KARGIL REVIEW COMMITTEE: A COMMENTARY
The Kargil Review Committee (KRC) was constituted
by the Government of India to review the events leading to the Pakistani aggression in
Kargil sector of Jammu and Kashmir in May 1998 . A further brief was to recommend
necessary measures to safeguard national security against such armed intrusions. The KRC
panel had wide ranging access to data and personnel in performing its charter. It
accomplished its task by interviewing slew of former and serving officials. The voluminous
report and its annexes constituted 15 volumes.
The KRC report is remarkable in India for being an
inquiry commission that analyzed causes of the events rather than fixing blame for them.
In addition, it is a mini strategic review, which flowed from its second charter. It is
detailed, and addresses many popular myths propagated at the time of the crises. It has
commented on a wide range of matters, from inadequacy of intelligence to lacuna in the
national security apparatus. Thus, it is a far-reaching report that deserves to be read
and understood. Its findings are especially important in light of the nuclearization of
the sub-continent, as early detection has to be part of the minimum deterrent posture. It
also represents a first for India as it has been published and commented on by various
experts. The present article is based entirely on the on-line version . The full text
might have more details which may add to the picture.
The main section is divided into findings and a
recommendation section. Previously the Bharat Rakshak Monitor gave a preliminary account
of the factors for surprise at Kargil  and these are updated.
Developments leading to the Pakistani
aggression at Kargil
The KRC found that the entire aggression was a
complete and total surprise to the Indian government. This is its primary conclusion and
all others stem from it. What was expected was an infiltration by armed irregulars but not
an intrusion and occupation of territory by Pakistani troops. Numerous former Indian Army
officers were unanimous that such an operation was unsustainable. Coupled with the Indian
Armys domination in previous instances and the hostile terrain a mindset was created
that this scenario was unlikely. Expecting the enemy to do what you would do is known as
"mirroring" and leads to surprise.
The report concluded that Pakistan has repeatedly
miscalculated the Indian response to its aggression. The KRC does not examine why Pakistan
prone to making such erroneous conclusions and whether there is any India based
characteristics involved. It is possible that the lack of a coherent policy by previous
Indian governments contributed to the Pakistani judgment of a feeble response.
The report examines the role of deterrence in the
calculus of aggression and concludes that Pakistan is convinced that its various nuclear
threats have deterred India from reacting to its covert war. However, essential players
have noted that the Indian Armed Forces were overextended in the last decade and hence
could not be brought to bear on aggressive Pakistani overtures. This indicates that the
lack of resolve and overextended resources are more likely to have deterred India rather
than nuclear threats from Pakistan.
The report also examines whether Nawaz Sharif was
in the loop in planning the Kargil aggression and concludes that the balance of
probability suggests that he was in the loop. This conclusion has grave portends for
prospects of peace in the sub-continent. It is this perfidious behavior of the Pakistani
elite that has to be guarded against, and explains the reluctance of India to resume
dialog with the military regime in Pakistan until terrorist support is halted. On a
positive note, this exonerates the Pakistani Army from rogue behavior. The report states
that Lahore process did not lead to a lowering of the guard in the Indian government
despite the euphoria in some segments of the political spectrum. This is an important
conclusion and demolishes the charges of the Opposition during the crises.
The report reconstructed the modus operandi of the
Pakistani aggression and concluded that it was based on creeping intrusion. Early parties
entered Indian Territory in late January and early February 1999. These were followed by
reinforcements in late April. They used cover and deception to avoid detection by WASO
patrols from air. In addition, due to risks from terrain and climate, the Indian forces
did not take aggressive ground patrols. From a study of the intruder deployments, the
committee concluded that the plan was to occupy Indian Territory and provide a fait
accompli to India as it would suffer large casualties in recovering the territory and lose
time. In the meantime, the goal was to arrange an international cease-fire leaving them in
occupation of Indian Territory.
A minor point is to be noted here. The report
identifies the shepherds who reported the intrusion as being in the pay of the Brigade
Intelligence Team (BIT). The committee should have excised this, as there is no need to
confirm information that could lead to harm to such informants. Similar comments can be
made of the wealth of data provided as illustrations to show lack of proper assessments.
