Kargil Crisis: Whose Failure?

15 Jun, 1999    ·   204

A. K. Verma, while conceeding that those who should not be complacent for a second was taken in by the mood of complacency elsewhere

The Pakistani adventure in Kargil has shocked the nation though the ceaseless activities of its ISI in India should have brought  home the point that nothing better could be expected. There has been a storm of allegations against the Government and Intelligence agencies. While the attack on Government falls within a routine pattern of the opposition parties and media, it becomes necessary to examine whether the failures are of intelligence or of a larger milieu that operates in the country.



Intelligence has to be differentiated from national security management. The basic function of intelligence is procurement of information. 90% of information which goes into intelligence assessment is obtained from open sources. For the remaining 10% the field is unimaginably wide; in this field there is much which will always remain unknowable. Intelligence cannot really be faulted  for not procuring what essentially lies in the area of unknowability.



How intelligence products will be used is not for the intelligence agencies to determine. A complex process comes into play at this stage which involves assessments, scrutiny of assessments, policy formulations and policy directions. If a failure occurs at any of the intermediate steps, nobody holds national policy management responsible: The blame is invariably placed at the doors of Intelligence.



The concept of national security management exists only in an embryonic form in our country. It has taken more than 50 years to set up a National Security Council and its supporting structures. This structure can only be called an experiment at the moment. It needs a great deal of refinement and incidents like Kargil will provide the experience leading to the right combinations. But until that happens national security management in India is likely to remain largely an adhoc exercise as it has been till now.



If that be the reality who is to be blamed if adhoc decisions go wrong or are found to be not serving the national interests? In the 50 years of our post independence history, all the major failures of policy in the national security arena can be directly ascribed to the adhoc nature of the decisions taken. Such decisions were hardly ever backed by data or carefully prepared policy papers, laying down the pros and cons of various options and likely fall out of policy decisions taken.



In recent times the decisions regarding Pokhran II and Lahore Bus Yatra were, in all probability, similarily taken. The Bus journey certainly signified that the Indian Government was ready to extend its hand for peace and tranquility in the subcontinent. But was there also an awareness that Nawaz Sharif was not the genuine article that some were taking him to be and that the real rulers of Pakistan had an unshakeable agenda which no hand of peace will be successful in denting.



This misreading of Pakistan is central to the Kargil adventure, and this has been going on for quite some time. Otherwise, how is the doctrine to be explained which is ready to grant unilateral concessions to a confirmed adversary without an insistence on reciprocity?



Intelligence has given a true and correct picture of Pakistan to all the policy makers and consumers of intelligence. And this picture indicates that the die-hards in Pakistan have no intention of changing their attitude towards India ; not now, not later. Even if a charitable view is taken of Nawaz Sharif's own preferences, the hope that he will be able to control the Armed Forces of Pakistan remains misplaced. More likely, Nawaz Sharif remains a prisoner of the prevailing psyche in Pakistan . The operations of the ISI in the country will not be called off. The Defense Establishment rules supreme in Pakistan on national security and nuclear issues.



An unending stream of intelligence has been provided about Islamic mercenaries and their plans for sabotage and subversion, not only in Kashmi,r but elsewhere in the country. Attention has also been drawn to the Taliban factor and the ramifications of its threat to Indian interests. In the light of such information, it was necessary to assess where they could or would strike. Was this exercise undertaken?



The Kargil sector had remained quiet for the past 27 years. Some stray bits of information had indicated a shift from the normal pattern of activity in the region. This required a deeper investigation through enquiries, patrols, surveillance and air surveys. Those who should not be complacent for a second were taken in by the mood of complacency elsewhere. And the nation awoke to this with a rude shock and has been paying a heavy price ever since.



Undoubtedly a great many reforms are needed in the security area and procedures for national security management. Not the least is to introduce accountability at every level. Let this not take as many years as it took to establish a National Security Council. Without such basic reforms the purposes of the Council are unlikely to be fulfilled.