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Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC
A report on the Kargil crisis, kept secret till now, says the conflict underlines shortcomings in the Indian army 'in intelligence, key equipment, and inter-services coordination.'
The report on the political and military ramifications of the Kargil crisis, filed by the Joint Intelligence Center of the US Pacific Command, has been de-classified but only in part.
Provided exclusively to India Abroad -- the leading Indian American newspaper owned by rediff.com -- by the National Security Archive, an independent non-governmental research institute located at the George Washington University which obtained the report under the Freedom of Information Act, the report said, 'Acclimatising troops for fighting in Kargil was a stumbling block to operations,' and noted that 'it takes about a month for troops to acclimate to the altitude, let alone fight.'
The report, dated September 14, 1999 -- a month before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was deposed in a bloodless coup by General Pervez Musharraf, the architect behind Pakistan's foray into Kargil -- said the lack of key cold weather equipment 'forced India to commit ill-equipped troops in the harsh mountainous terrain' that led to the Indians learning 'hard lessons' about 'jointness' and the conduct of 'close air support in mountainous terrain.'
The Joint Intelligence Center Pacific provides direct intelligence support for all forces assigned to Commander in Chief, US Pacific. The JICPAC operates a fusion center that conducts current situation analysis, collection management and long-range assessments and threat estimates, and is responsible for a variety of intelligence products and processes.
These products -- briefings, annotated situation maps, installation descriptions, pictures and threat projections -- are disseminated by JICPAC to command customers at all levels from the headquarters in Makalapa, Pearl Harbor in Hawaii to deployed units and ships at sea.
The report said, 'Though costly, India's preponderance of manpower and equipment eventually ensured victory. All the services realised that Kargil was a measuring stick to gauge the capabilities of their forces.'
'India used frontal assaults supported by limited artillery in the first weeks of the conflict. After suffering heavy casualties with little success, it took several weeks to build up the troops and equipment needed to launch an effective counterattack. The Indian Army began its offensive in the first week of June and, using high volumes of artillery fire and supported by Indian Air Force strikes, Indian army troops recaptured the heights in the Drass and Kargil area.'
According to the JIC report, 'The new tactics of massive artillery preparation preceding a ground advance proved successful but placed great strains on Indian logistics.'
'The uphill, daylight assaults proved costly in casualties,' it said, and noted that consequently, India 'plans to secure more individual night vision devices.'
The report acknowledged, 'Developing a capability to move units under cover of darkness and attack with little warning will restore some tactical flexibility to units throughout the Indian army.'
It spoke of how 'continuous operations were not feasible in Kargil due to re-supply difficulties' and attributed this to the interdicted highway and a lack of a viable alternative.
It predicted that at the tactical level, India would now deploy more remote ground sensing systems to help cover the Line of Control and unmanned aerial vehicles would also help monitor the many infiltration routes 'into Indian-held Kashmir.'
The report said the crisis had demanded that the Indian Air Force venture into new territory and opined that the difficult targeting conditions and operational constraints would help force the IAF to shift its doctrine to a 'more modern, flexible, and precise use of airpower.'
Meanwhile, the report spoke of how the Indian Navy had taken a number of proactive measures during the Kargil crisis 'to protect maritime interests and send a strong signal of India's resolve to force Pakistan back across the LoC.'
'Although the crisis was primarily an Indian Army and Indian Air Force affair, the Indian Navy took several steps to prepare for an expansion of the crisis, helping to prevent a widening of hostilities to the maritime realm.'
The report said while the international community remained largely neutral publicly, 'most nations tacitly acknowledged Pakistan as the aggressor in Kargil.'
It said, 'India's restraint during the Kargil conflict earned it significant diplomatic accolades and increased Pakistan's isolation.'
'Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh traveled widely to press India's view of the Kargil crisis and to reassure world leaders that India would show restraint. His efforts, plus US-led international pressure on Pakistan to withdraw from Kargil, contributed to a diplomatic thaw in Indo-US relations,' the report said.
The report implicates Pakistan as the aggressor who precipitated the crisis. It spoke of how units from the Indian Army's 15th Corps, that pursued the infiltrators who attacked the Kargil ammo depot on May 9 into the heights overlooking the town, were confronted by Pakistani troops.
'Expecting to encounter a ragtag band of Kashmiri militants, the Indian Army instead faced a well-equipped force of militants and Army units occupying the high ground overlooking the critical Srinagar-Leh supply route. The infiltrators repulsed the Indians, who gradually realized their foes held reinforced defensive positions on the Indian side of the LoC.'
The Joint Intelligence Center report predicted that 'India's defense establishment and the government will use Kargil to justify increased defense spending, but given India's other economic challenges, only a modest after-inflation increase will likely materialize.'
'Despite this modest increase in defense spending spawned by Kargil, overcoming years of inadequate funding and limited modernization will continue to challenge the Indian armed forces to prepare for future conflicts.
'As a result, the defense weaknesses underscored by Kargil will not be rectified quickly.'
It said beyond increases in defense spending and modernization, Kargil would likely lead to an expansion of the armed forces missions, especially for the ground forces. 'The annual withdrawal of troops from positions along the LoC opened a window of opportunity for the Pakistanis. To alleviate future problems, the Indian Army will have to man its positions year round and increase its counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir.'
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