The Subrahmanyam Committee on Kargil

12 Sep, 1999    ·   259

Bhashyam Kasturi elaborates what the committee should look into

The four member committee set up by the government to review the events leading up to Kargil headed by noted defence analysts and convenor of the National Security Council Advisory Board K. Subrahmanyam must consider the following military aspects while examining the intrusions.



·                     Military command and control and its failure to anticipate the Kargil intrusions; improper threat appreciation. 




·                     Acquisition of equipment and weapons for the military.




·                     Systemic intelligence problems; at the level of the information gathering agency and at the decision making level where information is processed for taking policy decisions.




The main issue is Command and Control failure. Why was the army unable to hold this "unheld territory." Undoubtedly, it was difficult terrain and required more than just foot patrols to locate intrusions. But it is not as though intrusions were taking place in this region for the first time. Pakistan had captured Kaksar in 1988 and we lost 30-40 soldiers to recover it. In 1988, Pakistan tried to infiltrate some 200-250 men into the region. Therefore, apart from the immediate intelligence that may not have been available, it was necessary to see the long-term view. This was not done.



Within the military establishment the Corps, Division and Brigade commander are the main leaders on whom responsibility for the Kargil intrusions must lie. For it was in their area that Pakistan launched "attack by infiltration." Recent media reports of the Unified HQ meeting of May 19, in which the Corps Commander is said to have given a very general picture of the situation suggests that the army was either not aware of or played down the scale of the intrusions.



That apart, the very fact that it took two weeks after May 6 for the establishment to find out the scale and depth of the intrusion is evidence of the military's failure. There is another point here. According to some reports intelligence was provided to the Army of 200-300 men being trained in Skardu for possible infiltration. The army knew they could not be meant for operations in the Valley as it was too far. There is little doubt that the Indian military establishment was so busy fighting insurgency in the Valley that it forgot the defense of Ladakh and Kargil, which could be threatened by both Pakistan and China . This sense of complacency arose because the army had spent a decade fighting insurgency in the Valley and did not cater for intrusion as opposed to infiltration.



The Committee might like to dwell also on future LoC management. Reports suggest that a new Corps XIV will be raised to look after Kargil. Is this sufficient? This is unlikely given the Pak bent of mind to continue infiltration all over Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India, particularly the North-East. The fact remains that sending in more troops is possibly the only thing that India can do, but this will not stop Pakistan from engaging in cross-border terrorism as their aim in the proxy war is to tie down army concentrations. 



Intelligence on the military side has also to be more focused. What Kargil shows is that it is not sufficient to be aware of the enemy's capabilities but also his intentions. This can be done at the military level only if the armed forces have a single source intelligence assessment center. An intelligence assessment center, perhaps under the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff would provide the assessments to make tactical deployment and strategic engagement more meaningful in future. 



The other military aspect is that of acquisition of equipment and weapons. During Kargil, the Prime Minister reportedly sanctioned Rs. 250 crores to the armed forces to buy equipment quickly. Then there is the famous story of the 50,000 snow boots purchased by Pakistan . All this points to the fact that DRDO-military relations are not synergetic and it is unable to deliver the needs of the armed forces on the basis of their qualitative requirements.



It might be in order for the Committee to recommend privatization of production of essential life-saving clothing and equipment, such as glacier clothing, gloves and snow boots. This will save precious time in term of QR's being met. The question must be raised as to why after 50 years of R&D, the DRDO is unable to provide the armed forces with pair of snow boots of international standard. 



The Committee would do well to recommend to the Defence Ministry and Services HQS that procurement procedures are simplified. As post-Kargil acquisitions show, this is possible, if the will prevails. Budgetary allocations to defence should obviously be more meaningful; additionally they must also ensure that the returns are worthwhile. This is important, for 65-70% of allocations are committed to manpower related costs.