Confrontation in Kargil
MAJ GEN AFSIR KARIM, AVSM (RETD)
In July 1989 Indian Defence Review (IDR)
published OP TOPAC which anticipated Pakistani plan to subvert J&K government and to
sponsor insurgent-terrorism. No one in authority took notice till the Pak plan, was put
into action. Here are some excerpts from OP TOPAC :
Exert maximum pressure on the Siachen,
Kargil and Rajauri-Punch sectors to force the Indian Army to deploy reserve formations
outside the main Kashmir Valley.
Attack and destroy base depots and HQ
located at Srinagar, Pattan, Kupwara, Baramulla, Bandipur and Chowkiwala by covert action
at a given time.
Some Afghan Mujahideen, by then settled in
Azad Kashmir, will then infiltrate in selected pockets with a view to extending areas of
our influence. This aspect will require detailed and ingenious planning. The fiasco of Op
Gibraltar (1965) holds many lessons for us here.
Finally a Special Force under selected
retired officers belonging to Azad Kashmir, with the hard core consisting of Afghans, will
be ready to attack and destroy airfields, radio stations, block Banihal Tunnel and
At a certain stage of the operations Punjab
and adjacent areas of Jammu & Kashmir will be put under maximum pressure internally by
our offensive posture.
A little later IDR published a sequel to Op
Topac titled "KASHMIR ON THE EDGE : A WAR SCENARIO". No one took special notice.
In 1999, we should realize that once again IDR had anticipated likely Pak plans. Here are
some excerpts :
Concentration of forces opposite Amritsar,
Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Jammu and Akhnur and tactical regrouping of forces in Pakistan
Occupied Kashmir (POK).
Increased Air and LC violations and visible
movement of reserves opposite selected sectors.
Increase in terrorism in Jammu and Punjab;
lines of communication and railways to be the main targets.
Appearance of well organized guerrilla
forces capable of pitched battles. These will be armed with sophisticated weapons which
would include missiles, heavy mortars and Stinger missiles.
Collapse of authority and essential services
in the Valley; communalisation of the situation in Jammu and contiguous areas.
Stepping up of attacks on VIPs, central
establishments including military supply bases and convoys.
Use of land mines operated by remote control
to make highways and movement of security forces unsafe.
Establishment of guerrilla strongholds
daring security forces to attack them.
'Op Mushtary' (Jupitar) will commence at a
certain stage of Zarb-e-Kamil and is likely to take the following form:
Extensive and continued firing including
artillery and mortar fire all along the LC.
Attack on isolated posts on the LC
particularly in remote and difficult areas.
Capture of important but less defencible
tactical features on the Shamsabari Range, Kargil, Shyok Valley - Soltora range and in the
Punch - Rajauri sector.
Current situation in Kargil :
Points to Ponder
Kargil sector has a great tactical and strategic significance as heights west of Kargil
dominate the stretch of NH 1A from Zoji La to Kargil. This highway was once the only
surface link between Ladakh and the rest of J&K state. Garrison at Ladakh could be cut
off from the logistic support bases at Srinagar if the enemy occupied Kargil heights and
the areas astride the road. Today this road is only one of the links, not the only link
for logistic support to Leh or Siachen. The road link from Pathankot - Manali to Leh is
now well developed. It opens a month later than the Zoji La route but has safe forward
bases in Himachal and Eastern Ladakh. Moreover India's airlift capacity is now immense as
the huge IL76 aircraft haul most of the tonnage forward, AN32 and heavy duty helicopters
do the rest. Leh garrison is stocked for six winter months and the skies of Leh are
generally open. There are several other by-passes and road links under construction. What
Pakistan has not yet realised is that Zoji La - Leh road is no longer the logistic
lifeline for Leh and Siachen, no wonder it is wasting so much effort and artillery
ammunition over NH 1A. Well this year Pakistan went a step further and made intrusions
stealthly, well planned attempts in Kargil sector and towards Leh and Siachen bases
through Indus and Shyok valleys. As the battle rages in Kargil we must ponder over few
aspects of the situation. Why did India fail to appreciate, or detect the Pakistani plans
and troop movements across the LoC this winter? Why did Pakistan fail to capture areas
astride Kargil - Leh road at Fotula and Khaltse when they were lying almost undefended and
bashed its head against the Kargil garrison? Why did Pakistan fail to make any major
tactical gains despite all the preparations and on achieving complete surprise?
