Encounter at Kargil
KARGIL The Tables Turned: Major General Ashok Krishna (retd.) and P. R. Chari - Editors; Published under the auspices of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi. Manohar Publishers and Distributors, 4753/23, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002. Rs. 700.
THE KARGIL War 1999 signifies the paradigm shift in India's strategic experience that hitherto has been conditioned by the reflexes of a unitary force structure, reactive diplomacy and a stereotyped posture on the Kashmir issue. It signified the onset of an era of asymmetric conflict that posited the mass involvement of the trans-national Mujahideen the international jihad warriors in amalgam with the soldiers of Pakistan's Northern Light Infantry that had been able to remarkably adapt to jihadi roles. This signifies the pace and temperament of how a professional army could be appropriately indoctrinated to the nuances of sectarian fundamentalist discourse and weld itself with similar sectarian communal elements the jihadi forces.
India's encounter at Kargil was with the two-headed enemy, the militant in the rearguard and the Mujahideen in the vanguard, actively abetted by the Pakistani GHQ that provided excellent, relentless, logistical and incessant artillery fire support bolstering the aggressive endeavour to redraw the Line of Control, in effect a revisionist Simla process. India's reaction initially was one of stunned surprise but its reckoning of the reality did come in decisive diplomatic and military campaign. India constrained itself to a self-imposed limitation to respect the LoC yet skilfully prosecuted its joint land-air operations with extreme skill, daring courage and considerable disadvantage, yet emerged triumphant in the aftermath. India's confident crisis management and strategic vision was ambient in its bold categorical offer of a "Nuclear No-First-Use'' in the crisis and insisted on its conventional strength and deterrence to tackle the asymmetric war imposed on it by Pakistan which eventually was ready to brandish its nuclear sword to escalate the crisis.
Sequel to the Kargil War, the discourse of analysis and commentary spanned on all aspects of the war, its objectives, the diplomatic concourse, the systemic post-mortem and the brass tacks of India's security needs. The Government of India commissioned The Kargil Review Committee Report (December 1999) entitled From Surprise to Reckoning. The report, typical to its nature, had several paragraphs being deleted due to security considerations presenting a bland version of what should have been an incisive enquiry report.
The book under review is perhaps the first incisive analytical and objective account of the war that has the exquisite tapestry of an excellent war operations narrative, replete with maps and position analysis, drawn from the detailed war diaries of the participant service men and officers; its structural frame is truly holistic drawing from diplomatic, operational, media, academic and policy research perspectives that has exquisitely fitted into a thematic focus that is argumentative, analytical and inquisitive and displays neither empathy nor favour to the issues on the table. In its thematic significance the suffix in the book's title "The tables turned'' indeed is the central thematic issue signifying the dramatic reversal of the hitherto monolithic and stereotyped perceptions avowedly held by India that suffered the process of dramatic change.
The Kargil War signifies the first asymmetric war that was imposed on India in the background of the evolving nuclear ambience that has been gaining its gradual metamorphoses. In semblance it had its reflection to the low-level border conflicts between the Soviet Union and China in the Ussuri river disputes in 1969 that had all the probabilities of turning nuclear, given the identical nuclear weapons deployment situation by China that was belligerent. The significance of this study gains imperative, given the rigorous policy research analysis by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies that is well known for its professional finesse and its candid articulation quite evident in its web domain. The study is perhaps a sequence of similar objective and analytical narratives of the earlier watershed crisis in South Asia viz. Brass tacks and Beyond: Perception and Management of Crisis in South Asia (1995).
The structural frame of the book is pivoted on the diagnostic approach of the war deducing the reasons, premises and the patterns of the Pakistani rationale and the Indian response. P. R. Chari outlines the significance of the work set forth in the propositions and the strategic implications that impact on India. He analyses the linkages between the dynamics of asymmetric war and the nuclear escalatory options of Pakistan with the obvious intent to internationalise the Kashmir issue. In a vivid manner the motivations of Pakistan are examined the irony of Pakistan's irrationality is evaluated in this background. The introduction serves as the guidepost to the deductive analysis.
