The Story of Kargil

The Story of Kargil

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In the summer of 1999, a 73-days military conflict was fought at Kargil unveiling new insights into an asymmetric conflict wherein opposing combatants employ markedly different resources and strategies in order to maximize their advantages and exploit the opponent’s weaknesses. Kargil is situated at 2704 meters above sea level, 204 km east of Srinagar, 234 km west of Leh, and is the second largest urban center of Ladakh and the headquarters of the district that shares its name. The confrontation was manifestation of a 50 year-old Kashmir dispute that remained limited in terms of time, geographical area, and weaponry. The operation at Kargil was planned meticulously by the top Pakistani army establishment in a bid to capture the deserted heights in the Valley left by Indian army during the inhospitable weather conditions and then taking control of the vital Srinagar-Leh highway. The Pak army contemplated that by capturing the strategic heights they will be in a commanding position to get the status of the Line of Control (LoC.) altered. Pakistan army however, underestimated the response and repulsing of India, which with Indian air strikes became too vehement to be restrained by the Pakistan army as the bunkers at the outstanding heights were holed up in the and their logistic support was cut off. Moreover, the international pressure was too paramount to be overlooked by Pakistan.

The whole area of Kargil belonged to Pakistan. It was captured by India in the war of 1965, but restored to Pakistan under Tashkent Agreement. In the 1971 war, Kargil was again occupied and retained by India by dint of force. Thus categorically speaking, the seeds for the 1999 operation along the Srinagar-Dras-Somat-Kargil-Dungul Leh highway were planted way back when the Indian Army High Command had ventured to lance across the 1949 UN Ceasefire Line in Kashmir and renamed it as the Line of Control in December 1972. In 1984, India violated even the LoC and sneaked into Siachin, part of the northern areas of Jammu and Kashmir, when our top brass was caught off-guard as it was deeply involved in reigning the country at the cost of their strategic and professional acumen and capability. Militarily and economically, for India, the Siachin campaign is much more costlier estimated to be more than Rs. 7,000 crores (70 million rupees) to maintain its hold on the useless Siachin Glacier heights where the confrontation between the two hostile armies is like fighting of two bald men over a comb”. Even the Indian media admit that the Indian losses in Siachin and Kashmir are unprecedented and higher than even the wars of 1962, 1965 and 1971. However, holding the Siachin Glacier is important to India, to support her long-term strategy in the area by cutting off the land-route between Pakistan and China. To occupy the Siachin Glacier, India violated the Line of Control in Kashmir as well as the Simla Agreement that she refers to at oft-times. When India moved her troops into the Siachin Glacier area a decade ago, India was unambiguously the aggressor but it did not evoke much interest in the western capitals. But as soon as the Kargil expedition threatened India’s hold on the Siachin Glacier, America and the Western world instantly rushed to her aid.

Kargil operation was downright an upshot of the Kashmir dispute. Kashmir is both cause and consequence of the India-Pakistan conflict and conundrum. From historical, geographical, cultural and strategic point of view, Pakistan could not remain aloof from the question of liberty of over 13 million people of Kashmir. Hence Pakistan has always been obliged and committed to support the Independence movement of the downtrodden people of Kashmir and get the issue resolved as soon as possible so that they could get their right of self-determination. Kashmir has contributed to the overall dispute between India and Pakistan, observes an American Journalist, Stephen Philip Cohen, in several way. The military establishments on both sides of the border insist that control over Kashmir is critical to the defense of their respective countries. The Indian army, echoing nineteenth century British geopolitics, claims that giving up the mountainous Kashmir would expose the plains of Punjab and Haryana, and even Delhi, to foreign (in this case, Pakistani) attack. The Valley is strategically important because of the communication links that run through it to Ladakh and to Siachin, where the Indians and Pakistanis remain frozen in conflict. The threat to Kargil, in 1999, was more serious than Siachin, because it overlooked the already perilous road from Srinagar to Siachin and Leh. Pakistan has a quite different view of Kashmirs geopolitics. Its strategists point out that for years the major access roads to Kashmir led through what is now Pakistan, and that the proximity of the capital, Islamabad, to Kashmir makes it vulnerable to an Indian offensive along the Jhelum river. Further, Pakistanis argue that the