Messy battles are now going on in the
Mushko valley, Kargil heights and Batalik on features which have little tactical
significance for Pakistan. What Pakistan has achieved is therefore an encroachment not
lodgement. Was it a Pakistani political game played and adopted from a crude military
script or was it a military plan without much thought being given to the far reaching
political ramifications ? What India is doing is merely to get back its real estate
grabbed by Pakistan. India has made no attempt to hit the Pakistani logistic support bases
or gun positions across the LoC to facilitate the task of its army. Indian Army's
frontline defenders in Kargil and Leh failed to do their basic duty to defend the LoC.
Indian Intelligence agencies and higher command at Delhi or Srinagar failed to read the
tell-tale signs of the impending intrusion in force in Kargil - Batalik sectors. India has
failed to use this opportunity to capture areas to thwart the offensive, which would bring
the offensive to a grinding halt and make Pakistani forces dash back across the LoC to
safeguard their own turf. Why did India delay the use of air power and wasted it on
inappropriate targets - few tents on top of the mountains - not the gun areas or bridges
on the Indus or road links. It seems there was no one to coordinate the Army - Air force
Pakistan has this year adopted a two pronged strategy in J&K, insurgency in the Valley
and Jammu regions, attacks in Ladakh where there are no chances of collateral damages
effecting Kashmiri Muslims. Pakistan does not count Shias of Kargil as Kashmiris or
muslims but only Sunnis of the Valley. A two pronged strategy gives the following
advantages to Pakistan. First, it allows Kashmiri anger against high handedness of PAK
mercenaries in the Valley to cool down. They are told look PAK has made this sacrifice of
suspending action and insurgency in the Valley so that the Kashmiris can earn their living
in peace. Second, it diverts Indian troops away from the Valley giving Pakistan sponsored
insurgents breathing space. Third, it draws Indian Army reserves in Ladakh to remote
areas, far away from the areas of Pakistan main thrust in Jammu and the Valley of Kashmir.
Fourth, it internationalises the Kashmir issue because of the fear of an all out India -
Pak war in which nuclear weapons may be used. It also provides Pakistan a chance to alter
the LoC to its advantage in vital areas like the Shyok Valley, Turtuk, Chor Batla and
Batalik areas. It opens avenues for Pakistan to cut off supply routes to Siachen from
Ladakh. Its troops bypass Saltoro - Siachen areas by an advance through Shyok
Valley.Heavy artillery bombardments at Kargil and surrounding areas is a way of punishing
non-cooperative Shias of Kargil. Pakistan can alternate offensive in Ladakh with
terrorism in Kashmir Valley and Jammu region at its military convenience.
What should India do ?
India has to shake its defensive mindset and fear of escalation of the conflict. A limited
offensive is required to make Pakistan forces recoil and defend their own vital areas of
POK. This is just not a notion. I am sure Indian Army has such contingency plans.
Discussions in various war games and exercise indicated this in the past as no army can
fight a purely defensive war, in Kashmir and win. Attack on the Pakistan's army supply
bases and gun areas can put Pakistan on the defensive.India should also raise Special
Forces to attack terrorist training camps in POK and create disturbances in certain parts
of POK. The special forces need not be from the army or other government forces, but
volunteers who want to teach Pakistan a lesson or two. Suggestions like this are
considered impractical and adventurist by our old guard play-safe politicians and military
leaders. However our new generation is quite capable of carrying out such plans.
India has to take a firm, no-nonsense stand against Pakistan. Pakistan should know that
the game of covert operations can be played by India too. Defensive wars can only be at
the cost of Indian lives and prestige. We can no longer afford to wait. Let us see some
action. Lack of timely intelligence of Pak plans, and anticipation of its motives can lead
to several Kargil like situations.
Author is the former Editor of IDR and currently the Editor of Aakrosh. He is also
Member of the National Security Council Advisory Board.
Reproduced with permission from Lancer
Publications: Indian Defence Review Volume 14 (2) Copyright © Lancer Publications and