Certified Truth' About Kargil, Told to Bail Out the Pakistan Army
DO INDIANS and Pakistanis find it so difficult to face the truths
about their past and their present misdoings?
battles in Siachin (1984) and Kargil (1999) each inspired a propaganda
barrage, which was demeaning. We rightly criticize reports by
"embedded" correspondents during the Iraq war. But Sankarshan
Thakur and other contributors to Guns and Yellow Roses: Essays
on the Kargil War recorded how the media failed the nation,
official obstruction apart. Pamela Constable of The Washington
Post angrily contrasted facilities she had enjoyed in other
war zones. "Here,
however, I was trying to cover a conflict I could neither see
censured the press. "The country's leading newspapers and
magazines embarked on an unabashedly pro-government campaign to
out do each other in sensational and sentimental coverage of the
war." Others recorded how stories of mutilation of corpses
by Indian troops were "killed".
Daniel Lak of the BBC commented on
the television's disgraceful performance. "Colleagues have
even told me of TV news editorial meetings where senior people
ordered the injection of more fervent nationalist points of view
into correspondent's frontline reports."
this writer recalled, former Foreign Secretary J.N. Dixit repeatedly
contradicted himself on P.V. Narasimha Rao's wrecking of an accord
on Siachin in November 1992. Lt. Gen. V.R. Raghavan, who served
as Director-General of Military Operations until 1992, could not
bring himself to acknowledge the facts available in records and
even misrepresented a press release ("The Siachin impasse",
Frontline, September 22, 2002).
long we did not have a comprehensive Pakistani version of Kargil.
We have one now by none other than the Director-General of Institute
of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, Shireen M. Mazari, one of Pakistan's
most distinguished commentators on strategic and diplomatic affairs.
While Raghavan's book covers the Siachin conflict only to end with
Kargil, Shireen Mazari's discussion of the Kargil conflict begins
effort is intended very largely to convince Pakistan's skeptical
intelligentsia on three points. First, that Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif was very much "in the loop" on Kargil. He had
been thoroughly briefed by the Chief of the Army Staff, General
Pervez Musharraf. Secondly, the Kargil operation was necessary
and legitimate. Thirdly, it was not a military failure but was
botched up by Sharif's panicky visit to President Bill Clinton
on July 4, 1999. Shireen succeeds in the first and fails on the
The last but one paragraph of the
book reveals her aim. "Another damaging result of Kargil
has been use of the Pakistan military as a scapegoat not only
by the Indians and American analysts, but also by elements within
Pakistan's political elite and civil society. There is an increasing
attempt to undermine the institution of the military and place
it at odds with civil society and myths about Kargil continue
to be bolstered to that end."
book has a useful chronology (March 1998-June 2003) of India-Pakistan
relations, painstakingly compiled by Fahmida Ashraf, Senior Research
Fellow at the Institute, and other informative appendices.
author acknowledges: "This book would not have been possible
without the help and support of many people - both professionally
and emotively. To begin with, the idea would not have moved to
fulfillment without the support given by President Musharraf to
the idea of access to all manner of data and information. Given
the tradition of secrecy within the civil and military bureaucracy
of Pakistan, this approach was a tremendous breakthrough for a
researcher... . The Monterey's Kargil Project people provided
the initial stimulus through their bias embedded within their
guise of an `objective' appraisal."
is a reference to the Kargil Project of the Center for Contemporary
Conflict, Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, which held conferences
in which former officials of India and Pakistan participated.
They included General V.P. Malik, COAS during the Kargil conflict,
and Mushahid Hussain, Minister for Information in the Nawaz Sharif
Cabinet. The second conference was held in New Delhi in September
2002. This year the Government of India refused to permit Pugwash
to hold a meeting in Goa in October on security issues.
The author adds: "The military
hierarchy in Pakistan conceded to my request for data and access
to interviews to try and understand what Kargil was really all
about... . The present access to data provided to me has been
the result of consistent requests and discussions at different
levels of the military hierarchy. The methodology used is premised
on interviews, military documents/reports as well as open literature
on the subject. The focus of the study is limited primarily to
understanding the military aspects of Kargil and its political
dimension. The political aspects were partially known to me since
I was part of the media team working with the Minister of Information
at the time of Kargil... In any case, in my view, it is the military
aspects that are of prime interest and concern for this study,
especially since most of the misperceptions relate to these"
(emphasis added, throughout). In any case, Sharif's Cabinet was
not in the know.
