2nd IPCS Round Table discussion on the Kargil Crisis

07 Jul, 1999    ·   219

Report of IPCS Seminar held on 2 July 1999

The seminar addressed the following five of the 12 issues that were delineated as being involved in analyzing the Kargil crisis.



1. China ’s stance on the issue.



2. End game scenarios in Kargil.



3. The estimated time frame for clearing the infiltrators.



4. The Role of the US and the G-8 nations.



5. Post facto assessments such as Indian intelligence failure etc.



See previous Round Table discussion on Kargil  for the other issues. The following is a summary of the views expressed.



The Chinese Stance



·                     The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman stated in Beijing on 1 July 99 that, "We sincerely hope that both India and Pakistan can earnestly respect the Line of Control in Kashmir .'' This is the first time since the crisis began that China has explicitly mentioned the LoC. A participant observed that Chinese neutrality on the issue favors India given the close Sino-Pakistan relations.


·                     The Chinese are very loyal to their friends and courteous diplomats. They would not want to let Pakistan down. That is why they waited for Nawaz Sharif to return home and then issued their statement. However they must have made their position clear to Pakistan in 1998 when similar hostilities occurred in Kargil. It is possible that the Chinese revealed this to Jaswant Singh during his Beijing visit as a confirmation of their neutrality.


·                     The idea of a Chinese “tilt” towards India is incorrect. Sino-Pakistan relations are not a zero sum game vis-à-vis India . Sino-Indian relations should be considered independent of Sino-Pak relations. China is keen to be perceived as a global player; going by its influencing the UN Security Council vote on weapons inspections in Iraq and stopping the appointment of Chris Patten as Euro Commissioner. China realizes India ’s importance and is “anxious” to have a cooperative relationship with it. It is wary of Islamic militancy in Xinjiang that can be fanned by fundamentalists in Pakistan . Also Chinese characterization of Kashmir as an issue with “ethnic, religious and territorial” dimensions, that must be handled by the countries concerned, reflects its own concerns about Tibet .


·                     The Chinese do not seek war with India , nor encourage militancy on its borders and do not want a situation in Kargil that facilitates international intervention, as in Kosovo. The PLA may have been used to soften the Pakistani Army. However, its inappropriate for Indians to judge whether China is with it or not; one has to appreciate that its sitting on the sidelines, but is not yet prepared to abandon Pakistan .


·                     Pakistan has realized that inter-military relations are very useful for cultivating the political elites. The army’s experience with the Pentagon has confirmed this. Presently, Sino-Pak military exchanges exist at most levels of the military hierarchy. Considerable “trust and warmth” exists in their military relationship and they share a mutual antipathy towards the Indian armed forces. There is an important need to develop Sino-Indian military relations. The Indian political leadership should be made aware of this need. Greater defense industrial cooperation between the two countries will help.


·                     China is concerned that the Pakistani military is genuinely not under civilian control. It must have also noticed that Pakistan has ignored Chinese advice in recent times. First during President Jiang Zemin’s visit to Islamabad in 1996, where he counseled Pakistan to put Kashmir on the back burner and seek a bilateral settlement. Sources suggest that the Chinese sent a letter to Sharif directing him not to conduct the tests after Pokhran-II, counseling him to gain the moral high ground and thereby avoid punitive American sanction linked to nuclear proliferation. China is keen to develop relations with India , evinced by its evenhanded statements advising both countries to rollback, refrain from weaponising and sign the NPT.


·                     China is realizing that while Pakistan is capable of fomenting Islamic militancy in Xinjiang, it is no longer an effective conduit for better relations with Islamic countries. China does not need Pakistan to build bridges with the Middle East as it did two decades ago. It has since forged ties with Iran and the Gulf States .


·                     Some participants referred to Chinese designs in South Asia . China has “subverted” the youth in Ladakh district through spread of the Chinese language. The extent of the knowledge of Chinese language among the Ladakhi youth is alarming. One responded by stating that it speaks less about Chinese subversion and more about the failure of Indian governance for 50 years in Ladakh.




End game scenarios in Kargil



Estimated time frame for clearing the infiltrators



·                     A participant felt that it was difficult to anticipate Kargil’s end game since India ’s power center i.e. the political leadership, does not interact with Pakistan ’s power center which happens to be the Army. In any case, the Indian army is hamstrung by the directive not to cross the LoC.


·                     Another participant pointed out that current projections of the time frame are based on the assumption that current force levels will remain the same in future. The terms of reference in battle keeps changing and hence may not be tailor-made for political and diplomatic expectations. Another pointed out that 60 percent of the positions occupied by the intruders have been evicted. However, Pakistan has recently moved a division from Peshawar to Skardu. Whether this has a defensive intent to preempt any Indian surge across the LoC or is meant for a fresh assault on Kargil is unclear. It could well be aimed at a last-ditch attempt to grab Siachen. Another pointed out that the Pak. Army has portrayed to the people that it controls Siachen and the latter believe the claim. The Kargil intrusion may be an attempt to seize Siachen before the people call the Army’s bluff. One must bear in mind the land-grabbing tactics by the Pakistanis when hostilities appear to be ceasing. Another asked why the time frame is discussed at all, and whether it is proper to put pressure on military commanders to speed up operations and thus risk casualties.


