The Kargil conflict between Pakistan and India took place in Kashmir between May and July 1999, the objective of the whole conflict was to cut off the link between Kashmir and Ladakh by hitting National Highway No.1 (NH 1) and cause Indian forces to withdraw from the Siachen Glacier, forcing India to negotiate and resolve the decades old Kashmir dispute.
The Pakistani positions on the mountains across Drass river enjoy certain advantage. India captured these positions in
1965, but returned them as per agreement. It managed to recapture them in 1971, and has retained them since. According to Indian sources, while this has
removed the threat of small arms fire on the town, posts, in the more distant mountains still overlook the town which exposes the area to Pakistani fire.
India has never been happy about the situation and always desired to seize advantageous positions in the Kargil sector.
THE BEGINNING OF KARGIL CONFLICT
Because of the extreme winter weather conditions in Kashmir, it was a common practice of the Indians and Pakistan Army to vacate high altitude forward posts and reoccupy them in the spring. In the winter of early 1999, Pakistan Army along with the Mujahideen reoccupied the forward positions and strategic peaks of Kargil, Drass and Batalik before the Indians. This came as a shock to the Indian Army when they realized the gravity of the situation. "Operation Al-Badar" was the name given to Pakistan's infiltration.
Indian Army reacted and deployed four divisions to take back the strategic peaks for securing its main supply line in Kashmir. India's operation to recapture their territory was named "Operation Vijay". The battle escalated with continuous Indian assaults on the peaks while Pakistan Army was able to bring down effective artillery fire on Indian positions through much of the conflict as they commanded all strategic heights. From the observation posts, Pakistan Army had a clear view to target the Indian main supply route National Highway No.1 (NH 1) inflicting heavy casualties.
INITIAL INDIAN ATTACKS AND MILITARY BUILD-UP
The Indians initially launched counter attacks to dislodge Pakistani troops from the heights and watershed area where it meets the Tololing ridge. Their focus was on controlling the peaks overlooking NH 1 and its stretches near the town of Kargil were of high importance for them. When these attacks were repulsed, the Indians in reaction raised their level of military force and inducted Bofors guns. As a result of their panic, they started massing up offensive and defensive forces in the Kargil-Drass area. Their panic was not only reflected in their military mass-up but also in their haste to give military awards. This was visible when they gave their highest military award posthumously to a soldier whose wife claimed that he was still alive and admitted in hospital.
After suffering casualties in the early phase of conflict, Indian Army changed their technique of attack and started containing the front while attacking from the flanks. They attacked limited objectives in every sub-sector at any one time by using utmost concentration of infantry and artillery. In addition, the difficult terrain of the area was not giving much benefit to the Indian Army.
"The Indian soldiers jumped over their dead soldiers while retreating hastily"
"Ammunition dump of the Indian Army was destroyed which suffered Rs 2 mn loss"
In the third week of May 1999, Indian Army launched a reinforced attack on Tiger Hill and Tololing in Drass sector and later inducted IAF into the conflict. "Operation Safed Sagar" was the code-name assigned to IAF. At the same time, India was extremely active on the diplomatic front and its Ministry of External Affairs tried the best to show Pakistan as an aggressor.
"Indians Army did not collect the bodies for days which started rotting"
PAKISTAN SHOOTS DOWN TWO INDIAN MIGS
PAKISTAN SHOOTS DOWN TWO INDIAN MIGS
Indian Air Force openly entered into the conflict on 26 May 1999 and launched air strikes 10 kms across LoC inside Pakistani territory. Pakistan
warned that if India would continue to violate its airspace than it would target them in
retaliation. On 27 May 1999, IAF MiG-27ML (Serial No. 1135) flown by Flt Lt K. Nachiketa of No. 9 Squadron intruded into Pakistan airspace at 11:15 a.m.
(PST) near Hunzi Ghund. It intruded twice and first marked a Pakistani position on the LoC with smoke bombs and then came in for a rocketing and strafing
attack on the same post.
Gunner Shafaqat Ali commanded by Capt. Faheem Tipu of Air Defence using an ANZA-II SAM tracked and shot down the MiG as it exited. The pilot ejected and was
taken POW. He resisted with his pistol after landing and was involved in a fire fight with Pakistani troops to evade capture.
Shortly later, two more Indian MiG-21 jets intruded into Pakistan airspace at 11:35 a.m. (PST) and dived in for a rocketing attack on the same Pakistani position. Naik Talib Hussain Basharat again commanded by Capt. Faheem Tipu started tracking and one of the MiG-21 (Serial No. C1539) was shot down again with ANZA-II SAM at a height of 1,500 metres. The wreckage fell 10-12 kilometres inside Pakistan territory. The pilot, Sqn Ldr Ajay Ahuja of No. 17 Squadron was killed and the body was handed over to India on 29 May 1999.
