It was in July 1999, that the Kargil conflict came to an end. And 26th July is thus celebrated as ‘Kargil Vijay Diwas’. For many of India’s youth, it was the only ‘war’ they know about since it was India’s first televised Indo-Pak conflict, that brought into the living room the guts and glory that makes soldiering, more than just a job.
It also created a sudden awareness about how the soldier fights for every piece of Indian territory be it Tololing, Jubar, Three Pimples or Tiger Hill. But above all else, the Kargil conflict will be remembered for the fighting spirit, patriotism and the dogged determination of the Indian Army, that evicted Pakistani intruders from the jagged icy peaks around Kargil.
The conflict also exposed the sheer incompetence of India’s intelligence agencies that had failed to warn the nation of Pakistani intrusions for over six months, before these were detected and India had to retaliate. The defensive mindset of India’s military brass hats had also led to the lack of assessment of the enemy’s capabilities and its intentions. And the conflict highlighted that there was an absence of a national consciousness on security matters across India, quite unlike any other major country in the world today. And for that, our soldiers paid with their lives for the decades of neglect that has left them ill-equipped, ill-clad and with inefficient weapons.
And the fault lies for this neglect with all past governments. Although India’s politicians in the opposition parties have no qualms about making political capital out of such conflict, India’s soldiers scaled those daunting heights to defend a country that is led by a political elite, that really has little to offer, except rhetoric. Tragically in fact, the Indian soldier has for generations now, done the same in every battle. The central question however is, will we ever learn the right lessons.
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One serious issue before the Indian army is the inability of some senior officers to inspire their troops. If the conflicts in Sri Lanka and now in Kargil have brought home one message loud and clear. It is that our young officers and our soldiers have repeatedly delivered in the face of formidable odds and often under uninspiring leadership.
If they fought well, they did so just for the sake of their officers, their regiment, their paltan and their izzat. And not because of the genius of their commanders or bungling brigadiers like Surinder Singh. Our young officers and Jawans willingly gave their today, for the country’s tomorrow
Kargil and Pakistan
The Pakistani plan to stretch their brinkmanship over Kashmir to a higher level – than the routine shelling across the Line of Control – by resorting to infiltration across the LOC, was pushed ahead by a few Pakistani generals, led by General Musharraf. They had assumed that their newly acquired nuclear status would get the world to take up the Kashmir issue earnestly. However, though Musharraf and his gang wanted to challenge the sanctity of the LOC, ironically for them, it ended up being sanctified!
With the situation completely out of his control, Nawaz Sharif, (also Pakistan’s prime minister then) rushed to Washington, and insisted on seeing President Clinton on the 4th of July, a US national holiday. In a detailed account of the Clinton presidency, The Clinton Tapes, A President’s Secret Diary by one of Clinton’s oldest friends, the historian Taylor Branch says that ‘Sharif had invited himself to Washington; Clinton had explicitly told him not to come.’
It was a national holiday and so they met in Blair House, where Clinton told him, ‘”Your army is in the wrong here,” and that Clinton could not mediate the Kashmir crisis without the consent of both warring nations and India adamantly refused,’ says Branch. ‘The Indians saw nothing to mediate. They were winning militarily, and Kashmir belonged to India, period.’