On the Battle Front - Kargil: A month later -

25 Jun, 1999    ·   214

Maj. Gen. Ashok Krishna (Retd.) makes a candid assessment of the ground position in Kargil, one month after the crisis broke out. In addition to detailing the troop position and strength, he also points out the viable options before India and Pakistan

It is a month since the Indian Army commenced operations to evict the intruders from the Indian side of the LoC.  The first air strikes were launched in Dras and Kargil on May 26.  It is, therefore, time to review their progress.





IE Map/B.K.Sharma






Pakistan 's Force Commander Northern Areas (FCNA) has four brigades under him, one each in Gilgit and Skardu, and two deployed in  Minimarg and Dansam opposite the Indian brigade sectors of Gurez and Siachen respectively.  The GHQ reserve brigade at Rawalpindi has since gone forward to Skardu.



The existing area of operations extends to about 150 kms with Mushkoh Valley at the western end and Batalik-Chorbat La at the north eastern end.  Important heights were held in company and platoon strength in semi concrete fortifications, and the approaches to these guarded by groups of section or half-section strength in sangars.  Some 30 such positions were established.  Identifications reveal the presence of one brigade in the Batalik-Chorbat La area and another in the Mushkoh Valley-Dras-Kargil area. Each brigade comprises two battalions of the Northern Light Infantry (NLI), two companies of the Special Services Group (SSG) and two companies of Gilgit Scouts, along with 600-700 mercenaries.  A third brigade is kept in reserve.



Logistics and artillery build up for operations of this magnitude would have taken a minimum of one season - May to October 1998; whilst the development of roads, tracks and helipads would have been done  earlier as part of normal military activity.






The latest operational situation is as follows:



Batalik-Chorbat La.
  Pt 5203 and Chorbat La have been recaptured.  Operations are in progress to evict the adversary from  Jubar Hills, three ridges close to the LoC and the Shangruti feature - the most dominating height in the area.



(b) Kargil-Dras-Mushkoh Valley . The intruders have been evicted from Pt 5140 (which directly dominated the road to Leh) and the Tololing ridge.  The battle is raging in the Tiger Hill complex.  Two vital positions in the Mushkoh Valley are yet to be captured.



(c) Turtuk is located north of
Chorbat La.
  Pakistan had plans to infiltrate militants into this area to subvert the locals and initiate insurgency.  Timely action taken by Indian troops foiled their plan.  In subsequent stages, Pakistan was to have launched operations to occupy critical areas around Turtuk, followed by heliborne and airborne operations in rear areas and finally, to integrate these areas with Pakistan 's northern areas.  Success would have cut off Siachen and the bases supporting it.



Two Indian divisions and corps artillery are engaged in operations to evict the Pak forces from about 20 remaining positions.   Additional troops are being inducted, to achieve a 6:1 superiority and build permanent defences in the areas recaptured.






Strategic policy is a blend of aims and capabilities.  Pakistan 's strategic and diplomatic purpose was to internationalise the Kashmir issue which has happened, but, not to her advantage.  Tactically and geo-strategically she had thought that by occupying important heights, choking the road to Leh and by turning Indian defences she would inflict a demoralising reverse on the Indian Army; and by gaining  ground she would erode  the concept of LoC and the Shimla Agreement.  Thus emboldened, she would be able to repeat her tactics elsewhere in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and combine aggression with large scale infiltration.  She failed, because India responded firmly and quickly and with air power; her capabilities could not  match her dreams.






The Indian Army has only one option: to throw out the intruders at the earliest but not later than the onset of winter, thereafter the opponent will be hard to dislodge.  If this were not to happen, then there would be the temptation and pressure to cross the LoC and do a tit for tat in the same or some other sector of J&K.



Pakistan has several courses open to her: the easiest being to restore the status quo ante; but this would cause loss of face.  The other would be to carry out a fighting withdrawal whilst highlighting Indian Army casualties and disruption caused.  For the present, she has decided to fight, reinforce and launch local counter attacks.  In any event, infiltration will be intensified in J&K.



The enlargement of the conflict beyond J&K is unlikely due to the advent of the monsoon.  The possibility of the nuclear option is remote in view of its international consequences; however, when dealing with a rogue state, it cannot be precluded in a desperate situation.