'Vajpayee ignored my warning on Kargil'
Possibility of a conflict with Pak was consistently negated and Vajpayee also ignored his statement on the subject, claims a former Army Chief in his book.india Updated: Apr 30, 2006 14:43 IST
In remarks that are likely to reopen the debate on intelligence vis-a-vis the Kargil crisis, the then Army Chief says the possibility of a conventional conflict with regular Pakistani forces was consistently negated and that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee also ignored his statement on the subject.
General VP Malik, who headed the force during the 1999 Kargil crisis, also brought in a new angle in his just-published book Kargil - from surprise to victory that China made a "demonstrative support" to Pakistan at the height of the conflict and that its forces almost sparked off a stand-off on the Sino-Indian border in Arunachal Pradesh.
He asserts that there were no intelligence reports to warn of the surprise Pakistani moves to infiltrate troops through wide gaps in defence.
"RAW (external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing) which was responsible for keeping track of the movement of Pakistani military units and for the order of battle of the Pakistani army formations, showed no accretion in the force level of the Force Commander Northern Areas (FCNA) in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir during a period preceding the intrusion," Malik says in the book.
Intelligence Bureau had remained focused on jihadi activities and its report had only implied that jihadi infiltration could take place in the Kashmir valley or Dras-Kargil sector, he says.
"Prior to the intrusion the FCNA had realigned the areas of responsibility of its brigades and moved the reserve battalion, usually based in Gilgit, to the LOC. RAW and military intelligence units in 3 infantry division did not notice these developments."
The intelligence reports may have indicated an enhanced level of artillery fire exchange in Kargil during the forthcoming summer, but the possibility of a conventional conflict with regular Pakistani forces was consistently "negated".
Malik says even after the intrusion had been detected, the Brigade commander did not realise the seriousness of the situation dismissing the intruders as handful of militants and tasked the units accordingly.
Even visual aerial surveillance and aerial reconnaissance had failed to pick up some telltale signs of the massive intrusion.
The book says even after the intrusion had come to light, it was sought to be painted as infiltration and occupation of heights by jihadi elements.
It was only after the Aviation Research Wing managing to photograph a Pakistani military helicopter flying over Indian territory in Kargil areas and interception of telephonic conversation between then Pakistani Army Chief Pervez Musharraf, at that time on a visit to Beijing, and his Chief of General Staff Mohd Aziz Khan had the contours of regular Pakistani troops involvement been brought home to Indian policy makers, it says.
"I questioned this assessment and pointed out that all the evidence available with the army indicated that the intrusion was by the Pakistani army.
"The Prime Minister did not pay much attention to my statement and only the Secretary of the National Security Council Satish Chandra pointing to RAW and IB chief whispered to me General Malik inki bhi to laaj rakhni hai (we have to save their honour too).
"I consider this remark unforgettable," Malik writes.
In future there could be other Kargils in the making, he says. The Pakistan army's nexus with radical Islamist and the Jammu and Kashmir militants has the potential to bring India and Pakistan to the brink of war again.
"Chinese had inducted one company in the area opposite Chantze, with the rest of the battalion waiting in the wings," Malik discloses in the book.
He says it was not only at Kameng, but the Chinese army enhanced its level of activity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh as well from where some of the forces had been thinned down to be redeployed in Kargil.
"This enhancement in PLA activities along the LAC coincided with the start of the conflict in Kargil" Malik says which at military level, indicated a demonstrative support to Pakistan.
Malik says this ran contrary to Beijing's assertions in recent years that it was pursuing an independent foreign policy and that its relations with Pakistan would not be at the cost of India.
The Chinese forces also made a show of force in Demchok, in eastern Ladakh, constructed a track from Spanggur to south end of Pangong lake and a track in Trigg heights.
He says India also received intelligence reports that PLA's Director in the Department of Armament had visited Islamabad during the conflict to help Pakistan army overcome its critical deficiencies in conventional armament, ammunition and equipment.
"Lack of road communication and vulnerability at Trigg heights did not give us a particularly comfortable military posture," Malik says adding, Indian forces had increased vigilance to match the PLA patrolling to make sure that operational situation on the Sino-Indian border was not permitted to escalate.