·                     In defense of discussing a time frame, participants stated that it is vital since the international community is anxious to see a resolution of the conflict between two nuclear weapons states. Also the current rate of Indian casualties means that the government is obliged to inform the citizens about the time-frame of the operations. The time frame is also important when considering the Army’s preparations for sustaining Ladakh and Siachen in winter. Others disagreed, saying that army convoys are proceeding undisturbed on the Srinagar-Leh highway in the night, albeit without headlights. The Leh-Manali road is also functional.


·                     A participant asked whether clearing the intruders involved merely the clearing of key heights and other strongholds or does it involve extensive combing operations. Participants from the Army stated that there was no need for combing operations once the strongholds are captured since the other areas are either indefensible or inaccessible for Pakistan .


Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan



·                     A participant suggested that an appraisal of the nature of the Pakistani State is important when prognosticating the end game in Kargil. Pakistan is not only a failing state with nuclear weapons but can also be called a “rogue state” since it has questioned the LoC which it took both the countries’ Army Headquarters 6 months to delineate and is envisaged by the Simla Agreement.


·                     On Sharif’s equation with the army, one observer felt that the Prime Minister has the necessary resilience to overcome the challenges from the army. Therefore, he still possesses the authority to be able to deal with India .


·                     A participant observed that the Pakistani focus is on “ Kashmir ” while India is referring to “Kargil” all the time. The significant difference is Pakistan is viewing it strategically while India perceives it tactically.


·                     Responding to the “failing state” hypothesis, an academic observed that Pakistan may be failing but it has a long way to go. One must expect the Army and Punjab in Pakistan to survive even if the country is faced with dismemberment. Sharif may appear at cross purposes with the Army, but he belongs to its power elite that is comprised of leading politicians, bureaucrats and army personnel who maintain strong inter-personal networks through inter-marriage. Sharif is thus likely to keep in close touch with the Army and is not likely to be caught in a surprise coup. He is much more “into the Army” than we think.




Role of the US



·                     Pakistan is no longer as relevant to American interests as in the past. India ’s significance is correspondingly increasing in American calculations. The strategic relevance of Pakistan for the US diminished after the Gulf War where American technology appeared to transcend geo-strategic landmass. Others disagreed saying that Pakistan is the only available conduit for influencing Central Asia . This was countered by the assertion that Americans “are in Central Asia in a big way anyway and they don’t need Pakistan for pursuing their interests.”


·                     A participant who had witnessed the recent US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on South Asia made the following observations: Going by the poor attendance at  the hearings, Washington is yet to accept the idea that India could counter China . However, there are stirrings to that effect especially after the Cox Committee revelations. The scope of the Indian market is beginning to play a significant role in determining American responses. The Mujahedin activities in the region clearly worrying the Americans because of its potential for encouraging international terrorism. They feel that diplomatically tilting towards India would be a good tactic when dealing with nuclear issues. The State Department official Gibson Lanpher sought to establish a workable crisis management system to tackle similar situations. Americans possibly expect the BJP to win the general elections and are generally bracing up to deal with them for the next 5 years.


Intelligence Failure?



·                     It is not so much the failure of intelligence but the inadequacy of national security management structure that has been highlighted in the Kargil crisis. Intelligence gathering involves assessment, followed by policy discussion, formulation and implementation. We have no national security management worth the name. And major initiatives by the government are not subject to national security evaluation. The May 1998 nuclear tests, the Lahore Bus diplomacy, Gujral Doctrine were all off-the-cuff personal decisions that were not backed by any national security assessment. There is no percolation of information into the national pool of intelligence. The National Security Council has been dormant and there has been no formalized input thus far from the National Security Advisory Board, which is lamentable.


·                     War history has revealed that intelligence failure is not uncommon. India has a reasonable grasp of estimative intelligence but predictive intelligence is found wanting as strategists hesitate to project their conclusions and suggest policy options.




Equipment Shortages



There was a consensus that India will have to take a closer at:



Ground intelligence



Air Reconnaissance



The efficacy of patrols



Better satellite images



Acquiring electronic, radar, thermal and ground sensors



India is particularly short of air reconnaissance capabilities, sensors and satellite imagery. Indian satellites provide images with 5.8-metre resolution. It needs 1-metre resolution for effectively profiling enemy locations. One wondered why the Indian army has not acquired ground sensors that can detect troop movements, a technology that has been available since Vietnam .



India needs to devise a coherent internal security policy as it seeks a solution to the Kargil crisis. Any bilateral moves such as converting the LoC into an international boundary will have to be taken by involving the Kashmiris in that process, without which any solution will be tenuous and unworkable in the final analysis.