in the early stages of the war?
A 4. At the battalion and brigade level, you shoot at anyone
crossing the LoC. But at the strategic level, it did make a
difference in our reactions to the situation. It is also a major
lesson of the Kargil war.
Cross border infiltration by militants had been (then)
going on for 10 years. The initial reactions to the intrusion at the
Corps and Command level were prompt but weak, uncertain and yet
overconfident. This can be made out from the then Defence Minister’s
and 15 Corps Commander’s statements to the media from
Srinagar in the
third week of May 1999.
Had there been a timely and correct assessment of
military intrusion into the Indian Territory, then the politico
military reactions would have been very different. Then:
Vajpayee should not have visited Lahore in February 1999.
intrusion would have been immediately declared a military
aggression, with all its domestic and international implications.
I would not have
gone on an official visit to Poland and Czech Republic in May
The Air Chief and
the CCS would have had no hesitation in employing air power
against Pakistani military intrusion on May 18, 1999.
The CCS could not
have insisted on the Indian armed forces not crossing the Line of
Q 5. Isn’t it possible that in view of Vajpayee’s
Lahore visit, the heads of intelligence
agencies were told to play down Pakistan’s terrorist related
activities and the intrusion?
A 5. I have no knowledge of that. That would make the issue
far too serious, implying deliberate suppression or obfuscation of
facts at the cost of national security.
Q 6. Would you like to say anything else on this issue or on the
A 6. An important lesson of the Kargil war was
capability to obfuscate terrorists and military actions in a ‘no war
no peace’ environment, which can affect
politico-military response in future.
Besides the analysis of Kargil war, the book has a lot of
information and comments on
planning, functioning of higher defence control organization, armed
forces and politics,, media coverage of war, and Indo–Pak security
relations in the post-Kargil era. My endeavour has been to present
the facts and to analyse and comment on all related events before,
during and after the Kargil war. The objective primarily was to
highlight strategic lessons that would benefit the nation in general
and its armed forces in particular.