Kargil stands as perhaps the final military effort on Pakistan’s part to settle the Kashmir dispute by military means.
Analysis has mostly centered around political aspects of the operation while the military aspects have been largely left to the imagination of the public. Lately it has been claimed that Kargil was launched to bail out Mujahideen as a last resort ! This is an insult to the memory of the Pakistani armed forces “Volunteers” who died in that Himalayan wasteland without a funeral and in circumstances of unimaginable misery !
Kargil operation cannot be understood unless the personalities and motives of the principal characters are examined ! Every action in history is the final culmination of a personality’s self perception, ambition and subconscious as well as conscious urges.
In this context the Kargil operation was born out of two key factors ! One was the personality of general Pervez Musharraf and the second was the un–ceremonial manner in which Nawaz Sharif ousted General Jahangir Karamat Musharraf’s predecessor army chief of Pakistan Army.
Musharraf as those who have served with him know which includes this scribe also has always been an intensely ambitious man ! One hallmark of his personality is that he wants to stand out as a great military commander ! Propelled by an enormous ego wherever he served he endeavored to do something extraordinary ! However fate did not allow him the glory in battle which his other course–mates like shabbir sharif achieved ! In 1965 Musharraf was a subaltern in an artillery unit which saw little action apart from supporting operations by indirect fire ! The 16 SP unlike 3 SP which fired on Indian tanks with direct gun–sights at Chawinda stayed in conventional artillery role ! In 1971 Musharraf‘s commando company was not involved in action ! Nevertheless Musharraf compensated for this lack of combat laurels by achieving laurels in army courses and in various command assignments ! His final opportunity came when he ascended to the post of army chief in a situation when the army was! in a subservient position vis-é-vis the civilian head of state , something which was regarded by the military hierarchy as worse than blasphemy !
The forced retirement of General Karamat by prime minister Nawaz Sharif was regarded as a personal defeat by the Pakistani military brass and by Musharraf who felt that he would be a far weaker army chief under a strong prime minister who had asserted civilian control over the military machine !
These two factors were the fathers of the Kargil operation ! Ambition accompanied by a perception that the Pakistani public must be convinced that the soldiers were better than politicians.
Kargil at the military level was the brainchild of three men i.e. General Musharraf the army chief, Aziz the then army Chief of general Staff and Mahmud the then corps commander 10 Corps ! Musharraf and Mahmud were motivated by intense ambition to achieve military glory and Aziz was motivated by his Kashmiri ancestry plus military ambition. The person they selected to execute the operation was again one distinguished by out of proportion ambition i.e. Major General Javed Hassan , author of a book in 1990s that claimed that India was on its way to disintegration and in which moughal king Humayun was resurrected from the grave to fight at Second Battle of Panipat !
In November December 1998 just one month after Musharraf’s elevation to the post of army chief volunteers were asked for at the army level for an operation in Kashmir ! Many thousand volunteered including both officers and men from various units !
At no stage did any Mujahideen enter Kargil ! This is a piece of fiction and has no veracity !
These were attached to NLI units in the 80 Brigade sector for training. The principal idea of the plan was to infiltrate four battalions of NLI (Northern light Infantry) stationed in 80 Brigade Sector into Kargil Heights overlooking and dominating the Srinagar Ladakh road the lone Indian link with the Siachen and Leh Sectors ! The idea being to cut the lifeline of Indian supplies to Leh and Siachen Sectors ! Indian held heights in Kargil were to be occupied in February 1999 while Indian infantry had abandoned these heights at the approach of winter snow as an annual routine since 1948.In occupying the heights no fighting was involved ! The real issue was that of supplying Pakistani troops holding these heights which was far more difficult from the Pakistani side than from the Indian side !
Plans were kept secret and even the Commander 10 Corps Engineers of was not allowed to enter the Operations Room in 10 Corps Pindi.
The distance involved in reaching the heights varied from 15 to 35 kilometers from Pakistan side over mountains as high as 13 to 19,000 feet .To do this each battalion was divided into two parts , one acting as porters taking supplies forward and one half occupying the heights.