These revelations can be faulted for revealing the systematic collection capabilities of
the Indian agencies and need not have been published.
The force deployments of the Fifteen Corps
commander succeeded in localizing the conflict. Action was taken before a complete
analysis of the magnitude of the intrusion could be obtained. The speed of reaction was
critical to localizing the conflict. The report also studied the rate of casualties to
determine if there were avoidable casualties and determined that this was not so. It also
examined the state of equipment of the soldiers and pointed out the deficiencies. Once the
decision to use the Air Force was taken, the armed forces moved to proactive positions to
deter any escalation by Pakistan. In conclusion, the report characterizes this as
not a minor skirmish but a short sharp war . This is important as Indian
leaders were calling it a limited war, or even "war-like," at the time of the
In this section, the report gathers its findings
of lapses in the Intelligence field that led to the surprise. As noted elsewhere , the
methodology of Uri Bar and Zachary Sheaffer is more useful than that adopted in this
report. The power of the Bar-Sheaffer method is such that it gives an X-ray picture of
what went wrong as opposed to the snapshot provided in the KRC report. A list of tables is
added which summarizes the report findings in the Bar-Sheaffer methodology .
The report identifies the roles and missions of
the two principal intelligence agencies of the Indian government the Research and
Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB). It also clarifies the limited role
of the Director General of Military Intelligence (DGMI). Although RAW was tasked with
collecting military intelligence, the facility in Kargil sector, though under the Srinagar
command, was reporting to Leh. The Kargil facility, at the time, was operating under other
priorities. This illustrates the need to appropriately allocate and task resources. The
Leh office based its priorities on threat perception, which was that no intrusion could be
sustained in Kargil. It therefore concentrated its resources on more immediate threats.
The report does not identify this, but press reports suggest it was concentrated on Tibet.
It would be interesting to see if there were indicators in that area, which distracted it
from picking up signals from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).
The IB picked up signals of activity, in the FCNA
region of POK. However, it did not forward them to the proper agencies that it knew could
provide follow-up. This is an obvious instance politicking and bureaucratic power
struggles. The report documents other instances of systematic failure and lack of
It also reports that there were many indicators
but few of actionable quality, with the nebulous and noisy signals. It is possible that
the increase of noise indicated a masking of signals. Another point noted was the failure
to communicate the intensity of counter-action by the Indian Army led RAW to make
incorrect assessments as to the nature of the activity going on across the Line of Control
(LoC). Surprisingly, battle damage reports in the forward areas was not intimated to RAW.
These illustrate a lack coordination and interaction. The problem could be due to
over-emphasis on the "need to know" principle, which denies a second look at the
The report highlights the deficiencies in the
Order of Battle (ORBAT), which did not include two battalions. Here the report blames RAW
for the lack of information of their presence and forward deployment as likely indicators
of potential intrusion. However, this begs the question as to the responsibilities of the
local area commanders. They should have been alert as to the threat coming from the
existing thirteen battalions. This raises the question of whether there is a need to see
the complete picture before deciding if the data is interesting or not. The local
commanders should have sent patrols and asked for more air surveillance near the LoC to
confirm the pattern of deployment of the thirteen battalions.
The report goes on to identify the shortcomings of
the Indian system of intelligence gathering. The lack of inter-agency coordination, the
single source of threat assessment and collection and lack of war game scenarios including
civilian participation are all identified. All these lead to overload and missed
assessments. It does not identify what prevents the constitution of a secondary review of
the primary data from RAW by the receivers. All these point to hierarchical nature of the
organizations involved. The more top heavy they are the more they are prone to failure.
The report also highlights the political factors
affecting the process- lacks of importance of and need for assessed intelligence at all
levels. Shortcomings in the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) are reported. Here the
factors are primarily bureaucratic shortcomings. The head of RAW doubling as JIC chairman
for over eighteen months is not optimal. The responsibility is definitely political, as
timely appointments of vacancies, is a political function. The report does not highlight
if the agency as a whole was preoccupied after Chagai tests.
