We Were Sleeping During Winters
Few deny that there had been a gross intelligence failure. How could so many men cross deep inside our territory, dig trenches; fortify their formations without our knowledge. Were our intelligence services sleeping, unaware of the enemy designs and activities? The infiltration, of course, did not begin overnight.
It was the outcome of a well-thought-out strategy preceded by considerable planning by the Pakistani Army and the ISI. The experts are one that it could not have been possible without prior high-altitude acclimatization by the intruders.
The entire operation must have taken a minimum of six months. That means the operation began early this year and the planning much earlier. Later, during the action, the Indian forces were said to have recovered documents that indicated the intrusion began as early as February 1998.
The Indian authorities admit that they had no advance information about the Pakistani intrusion in the Drass-Kargil-Batalik region. Curiously, the Government told Lok Sabha on August 5, 1998, that Pakistan had targeted the civilian areas in Batalik, Kargil, Kanazawa, Tanngdhar, Karen, and Uri. A leading daily, ‘Times of India’ reported on January 14 the presence of a large number of mercenaries in the area. Still, no notice seemed to have been taken.
A military spokesman, three days earlier, had talked of the possibility of ‘limited Pakistani action to attract international attention to Jammu & Kashmir’. He also referred to the possibility of attempts by the Pak army to occupy our posts along the Line of Control (LoC).
It was an intelligence failure, no doubt. Surprisingly, these agencies went on passing the buck to each other. It was a failure of the entire intelligence establishment, including the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Intelligence Bureau (IB), and the army’s intelligence wing (MI).
It is surprising that the Research and Analysis Wing and its airborne surveillance agency called Aerial Research Centre and also G branch intelligence wing of BSF failed to notice the movements of the intruders who came and settled in the bunkers over the 140 km stretch.
Military Intelligence (M.I.) too, will have some explaining to do. The Brooks Henderson Report, authored in the wake of the 1962 defeat, specifically charged M.I. With the task of gathering information inside a 10- km belt on either side of India’s borders. The organization failed to detect the buildup of Pakistani irregulars and troops at Olthingthang, and reports by the Intelligence Bureau’s Leh Office, issued in the third week of October 1998.
In January 1999, M.I. Again failed to pay attention to reports that Pakistani helicopters were surveying Indian position in the Kargil area. M.I.’s evidently casual perceptions of the threat to Kargil appeared to have rubbed off on ground troops, some of whom were even believed to have left ammunition in the positions, they vacated last autumn.
It appeared that M. I., as the military establishment at large, chose to be guided by the political perceptions of the BJP leadership on the integrity of the Lahore Process. The Army’s outrageous decision to send senior serving officers to brief the BJP National Executive illustrated the disturbing linkage that the Union Government had succeeded in engineering between its political establishment, the military, and the leadership. The linkages were, at the core, responsible for the failure to execute dispassionate military assessments of Pakistan’s objectives this summer.
Even more serious thought would be required on India’s future strategic paradigm for engaging Pakistan’s war in Jammu and Kashmir, of which the Kargil offensive has been just the latest phase. A senior intelligence official said: “The fact of the matter is that they have inflicted very great costs on us to very little cost to themselves. Indian Army strategies were traditionally built around the idea that any major Pakistani offensive in Jammu and Kashmir would meet with massive retaliation in Sindh and Punjab.
But in a post-Pokhran South Asia, scenarios of Indian armor sweeping through the plains of Punjab are unrealistic. For several years, voices within the Indian security establishment have been calling for the development and institution of an effective, covert counter-offensive capability.”
Pushing Pakistan’s troops and irregulars from the Kargil heights later proved to be easy. But finding new and unconventional ways to fight unconventional wars in the future would be the real challenge before the Indian Army. Nobody took note of Pak army chiefs’ visits to POK and the purchases Pakistan was making at the international markets for preparation of the action in Kashmir. The only action that seemed to have been pushed through was the transfer of two junior officers of the Army from the northern sector.
It was on May 6, 1999, that George Fernandes, the articulate and the wise man of the Vajpayee Government, spoke of the shepherd having seen strangers in the area. Even if one digests the indigestible, there were indications that patrols were sent out on May 8 and 10. These never returned.
Even that was not enough to stir the sleeping authorities into action. The explosion in an arms dump in Kargil where the army was said to have lost ammunition worth over 150 crores failed to have any effect. As the seriousness of the situation dawned, great Fernandes announced that intruders would be flushed out in 48 hours. Whether it was ignorance or total miscalculation, only time would tell.