The heights were occupied as per the plan but the four units while doing so were severely exhausted ! In March-April the Indians discovered the Pakistani presence and reacted severely ! Severe fighting continued till July once the Indians finally re-captured the heights after Pakistani troops had been left to the mercy of Indian artillery and overwhelming troop concentrations as a result of the Blair House Accord !
A brief military examination of the plan reveals following weaknesses.(1) Failure to assess strategic repercussions of the operation at geo–politic and national strategic level .(2) Logistic failure in incorrect appreciation of supplying the troops . (3) Failure to understand that by occupying the heights the Indians were driven into a corner and had no choice but to retaliate , not for glory as was the Pakistani military’s case but for pure military survival . (4) At a more subtle level the use of the Chora-Batalik Sector as a future spring board for Pakistani operations against India was sealed since Indians heavily fortified this sector for any future war.
The Pakistani planners failed to assess that war as an instrument of policy is no longer in vogue at the international level and their temporary military success would only bring greater international censure and a negative war mongering image without any corresponding military gain at the strategic level.
This scribe interviewed a former commander of FCNA and 10 Corps about logistics and General Imtiaz Warraich replied as following :-
“We initiated this operation but failed to support it with comprehensive operational planning and above all buildup for essential logistic support without which no operation can succeed”……'” the principal reason for our heavy casualties and lack of progress was unimaginative and callous logistic operations to support the units”.
At one point the sepoys who had volunteered to fight and had come from many other infantry units to the NLI units refused to act as porters carrying supplies over 15 kilometres and were so exasperated that they defied Javed Hassan’s personal orders in unit durbars to carry supplies and when Javed Hassn threw his cap on the ground threatened to march over it unless they were not employed as porters ! One such volunteer told this scribe that we had volunteered to fight ,not to act as porters ! The same fact was also mentioned in ISI chief Ziauddin Butt’s secret report to Nawaz Sharif prepared by an Engineer officer on Zia’s staff in ISI !
The failure to assess the “Enemy” factor was another strategic planning failure at the highest level .I asked General Warraich this question and he stated ” Capture of Kargil Heights would totally stop all Indian movement to Leh and Ladakh Sectors unlike Pakistan in Siachen and Indians had no option but to do and die ” !
Lust for glory and honour in battle are perfectly reasonable aspirations as long as they are accompanied by commensurate military talent in the generals who are at the helm of affairs ! This was sadly lacking in the Musharraf team who planned the operation. Their egos were many times larger than their real military talent !
The prime minister was not fully briefed because of ulterior motives ! Had the operation succeeded it would have been projected as a proof of Musharraf’s Napoleonic brilliance and if it failed as it did Nawaz Sharif would have been made the scapegoat !
The operations planners were distinguished neither by loftiness of thought, nor audacity in the conduct of battle at the operational or strategic level. Thus boldness at tactical level was sacrificed because of operational and tactical timidity at the highest level.
No one appreciated that the army men who were employed , and it is a fiction that there was a single Mujahid in Kargil, had flesh and blood ! These men mourned by a few hundred families were sons husbands fathers and brothers !
The Kargil operation at the military level is a watershed ! Idealism that propelled many hundred to die in those Himalayan wastes is buried for good ! Now there is a new breed which dominates the army ! The ones who aim at going on lush UN second–ments or to KESC, WAPDA or as well paid consultants !
What can one conclude ! It was the human heart that failed in Kargil and this heart which failed was housed in the ribcage of men sitting in the GHQ and not on the rocky pinnacles of Kargil ! Once the supply lines were closed under Indian threat of a counter attack , these brave men all Pakistan Army regulars were abandoned to die, pounded by artillery fire , bayoneted by overwhelming numbers , weakened by starvation ! Who can hear their cries ! Our ears are covered with heaps of lies ! Truth died at Kargil ! What remains is a bodyguard of lies!
A. H Amin is a writer , journalist , ex editor of Defence Journal (Pakistan), ex Editor of Globe (Pakistan); author of Indo Pak Wars from 1947 to 1971, Man’s Role in History and Land of the Pure (short stories). He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Sindh, Pakistan.