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August 7, 1999
Kargil shows need for revamping security setup, says Lt Gen Sood (retd)
Former vice-chief of army staff Lt-Gen (retd) V K Sood has said the crux of the shortcomings in the Kargil Episode is the need for a total revamp of our national security setup to ensure that it is not handled as a part-time vocation.
The National Security Council must have a full-time adviser, a fully and adequately manned secretariat and well-crafted procedures to ensure no lapses regarding intelligence assessment and policy-making, and providing a meaningful direction.
He told Asia Defence News International in an interview that throughout the Kargil conflict the NSC met only once. The day-to-day business was handled by the cabinet committee on security with service chiefs and others in attendance. The joint intelligence committee as a single entity was never mentioned. The whole affair was ad hoc rather than institutionalised and streamlined. A major likely task of the review committee headed by the doyen of Indian strategic thinkers, K Subrahmanyam, would be to suggest an NSC which is purposeful and can deliver.
''Only a creative and well-structured NSC will be able to wisely assess the impact of nuclear weapons in the region, the future of India-Pakistan relations, and how best to tackle the Kashmir issue. Had the NSC been a useful and an objective institution to recommend policy issues, probably the hyped fanfare and expectations from the prime minister's Lahore bus trip may not have lulled the government into complacency. It would be unrealistic to suggest that the government's satisfaction at improved relations with Pakistan did not rub on to the military. This is something which both the review panel and the army in-house review must look into,'' he said.
To a question about the army's ''after-action review'', Lt Gen Sood said one major observation that could emerge is the prolonged involvement of the army in counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir and its adverse impact on war preparedness. ''There is no gainsaying that military commanders in Kashmir have been under pressure to bring militancy under control. Their focus has been more inwards rather than on the LoC.''
''Pakistan, which has been providing material and financial support to the militancy in the state since 1989, has now raised the stakes enormously. Both sides will be forced to review their war worthiness for mountain and high altitude operations on a large scale.''
One result of the action-report could be a recommendation to equip troops to minimise their own casualties in combat. This will need to be done at the highest level and in cooperation with other agencies of the government like the space organisation. There is an urgent requirement for better and deep surveillance means, real time target acquisition, precision munitions, long-range firepower platforms and quick damage assessment means, Lt Gen Sood pointed out.
At the outset Lt Gen Sood underscored that war is a serious business and so is a subsequent review to find why it became unavoidable in the first place. ''In all fairness to the government, the Kargil conflict was handled with maturity, displaying a lucid grasp of changed international relations, and with perspicacious instructions to the army to do its job without outside interference.
''The prime minister deserves fulsome praise for permitting the use of the air force despite misgivings of a war escalation, and in consultation with the military leadership for not crossing the Line of Control notwithstanding enormous pressure from various quarters to do so or to expand the area of operations. Diplomacy and military power complemented one another to end the crisis on terms favourable to India,'' he said.
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