blames the Center for Contemporary Conflict's Kargil Project for
misperceptions of Pakistan's policy. "Further misperceptions
were created about Kargil when an unofficial, conjectural version
of Pakistan's Kargil position was published by a retired Army
official, who at the time had his own axe to grind with the military
government in Pakistan." This is a reference to Brigadier
Shaukat Qadir's article "An Analysis of Kargil" in RUSI
Journal (April 2002). He was a participant in the Monterey Conference.
us begin at the beginning. "Under the Karachi Agreement it
was clear (sic) that Siachin Glacier formed part of Baltistan in
the Northern Areas of Pakistan." She does not, however, cite
the provision of the India-Pakistan Agreement, signed in Karachi
on July 27, 1949, defining the ceasefire line in Kashmir, which
made this "clear". It said simply that the line would
follow from the last point "thence north to the glaciers".
It was never demarcated. Not even after the Suchetgarh agreement
of December 11, 1972, defining the present line of control. The
next day Swaran Singh, Minister for External Affairs, revealed
its details. The line was to run "eastward joining the glaciers".
However, the agreement itself said it must run "thence north
to the glaciers".
asserts: "Even Indian writers like P.L. Lakhanpal conceded
this position when he included Owen Dixon's report to the U.N.
in 1950 in his book Essential Documents and Notes on the Kashmir
Dispute. Dixon had, in his report, pointed out that Siachin Glacier
fell within Pakistan's Northern Areas. When Pakistan signed its
border agreement with China in 1963, the alignment of the ceasefire
line was seen as linking NJ 9842 with the Karakoram Pass - a distance
of 91.3 kilometers."
the three assertions are belied by the record. First, if the United
Nations Mediator Sir Owen Dixon's report had, indeed, treated
Siachin as part of the Northern Areas, the Government of Pakistan
would have proclaimed that from 1984 onwards no sooner the Siachin
conflict erupted. If he did not, Lakhanpal's inclusion of the
report in his compilation is no concession at all. Lakhanpal did
not reproduce the report in full; only its concluding portion
(paras 95 to 108; Essential Documents; International Publications,
New Delhi, 1958; pages 220-224).
are, however, two excellent compilations, both published in Pakistan,
which reproduce the report in full. One is The Kashmir Question
edited by K. Sarwar Hasan for the Pakistan Institute of International
Affairs (1966) and the other by the Government of Pakistan, which
publishes all the three reports of the U.N. Commission for India
and Pakistan and mediators from Gen. A.G.L. McNaughton (1949)
to Gunnar Jarring (1957) and Frank Graham (1958).
There is not a line in the Dixon report to support the author's
claim. Secondly, maps drawn unilaterally help little, as India
realised in its boundary dispute with China. The Information Division
of Pakistan Embassy in Pakistan published in 1963 a map of Kashmir,
which correctly showed the ceasefire line as terminating at NJ
9842. It did not stretch 91.3 km away to the Karakoram Pass in
was a no-man's land, which both sides had been reconnoitering.
Lt. Gen. Jahan Dad Khan, Commander 10 Corps reproduces in his
memoirs Pakistan Leadership Challenges (Oxford University Press,
1999; page 226) his assessment to the GHQ in 1983 that "next
year India is most likely to pre-empt the occupation of the main
passes of Baltoro Ridge". India reached there before Pakistan
could. Confidence was in short supply between Indira Gandhi and
Else, an accord on preservation of the status quo ante could have
been reached. As Col. (retd) Pavan Nair writes: "The genesis
of the Kargil intrusion lies in the Siachin or rather Saltore occupation
which upped the ante and was a clear violation of the Simla Agreement
in letter and spirit. Mrs. Gandhi, the architect of the agreement,
would have known this but she took the decision in the national
interest based on incorrect military advice." He also holds:
"Let China keep the Shaksgam Valley - it was never in our
was a reckless retaliation. Three factors were at work - Siachin,
India's reversal in 1998 of the decade-old agreed principle of
mutual withdrawal from Siachin and Pakistan's desire to punish
India for blocking its road in the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir,
across the Kishenganga river (Neelam to them) by constant bombardment.
