Indo-Pak Security Relations in the Coming
Lessons from Kargil for the Future
General VP Malik (Retd.) PVSM, AVSM
In February 1999, when
Atal Behari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of India, journeyed by bus to Lahore
at the invitation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, most people
on the sub-continent hailed it as a bold and courageous political act
of the two leaders. It was felt that with nuclear weapons capability
out of their respective closets in May 1998, India and Pakistan would
be less suspicious and more transparent with each other. The conducive
strategic environment and common peoples’ desire would enable their
political leaders to work genuinely for confidence building measures
and improvement of relations between the two nations, which, since Independence
in August 1947, had fought four wars and seen several minor actions.
But that was not to be.
Even as Prime Ministers Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif hugged and talked
with each other, and then signed the Lahore Declaration, the Pakistan
Army had already initiated a deliberate and well-planned intrusion across
the Line of Control (LoC), delineated on maps as part of Simla Agreement
in 1972 (Annexure 1). In May 1999, within three months of the Lahore
Declaration, a limited conventional war broke out between India and
Pakistan in the Kargil Sector. In the preceding winter months, Pakistan
Army personnel, dressed as jihadi militants, infiltrated through gaps
between Indian defences, in one of the world’s most rugged terrain,
to occupy several dominating heights between the LoC and the Road (National
Highway 1-A) connecting Srinagar-Kargil and Leh. The Pak Army’s initiative,
taking advantage of the terrain and the extreme climatic conditions,
achieved a tactical surprise but could not cope up with subsequent Indian
military reaction. It failed at operational and strategic levels and
thus ended with adverse politico-military consequences for Pakistan.
The outbreak of war in Kargil also showed that the Pak political leadership
was working out of sync with the thinking and plans of its military
brass. As two former Prime Ministers of Pakistan put it, the Kargil
War was Pakistan’s biggest blunder and disaster.1
For the Government
in India, the Pak intrusion after its Lahore initiative was a serious
political setback. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s National Democratic
Alliance had lost its majority in the Parliament in April 1999. It was
now governing the country as a ‘caretaker’ Government till the next
elections, which were due any time before September 1999.
The Indian military
had the formidable challenge of getting the Pak intrusion vacated under
the most adverse conditions of terrain. This adversity was further compounded
by the political mandate that the LoC should not be violated. Nuclear
India’s political leadership, despite being stabbed in the back, had
decided to act with restraint and maturity.
The War in Kargil
It is now fairly certain
that the decision to launch Operation Badr (Pak codename for the operation)
across 160 km of the LoC in Kargil Sector was taken soon after General
Pervez Musharraf took over as the Pak Army Chief in October 1998. The
new Chief made some quick changes in the top echelons of the Army. He
brought in Lieutenant General Mohammad Aziz Khan from the Inter Services
Intelligence (ISI) to take over as Chief of General Staff, without commanding
a Corps, as was the usual practice. An old contingency plan2
was updated, and after carrying out detailed preparations during winter,
the operation was launched to coincide with the melting of snow and
the opening of India’s National Highway 1A linking Srinagar to Leh via
Kargil. The military objectives were to:
approximately 700 sq km area on the Indian side of the LoC in Kargil-Turtuk
Turtuk and cut off Southern and Central parts of Siachin Glacier Sector,
militants’ activities in J&K, which had received a setback after
the State Assembly and National Parliament elections in 1997-98.
About 1,700 men of
the Northern Light Infantry (four battalions) supported by Special Forces,
artillery, engineers and other combat support personnel, in the garb
of militants and under a well executed cover plan, infiltrated through
gaps into Indian territory and occupied mountain tops between the LoC
and the Highway at several locations.
As already stated, the
Indian military was mandated to get the intrusion vacated without crossing
the LoC. However, it had to maintain a strategic balance and a deterrent
posture all along the Indo Pak front - on the ground, air and sea -
should there be a sudden escalation. A deliberate decision was taken
to continue the political and military level dialogue.3
The politico military strategy made it clear that although India was
a victim of intrusion, and exercising maximum restraint, it was determined
to get the intrusion vacated. India employed about two divisions (including
about 250 artillery guns) on the Kargil front, and mounted 1,200 fighter
and 2,500 helicopter sorties. By the time Pakistan sued for peace and
withdrawal of its troops from the area of intrusion, nearly 75 per cent
intruded area, including all high features dominating the Highway, had
been retaken. The War ended on 26 July 1999 when all Pakistani troops
were finally evicted from our side of the LoC. During the War, 473 Indian
soldiers were killed: Pakistani casualties were estimated to be over
The Kargil War, fought
at the turn of the century, has been a major turning point in Indo-Pak
security relations. It has left a deep impact. Its lessons are indeed
important and are a useful input when we discuss future Indo-Pak relations,
or peace and stability in South Asia.