A point to consider is the lack of assessments
based on a totality of inputs. The constant factor of one agency not knowing the data
unearthed by another agency is interesting. Smith  examines the difficulties in
preparing national estimates even when the best resources were available during the early
years of the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The need to have inter-agency
review of the estimates before they are presented to the political authorities for action
is also detailed. This demonstrates the difficulty of the task ahead. It is not that other
nations did not face surprises. It is important to examine how they learned from them and
recovered. Pearl Harbor, Yom Kippur, and the collapse of Baring Bank are all surprises.
Nearer home the 1962 NEFA debacle, the indefinite extension of NPT, the firing of Ghauri
missile are all surprises. In India, none of these events led to a systematic examination
of the factors leading to the surprise. The KRC report is a pioneering effort, authorized
by the government in order to get to the root of the matter.
Wilensky  examines intelligence organizations
and concludes that the intelligence failures are built into complex organizations. On one
hand, easily accomplished re-structuring, might end up being just tinkering with the
organization and will not eliminate the ills. One the other hand, sources of distortion
will persist in some measure due to the nature of the organization. Proper mastery of the
task requires specialization leading to compartmentalization; the need to control and
motivate individuals requires hierarchy leading to blocking communications; coordination
demands centralization leading to top heavy overloaded systems; and exigencies of decision
demand direct answers, if not short term estimates leading to diversion of resources. In
fact failures are natural for an organization based on its state of development and are
often not in its control. All this places importance on the leadership, which has to
educate itself of the organizational pitfalls and be aware of them while formulating
The Nuclear factor
This finding is the most important contribution to
the nuclear issue in India in recent times. While examining the reasons for Pakistan
choosing intrusion as a way to change the LoC, the KRC panel examined the history of the
nuclear question in South Asia. In doing so, it lays to rest many popular myths. The KRC
report is an important contribution to the history of Indian nuclear development, and with
the recent efforts from Perkovich  and Chengappa , one may form a more complete
picture of the Nuclear Option in Asia.
Pakistan embarked on its quest for nuclear weapons
under President Bhutto in January 1972 after the defeat in the Bangladesh war. The main
driver was deterrence of Indias conventional superiority. Thus, it predates the
Indian nuclear test of 1974. In addition, since its main aim is to deter Indias
conventional weaponry, Pakistani denuclearization is not predicated on Indian
denuclearization. This is a very important finding and has bearing on the whole gamut of
relations between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan had been assessed to have the capability
by 1981-82 and this prompted Mrs. Gandhi to authorize a test 1983, which were called off
due to external pressure. This explains the reports of test preparations in the early
eighties. The report details the Chinese proliferation to Pakistan from the early
eighties. It is surprising that India waited until the May 98 tests to publicly take
China to task. China has been behaving in an inimical manner since the early eighties.
Pakistan had conveyed a nuclear threat on three
different instances in a short period of three years - 1987 to 1990. Two of them were in
one year - January and August 1990. The US imposed sanctions on Pakistan under the
Pressler amendment soon after these threats.
The report details the continuity in the Indian
program under the Prime Ministers from Mrs. Gandhi to Mr. Vajpayee. This aspect is
important as the tests in May 1998 were misconstrued as an act of aberration by the BJP
government. However, while successive Prime Ministers implemented the program, they kept
it under wraps. On the other hand, Pakistani leadership was very vocal about their
possession. The panel here does not take into account the various ambiguous statements
made by Indian leadership "befitting response" etc. The picture is rather
incomplete on this account.
The Pakistani leadership is deduced as having
concluded that they were able to deter India with their nuclear threats and were
emboldened to pursue proxy war through encouragement of terrorists and eventual intrusion.
However, Indian officials told the committee that due to various reasons the Indian
conventional superiority was unusable. This shows a serious disconnect and lack of
understanding of the reality of Pakistans nuclearization. Had resources been
available, the possibility of hot pursuit operations escalating is a definite possibility.
It is here that the excessive secrecy could have led to major problems. As the report
states the circle of knowledge of Indian capabilities and threat perception was very small
and excluded essential functionaries responsible for execution of state policy.
Successive Indian Chiefs of army expressed
unhappiness about being kept out of the loop. However, the Pokhran test range is under
Army control. The shafts were dug and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers. Hence, it
is unclear why the Military should express ignorance about Indian plans and prospects.