The then Foreign Minister Sartaz Aziz, a gentleman to his fingertips,
emphasized the last factor in an interview to this writer in January
2002 in Islamabad (vide the writer's article "The truth about
the Lahore summit", Frontline, March 1, 2002). "What
was the origin of the Kargil conflict?" He replied "nobody"
knows and proceeded to cite the Neelam Valley factor.
was a grave miscalculation. Unlike Siachin, there was a defined
LoC in Kargil. The year 1999 was election year in India. The successful
summit in Lahore in February 1999 invested the adventure with
the element of deceit. India's response took Pakistan by surprise,
as did foreign reaction. "The international attention focused
on the Kargil conflict took Pakistan by surprise - especially
since Pakistan saw it as yet another tactical operational exchange
similar to others along the LoC, but which incrementally escalated
as a result of India raising the military, political and diplomatic
ante. The former happened when India introduced Bofors guns and
the Indian Air Force, and the diplomatic ante was upped by India
claiming that it had been betrayed in the wake of Vajpayee's visit
to Lahore in February 1999. The United States and its European
allies also portrayed Kargil as a dangerous `adventure' on the
part of Pakistan, given the nuclearization of the region."
Mazari does a service by exposing two lies - one by Benazir Bhutto
and the other by Nawaz Sharif - and an American boast. Benazir
claimed, characteristically, that she had rejected such a plan
by the Army when she was Prime Minister. General Jehangir Karamat,
the COAS, refuted her. "In a telephonic on-the-record interview
in February 2003, he emphatically declared that he had never been
presented with a 'Kargil Plan'. According to him, what had happened
was that in 1997, with the interdiction of the Neelam Valley Road
by India, the Pakistan Army 'had looked at all the possibilities
of putting pressure on India and it was felt that the best place
to respond to the Neelam Valley Road interdiction was along the
Dras-Kargil Road with direct and indirect fire, which we did.
For the direct fire we had to move weapon systems, and so on,
and make the required adjustments, which we made'." It is
a sound rule never to accept even the opposite of what Benazir
says to be true.
Sharif's denial of his role in the affair, if true, reveals his
own unfitness to be Prime Minister. "He received a number
of briefings relating to developments along the LoC in 1999, beginning
with a briefing in Skardu on January 29, and one in Kel on February
5, which specifically related to the interdiction taking place
in that sector from the Indian side of the LoC.
The ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] gave him a briefing on March
12, 1999, while the Military Operations (MO) Directorate at GHQ
gave him briefings on May 17, 1999, June 2, 1999, and June 22,
1999. On July 2, 1999, there was a meeting of the Defence Committee
of the Cabinet (DCC) where a briefing was given on Kargil by the
Chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force. A further meeting was
scheduled for July 5, 1999. So it is clear that, as Prime Minister,
Nawaz Sharif was very much in the decision-making loop regarding
on the afternoon of July 3, 1999, Sharif and Clinton spoke on
the phone and only two other people were present at the time -
Cabinet member Chaudhry Nisar and Chief Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz
Sharif (the Prime Minister's brother). It is after this exchange
between Clinton and Sharif that Sharif made his dash to Washington."
brings us to an essay on "American diplomacy and the
1999 Kargil Summit at Blair House" by Bruce Riedel,
Clinton's Special Assistant for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
in the National Security Council. This shrill account of the Clinton-Sharif
encounter has Riedel as an important participant but reveals him
as one ignorant of South Asian realities.
He wrote of "disturbing evidence
that the Pakistanis were preparing their nuclear arsenals for
possible deployment" on July 3. The next day, "there
was more disturbing information about Pakistan preparing its nuclear
arsenal for possible use. I recommended that he (Clinton) use
this only when Sharif was without his aides." Riedel would
have us believe that Clinton asked Sharif whether he ordered "the
Pakistani nuclear missile force to prepare for action."
no such orders had been given, Riedel's account of the encounter
would stand exposed as a figment of his imagination. Exposed as
false it has been by an impeccable source, Gen. Malik. "The
only canard debunked at the time of the Monterey Conference in
May 2002, was the assertion central to Riedel's thesis. First,
Mushahid Hussain, who had been Pakistan's Minister for Information
at the time of Kargil, denied Pakistan ever having readied its
nuclear-tipped missiles for action at the time of Kargil.
was followed by the statement of General V.P. Malik, who was the
Chief of the Indian Army at the time of Kargil, that there was
no truth in the Riedel assertion of Pakistan readying for a nuclear
fight. As he declared, if there had been any such development,
the US would have informed India and that India's own intelligence
would have also picked it up." Significantly, Riedel's essay
was published when India-Pakistan tensions were at an all-time
was among those Dennis Kux interviewed for his book The United
States and Pakistan 1947-2000. His account of the Clinton-Sharif
talks does not mention Riedel's "nuclear arsenal" (page
The core of Mazari's thesis is that
since the Simla Pact India had been violating the LoC and planning
something bigger still. Prime Minister Vajpayee's visit to Lahore
in February 1999 was "a camouflage to military plans in the
making". Even Pakistani officials never made this charge.