After the Indian jets were shot down, Indian media started a propaganda that Pakistan Army could not shoot any Indian aircrafts and the IAF is continuing their activities. The Pakistani defence spokesman Brig. Rashid Qureshi refuted it and cleared that after the Indian planes had been shot down they did not violate the Pakistani airspace and continued to patrol inside Indian territory at a very high altitude.
"A living prisoner is more useful than a dead one, Pak Army did not kill Ahuja"
When FIt Lt. Nachiketa was released on 4 June 1999 as a unilateral gesture of goodwill by Pakistan, on the order of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, no one, not even the Defence Attache turned up to receive their own pilot. The reason they did not want to be publicly seen receiving their prisoner pilot back. The Foreign Office had taken precautions to associate the ICRC with the wellbeing of the Indian pilot. They examined him and found him medically fit in the condition they took his custody and transported him to the border. Squadron Leader Ahuja's body was returned with full military honours by the Pakistan Army, that has always stuck by the traditions of the battlefield. As Ahuja's body was handed over to India, even before any post-mortem examination it raised alarm that Ahuja may have shot dead after he had parachuted safely to the ground. India had maintained that the Ahuja had "ejected after his MiG-21 was hit by a surface to air missile fired upon from across the LoC." Later India maintained that according to the post-mortem report Ahuja was shot twice-once through the ear and again in the chest. India launched strong protest with Pakistan over the 'brutal shooting' of Sqn Ldr. Ahuja by his Pakistani captors. This was another attempt to malign Pakistan in the eyes of the world. Knowing fully well that Ahuja fighter plane was shot down when it was engaged in rocketing, artillery firing and automatic firing. In such a combat situation some bullets hitting Ahuja can not be ruled out.
IAF changed their operational technique after their jets were shot down and used Jaguars and Mirage 2000 fighter jets. They also began using laser-guided bombs from high-altitude. As a result, their bombing was ineffective and they failed to clear the targets.
BATTLE FOR THE CONTROL OF PEAKS
On 6 June 1999, Indian Army launched major offensive backed by air strikes in Kargil and Drass, reported by CNN. This attempt of India to move forward was successfully repulsed by Pak Army troops and Mujahideen. By 10 June 1999, when India was unable to take the peaks despite the expansion of conflict, they brought additional forces of infantry, artillery, Para/Commando battalions and PMF/BSF battalions into Kargil area.
After weeks of intense fighting and desperate Indian efforts to gain success, Indian Army made its first gain in Drass sector on 13 June 1999 by taking Tololing peak. This was the day when Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee also visited Kargil and along with his entourage merely escaped Pakistani shelling.
International pressure was also mounting on Pakistan and on 15 June 1999, US President President on telephone urged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to pull back. On 29 June 1999, Indian Army managed to capture Point 5060 and 5100 near Tiger Hill.
A report released in Washington on 29 June 1999 said that India had suffered so badly in Kargil at the hands of Pakistani forces that the only way out for it is to attack Pakistan on a large scale. In an alarming letter to President Clinton as reported in the Washington Post, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee wrote that New Delhi will be compelled to attack Pakistan if Islamabad failed to withdraw its forces from the Indian side of the Line of Control. The spectacle of hundreds of body bags of Indian soldiers coming down from the mountains in Kargil was creating an intense public pressure on the Indian Government to react.
Due to the difficult conditions in which the Indians were fighting, their victories were less glorious than their spokesman portrayed. By early July, Indian Army gained some ground in Mushkoh and Drass but was unable to make progress in Kaksar and Batalik despite putting constant pressure on the Pakistani troops and Mujahideen.
INDIA BANS PTV BROADCAST
The Indian government banned Pakistan Television broadcasts in India and restricted foreign journalists from going to Kargil. Eleven former Indian generals and bureaucrats demanded 'suspension' of independent analyses of Kargil. They include, the hawk K Subrahmanyam, and two former foreign secretaries. They say Kargil 'is a test of the national will'. Hence any 'postmortem' by analysts should be suspended'. We must not talk about 'any inadequacies and failures that have led to the crisis'. At stake is our 'credibility as a nation'.
"Indian Army faced shortage of coffins during the conflict"
The blanket ban on foreign media and Pakistani broadcasts only shows the weakness of the Indian position on the Kargil situation. Indian Minister for External Affairs refused to appear on the CNN, while Pakistani foreign minister briefed the foreign media. Pakistan had also welcomed foreign media to go to LoC and see the situation themselves.
