Sixteen years after Pakistan sprang a surprise on the Indian Army and triggered a war in the mountains of Kargil, army chief General Dalbir Singh on Friday said India had reinforced its security architecture significantly to avert a repeat of 1999.
Speaking exclusively to HT, Singh said, “We have beefed up our capabilities and deployments in a big way over the years. A repeat of that episode is not possible.”
Pakistani aggressors had occupied strategic peaks in the Kargil, Dras and Batalik sectors in Kashmir, vacated by the Indian Army in the winter months. Driving them back cost India 527 lives.
“Several loose ends have been tied up since 1999. We are more than capable of handling challenges across the spectrum of conflict,” the army chief said. Intelligence collection and analysis is more effective now and major changes have been made in the army’s order of battle (deployment and distribution of its forces) to secure vulnerable frontiers.
Singh has deep knowledge of the treacherous heights where Indian soldiers were stretched to their limits during the war. He commanded the Kumbathang-based 8 Mountain Division in 2007-08, responsible for guarding the Line of Control from Zoji La to Leh.
The Kargil war lent urgency to the need to plug gaps in the army’s capabilities but the pace of modernisation has been sluggish.
“Modernisation is a work in progress and there are multiple aspects to it. Things are moving in the right direction. We are making progress in addressing our requirements in critical areas such as air defence, armoured combat capabilities, artillery and surveillance,” General Singh said.
The government has cleared several pending projects, including purchase of 420 air defence guns for Rs 16,900 crore, 814 artillery guns at a cost of Rs 15,750 crore and 118 Arjun Mk II tanks for Rs 6,600 crore.
Singh will travel to the Dras war memorial with defence minister Manohar Parrikar on Saturday to pay homage to Kargil martyrs. On Sunday, he will lay a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate in Delhi as part of the Vijay Diwas celebrations to honour the valour and sacrifices of the heroes who led India to victory in the Kargil war.