Major General Ashok Krishna, the principal co-author, evaluates the military dimensions of the war placing the Kargil War 1999 in the historical cycle of the India-Pakistan wars in 1947, 1965, 1971 and the intervening crisis. This provides to the informed reader the vicissitudes of the Kargil issue and its pertinent strategic significance in all the cycles of the wars and the innumerable attempts by Pakistan to gain the topographical commanding heights to gain advantage vis-à-vis Indian positions in the region. It is quite interesting to read the linkages of the Kargil War to the Siachen crisis.
His second part presentation is on the brass tacks of the Kargil War. His detailed analysis of Pakistan's war strategy; its genesis, the contextual derivation in respect to Kashmir, the multi-pronged strategy; the exploitation of the militancy situation in the region, the stealthy preference by Pakistan in its sustained probes into the region and the Indian complacency are vividly and forcefully articulated. Gen. Krishna's terrain analysis of the various sectors, the vivid articulation of Operation Badr in terms of the operations objectives, the instruments of the campaign, the parameters of action, the premises of the plan, the regiments and the specific objectives earmarked have been analysed in detail.
Deploying his intimate, detailed field and command knowledge, Gen. Krishna had extensively quoted the memories and the diaries of the gallant Indian armed servicemen to collate the analysis. He concludes the analysis with the seminal contributions of the Indian Air Force that had played a gallant role exuding excellent inter-service synergy in the eviction of the intruders. He represents the complementing role of the Indian Navy that had effectively contained the Pakistani Navy neutralising its effective role to insignificance. This analysis has vital lessons for the three service chiefs that a lot of ground needs to be covered in terms of envisaging a joint doctrine for the Indian armed forces.
The third part of his presentation focuses on the lessons, precepts and perspectives. The analysis is most comprehensive that presents in candid detail the serious lapses in intelligence, the modes of understanding Pakistani behaviour that needs a serious overhaul from the Indian side.
In fact he stresses the need to have an unconventional understanding of Pakistan and that should be applied to any intelligence data analysis. He proposes the structural reforms and the need for a rejuvenated National Intelligence Committee and the Defence Intelligence Agency for efficient collation and analysis of intelligence.
His comments on the dynamics of patrolling and related issues reflect the emphasis of flexibility and pragmatism. His analysis on the shortcomings of material, equipment, border management, nature and response of leadership are strong indictments on the prevalent state of affairs.
The second part of the volume reflects the process dimension of the War. Arpit Rajain presents India's political and diplomatic responses to the Kargil crisis, drawing inferences from decision-making game and bargaining approaches. He analyses the seminal segments of the crisis in terms of the nuclear backdrop, the issues of safe passage to the return of the intruders. In the diplomatic sequence he analyses the role of the institutional actors, namely the U.N. Security Council and the individual response of the members Russia, China, France and the United States. He further analyses the role of envoys in crisis management and how it shaped the perspectives of the War.
The concluding analysis is well drawn out by Chari vividly depicting the prevalent confusion, the intermittent militant activity and he very rightly points out the structural damages that a bleeding war could impose on India and Pakistan; the impact on the regional cooperation and its stagnant entity in South Asia; the continued vitality of confidence building measures and the imperative to seek a non-military resolution of the Kashmir dispute is stressed as the central issue of the crisis.
In drawing the future pathways of this pertinent crisis, he raises three significant issues on the nature of a repeat crisis of similar or magnified dimension and the foreseeable implications on both states given the nuclear backdrop; the essential strengths of India's bilateralism as a vital methodology in conflict resolution and the vagaries of the global and regional situation that abet or erode such a posture and the real impact of the nuclear tests in terms of its contribution to a ready arsenal build-up is a very seminal and candid introspection that deserves a sober analysis in terms of strategic stability and the escalatory potential that nuclear weapons could have in spinning out of control sub-conventional conflicts to an all-out strategic nuclear exchange between the two contenders.
The appendix and the annexure, along with the detailed maps and graphics, present the volume the authentic credentials of being the only objective and authentic historical and strategic analysis of the Kargil War. The volume is indeed a tribute to the diagnostic and prognostic skills of its twin principal authors whose candid analysis and realistic submissions render this informative work a seminal reading for the scholars and soldiers of Indian strategy.
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