Military & Aerospace

Pakistanis seek truth on Kargil
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Issue Book Excerpt: Pakistan\'s Proxy War | Date : 08 Dec , 2022

A year after Pakistan’s stunning military defeat at the hands of the Indian Army in Kargil, the skeletons are now tumbling out of the cupboard. Deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has made several revealing accusations that have vindicated the Indian position in the Kargil intrusion.

Calling the Kargil fiasco the “biggest debacle after the 1971 war with India,” Sharif bemoaned the fact that he was not taken into confidence by Pakistan’s rogue army about its Kargil plans and, though the preparation for the intrusions began in January, 1999, he was informed only on May, 1999, when the “weak and deficient” operation was already under way. He has confirmed that the naval and air force chiefs were also not informed.

Even within the Army, only the Chief of General Staff (CGS), the Director-General of Military Operations (DGMO), the General Officers Commanding 10 Corps (Rawalpindi) and 11 Corps (Peshawar) and the Force Commander Northern Areas (FCNA) — all of them directly concerned with the planning and conduct of operations — were informed; the other Corps commanders who form part of Pakistan’s real power elite, were kept out of the decision-making loop.

Sharif, who himself is a wily and scheming politician and is known to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds, has admitted that regular battalions of the Northern Light Infantry were employed to launch the “ill-conceived and ill-planned military misadventure” and that ‘‘whole units of the NLI were wiped out.” The curtain has been conclusively rung down on Pakistan’s carefully orchestrated charade of the foot soldiers of Islam waging a jehad against Indian security forces to “liberate” Kashmir.

While the Indian estimates of Pakistani casualties were that 45 officers and 704 other ranks had been killed, Sharif has stated that Pakistan “had to suffer heavy loss of human lives which was more than even the 1965 war.” Withdrawing back from across the Line of Control (LoC) with unseemly haste, the Pakistan army even disowned its dead soldiers and refused to accept their bodies.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, when Sharif states that Gen Pervez Musharraf, the Chief of Army Staff, had himself requested the Prime Minister to “bring the USA into the picture to sort out the mess.” It emerges quite clearly that the intruders’ hastily prepared positions had become militarily unsound by June-end, and that they were faced by the prospect of total annihilation by the Indian infantry-artillery combine, supported ably by the Air Force, if they were not quickly bailed out.

The Pakistan army has, naturally, been stung by Nawaz Sharif’s revelations. An official spokesman called the statement shameful and said that it was designed to compromise national dignity. The fact that the Pakistan army has threatened to try Nawaz Sharif for treason for his disclosures, only serves to confirm their authenticity.

As is to be expected in a polity run by a military dictator, several opinion piece writers in the Pakistani press have questioned Sharif’s judgement, motives and timings. However, large sections of the Pakistan media have demanded a national level inquiry commission to establish the truth. Such demands will grow more strident as the people of Pakistan come to terms with the ineptitude demonstrated so far By the Musharraf regime and its inability to solve any of Pakistan’s problems.

Hopefully, it will now be realised that any army can achieve initial tactical surprise by intruding across a Clearly demarcated LoC and occupying unheld ground in inhospitable terrain in an area without any prior history of conflict. The difficult part is to be able to sustain such intrusions tactically and logistically over a period of time against a determined adversary. It is here that the Pakistan army failed to measure up in planning and execution and the Indian army showed its famed mettle — an abundance of blood, guts and firepower.

Pakistan’s “Operation Badr” was quite obviously intended to be Musharraf’s crowning glory. Instead, it has now metamorphosed into an albatross around his neck. However, the real issue is — how will the increasing instability in Pakistan impact on India and can India do business with the deceitful and untrustworthy Musharraf regime?

As the world’s foremost sponsor of transnational Islamist fundamentalist terrorism that is bound to eventually boomerang, more than ever before, Pakistan appears to be inexorably headed towards becoming a failed state. Though the fears of a Taliban backlash are gradually gaining ground in Pakistan, the military rulers can be expected to persist with their policy of active intervention in Afghanistan in aid of the Taliban militia and continued sponsorship of a low-cost, high-payoff proxy war against India. Under the circumstances, India’s stand that there can be no diplomatic discussions with Pakistan till it stops sponsoring terrorism in India, is entirely justified.

That Pakistan’s army could plan and execute a clandestine military operation, even as the nation’s Prime Minister was making overtures to India at Lahore, has served to once again confirm that the real seat of power in Pakistan is the army’s GHQ at Rawalpindi and that even powerful Prime Ministers like Sharif can hope to exercise only nominal power from Islamabad.

The clearest lesson to emerge from the present civil-military imbroglio in Pakistan is that as long as the Pakistani armed forces remain far more powerful than the country’s legitimate security considerations warrant, the spectre of repeated military coups will continue to hang over Pakistan’s fledgling democracy like the proverbial sword of Damocles.

The well-wishers of Pakistan in the West, who have consistently and rather naively, been Supporting the Pakistan army, ostensibly to strengthen democracy in Pakistan, need to reassess the warped calculus of their analyses.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Brig. Gurmeet Kanwal

Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) and former Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), New Delhi.

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