An IDC Analysis 


New Delhi, 29 July 2003

The Government in its wisdom once again decided not to celebrate 29th July this year, which was the anniversary of the fantastic Kargil war in 1999. 527 brave souls gave up their lives and 1700 were injured recapturing the commanding heights which Pakistan had tried to take by force. The assault on Tololing, the early Batalik battles the fire fights in Mushkoh valley and the tribulations in Turtuk, that reached our drawing rooms live now seem consigned to history. 

‘Operation Vijay’ –– one of the most heroic physical battles fought under great odds and lack of technical hardware –– like weapon locating radar which have just arrived, night vision devices which Tehelkha made known and bullet proof vests over which there was a scandal –– was hailed all over the world for the sheer courage of the indomitable Indian soldier.

With the Defence Minister preoccupied and the BJP Government in the throes of pre- election dramas, Parliament boycotts and political Baithaks, the MOD did not find it fit to commemorate the heroes and Government stated that they did not wish to annoy Pakistan. Deputy Defence Minister Chaman Lal Gupta said one Vijay Divas was enough and so it will be. Besides the soldiers that died, Rs 1,984 crore were spent as per the government release.

It is a pathetic country that does not remember its heroes. We should have, beginning with 6th May when Lt. Saurav Kalia a young officer barely six months out of the Academy, leading a six member patrol, was declared missing. There is impotence in the Armed Forces when they fail to tell the Government that morale depends on glorifying heroes. Regiments must honour their heroes in public and the Government must encourage this. In the West, Governments spend millions to remember their war victors and make much of them at the anniversaries. They even fly out veterans as the costs are minimal but advantages are many.

Last year the Commander Pacific had released a report from United States explaining the weaknesses of the Indian Army and another forthright report, was commissioned by the Pentagon and prepared by young and attractive Julie McDonald of Boston Consulting. This very revealing booklet is doing the rounds.

Instead of looking at it seriously it is being cursed with words that she had no business to go around asking frank questions. The four GOI reports have told the nation in no uncertain terms that the 15 days from 6th May to 21st May 1999 when incursions were noticed were days when the politico military decision-making machinery of the country was found to be wanting. A CDS had been recommended and in hindsight it was only when Gen. V. P Malik Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee returned from Poland on 21st May, having earlier left on 10th May 1999, that some action took place.

Operation “Safed Sagar” was launched by the Indian Air Force to push the intruders back and assist the Army to restore India’s Line of Control. Now that four years have passed and many including those abroad have analysed India’s security situation, it is clear that India’s top leadership has still a lot of work to do. Pakistan’s Musharraf would have had the upper hand and would have had ownership of some of the heights they actually held in 1965, but for providential timing.

Air Chief Marshal P.C Lal in his book “My Years with the IAF” summarized the 1971 war and had this to say about Kargil “In the Kargil sector, there was some very tough fighting. The vital road link between Srinagar and Leh lies through this region. As related earlier, certain Pakistani posts such as Point 13620, Black Rock and a few others had changed hands twice during 1965. In December 1971, the Indian Army accomplished this difficult task a third time. Under the leadership of Brig. M.L. Whig and Lt. Col R. B. Gurung, the troops secured Point 13620 on the north bank of the Shingo river, a tributary of the Indus, attacking from the rear, cutting off their supply line and their source of water. Our ancient Vampires from Srinagar operated in close support, especially on 8 and 9 December. In this region, on either bank of the Shingo river, on the Brachil Pass, on the Bielargo Ridge, Wali, Hathi Matha and several other well-fortified posts were attacked and the well-entrenched enemy was cleared bunker by bunker.”

Ten days ago Lt Gen S K Sinha while releasing a book on Gurkha actions in the region also recounted how Point 13620 had changed hands and was back with India, and admitted he contributed to the Saichen dispute. He was Secretary LOC committee and left the border at NJ 9842, not foreseeing that the future may see action in the glaciers.

It is sad to recollect that on May 5th the then DGMO Lt. Gen. N. C. Vij (now Army Chief ) visited Kargil and Batalik unaware of the intruders.

Brig. Surender Singh was the 121 Bde Commander reporting to Maj. Gen. V. S. Budhwar, GOC 3 Infantry Division reporting to Lt. Gen. Krishan Pal, GOC 15 Corps at Srinagar. On May 13th 1999 Defence Minister George Fernandes visited Kargil and while he claims that he was told the situation would be sorted out in 48 hours, the Army however stated they had said they would know the situation only after 48 hours.

On May 21st a Canberra was shot at losing one engine and Squadron Leader A Perumal courageously brought the plane back to Srinagar. At this time Lt. Gen H.M Khanna the Army commander was on leave in Pune, ostensibly being briefed by his predecessor Lt. Gen. S. Padmanabhan. In New Delhi the Chiefs of Staff Committee with Admiral Sushil Kumar in the chair standing in for Malik, ACM A.Y. Tipnis and Lt. Gen. Chandra Shekar VCOAS kept meeting but none could ring the bells of the Ministry of Defence, that the matter was serious.

As the nation celebrates economic gains four years later, committee after committee has sat to make the National Security Council functional, bring the impotent CDS system into play, NSAB meetings continue ad nauseam, there is a lethargy, which has seeped into the Armed forces which no one is reporting. Nobody listens.

The national petrol pump scams made servicemen suffer, personal agendas of Hindutva and vote banks have become more important than the morale of the armed forces of this nation. The soldier is taken for granted and the fact that Kargil Day passed without memory except for two talk shows on TV, is a sad commentary on our brethren in uniform. This is a Kargil day thought for all of us to ponder.

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