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The Kargil war- 1999

Unnerved by the defeats of 1971 war, the Pakistan army initiated operation Topac, by pushing terrorists into J&K and striking at civilian and military targets from the earliy 1990s. With almost a decade of terrorism failing to make an impact and the terrorists running out of steam against the Indian Army and para-military, Pakistan army chalked out another plan in its endeavour to annex...

india Updated: Sep 30, 2002 12:17 IST
PTI

Prakash Pillai
www.HindustanTimes.com

Unnerved by the defeats of 1971 war the Pakistan army initiated operation Topac, by pushing terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir and striking at civilian and military targets from the earliy 1990s. With almost a decade of terrorism failing to make an impact and the terrorists running out of steam against the Indian Army and para-military, Pakistan army chalked out another plan in its endavour to annex Jammu and Kashmir.

The operation at Kargil was planned meticuluously by the top Pakistani amry estabilishment in a bid to capture the deserted heights in Indian territrory, left by Indian army during the inhospital weather conditions and then taking control of the vital Srinagar-Leh highway. The Pak army thought that by capturing the strategic heights they will be in a position of strength and get the status of the Line of Control (LoC) altered.

Pakistan army however, faltered in calculating the response of India which was hard with air strikes crippling the Pakistan army and terrorists holed up in the heights and cutting off logistic support. Moreover, under international pressure the Pakistan army had to withdraw from the heights.

According to a top army source the Kargil operation was planned months in advance and kept a top secret that was confined to a very few top army officers. The Pak Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Chief of General Staff (CGS), Director General Military Operations (DGMO), GOC 10 Corps and GOC Force Commander Northern Area (FCNA) who was made overall incharge of operations in the Kargil sector were the only ones aware about the actual operation. Even the Corps Commanders were not kept in picture. It suggested that only an "in principle" concurrence without any specifics be obtained from the Pak Prime Minister. The Pak army thought that the operation whould help in internationalising the Kashmir issue.

Pakistan army's objective was to exploit large gaps which existed in the defences in the sector both on Indian and Pak side of the Line of Control (LoC) and the fact that Zoji La Pass normally opens by end June, thus making the movement of reinforcements by surface from Srinagar impossible till then even if the incursions were to be detected. Pak also calculated that even if the intrusions were discovered in early May, the reaction of Indian Army would be slow and limited, thereby allowing him to consolidate the intrusions more effectively.

The Pak army thought that the intrusions, if effective, would enable Pak troops to secure number of dominating heights from where the Road Srinagar-Leh could be interdicted at number of places, which was the plan and would give Pak control over substantial piece of ground across LOC and enable her to negotiate from a position of strength and alter the status of LoC.

Apart from army regulars Pakistan turned to the mujahideens and decided to push them along with army into the Indian positions. Terrorists from Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, Harkat-ul-Ansar and Afghan War veterans were also grouped with each battalion to give it a facade of "jihad". After the intrusion 800 or more militants have been brought to Skardu Area for further reinforcements.
The logistics and cover for the entire operation was to be carried out by the Pakistan army with heavy artillery shelling.

The Pakistan army soldiers were ordered to undertake all operations in local tribal attire so as to depict them as the so called 'Mujahideens'. The traditional 'oval' and 'round' identity discs worn by the soldiers all over the world in the battlefield, were also disallowed. However, despite these restrictions, a number of Pakistan Army soldiers carried their uniforms and identity documents with them, some of which were captured by Indian forces.

After the early opening of the Zoji La pass the Indians got a wind of the Pakistani incursions and by early June 1999 there was heavy exchange of artillery fire between Indian and Pakistani forces. It was at this point of time that India realised the damage that has been caused as several vantage points along the heights were taken over by Pakistanis. After review of the situation India tuned to its Air Force to resort strikes that actually broke the backbone of the intruders.

Along with the Air Force the Army coordinated the attacks and the intruders were soon left gasping without logistics as the supply routes were cut by ariel bombings and the Army combed up the holed intruders from one point to the other. During the operations Indian Forces captured several Pakistani army personnel and documented their identity.

The greatest embarassment for Pakistan came when India got a hand to two separate telephonic conversations between the Pakistan Chief of Army Staff and the Chief of General Staff, discussing the Kargil operations suggesting that the entire operation was masterminded at the highest level and conducted by Pakistan Army Regulars. Moreover, the recovery of large amount ammunition belonging to Pakistani army proved beyond doubt its involvement in the operation.

Initially, Pakistan refused accept the dead bodies of its soldiers but under pressure from home Pak had to accept the death of some of its army officers. The documentation by Indian Army proved beyond doubt the involvement of Northern Light Infantry (NLI) of Pakistan in the operation.

Moreover as points after points occuiped by Pakistan army fell to Indian forces there was greater international pressure on Pakistan to stop incursions. The then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharrif rushed to the United States for assistance fearing a full fledged Indian invasion into Pakistan but he was told by the US administration to first withdraw all its forces from the region. Sharrif was forced to sign the withdrawal of forces that led to a great embarassement to the Pakistani forces.

First Published: Sep 28, 2002 21:35 IST