View: How PM Modi ensured another Kargil is not repeated | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

View: How PM Modi ensured another Kargil is not repeated

May 25, 2024 10:01 AM IST

Just like Vajpayee, PM Narendra Modi has been decisive when dealing with military shenanigans of either Pakistan or China

Twenty five years ago, I along with Hindustan Times photographer Pradeep Bhatia entered the Kargil war theatre this week and were greeted by whizzing sound of Pakistan artillery shrapnel fired from across the LoC as we crossed the Suru River.

A file photo of a Bofors gun in action at Dras sector during the 1999 Kargil war.
A file photo of a Bofors gun in action at Dras sector during the 1999 Kargil war.

The Shia town was bursting with anxiety as artillery firing on the town with Indian Army ammunition dump as the target was a routine affair and started after the first call for prayer was made from the local mosque.

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The Pakistan artillery firing at Kargil did not come as a surprise as I had covered escalation in artillery duels in this sector for the previous two years from Hindustan Times.

My friend Pradeep Bhatia lost his life in a car bomb attack in Srinagar on August 10, 2000, more than a year after India under caretaker NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee won the limited war on July 26, 1999.

Even though the war ended a quarter of century ago, it has critical lessons for India when it comes to its principal military adversaries China and Pakistan. The fundamental lesson of Kargil war, which was replayed by Hamas terrorist group against Israel on October 7, 2023 medieval massacre, is expect the unexpected.

ALSO READ: Why 1999 Kargil war turned out to be a game-changer for Indian military

The Indian Army was always prepared for cross-LoC infiltration by Pakistan jihadists but were surprised when the Pakistan Army under guise of terrorists held Indian territory across a 200 km frontage from Kaobali Gali in Mushkoh to Chortbat La in Batalik sector.

Taking advantage of unheld gaps of the Indian Army’s counter-insurgency grid and the India-Pak bonhomie arising out of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s historic bus trip to Lahore via Attari border, the then Pakistan Army Chief Gen Pervez Musharraf betrayed his own prime minister Nawaz Sharif and ordered Northern Light Infantry troops across the LoC in Kargil sector.


National Security is priority one for BJP leaders at Centre
National Security is priority one for BJP leaders at Centre

After PM Vajpayee publicly announced that Pakistani intruders would be evicted from Kargil, the Indian Army at the loss of 527 braves and injuries to another 1,363 personnel did the job and booted out Musharraf’s troops from the glaciated terrain of Kargil.

The humiliation of the Pakistan Army at Kargil was the real reason why then PM Nawaz Sharif, a genuine supporter of India-Pak ties, was dethroned by Musharraf in a military coup later in October that year.

So the key takeaway from the limited war was that the Indian Army should always be vigilant to threats from the Pakistan Army as well as the Chinese Army as was demonstrated by the PLA under directions from President Xi Jinping during the May 2020 transgressions in East Ladakh.

The second key lesson was the advent of modern technology like drones and stand-off precision-guided delivery platforms in the theatre and the end of World War II air-land battles tactics. One must not forget that it was Israel which provided the Searcher Mark II UAVs for surveillance of Kargil heights and the litening pods for laser guided bombs used by IAF to destroy Pakistan Army at Muntho Dalo and Tiger Hill.

The war also spurred India’s defence cooperation with the US, who later supplied weapon-locating radars and built on existing military ties with France whose Mirage-2000 fighters ensured that Pak troops could not sleep after IAF was given a green signal on May 26, 1999. Today, it is the French Rafale fighter, US heavy lift transport aircraft and Israel’s drones that lead India’s deterrence against its enemies.

ALSO READ: Lesson learnt and unlearnt from Kargil war

The third key lesson was that the Indian Armed Forces were ready to deliver at any point of time if there was strong political will. Despite Congress taking potshots at the BJP-led government, PM Vajpayee came out with flying colours, as he not only salvaged India’s military reputation but also political credibility by turning down then-US President Bill Clinton’s invite to Blair House in Washington on July 4 to ensure that visiting PM Sharif would order withdrawal of Pak troops.

Just like Vajpayee, PM Narendra Modi has been decisive when dealing with military shenanigans of either Pakistan or China. The firm Indian response to Uri and Pulwama terror strikes in the form of surgical strikes and air attack on Balakot as well as taking on the PLA on South banks of Pangong Tso on August 29-31, 2020 reveals the decisive current political leadership of India.

ALSO READ: Strengthen Modi’s hands... he’s going to see you through this stormy period, says Jaishankar

PM Modi’s past record shows that India will not only stand up but also punish any symmetrical or asymmetrical aggression. Today, India’s bilateral ties with China and Pakistan are in a deep freeze due to aggression from Communist dictator in the north and a military junta-ruled state to the west.

The fourth key takeaway from Kargil was restructuring the command and control in the Indian Armed Forces by creating a post of Chief of Defence Staff as recommended by the Kargil Review Committee. While the key advisors of Manmohan Singh government were against vesting all military powers in a CDS, it was the Modi government that cleared the post of CDS and paved the way for on-going theaterization of military commands to ensure synergy between the Army, Navy and the Air Force.

The bifurcation of the post of Principal Secretary to PM and National Security Advisor was also a recommendation of the Committee and has worked well with the current government.

The final takeaway from the three month war at Kargil heights is the need for India to be “aatamnirbhar” or self-reliant in military platforms and ammunition.

The Kargil war and the Operation Parakaram in 2002 revealed gaps in India’s military efforts as platforms and ammunition were purchased at the last minute and at much higher rates. It was Manohar Parrikkar as the Defence Minister who ensured that India kept enough inventory and supplies to handle a 10 day war.

Today, the Indian Army has declared self-reliance in ammunition for the first time after several decades and key platforms are either being manufactured or planned to be manufactured in India.

With PM Narendra Modi expected to return to power on June 4 for the third time, the “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” campaign will be put on the highest priority with defined deliveries and accountability. India under Modi has a functional nuclear triad with high survivability and delivery platforms that can deter any global power, particularly China. India’s relationship with Pakistan has finally de-hyphenated with the latter confined to playing a lackey of the Communist dictator up north.

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