The Kashmiri mujahideens' role is woven in.
There was in Islamabad such a steady
flow of official denials of the Army's role that a noted Pakistani
defence specialist could not help asking why the Director-General
of the Inter-Services Press Department, the Foreign Office spokesman
and the Minister for Information briefed the press since the Army
was not involved in the affair but only the Kashmiri "mujahideens".
Now the Army's role, long denied,
emerges to the fore. "As the intelligence assessments about
the suspicious movements of the Indian military in the late 1998-early
1999 period, started looking more credible, the high command of
the Pakistan Army asked FCNA (Force Command Northern Areas) to
evolve a plan to deny the Indians any adventurism/incursions along
the LoC... Having been alerted to intensified Indian moves in
the Shaqma Sector, HQ 10 Corps, on instructions from the Military
Operations (MO) Directorate, directed FCNA to carry out a realistic
assessment of the situation and to take defence measures in order
to forestall Indian designs and avoid being caught off-guard.
FCNA planned a defensive action with integral troops... . The
operation was undertaken at the end of March 1999 after confirmation
of Indian designs." Why did Sharif not complain to Vajpayee
about Indian troop movements?
was no grand design, Mazari repeatedly asserts. "The use
of Northern Light Infantry clearly showed that the Kargil operation
was seen by the Pakistani military planners simply as a tactical
operation to pre-empt further Indian adventurism in the Dras-Kargil
sector. Hence the occupation by the NLI of the watershed along
the LoC. However, given the nature of the terrain, the possibility
of some of the NLI troops crossing the LoC, albeit at shallow
depths (500-1000 meters) cannot be ruled out." The delicacy
evidently did not reckon with India's diplomatic and military
responses as it ought to have, realistically. No Indian government
could possibly have acquiesced in Pakistan's adventure. She claims
that India's "raising of the military ante in Kargil created
a major imbalance for India in terms of its overall position along
the international border with Pakistan, which prevented India
from opening an all-out war front. India also inducted air and
aviation into the combat but could not get a decisive military
the same time, Pakistan's intent of keeping the Kargil operation
limited was reflected in the fact that Pakistan did not respond
to the use of the IAF by calling in the PAF... one of the problems
that worked to Pakistan's disadvantage was that it got sucked
incrementally into a larger military operation by India with the
latter's induction of reinforcements, the Bofors guns and use
of the IAF. Pakistan had not anticipated this since its objective
was simply to pre-empt suspected Indian military actions along
the LoC. In any case, from the Pakistani perspective, no grand
strategic Kargil plan was envisaged... ."
realizes that "once India had amassed its forces along the
LoC and because of political miscalculations, or lack of calculations
by Pakistan, the whole Kargil episode was turned into a politico-diplomatic
victory for India."
On one point Mazari deserves credit.
She fairly recalls that on June 26, 1999, Pervez Musharraf publicly
"referred to the possibility of a Nawaz-Clinton meeting on
Kashmir". This was three days after he had met Gen. Zinni,
Commander-in-Chief of the US CENTCOM. "According to military
sources, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had, before leaving for Washington,
already directly communicated to the military leadership to begin
withdrawal from some of the forward posts, showing that he had
already had some communication with the Clinton administration
- the content of which was not revealed to any Cabinet member
or military leader." Only once, on June 3, was Kargil discussed
at a Cabinet meeting, Mushahid Hussain disclosed.
Mazari claims that there was a military
stalemate and India was desperately looking for "a face-saving
third party intervention against Pakistan". The author's
conclusion is simple. Nawaz Sharif panicked though he had the
upper hand. "The Cabinet was not informed of the dash to
Washington - let alone be consulted. This has been verified from
many sources, including Information Minister Mushahid Hussain...
in discussions with some of the other members of the Cabinet at
the time, it was clear that, barring one or two members of the
Prime Minister's kitchen cabinet, no one was informed and certainly
no one was consulted...
this connection, in a meeting with COAS, General Musharraf, in
September 1999, I had asked him whether he had known what was
going to happen in Washington and he stated that all he was told
was to come to the airport as the Prime Minister was going to
Washington, and so all he could say to him was to get the best
deal possible. As one who had openly critiqued the Washington
deal, I asked General Musharraf why he went along with it so wholeheartedly
- as he seemed to do when he accepted an invitation to accompany
Sharif for Umra soon after his return - as it did Pakistan's image
much damage militarily and politically, with no gains at all?
