It was clear that Pakistan’s motive was to internationalise the issue and garner Western power’s support

by Dr. Manjari Singh 

The Kargil conflict of 1999, fought between the two newly empowered nuclear states, is one of its kinds! It became the first such battle after the 1969 Ussuri River clashes between the then Soviet Union and China. In the summer of 1999, soldiers from the Pakistan’s Northern Light Infantry (NLI) intruded the Indian side of the line of Control (LoC) in the Kargil district of Jammu & Kashmir. By doing so Pakistan breached the provisions of the 1972 Shimla Agreement and violated the sanctity of the LoC. Not only this, in February 1999, both the nations had signed the Lahore Declaration for peace and cooperation. Disrespecting these, Pakistan sent its NLI troops to encroach Indian Territory. Disguised as “indigenous Kashmiri freedom fighters” the NLI troops along with Mujahideen, transgressed the LoC in large numbers in Mashkoh valley, Dras, Kaksar and Batalik sub-sectors to establish their posts. 

It was clear that Pakistan’s motive was to internationalise the issue and garner Western power’s support. However, India was not going to give in to the international pressure. This necessitated and called for India’s tactical response in order to wrest back its posts which required massive mobilisation of the Indian army to Kargil. On 26 July 1999, India’s Operation Vijay was a success story: a political, diplomatic and military victory. 

As July 2019 marks 20 years of Kargil Vijay, Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), an Army Think Tank in the Capital is publishing a book titled Surprise, Strategy and ‘Vijay’: 20 Years of Kargil and Beyond commemorating the valour of the heroes who fought gallantly and the tactics and strategies involved in the Kargil War of 1999. 

The edited book seeks to look into the minute detailing of what actually happened on and off the field, the shortcomings, the challenges faced, and the indomitable courage through which the conflict was won by the Indian army. Contributed by many who fought in the war including the then Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen VP Malik, General NC Vij (the then DGMO), Lt Gen Mohinder Puri, Colonel BM Cariappa and others from various regiments in operations in Kargil, the book provides an insight into carrying out Operation Vijay which resulted in India’s Vijay in the war. 

One may recall the newspapers from May-July 1999 being flooded with anecdotes on the soldier’s acclimatisation to the extreme climatic conditions, the response of the general masses in the form of raising funds to provide the soldiers with basic amenities, prioritising carrying of more weaponry and the paraphernalia by the soldiers over basic amenities and many more. 

CLAWS does not claim Surprise, Strategy and ‘Vijay’ to be the first book on the subject. Apart from highlighting the observations, anecdotes, commemorations, tactics and strategies involved in the Kargil conflict, the book has following unique selling points (USP’s) which will of interest to the readers: first, it is not one person’s account but an amalgamation of various viewpoints on the subject; two, the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) report which was set up in 1999 is critically examined. The follow up on the recommendations in the KRC report is stated along with a few of the recommendations which have not been incorporated yet even after two decades of the conflict. Three, even though much has been televised through news and movies on Kargil, the book provides the first hand information from the Armed Forces. Four, the language of the book is such that it will not only be a valued possession for the researchers in the field but will be equally cherished by the masses who are interested to delve a little more into the 1999 war that the Indian soldiers fought to protect India’s borders. Five, the recommendations mentioned might be of interest to the policy makers. Last and the most important contribution of the book is that in the emerging world order armed with revolutionary changes in technology and changing character of conflicts;Surprise, Strategy and ‘Vijay’ restates the fundamental focus of the Indian Armed forces: to be prepared to face the envisaged threats and challenges of the future. 

All in all, the book comes at a time when India needs to “look back [not only] in anger” (Look Back in Anger of 1956 is a realist play written by John Osborne) but responsibly, that is, without any jingoism. This is when the upcoming challenges can be addressed in the correct manner. As brought out beautifully in the book, “Till the time we do not understand the variance between tactics and strategy, we as a nation would keep celebrating our victories in battles but may not win a war”. Surprise, Strategy and ‘Vijay’: 20 Years of Kargil and Beyond is set to be released this month. CLAWS also initiates to organise a national level seminar on Kargil on 13 July 2019. 

Dr. Manjari Singh is an Associate Fellow at Centre for Kand Warfare Studies (CLAWS), New Delhi