Lesson No 1
A proxy or sub-conventional
war in the Indo-Pak security scenario can easily escalate into a conventional
Pakistan, since its
very inception, has built considerable expertise in militancy and use
of irregulars; on their own or as an extension of the Pak Army, for
war. It made its first attempt to force accession of J&K with irregular
forces, supported by the Pak Army in 1947-48. The same strategy was
followed in 1965, when it infiltrated irregulars and some Pak Army personnel
dressed as irregulars into the Rajouri-Poonch Sector. On both occasions,
however, this strategy led to a conventional war between regular forces
of India and Pakistan.
Three significant developments
took place thereafter. First, the successful use of irregular forces
and political legitimacy to organise and conduct Jihad in the Afghan
War. This was an extremely useful experience for the Pak military. Second,
the acquisition of nuclear capability by Pakistan in late 1980s, which
remained covert till May 1998. This capability encouraged the Pak military
to conclude that a conventional war with India was not possible hereafter,
and therefore, the sub-conventional could be stretched further. Third,
loss of initiative to India in the occupation of Siachin Glacier.4
All these developments prompted Pakistan to make fresh attempts to annex
J&K through a proxy war, on the lines of the Afghan War. During
the Kargil War, the Pakistan Army took an additional step forward. Regular
Army personnel shed their uniforms and dressed themselves as irregulars
to intrude and fight on Indian territory.5
It made use of the ongoing irregular Jihadi militant-centred armed conflict
in J&K as a deception to launch a war with regular forces.
It is a well-known fact
that during the Afghan War, Pak ISI siphoned off a plethora of arms,
equipment and funds, meant for Afghan rebels.6
With several million dollars of unaccounted funds, the ISI had at its
disposal a large well-oiled machinery for churning out Jihad-oriented
trained irregulars to be inducted into J&K. The first wave comprised
infusion of extreme Islamic teachings and literature, which was followed
by training to Kashmiri locals in the art of guerrilla warfare. A large
number of young Kashmiris were covertly exfiltrated to Pakistan Occupied
Kashmir (POK) through a porous LoC for arms training. The period from
1987 to 1989 saw an increase in violence and prolonged strikes in the
Kashmir Valley and attacks on political leadership, police and para
military forces. The kidnapping and subsequent release of Dr Rubaiya
Sayeed, daughter of the Union Home Minister of India, Mr Mufti Mohammed
Sayeed – a Kashmiri - in December 1989, in exchange for five top militants
proved to be the last straw. The elected J&K Government under Dr
Farooq Abdullah resigned in January 1990. The proxy war had truly arrived.
In April-May 1990,
due to increased tension, the Armed Forces of India and Pakistan were
mobilised and deployed all along the LoC and International Border (IB).
A conventional war between the two countries was averted due to efforts
of the US Deputy National Security Advisor, Robert Gates, who flew between
Islamabad and New Delhi to reduce tension and restore some confidence.
The history of proxy
war, since then, is best observed through the statistics given at Annexure
2. As can be noted, the proxy war has had its ups and down. The downward
trend, which commenced in 1994, enabled India to hold State Assembly
and Parliamentary elections in the State in 1996-97. The situation had
improved considerably when Pakistan decided to launch the intrusion
in Kargil in 1999. This initiative was taken because the Pak military
felt confident of its success.7
The brief story and result of the Kargil War has already been covered.
Unfortunately, since then, there has been a renewal of effort to fuel
proxy war. The area covered by it has also been enlarged.
Despite ‘war against
terror’ launched by the US and its coalition partners after 11 September
2001, India has continued to face Jihadi terrorists’ attacks on its
people and its institutions. On 13 December 2001, suicide terrorists
- all from Pakistan - unsuccessfully attacked India’s most venerated
democratic institution, the Parliament. These terrorists were stopped
and killed very close to the office of the Indian Vice President and
other political leaders. This incident, once again, resulted in full-scale
mobilisation and deployment of the Armed Forces of both countries. Operational
readiness to go to war this time was at the highest level, since the
all out war fought by them in 1971.
