General Clarifies Doubts on Kargil

An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 25 June 2006

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 NSC under 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.

Many 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 Intelligence’.)

“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 Pakistan Army 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 (FCNA) of Pakistan. 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 Pakistan’s 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 Lahore 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 Pakistan’s military intrusion into the Indian Territory, then the politico military reactions would have been very different. Then:

  • Prime Minister Vajpayee should not have visited Lahore in February 1999.

  • The Pakistani 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 1999.

  • 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 Control/border.

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 book?

A 6. An important lesson of the Kargil war was Pakistan’s capability to obfuscate terrorists and military actions in a ‘no war no peace’ environment, which can affect India’s politico-military response in future.

Besides the analysis of Kargil war, the book has a lot of information and comments on India’s defence 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.

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