General Musharraf simply stated that he did not want people to
start rumors of civil-military differences, given how tense and
critical the situation remained."
According to the author, Sharif snatched
defeat from the jaws of victory. "Had the Kargil tactical
operation been allowed to sustain itself for a few more weeks
(till the end of August 1999) most military analysts I spoke to
felt it would have led to a Pakistan-India dialogue - if Sharif
had not dashed to Washington and given in to US pressure. After
that, the NLI suffered heavy losses in the withdrawal and India
got a green light to commit all manner of aggression against Pakistan...
The Army is exonerated completely.
The blame is put on Sharif exclusively. "By the end of May
1999, there was a total disconnect between the political government
and the strategic planners, as a result of which no offensive
formations were moved to the front which sent a clear signal to
the Indians that Pakistan was in no mood to fight a war."
Her only consolation is that Kargil
proved that "Pakistan could sustain a limited military encounter
in conventional terms in the face of India raising the conventional
ante, and still prevent India from opening an all-out war front
along the international border". Were India to take steps
to redress this, Pakistan would surely act to perpetuate its advantage.
However, a suicidal arms race is on, any way.
Mazari has not a word about the famous
Musharraf-Aziz tapes of May 26. The text of the transcript of
their phone conversation is reproduced as one of the useful appendices
to the collection of able essays edited by Maj. Gen. Ashok Krishna
and P.R. Chari. They provide a good corrective to the Mazari thesis.
The chapter containing their conclusions
rejects conventional wisdom: "Realism would also suggest
that India be pragmatic and not make a fetish of bilateralism
in conducting its foreign relations with Pakistan in the light
of its Kargil experience. The results are important, not the modality.
Not that India has been consistent about shunning mediation. It
accepted the World Bank's intervention to arbitrate the Indus
Waters Treaty (1960), and Soviet mediation to conclude the Tashkent
Agreement (1966). India itself helped in mediating the Partial
Test Ban Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union
in 1963, so its obsession with bilateralism being the cornerstone
of its foreign relations with Pakistan is excessive."
They squarely pose the question whether
Pokhran II deterred Pakistan from the Kargil venture and answer
it in the negative. If anything, "India found itself deterred
in crossing the LoC to attack Pakistan's operational bases in
Maj. Gen. Ashok Kalyan Verma's thesis
is a mirror image of Mazari's - the politicians lost at the conference
table what the Army won on the battlefield. It is simplistic to
the core but is widely shared by many of our journalists and former
diplomats and soldiers.
was not Pakistan's fourth war on Kashmir as some of our writers
claim. A fair assessment of the episode is made in Colonel Brian
Cloughley's excellent book A History of the Pakistan Army
(Oxford University Press, Karachi; pages 435, Rs.500). He was
Deputy Chief of the U.N. Military Observers Group in Kashmir.
"The illegal incursion into Indian-administered Kashmir in
early 1999, undetected by Indian forces until 6 May, was an aberration
on the part of Pakistan. The aim of the operation has not been
enunciated, and it is doubtful if it will be ever revealed - perhaps
because the whole affair just seemed a good idea at the time,
and got out of hand.
"Analysis of the logistics of
the incursion has drawn western observers to the conclusion that
planning and preliminary operations began during winter 1998/99,
with movement of mujahideen from camps in Afghanistan for further
training by the Northern Light Infantry around Skardu, and considerable
movement by the NLI and other Pakistan Army troops in the areas
of Astore, Skardu, the Deosai Plains, and forward to the Line
of Control (LoC).
"I have walked and climbed in
the precise areas in which movement across the LoC took place,
in the course of a two-week visit to 3 NLI, based at Gultari in
the Shingo Valley... Although the line is not marked on the ground
it is described fully in a document dated 11 December 1972 and
soldiers would find little difficulty in establishing where it
runs vis-a-vis map and ground. It is incorrect to claim that the
line is indistinct. There can be no plausible claim made that
the intrusion was in some manner justified because there is dubiety
or confusion as to the line's location."
Shireen Mazari's book is an extremely useful exposition of the
Pakistani viewpoint, one can only regret that she allowed patriotic
fervor to override the claims of objectivity.- Courtesy 'Frontline'
Kargil Conflict 1999: Separating Fact from Fiction by Shireen
M. Mazari, The Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad; pages