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Thursday, December 02, 2004

The Kargil War

India is the world's largest democracy. India has come a long way from being a poverty-stricken third world giant to a regional superpower. The advance is nothing short of brilliant. India has fought many wars after its independence. India now has a huge military and it is the third largest in the world.One such experience was the kargil episode which snowballed into a small scale war between pakistani intruders backed by the pakistani army and the Indian military. This particular war is one of its kind. This war was fought on high altitudes. Victory in adverse conditions made the victory sweeter.The Indian military has learnt many a lesson from this episode.In this article i have put together some of the highlights of the most recent war fought by India.

The year 1999 was a turning point for India. It was time for the world to take notice of India. Till then India was to most of the countries was a ‘moderate’, a peace loving country, which will never interfere in other countries’ internal affairs unless and until requested. The Pakistanis took this as an advantage and decided that time was ripe to avenge the fall of siachen. Pakistan was all set to engage India for another war. But it could not afford to take on India directly as the asymmetry between the two was heavily in favor of India. Pakistan decided to invade India covertly. The Indian state was also in some kind of turmoil. The weak coalition government was toppled and elections were soon to be held. The Pakistanis would’ve never got a better opportunity to strike. In the guise of a mujahideen war Pakistan readied itself for a confrontation with India. The sole aim of the Pakistanis, according to the indian intelligence agencies was to capture the national highway which connects the remote parts of Kashmir to the rest of India. It is widely believed that Pakistan was planning to ask for siachen in return for the highway. The Pakistani intruders were well prepared for the mission. The task was simple. Occupy the Indian ridges and hold them as long as they can. The locals reported strange activities around the mountains and soldiers were sent to make sure that things were alright. The soldiers thought that this could be just another pesky intruder, but it turned out to be more sinister than that. terrorists lured the soldiers into a trap and brutally murdered them. The higher officials were shaken but they still were not aware of the grave situation that was about to threaten the nation’s sovereignty.

The military establishment was growing suspicious day by day with the growing enemy activity. Many soldiers who were sent to check out the ridges never returned. The firing from across the border became more and more accurate. This could only mean that artillery spotters were present on the mountain facing the highway. Hmm..terrorists with precision artillery strike capabilities.. you gotta be kiddin!!! That was something that could not be done without pakistani armies support. Finally intrusions were confirmed. The kargil war had begun. It was time for India to flex its military muscle. It was decided among the top echelons of the political leadership that neither Indian military personnnel nor aircraft would cross the LOC. A decision that was widely applauded by the world community. I just cannot think of any other country which would have applied so much restraint on itself. India had all the rights to launch a full scale retaliation. A full blown assault across the LOC was fully within the capability of India and this restaint blostered India's image in the global arena. Initially during the war the 'intruders' had the upper hand. The army sustained severe loss of men. This was mainly due to the unfriendly terrain. The army decided to call in the Indian Air Force. Only usage of attack helicopters was cleared at first. Then use of ground attack aircrafts was later cleared. Due to the high altitude the IAF could not use the mighty Mi-35 ( known as Akbar in IAF)attack helicopter. So Mi-8s were modified to fire rockets and were deployed. The IAF had to face one more problem. The whole area was strewn with man portable SAMs, especially the American made stingers. These were very effective against helicopters. Two MiGs were also lost. This made the IAF undertake unconventional methods to tackle the situation. Due to the strict conditions put in place by the government the strike aircrafts were not even allowed to cross the LOC for completing a turn after a bombing run. It was decided that the IAF would use the formidable Mirage-2000 multirole fighters which can fly in extreme conditions with admirable ease.
The entry of the Mirages changed the entire scenario. On a typical mission during the Kargil war, 6 Mirages would fly from the base armed with precision guided ammo. One among them would be a 2-seater, a trainer which had a laser designating pod and the rest, armed to the teeth. As the first bombs were released in anger the troops watching the action from below cheered. It would have been a great sight indeed, the sight of huge plumes of fire and smoke rising as the bombs hit the targets with pin-point accuracy. The morale of the troops had been repaired. They were ready to take back what rightly belonged to them. The Indian government recognized the seriousness of the issue and gave the go ahead to use all possible conventional weapons against the enemies. Thus came in the formidable bofors guns. This also paved way for the usage of the indigenously developed Pinaka, the multi barrel rocket launcher. With these the army was all set to bludgeon the 'intruders'.
The operations conducted by the IAF and the Indian army were nothing short of awesome. The planes had to negotiate a tough terrain. Even if the bombs miss the target by a few feet it might miss the mountain as most of the targets were at the exact peaks. But in case of plains even if the target was missed by a few feet considerable damage can be inflicted upon the target. The IAF used MiG-29s to provide air cover for the Mirages. It is known that a few Pakistani F-16s were loitering near the LOC but were kept at bay by the MiG-29s. The IAF says that they had the F-16s in their crosshairs just in case they tried to intercept the charging Mirages. The F-16s did not dare to intercept the Mirages, as it would mean a direct involvement of the Pakistani military.
After the bombing runs, a ferocious and a punishing hand-to-hand combat ensued. One of the captured Pakistani soldiers reportedly said that the Indians went mad after the initial set back. The Indian troops after some initial setbacks were raring to have a go at the enemy. That was exactly what enemy got. The Indian army mopped up the enemies just as it was expected out of them.
After coming to know that the Indians had almost mowed down all the intruders, the then incumbent prime minister of Pakistan Mr. Nawaz shariff left for Washington in a huff to coax the American president to stop the Indian assault. The American president responded to his request and pressurized India to stop the assault. India finally provided safe passage to the remaining intruders.
This type of reaction was totally unexpected from the ‘moderate’ Indians. Pakistan learnt a lesson it would never forget: never ever directly confront India militarily. The rest of the world had no other option but to sit up and take notice. India’s military might was put on show during the Kargil operations. India stamped its authority in south Asia. One thing has been proved by this episode: you push a man too far, sooner or later he will start pushing back. India after being pushed back for so long gave a firm push to Pakistan. And it widely reported that people across the LOC still live with fear that one day the Indians may avenge kargil. But I know, we know, everyone knows that India will never play a role of an aggressor. There is a saying which goes like this:Strive for peace but be prepared for war. India was not expecting its neighbor to do such backstabbing. But India recovered from the setback and chased out the pakistanis and beyond everyone's belief contained its anger and restrained herself from crossing over the border to teach the invaders a lesson. It is well known that thogh India did not want to cross the border, it was quite ready to overwhelm and pummel pakistan if required.

When someone decides to meddle with your country’s sovereignty, you have to teach them a lesson which will remain in their minds for generations.

Thus ended the Kargil conflict with the provision of safe passage to the rest of the intruders. The Indian military will never be the same again. The key to success is to learn from past mistakes. India had to learn lessons the hard way, always. The kargil episode definitely played a major role in India becoming the world leading arms purchaser. Pakistan needs to learn some bitter lessons. But she refuses to do so. I am sure the Indian leadership will be more than happy to end the hostile relation with Pak. But pakistan continues to fuel cross-border terror. If Pakistan can ask India to forget the Kargil episode, pakistan should be ready to drop the idealogy of cross border terrorism.