Notes on Kargil war: Timidity of Vajpayee Government Cost India a Victory
The Kargil operation in Kashmir under the aegis of the BJP and the Vajpayee government is generally touted in the Indian press as a great victory. At the outset let me inform readers on Boddunan that I was very much part of the operations and what I write now is from personal knowledge. I feel the true facts are not represented to the Indian people and the operation talked off as a ' Victory' while in real terms it can be described as a stalemate. It is rarely mentioned that India suffered double the casualties in comparison to the enemy.
Kashmir is a mountainous country with thick jungles. The Line of Control is not clearly demarcated at many points and runs through thick forests and mountains. Some of the peaks like at Kargil are at great heights and in winter it becomes difficult to sustain troops at that altitude. Here is the first blunder committed by the Indian general staff. The Indian posts were vacated by the army on the Kargil heights as winter had set in. The idea was to go back to the bunkers when summer came. This was an extremely silly move and Pakistan took advantage of this.General Musharraf the Chief of staff of the Pakistan army made secret plans to engage Indians in kargil and kept even his Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the dark.
In thick winter the troops of the Northern Light Infantry crept up to the vacated posts of the Indian army and occupied them. The idea was to present a fait accompli to the Indian army. it was a shrewd move and when summer came and the Indian army troops went back to their bunkers they were shot at and had to retreat. it was clear that the Pak army had occupied the heights.
An order to throw out the Pakistan army was given, but an attack by the army came a cropper with heavy casualities. A decision was taken to press in the Air Force and 155 mm heavy guns were brought in. These had an effect and slowly under heavy artillery fire and air bombardment in what is known as "close air support" the Indian army began to recapture the heights. But it was a terrible battle and the Indian army at places suffered 3 times the enemy dead and wounded.
At that time the army mentioned that opening another front in a place like Rajasthan in the Barmar sector would relieve pressure on Kargil. A siimilar action had been authorised by that little big man Lal Bahadur Shastri in the1965 war. A that time to relieve the pressure of the Pakistan army thrust in the Chamb- Jaurian Sector the Indian army was cleared to open a front in the Lahore sector. This is part of history and Bahadur Shastri deserves great praise for this action.
However Atal Bihari vajpayee was not made of same mettle and he did not authorise a invasion and opening of a second front as he wanted to end the war. He thus in a way deprived the army of a victory. In the meantime casualties were mounting, but the army was pushing the enemy back.
Bill Clinton the US president now stepped in. He brought about a cease fire. Nawaz Sharif who had been sidelined by his army chief agreed for a cease fire,though Musharraf was not in favor of it. Hostilities thus ended and the war was over. As per the terms of the cease fire the Pak army vacated the heights with with them, but it was a pyrrhic victory and at best stalemate. in hindsight the timid approach of the BJP government led by Vajpayee denied a complete victory to India.
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