Can We Allow Another ‘Kargil’?

"Nearly two dozen soldiers were literally butchered by Chinese. How many Chinese we killed, is of no consequence because that does not bring back Indian lives lost unnecessarily. At best we took revenge if that is of any consequence."

Can We Allow Another ‘Kargil’?

Kargil war of 1999 has been the fiercest unwanted battle in the most inhospitable terrain that had to be fought and won at all costs merely because ‘someone failed to do his routine task of Reconnaissance and Patrolling. Nearly 500 brave hearts lost their lives for nothing. Thousands injured and more than few maimed for life.

We formed the Kargil Review Committee, which had no Indian Air Force and Indian Navy members. Three civilians and one Indian Army Officer as members decided what was best for Indian Military. No wonder then that we had yet another ‘Kargil’ 20 years later in Ladakh region, infamously called the ‘Galwan Valley Conflict’. Nearly two dozen soldiers were literally butchered by Chinese. How many Chinese we killed, is of no consequence because that does not bring back Indian lives lost unnecessarily. At best we took revenge if that is of any consequence.

So much has been written and talked about Kargil of 1999 and Galwan of 2020 that it is totally needless to mention the dates and stats. No committee is required to be set up to find the root cause of such repeated misadventures by China and Pakistan. The causes are staring at our faces.

We simply do not do the basics. ‘Human Intelligence’, the most important form of intelligence gathering, has been consigned to dust. We are blind and deaf to see and realize what and how Israel continues to survive in the most hostile environment on the strength of HUMINT supported by other forms of Recce. With drones available to all and sundry, including Delhi Police to monitor the traffic snarls, why can't the military employ drones for recce on daily, may be hourly basis, if required.

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In the inhospitable terrains, where walking for an ordinary person is difficult, we have repeatedly faced situations, wherein we have to force our brave hearts to fight to destroy the unauthorized constructions viz concrete bunkers in Kargil and huge structures erected in numerous pockets of conflict in Ladakh, be it in Galwan Valley, Finger Area, North Bank of Pyongyang Tso. It happened because of a total lack of intelligence gathering, collation and transmission to frontline formations in spite of our dedicated defence satellites. These structures were built over weeks/months, maybe years when we were playing ‘shut eye’ games in the offices of intelligence agencies.

I am nearly certain that no one will be held accountable/responsible for the most recent ‘Kargil’. In my view the accountability rests with the former Chief of Army Staff (now Chief of Defence Staff), General Bipin Rawat, the National Security Advisor and Corps Commander, 14 Corps (during whose tenure the crisis took place). Merely finding a Brigadier and fixing him for the lapse will be of little or no consequence as we did in case of Kargil.

Fixing genuine responsibility and accountability is our inherent weakness. But can we resort to and adopt ‘regular and continuous recce of our forward areas, especially in treacherous terrain? If we do not, let us be prepared for many more ‘Kargils’ and ‘Galwan bloodshed’. I pay my tribute to brave hearts, who lost their lives in Kargil in 1999 and Ladakh region in 2020. As a soldier my message to the Military will be to follow the precept of ‘trust and mutual dependence’ with ‘sister’ services and win. We cannot afford any more ‘Kargils’.

About the Author

Gp Capt. Tej Prakash Srivastava has served in Iraq and is a graduate of both DSSC and AWC. He was Directing Staff at DSSC and Chief Instructor at College of Air Warfare. He Served at Air HQ, commanded a MiG-21 Sqn and headed the IAF establishment of Strike Corps during 'Operation Parakram'. He has authored a book titled 'Profligate Governance – Implications for National Security'. He has written extensively on international and strategic affairs and Defence Procurement Procedures. The IAF officer graduated from the NDA in June 1970 and trained at AFA with 107th Pilots Course. He can be reached at Email: [email protected]

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