20 years of Kargil: How not crossing LoC proved challenging

Recalling the challenges for the army in 1999, Gen VP Malik (Retd), the then Chief of Army Staff said on Saturday, failure of surveillance and intelligence gathering led to the Kargil intrusion 20 years back.

With lessons learnt, a lot has changed since then and the Indian Armed forces have better capabilities to detect enemy movements not just in Kargil but in all border areas of Pakistan and China, Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat said.

The two along with few other veterans were part of a discussion on the Kargil War to celebrate 20 years of the victory over Pakistan.

“We have revisited our capabilities to ensure such intrusions don’t happen. We have UAVs, air assets of the air force and other tactical means like quad copters for better surveillance today,” Gen Rawat said on the sidelines of the event in Delhi.

Other veterans including Gen Malik shared their experiences regarding the gaps and ground situation then.

“We lacked surveillance equipments and even helicopters were not capable of locating enemy locations. We were dependent on foot patrols”, he said.

He also added that there was a complete intelligence failure and the then Atal Bihari Vajpayee government’s instructions not to cross the LoC added to the challenges.

“I had to ask the Prime Minister not to speak about it (not crossing the LoC) in public and explained that in case we don’t achieve our targets fully we will have no option but to cross the Line of Control,” said Malik.

Malik said during the war he had often seen “long faces” in South Block but never encountered this in the forward areas. “My morale was not high when I was in South Block but when I met troops in forward areas it became high,” he added.

Speaking about other challenges on the ground, Malik said there was initially no assessment on what the Pakistan Army was doing and everyone thought they were Mujahideens or terrorists at high peaks.

“Even military formations on ground adopted anti-militancy operational tactics. This was the reason why we suffered high number of casualties initially,” he said.

He pointed out that there was a major shortage of weapons and equipment, particularly high altitude clothing.

“The fact that we overcame all these challenges was because of a blend of political, military and diplomatic leadership that got involved. We met 2-3 times a day,” he said.

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