Josy Joseph in New Delhi
The Indian Army has removed the Commanding Officer of a Sikh Light Infantry battalion for dereliction of duty by first allowing Pakistani troops to occupy a strategic position along the Line of Control and then carrying out an ill-conceived operation at grievous costs, Army sources told rediff.com.
At least 11 Indian soldiers died in the operation carried out in the last week of July, the sources said.
The operation led to a flare up of hostilities and a major security alert between India and Pakistan, they added.
The Cabinet Committee on Security had an informal meeting over the issue and Pakistan is believed to have lodged a complaint with the United Nations accusing India of breaching the Line of Control.
The sources said the Indian Air Force too was alerted and Mirage 2000 fighters scrambled from central India to forward bases in Kashmir in response to the Pakistani intrusion.
According to the sources, an 'unoccupied feature' along the Gurez-Macchal sector of the LoC was occupied by Pakistani troops sometime after the winter snow melted in July. The area unit's Commanding Officer, a Colonel, 'failed to send out' reconnaissance missions, but kept on reporting that everything was safe in his area, the sources added.
But, unmanned aerial vehicles that were inducted into the Indian Army recently detected the Pakistani presence during regular missions. "Further ground level verification confirmed the presence of Pakistani troops," the sources said.
Though the sources said the Pakistani troops were evicted 'within 48 hours', other sources insisted that the Pakistani soldiers were chased away only after 'two attempts, both the time at the cost of several Indian lives'.
In fact, there are conflicting versions on the total casualty itself. While the Army sources told rediff.com that it was 'about 12', other sources put the casualty at '11 and seven' on the two different occasions.
Most of the casualty is believed to be from the Ladakh Scouts, who were given regimental status after their heroism in Kargil.
Sources said the first attempt at evicting the Pakistani troops was 'ill conceived' and did not have proper logistical support. "It led to the killing of Indian soldiers who were mere sitting ducks."
This led to the scrambling of the IAF fighter jets and mobilisation of heavy artillery. The second operation, backed by jets and artillery fire, was successful in evicting the Pakistani troops, the sources added.
On August 3, Pakistan had claimed that Indian troops had launched a twin offensive to set up a new post near Neelam valley, leading to 'heavy Indian casualties'.
15 Corps GOC Lt General VG Patankar had that time said Indian troops had suffered three casualties.
The Colonel who was removed from the CO's post has now been attached with the Northern Army Command for a high-level Army inquiry, the sources said.
Interestingly, the entire incident, being termed by official quarters as Kargil II, happened in the area of 53 Brigade under the command of Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal, the man who wrote the official Army history of Kargil.
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