Gen Musharraf with other service chiefs and PM Nawaz Sharif present at a meeting in HQ 10 Corps. 22 June 1999
END OF CONFLICT - THE WITHDRAWAL
A DCC (Defence Comittee of the Cabinet) meeting was held on 2 July 1999 in which the ongoing conflict was discussed. The military commanders including Gen Musharraf briefed the cabinet that Pakistan Army was militarily in a strong position. Prime Minister Sharif suggested for withdrawing from the strategic peaks, however it was cleared by Gen Musharraf that there was absolutely no need for withdrawal as Pak Army was in a dominating position. The Indian Army was practically grabbed by its jugular. The DCC meeting concluded without any decision for withdrawal and it was decided that another meeting would be held on 5 July 1999.
When Nawaz Sharif left for US, the battle at Tiger Hill was
underway which was surrounded with controversy as the Mujahideen had abandoned
shelling and US President had agreed to meet Nawaz Sharif only on the
pre-condition of withdrawal from Kargil.
After the withdrawal agreement was signed in Washington on 4 July 1999, Pak Army started withdrawing from Indian-held territory on 11 July 1999 and India reclaimed key peaks in Batalik. 16 July was set as deadline for complete withdrawal and Indian territory was reportedly fully vacated. On 26 July 1999, the conflict finally came to an end.
SOME FACTS OF KARGIL CONFLICT
We have fought a great war in the mountains of Kashmir, but unfortunately, our then prime minister betrayed the nation and we had to retreat, and then, India has used its full propaganda machine to try to come out victorious after such a humiliation at the hands of few hundred Mujahideen.
Some facts are:
1.Total number of Mujahideen, at any stage did not exceed approx: 1000.
2. They captured one of the most difficult terrain and in intense cold environment.
3. They completely evaded the Indian intelligence machine and the (made in India) satellites pictures.
4. It was a total surprise to Indians when shepherds brought the news of invasion to Indian military machine, which took some days to realize its importance.
5. Indian chief of staff had not even cancelled his foreign visit.
6. The first search party of 60 Indian soldiers was completely annihilated and none of them returned.
7. The second search party of 259 Indian soldiers was either annihilated or injured.
8. The first Canberra reconnaissance mission ended up in a damaged Canberra plane, which did land in Srinagar and brought to Indians the actual scale of invasion.
9. Two Indian fighter jets - MiG-27 and MiG-21 were shot down.
10. An Indian Air Force Mi-17 helicopter was shot down killing its crew of four.
11. Indian Air force totally stopped all its operations and so did the military helicopters.
12. It took long time for the Indian Air Force to come back again, but only with Mirage 2000 planes dropping bombs from high altitude...and also using laser guided bombs.
13. A barrage of artillery pounding continued for the next 6 weeks, and in the end, even Bofors guns were employed, in order to score, as there did not seem to be any change in Mujahideen positions.
14. There was a huge loss to Indian military. There was a shortage of coffins. About 1700 Indian soldiers died and more than the same number injured.
15. About 50 Bofors bombs were used per Mujahideen amounting to US$50000 per person, apart from the various other ammunition used extensively including artillery shells, rockets from ground launchers and air and infantry attacks.
16. After all these efforts for nearly 2 months, it took Clinton to come to India´s rescue, and Pakistan had to retreat with 370 losses of life.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS GAINED FROM THE CONFLICT
Every conflict or war that starts eventually comes to an end and so did this conflict. Despite the forced withdrawal after PM Sharif rushed to US, Pakistan achieved success till the extent of meeting its strategic and tactical objectives while India's weaknesses were also exposed.
* Kashmir dispute was brought into world focus. It was internationally realized that the dispute needs urgent settlement as it has the potential to spark a major conflict and war between the two countries.
* Pak Army proved that it can give mightier Indian Army a militarily tough time in a low-intensity conflict. This is evident because India was time and again asking US to put pressure on Pakistan to pull back across the LoC.
* Pak Army was able to successfully counter Indian Army's assaults without any backup of PAF while IAF was fully deployed in assault role along LoC.
* At the time of Pakistan's withdrawal, India had managed to retake only 10-11% of the area. This was stated by Pakistani military sources as well as Indian sources who make reference to Col. Brian Cloughley's book called 'A History Of The Pakistan Army'.
* At the time of withdrawal, Indian Army formations had begun to fatigue which was assumed from Indian military transmissions. This was revealed in a briefing by FCNA on 12 January 2003.
* Pakistan's cost of war was very low as compared to India's cost of war.
* Kargil conflict has been a cause of great anguish to India which led to a commission to investigate their failures.
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