Valuable Addition

A new book provides some invaluable insights into the Kargil war
By Maj. Gen. Sheru Thapliyal (retd)

Kargil Turning the Tide In many ways the book reminds one of the famous Defeat into Victory by Field Marshal Slim. From despair to elation, from no success to success and restoration of the Line of Control (LoC) violated by Pakistan. All recounted in an easy style and readable narrative without resorting to heavy philosophy and blame game.

The book is divided into 12 chapters from Introduction to Epilogue. The author has given valuable insight into the Kashmir imbroglio, the prime reason for a state of no war no peace between India and Pakistan, and therefore, evolution of the concept of ‘Bleeding India by a thousand cuts’ by Gen Zia ul Haq by starting an insurgency in Kashmir and Punjab. The reader is reminded in the Prelude to Kargil that 8 Mountain Division that General Puri was commanding was deployed in a vast area in Srinagar Valley in counter terrorism role. The General is of the view that the Kargil misadventure was undertaken by Pakistan for two reasons. Firstly, to internationalise the Kashmir issue and secondly, for thinking that India is unlikely to resort to use of force to evict the intrusions made by Pakistan in Kargil sector and hence, intrusion will remain. The next chapter is on terrain. This is necessary so that the reader can appreciate how the operations were conducted in a super high altitude area something which was never done anywhere. This chapter also answers the often asked question as to why Pakistan chose this area for surreptitious operations claimed to have been undertaken by the Mujahideen – a complete lie that was exposed as the operations progressed.

Chapter 5 gives out the Pakistani build up and plan that was assessed only after the operations to evict the enemy started. The Pakistani intrusions from Mushkoh Valley in the West to Batalik in the East came as a complete surprise to the intelligence agencies, the army and the political leadership.

Chapter 6 gives out the details of the Indian response to the Pakistan perfidy. General Puri confines himself to the details of the move of 8 Mountain Division from the Valley to the Dras Sector and the planning which preceded the conduct of operations in the shadow of the government direction that the LoC was not to be crossed. This directive may have got us some supposed appreciation from the international community but placed severe restrictions on the freedom of conduct of operations by the commanders. The planning process rightly laid down the priority – capture of those features first which were dominating the national highway. These features included Tololing, Hump and Point 5140. The author covers these operations in detail and combines the human element with operational details. We are reminded of the famous saying of Field Marshal Montgomery that ‘Before Alamein the Allies had no success and after Alamein they had no failure’. India had no success before Tololing and no failure after that. The fall of Tiger Hill and Pt 4875 was the final nail in the coffin of the enemy and the whole nation was elated. Thereafter the Pakistani withdrawal started, spurred on no doubt by American pressure which in a meeting with Nawaz Sharif on July 4 1999, President Clinton made it clear to him that restoration of status quo ante must be done at the earliest. The author has also covered the operations conducted by 3 Infantry Division in the next chapter. In these operations, 70 Infantry Brigade of 3 Infantry Division excelled in Batalik Sector and drove the enemy out from all occupied areas.

Chapters 8 and 9 cover the operations from the point of view of infantry and the supporting arms and services. All contributed superbly to ensure victory. The contribution of artillery was great while that of air force more so for morale boosting.

Two most important chapters in the book are on Principles of War and Reflections. The adherence to principles of war which brought victory were concentration of force, administration, surprise, economy of effort, offensive spirit, cooperation, selection and maintenance of aim, one added by the author is innovativeness which is the strong point of the Indian Army.

The chapter on reflections is very interesting and educative. The author rightly concludes that the visit of our Prime Minister to Pakistan and signing of the Lahore Declaration created a sense of complacency in the political circles resulting in a complete surprise when Pakistani intrusions came to be known. However, both the political and military leadership are to be commended for their determination to restore the sanctity of the LoC while keeping the war confined to Kargil sector. The author has also given his views on a future war and feels that nuclear capable adversaries are unlikely to venture into a conventional war transgressing international borders – a debatable point of view. Some interesting views have been expressed on the use of air force in Kargil like terrain and role of leaders in any future conflict. He has also given his views on miscalculations made by Pakistan and why the government laid down the direction for not crossing the LoC and what it entailed. He has also cautioned the nation of being wary of Pakistan – a dangerous neighbour. His views on having a Chief of Defence Staff in our context merit attention.

This book is a valuable addition to our rather bare cupboard of books on Indian military history post-Independence. Since General Puri has laid stress on tactical operations, the inclusion of this book in the syllabi of Defence Services Staff College course, senior command course and highest command course would be valuable.

Kargil Turning the Tide
Lancer Publishers, Rs 995

— Lt. Gen. Mohinder Puri, PVSM, UYSM

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