Air chief marshal AY Tipnis (retd), who was Air Chief during the Kargil war, justified his initial denial of armed helicopters during the war in 1999 in the presence General VP Malik (retd), who was Army chief at that time.
He even said that there had to be an inquiry into it and if he was guilty he should be hung.
Tipnis and Malik were present on dais during a seminar on ‘India and China : After 5 decades of Sino-India War’ at Chandigarh on Sunday.
Tipnis said that we were not aware of nature of intrusion and my reason was that if we used air power then we must be ready for similar reply from the other side (Pakistan). “ I did not give support as required urgently,” he said.
He further justified, “ We lost two MiG aircrafts (after we agreed) and later an armed Mi-17 helicopter was shot down.”
On May 24, 1999, One MiG-27 was lost over the Batalik sector and Flight Lieutenant Nachiketa Rao bailed out and landed into Pakistan territory where he was captured. The other MiG 21, flown by Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja, was shot down by surface to air missile. Ahuja was killed. A Mi-17 helicopter was shot down on May 28, 1999, while attacking the Tololing feature near Dras.
Though Malik did not react on Sunday but his book-Kargil: From Surprise to Victory’- laid bare the differences between the two for the use of air power during the war.
From the book
In his book, Malik wrote that on May 17, 1999, he advised Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS) Lieutenant General Chandra Shekhar to seek assistance from the Air Force, particularly armed/ attack helicopters for further surveillance and detection of the intrusion in the Chief of Staff Committee (COSC) meeting next day. Malik was on foreign trip during that time.
On May 18, 1999, as Malik wrote Tipnis did not agree for additional support other than transport helicopters. “ The reason given were that attack helicopters could not operate at that altitude and that the use of air power would escalate and enlarge the dimensions of the conflict. The VCOAS had projected these aspects in the Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS) also but his viewpoints were rejected.”
On May 19, 1999, Tipnis wrote a long letter to Malik with a copy to Admiral Sushil Kumar stating that there was a “considerable misconception about the use of air power and its political and operational implications”. He wanted the COSC to discuss the issue again and then have a standard operating procedure prepared for the purpose. “ This letter was a bit upsetting and untimely, but I did not react to it,” wrote Malik.
On May 23, 1999, Malik met Sushil Kumar and told him that Tipnis might require some more convincing for the use of air power. After that a meeting took between the three chiefs and Tipnis reportedly agreed for it. The CCS then also agreed for it.
However, on Sunday Tipnis said that inter-service rivalry also happened at other places and Chief of Defence Staff was not a good idea. “ Systems do not deliver but people deliver… The differences cannot be settled through an arbiter but by discussions.”