Air Marshal Narayan Menon(Retd), PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, was the Air Officer Commanding, J&K, during the Kargil conflict.
It is only ten years since the Kargil war, and it has already faded from public memory. `Tiger Hill`, `Tololing", "Pt 5140", Mushkoh Valley, and Muntho Dhalo are remembered only in Indian Military institutions still trying to figure out the exact causes and sequence of events that led to India`s last conflict with its western neighbour. To reach the rugged terrain where all the action took place, one has to negotiate the mountain ranges of Shivalik, Pir Panjal, Himalayas, Zanskar, Ladakh and Karkoram. It is difficult to envisage now, that a swathe 150 km across this harsh and hostile region resounded with artillery and cannon fire with aircraft and helicopters dropping bombs, firing rockets and guiding PGMs on enemy targets. An exemplary demonstration of initiative and courage by the young officers and soldiers of the Indian Army, assisted by the Indian Air Force, uprooted and expelled Pakistani intruders from Indian territory. This war that began during May 1999, ended on July 26, 1999 when India called off all offensive operations.
In the wake of this action at Kargil, the Government of India constituted a high level Kargil Review Committee (KRC) to ascertain the facts leading to the occupation of critically advantageous heights in the sector by Pakistani forces and other related matters. The KRC Report was tabled in Parliament on 23 February 2000. Some parts of the report were very candid. To quote:
"The nuclear posture adopted by successive Prime Ministers thus put the Indian Army at a disadvantage vis-a-vis its Pakistani counterpart. While the former was in the dark about India`s nuclear capability, the latter as the custodian of Pakistani nuclear weaponry was fully aware of its own capability. Three former Indian Chiefs of Army Staff expressed unhappiness about this asymmetric situation.
Successive Indian Prime Ministers failed to take their own colleagues, the major political parties, the Chiefs of Staff and the Foreign Secretaries into confidence on the nature of Pakistan`s nuclear threat and the China-Pakistan nuclear axis. The Prime Ministers, even while supporting the weapons programme, kept the intelligence and nuclear weapons establishments in two watertight compartments.
Foreign policy was being conducted without Foreign Ministers and Indian diplomats being apprised of the nature of the threat to the country or of India`s own nuclear capability. It is quite likely that this secretiveness on the part of the Indian Prime Ministers and the country`s inability to exercise its conventional superiority could have confirmed Pakistan in its belief that its nuclear deterrent had indeed been effective in Kashmir since 1990 and it could therefore pursue the proxy war and the Kargil adventure with impunity on the basis of its own prescribed rules of the game."
Image: Troops of 13 JAK Rifles, led by Commanding Officer, Lt Col Y K Joshi, celebrate after capturing Point 4875. Copyright Sainik Samachar
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