Kargil war was a watershed moment

Kargil war was a watershed moment

Twenty years ago this week, India wrested back control over the icy heights of Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir from the Pakistan Army. Indeed, it was on July 26, 1999, that the Kargil conflict ended. In the two decades since, little seems to have changed in Pakistan’s determined bid to “bleed India by a thousand cuts.” One would have thought that the crushing defeat it suffered at the hands of India and with its attempts at grabbing Indian territory standing exposed before the international community, Pakistan would have learnt its lesson and acted to mend its ways. Sadly, this has not happened.

Following the Kargil conflict, India set up three committees, including the Kargil Review Committee to identify loopholes and recommend reforms in India’s national security set-up. Flaws in intelligence collection, operational procedures and systematic sharing of data were among the shortcomings identified. A thorough review of the national security system followed. Task Forces on border management were set up as was a National Technical Research Organisation and a Defence Intelligence Agency. Aerial and other surveillance improved. However, the formation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff that was recommended for a single point of military advice to the civilian leadership has not been implemented given the far-reaching implications this could have on civil-military relations. Defence procurement and inter-agency intelligence sharing remain areas of concern. Support of the local population facilitated India’s victory in Kargil. Indeed, initial intelligence on the infiltrators came from local sources. However, local support for Delhi in the Kashmir Valley is at an all-time low today. In the event of another Kargil-like assault, the absence of Kashmiri public support could be felt. The Centre will do well to keep this in mind as it evolves its Kashmir policy.

India was successful in getting international support during the Kargil crisis. The US, Russia, even China endorsed India’s position and called on Pakistan to vacate Indian territory. It was indeed American support for the Indian position during the Kargil conflict that helped bring Delhi and Washington close and into dialogue on bilateral and global issues, leading especially post the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US to Washington aligning with India on the way forward on the Kashmir question. It eventually put the two countries on the path to a global strategic partnership that is still a work in progress. It is therefore worrying that in recent days, US President Donald Trump should have spoken of US intervention on Kashmir in a signal that Washington may be realigning its position with Pakistan, given Washington’s need to obtain Pakistan’s support in Afghanistan. This is a minefield on which India must tread carefully but resolutely.