Major General O P Sabharwal


An infantry battalion consisting of approximately 600 men has been holding a sector on the ground extending around 80 km. These are held in small posts ranging from 8 men to 30 men. In winter these were normally vacated and reoccupied some time in May/April, depending on the prevailing weather conditions .

During the winter the vacated areas are supposed to be kept under observation by sending patrols, helicopter reconnaissance and now satellites can also be used for this purpose. Today's technology can even pick a golf ball on the green of any golf course. But you have to invest money for this.

In Kargil, Pakistanis preempted Indian troops and occupied the posts vacated by them in winter. This must have been done sometime in April 1999. They did this by what can be termed as attack by infiltration, an old technique followed by the Chinese in the past. In my assessment two to three infantry battalions of regular Pakistan army along with some terrorists specially trained for this task, must have been used to accomplish what they have achieved. It is a well planned operation requiring a minimum of 2 to 3 months of preparation.The planning and preparation would have been backed by a corps HQs of Pakistan army with all its resources.

It cannot be termed an act by terrorists. It is a proper, full fledged military operation and an act of aggression against India. The Line of Control is properly demarcated on maps and well defined on ground. I recollect Lieutenant General P S Bhagat, PVSM, VC, having taken six months to complete the job along with his Pakistani counterpart. I had accompanied General Bhagat during one of his visits.

The action taken by the Indian armed forces is correct and appropriate. Mountains eat up men. Therefore, the troops would be required in larger numbers, which I am sure are being provided for the task in hand. We cannot rush things. Recapturing our old posts will take time, but I am certain we will recover all of our territory back sooner than expected. We must remember that an attack in mountainous regions is very difficult and very heavy on casualties and therefore a slow process.

The last few governments have hardly spent any money on updating armed forces. Please look up old defence budgets.

Forget about your subsidies on food, electricity and what have you. Spend a little more money on defence.

No amount of agreements with Pakistan will assure you any peace. If India wants peace, than build yourself into a very strong and powerful nation so that Pakistan dare not attempt another Kargil.

In view of Kargil it was good that we had Pokhran 2, otherwise Pak with clandestine nuclear weapons would have blackmailed India at every opportune moment.

We need a strong economy and an equally strong defence. Both have to go together. If you cannot defend your country a strong economy will do you no good. The armed forces are a nation's security, and we must learn to spend money on updating them.

We have always had defence ministers in India right from 1947 who don't even know the 'ABC' of defence.On sheer merit on defence matters, most of them would not even qualify to be a peon in that office.

V K Krishna Menon was a good lawyer, but knew very little about defence matters, Mahavir Tyagi used to sell milk in Dehra Dun before he became defence minister. Nothing wrong with selling milk!! But you will agree with me that it is not the best experience for becoming defence minister of a country that has Pakistan for a neighbour and enemy.

One ex- defence minister actually proposed that India should give Rs 20 billion to Pakistan to improve its economy!!

Our Constitution does not cover free houses for any one. As a practice the law-makers themselves are providing free houses to ex- Presidents, vice-presidents, prime ministers and their wives. Recently, Priyanka Vadra was given a house in south Delhi at a nominal rent of Rs 25,000 per month; the actual market rent of which is well over Rs 150,000 per month. One so-called Gandhian ex-President made a fuss to vacate Rastrapati Bhavan till Rs 5 million or so was spent on renovating a house for him to stay in south Delhi.

In all other democracies the President and prime minister vacate their official house on the same day they vacate office and shift to their private homes. All they are provided is limited security. President Ronald Reagan lives in LA in his own house and is provided only three FBI agents for his security.

All our ex-Presidents, vice-presidents and PMs are very rich and live in free lavish government houses. Is this correct and fair? The way our PMs keep changing, soon Lutyens's Delhi will become an ex-PMs colony

If at all free houses are to be given they should be given to war widows like Mrs Ahuja, Mrs Kalia, Mrs Ranjan Sahu, Mrs Eknath Khaimar and the like and not to the rich and super rich.

The least our grateful nation should do for its war widows is to give them free houses, free education to their children and the pension equivalent to the last pay drawn by their husbands.

I am the president of the Dehra Dun Ex-Services League. There are 73,000 retired soldiers and many widows living in the Doon valley. My experience is that moment the dust settles on the Kargil issue, the soldiers will be forgotten and the widows will have a really hard time even to get their pension. I am speaking with experience of handling such cases.

Will someone take up as a public interest litigation, as to why a soldier after serving the nation for 30 odd years or his widow does not get a free government house whereas a PM gets a free house after being a PM for a few months and so also their widows? Whose need is greater and who is more deserving?

I am of the view that the practice of giving free houses to the likes of Sonia Gandhi should stop. It is these war widows who should get these homes. War widows will not be able to fight; we have to fight for them.

Major General O P Sabharwal (retired) has served in Kargil.