Meeting Future Security Challenges
The Kargil War was not the first time when Pakistan initiated a war, and we must not assume that it would be the last time. India will remain vulnerable to such threats along its disputed borders unless it builds a credible will and capability to deter an
ASTRATEGICALLY CONSCIOUS NATION commemorates its historical national security events for three reasons: to remember and pay homage to those who sacrificed their lives for the nation’s future, to recall lessons that emerged from that event and to pledge for a safer and better future. When the nation celebrates the 13th anniversary of the Kargil War, it is an appropriate occasion to recall its important lessons and our capability to meet future security challenges.
The Kargil War can be remembered for its strategic and tactical surprise, the selfimposed national strategy of restraint keeping the war limited to the Kargil-Siachen sector, military strategy and planning, in keeping with the political mandate, and the dedication, determination and courage of our soldiers and junior leaders despite several deficiencies in weapons and equipment. In fiercely fought combat actions, on difficult terrain that gave immense advantage to the enemy holding mountain-tops, we were able to evict Pakistani troops from most of their surreptitiously occupied positions. Pakistani leadership was forced to sue for ceasefire and seek withdrawal of its troops from the remaining areas. Operation Vijay (code name for the war) was a blend of determined political, military and diplomatic actions, which enabled us to transform an adverse situation into a politicomilitary victory.
Several lessons emerged from the war, which required a holistic national security review as well as rethinking on the nature of conflict in the new strategic environment and conduct of wars. Some important lessons were: There may be remote chances of a fullscale conventional war between two nuclear weapon states but as long as there are territory-related disputes (currently we have them with China and Pakistan), the adversary can indulge in a proxy war, a limited border war, or both. Political reluctance in India to adopt a proactive strategy invariably leads us to a reactive military situation. Besides, no loss of territory is acceptable to the public and the political authority. It is, therefore, essential to have credible strategic and tactical intelligence and assessments, effective surveillance, and close defence of the border. Successful outcome of a border war depends upon our ability to react rapidly. The new strategic environment calls for faster decision-making, versatile combat organisations, rapid deployment and synergy amongst all elements involved in the war effort, particularly the three services. A conventional war may remain limited because of credible deterrence and escalation dominance. Such deterrence may prevent a war; it will also give more room for manoeuvre in diplomacy and conflict. A war in the new strategic environment requires close political oversight and politico-civil-military interaction. It is essential to keep the military leadership within the security and strategic decision-making loop. Information operations are important due to much greater transparency of the battlefield. The political requirement of a military operation and to retain moral high ground (and deny that to the adversary) needs a comprehensive media and information strategy. In the last 13 years, the armed forces have followed up on many of these lessons. The war had highlighted gross inadequacies in our surveillance capability. Some action has been taken to improve allweather surveillance and closer defence of border along the line of control (LoC). This capability along the line of actual control (LAC), however, has not improved to the desired level. Individual service and joint services doctrines have been revised. More Special Forces units have been added to the strength of each service.
Higher Defence Management
After the war, the government had carried out a National Security Review in 2002. The Security Review had recommended creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to provide a single-point military advice to the government and to resolve substantive inter-service doctrinal, planning, policy and operational issues. This is necessary because in India, turf wars, inter-service rivalries, bureaucratic delays and political vacillation in decision-making become major hurdles in defence planning which is tardy, competitive and thus uneconomical. Due to lack of political will and inter-service differences, this important recommendation was not implemented. Selective and cosmetic implementation of recommendations, without changing rules of business, has ensured a status quo in the higher defence control and its decision-making processes.
In the new strategic environment of unpredictability, enhanced interactivity and much faster planning and decision-making, a face to face politico-military dialogue and its continuity is critical to success in strategic and operational issues. Only that can enable the required synergy and optimise defence and operational planning. Unfortunately, our political leaders remain inhibited in discussing security and defence policy issues with military leaders directly. They feel more secure behind a bureaucratic curtain and advice. As a result they are not adequately conversant with military purposes, capabilities, constraints and effects; and military leadership in peacetime, when we have to do defence planning and prepare for war contingencies, remains out of the strategic decision-making loop. The national security framework is not in sync with the needs of new security challenges or healthy civil-military relations.
This realisation has made the government order yet another review under the Naresh Chandra Committee. If the recommendations of this Committee—now under study in the government—are processed and implemented in the same old manner, India would lose yet another opportunity to make its national security more effective.
Deficiencies in Weapons/Equipment and Modernisation
When the Kargil War broke out, our holdings and reserves of weapons, ammunition and equipment were in a depleted state due to continuous lack of budgetary support, tedious procurement system, and raising of units without sanctions for weapons and equipment. To the media, I had to say, “We will fight with whatever we have.”
It is evident from the letter written by the former Chief of Army Staff to the Prime Minister on March 12, 2012, that deficiencies in our war wastage reserves continue. He complained that the Army’s air defence weapon systems were obsolete, the infantry was deficient of crew served weapons and lacked night fighting capabilities, and its tank fleet was devoid of critical ammunition. He alleged that there was “hollowness in the procedures and processing time for procurements as well as legal impediments by vendors”. The government has failed to rectify this chronic problem which has dogged the nation for decades.
Modernisation of Indian armed forces continues to lag behind due to inadequate self-reliance, fear of scams and reluctance to procure essential equipment from abroad. Despite a large network of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) laboratories, ordnance factories and defence public sector undertakings, we continue to import 70 per cent of our weapons and equipment. The government desires that private sector invests in defence industry and obtains higher technology from abroad. But due to vested interest of the defence public sector undertakings and its bureaucratic control, it has failed to provide a level playing field to Indian and foreign private companies. The newly established Defence Acquisition Council and Procurement Board have been unable to speed up processes for development, acquisition and procurement.
Several lessons emerged from the war, which required a holistic national security review as well as rethinking on the nature of conflict in the new strategic environment and conduct of wars
A reflection on the Kargil War can never be complete without a mention of the brilliant junior leadership and morale that we witnessed during battles. There were countless acts of extraordinary valour, courage and grit to achieve what would have appeared impossible under normal circumstances. Commanding officers of many infantry battalions displayed steely resilience and singleminded devotion to duty. These legendry tales deserve mention not only in our military history books but also in the textbooks
General (Retd) V.P. Malik paying tribute to Kargil martyrs at Major Sandeep Shankla War Memorial at Panchkula