Issue Vol 24.3 Jul-Sep 2009 | Date : 25 Jul , 2013
It is only ten years since the Kargil War, and it has already faded from public memory. ‘Tiger Hill’, ‘Tololing”, “Pt 5140”, Mushkoh Valley, and Muntho Dhalo are remembered only in Indian Military institutions still trying to figure out the exact causes and sequence of events that led to India’s last conflict with its western neighbor. To reach the rugged terrain where all the action took place one has to negotiate the mountain ranges of Shivalik, Pir Panjal, Himalayas, Zanskar, Ladakh and Karkoram. It is difficult to envisage now, that a swathe 150 km across this harsh and hostile region resounded with artillery and cannon fire with aircraft and helicopters dropping bombs, firing rocket and guiding PGMs on enemy targets. An exemplary demonstration of initiative and courage by the young officers and soldiers of the Indian Army, assisted by the Indian Air Force uprooted and expelled Pakistani intruders from Indian territory. This war that began during May 1999, ended on July 26, 1999 when India called off all offensive operations.
The enfeebled state of our internal security, and something that directly endangers national security, can be gauged from the fact that a wanted criminal ensconced in Pakistan, continues to run and direct the largest underground network in India.
In the wake of this action at Kargil, the Government of India constituted a high level Kargil Review Committee (KRC) to ascertain the facts leading to the occupation of critically advantageous heights in the sector by Pakistani forces and other related matters. The KRC Report was tabled in the Parliament on 23 February 2000. Some parts of the Report were very candid. To quote:
- “The nuclear posture adopted by successive Prime Ministers thus put the Indian Army at a disadvantage vis-a-vis its Pakistani counterpart. While the former was in the dark about India’s nuclear capability, the latter as the custodian of Pakistani nuclear weaponry was fully aware of its own capability. Three former Indian Chiefs of Army Staff expressed unhappiness about this asymmetric situation.Successive Indian Prime Ministers failed to take their own colleagues, the major political parties, the Chiefs of Staff and the Foreign Secretaries into confidence on the nature of Pakistan’s nuclear threat and the China–Pakistan nuclear axis. The Prime Ministers, even while supporting the weapons programme, kept the intelligence and nuclear weapons establishments in two watertight compartments.
- Foreign policy was being conducted without Foreign Ministers and Indian diplomats being apprised of the nature of the threat to the country or of India’s own nuclear capability. It is quite likely that this secretiveness on the part of the Indian Prime Ministers and the country’s inability to exercise its conventional superiority could have confirmed Pakistan in its belief that its nuclear deterrent had indeed been effective in Kashmir since 1990 and it could therefore pursue the proxy war and the Kargil adventure with impunity on the basis of its own prescribed rules of the game.”
The KRC findings were highly critical regarding intelligence gathering and dissemination and border management. The need for better communications, improved ‘jointness’ among the three wings of the armed forces, and restructuring of the higher defence organizations were also stressed upon. Based on its findings the KRC made recommendations, some of which were:
The very process that throws up many a politician today is riddled with corruption…it is no secret that many with criminal records enter the Parliament and State Assemblies. These are the people we expect will clean up or change the very system.
“The findings bring out many grave deficiencies in India’s security management system. The framework Lord Ismay formulated and Lord Mountbatten recommended was accepted by a national leadership unfamiliar with the intricacies of national security management. There has been very little change over the past 52 years despite the 1962 debacle, the 1965 stalemate and the 1971 victory, the growing nuclear threat, end of the Cold War, continuance of proxy war in Kashmir for over a decade and the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA).
The political, bureaucratic, military and intelligence establishments appear to have developed a vested interest in the status quo. National security management recedes into the background in time of peace and is considered too delicate to be tampered with in time of war and proxy war. The Committee strongly feels that the Kargil experience, the continuing proxy war and the prevailing nuclearized security environment justify a thorough review of the national security system in its entirety.
Such a review cannot be undertaken by an over-burdened bureaucracy. An independent body of credible experts, whether a national commission or one or more task forces or otherwise as expedient, is required to conduct such studies which must be undertaken expeditiously. The specific issues that required to be looked into are set out below.”
Following the KRC Report, the Prime Minister set up a ‘Group of Ministers’ (GoM) on 17 April 2000 to “review the national security system in its entirety and in particular to consider the recommendations of the KRC and formulate specific proposals for implementation.” The GoM comprised the Ministers of Home, Defence, External Affairs and Finance. The National Security Advisor was included as a ‘special invitee’. The GoM saw in its mandate ‘a historic opportunity to review all aspects of national security, impinging not only on external threats, but also on internal threats.’ As the scope was very large, the GoM in turn set up four Task Forces to deal with Intelligence Apparatus, Internal Security, Border Management and Management of Defence, each of these headed by eminent and experienced experts. The Task Force Reports came in by 30 September 2000 and the GoM submitted its report in February 2001.
There is no doubt that indigenous weapon systems must get priority over imported ones but these should increase the military’s firepower and not be causes for concern due to poor reliability.
It was rational and logical, for a nation that had undergone the trauma of Kargil, to expect that the government in power, irrespective of their political hue, would get down to business and implement the far-reaching and exhaustive recommendations arrived at after much sweat and deliberations by the GoM. It was rational and logical to expect that in a reasonable period of time, our borders would become less poros, our intelligence agencies would look-out for enemies of the state and not for each other, that our citizens would feel safer in the country as they went about their daily lives and that the armed forces would work jointly in the defence of the nation. But events which followed demonstrated that none of this was likely to happen nor were any serious attempts being made to make our country a safer place to live in.
There are many factors involved in this disease of utter inaction that afflicted the powers that be when it came to implementing tough but vitally essential measures. The very process that throws up many a politician today is riddled with corruption. While the election process has been cleaned up to a large extent, it is no secret that many with criminal records enter the Parliament and State Assemblies. These are the people we expect will clean up or change the very system that has nurtured them. In many cases individual and party interests drive national interests out of reckoning. The situation is exacerbated by the compulsions of coalition politics. The situation has been no different after Kargil.
Visibly, very little or no action was initiated in respect of the interrelated subjects of intelligence agencies, border management or internal security after the GoM report. Whatever was done, only had cosmetic value. If any substantive efforts had been taken to close known loopholes and weaknesses, as also highlighted by the GoM, then an event as catastrophic as the Mumbai terror attacks of 26 November, 2008 could not have taken place. Since the Kargil war and the exhaustive analysis of it, India has had to suffer a large number of terror attacks. These attacks have been across the country and random in nature.
From Chattisinghpura in J&K, through Parliament in New Delhi, American Culture Centre in Kokota, Kalu Chak near Jammu, Akshardham temple in Gujarat, the makeshift Ram temple in Ayodhya, car bombings in South Mumbai, triple blasts in Delhi markets, Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, the Varanasi explosions, massacre at Doda, the horrific Mumbai train blasts, the Samjhauta Express bombing, Lumbini Park attack in Hyderabad, simultaneous blasts in Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad, the Jaipur serial blasts, blasts in Malegaon and Delhi and the unprecedented and audacious strike which crippled Mumbai for more than three days and left an indelible mark in our collective psyche, the terrorists have had a free run across the heart and soul of India. And this after completion of a historic ‘review pertaining to all aspects of national security, impinging not only on external threats but also internal threats’.