Moreover, Chengappa indicates that Gen. Sundarji was taken to see the storage areas at
BARC in the mid-eighties . It can be concluded that there was a strict "need to
know" policy in place about the nuclear issue in India. This secrecy managed to
preserve the reality of the option from those whose business it is to know. However, it is
for the public to decide whether the nation had paid an excessive price by way of being
the victim of proxy war brought upon by an unfriendly neighbor.
In retrospect, secrecy was acceptable; however,
the inability to unambiguously convey the threat of assured retaliation has been a major
handicap. This is definitely a leadership issue. The panel alludes to this while outlining
the Pakistani strategy to grab Kashmir in bold move when the Indian leadership appeared
weak and indecisive.
The report outlines the indirect role of well
meaning efforts of the US in emboldening the Pakistani posture and hopes that the
Singh-Talbott talks will lead to gradual devaluation of their nuclear card.
In the end the panel points out the fact that if
Kargil gamble was planned in 1997, then the tests of May 1998 by India may not be that
significant since nuclear deterrence was n place since 1990. In other words, the tests
were an affirmation of the facts on the ground since the mid-eighties. As stated before
the KRC report on this issue is an important contribution to the history of the Indian
nuclear program. However, it still does not clarify who was authorized and what was the
process behind the program. The recommendation to publish a white paper on this topic is
Counter Insurgency Operations, Kargil and
Integrated Manpower Policy, and the Technological dimensions
These are findings that had bearing on the Kargil
crisis and are combined herein for brevity. The report goes into the impact on fighting
terrorism and counter-insurgency due to the withdrawal of the regular troops. The
reduction in manpower due to this shows the high reliance on Army troops in this role.
This demonstrates the claim that the Indian army could not undertake offensive operations
due to being over extended in counter insurgency role. The report also details how the
paramilitary forces are not up to the task in combating state sponsored terrorism and need
augmenting. The panel recommends a comprehensive strategy involving manpower, technical
resources, and political initiatives to combat this menace. Again various schemes to
restructure the operations are proposed and should be studied in depth before
The panel studied the effect of equipment lacunae
in the armed forces and their impact on the performance of the troops. They found there
was no integrated equipment policy, which hinders combat effectiveness. The panel has
special words for the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and its
shortcomings in equipment development and time overruns. It makes note of the progress
achieved and the constraints it faces but is critical of its shortcomings. Ultimately, the
Indian forces had to make do without critical equipment while the adversaries do not. It
regrets that many recommendations by previous bodies await implementation.
Was Kargil avoidable?
The panel examines if the situation at Kargil was
avoidable. It concludes that had the Indian Army taken up a deployment posture akin to
Siachen it could perhaps have been able to prevent this. Such a policy would be expensive
in resources - human and material and would further degrade Indian military capability.
The panel recommends a declaratory policy of swiftly punishing wanton and violations of
the Line of Control. The reviewer believes that a more proactive policy of assessments and
monitoring by the relevant bodies could have detected the intrusion and reduced the cost
of vacating it. However it would not have deterred the aggressive intent of the neighbor
and have to second the panel in its recommendation. The need of the hour is to have in
place a deterrent policy and provide it with the means to implement it.
Tables and Charts
- KRC Report: http://www.alpha.nic.gov.in/
- Bharat Rakshak Monitor Article: http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/MONITOR/ISSUE1/BR-MON7.html
- Russell Smith: The Unknown CIA: My three decades with the Agency,
Berkeley Books, 1992.
- Harold Wilensky, "Organizational Intelligence" Basic
Books, New York, 1967, pages173- 191.
- George Perkovich, "Indias Nuclear Bomb", UC
- Raj Chengappa, " Weapons of Peace", Harper Collins,
Delhi, India, 2000.
- The reason is due to reluctance to put the facts on the table; the
record is what anyone else publishes. For instance the Ref.6 is vocal in saying that
scientists drove the decisions to test. This might suit the Indian leadership but the West
has a fixation with Stranglovian syndrome out of control scientists. This detracts
from the image of the Indian scientists who worked hard with limited resources to provide
the means to deter WMD threats.