My aim here is not
to go into the details of the decade old proxy / sub-conventional war
in J&K or elsewhere in India but to establish its linkage with a
conventional war. A proxy war or a sub-conventional war is part of the
spectrum of conflict, which can easily escalate into a conventional
war; nuclear capability notwithstanding. There may be several situations
where both the ‘initiator’ (of the proxy war) and the ‘affected’ nation,
are tempted to use conventional weapons and forces. The ‘initiator’
is tempted to give it a greater push with conventional forces to achieve
the desired results. Such a situation occurred in 1947-48, 1965, and
again in the Kargil War in 1999. On the other hand, the ‘affected’ nation,
when pushed to the wall, may use its conventional forces to bring the
proxy war into the open rather than fight with all the limitations of
a ‘no war no peace situation’. Pakistan did so in 1971, and India was
prepared to do so in 1990, and after the terrorists’ assault on its
Parliament on 13 December 2001.
Lesson No 2
State sponsored terrorism,
due to the nature of socio-politics on the sub-continent, is a double-edged
weapon. It is like a wicked dog, which often bites the hand that feeds
Here, I would also like
to add that state sponsored terrorism, due to the nature of social divides
across the boundary8
on the sub-continent is a double-edged weapon. It is like a wicked dog,
which sooner or later bites the hand that feeds it. India experienced
it with Bhindranwale, a Sikh cleric who took to politics, and later
joined hands with the Pak ISI to collect weapons and equipment in 1983-84.
Militancy spawned by him in India’s Punjab with the assistance of Pak
ISI lasted nearly a decade. India had a similar experience with the
LTTE of Sri Lanka in 1980s. After obtaining training from India, the
LTTE went against the Indian forces when, at the request of the Sri
Lankan Government, they were inducted for peace keeping in Sri Lanka.
Pakistan is facing that situation now after sponsoring Afghan Mujahideen
and Taliban in the 1980s and 90s. These organisations were raised during
the military government of General Zia-ul-Haq. Since then, elements
from these organisations have been sponsored and used by the ISI for
proxy war or covert actions in Afghanistan and India. This genie has
now grown so big that the Pak Government is finding it difficult to
rein it in and reform the Madrassas that are a breeding ground for extremists
Lesson No 3
Acquisition of nuclear
weapons by India and Pakistan has not reduced / eliminated the probability
of a war between them. A limited conventional war remains possible.
In May 1998, India
and Pakistan became overt nuclear states. Indian compulsions had more
to do with China than with Pakistan. Although in its security paradigm,
Pakistan has been accepted as a nuclear capable state since late 1980s,
it is always China that looms large over the Indian security scenario
because of the humiliating Sino-Indian 1962 War defeat, the rapidly
growing defence, economic capability and political clout of China, and
the slow progress on settling the Sino-India border issue. Notwithstanding
improvement in Sino-Indian relations, people in India perceive China
to be the bigger, long term challenge.
The Pakistani nuclear
weapons programme has been Indo-centric from the beginning. Pakistan
has sought and acquired nuclear weapons and missiles essentially to
neutralise India’s conventional military superiority.
Many Pakistani leaders
have said in the past that the Indian conventional superiority can be
neutralised, and Afghanistan type militancy in J&K initiated and
nurtured, under a nuclear umbrella.9
As Pakistan’s nuclear weapons capability grew, the sub-conventional
war in J&K kept escalating. Its military strategy since late 1980s
has been to escalate proxy war, and brandish the likelihood of a conventional
war and a nuclear ‘flashpoint’, whenever India threatened to make use
of its conventional force. It may be recalled that when tension between
the two countries was high after the escalation of proxy war in Kashmir
in 1990, Pakistan was reported to have cautioned the US Deputy National
Security Advisor, Robert Gates that, in the event of a war with India,
nuclear weapons might be used. During the Kargil War too, a Federal
Minister of Pakistan10
and some others spoke about the possible use of nuclear weapons. The
international community condemned these statements.
In November 1998, looking
at Pakistan’s renewed attempts to escalate proxy war in J&K and
recalling the Sino-Russian border confrontation in 1969, in a talk at
the National Defence College, New Delhi, I stated that ‘space existed
between the proxy war and Indo-Pak nuclear umbrella, wherein a limited
conventional war was a distinct possibility’. This statement generated
a strong reaction in Pakistan as it contradicted their prevailing military
wisdom. Even in India and elsewhere, not many people took my statement
seriously, till Kargil happened.
The lesson that I wish
to draw from this part is that leading from a proxy war, a limited conventional
conflict between nuclearised India and Pakistan cannot be ruled out.
In such a situation, there will be a risk of escalation and a testing
of patience, nerves and rationality on both sides. The risk is enhanced
when one takes into account the lack of safety and robustness of the
nuclear command and control structure on the sub-continent. Most political
leaders in India do not trust General Pervez Musharraf’s military regime
in Pakistan - which has already displayed its mindlessness in the Kargil
War, and towards terrorism - in the handling of its nuclear weapons.
Lesson No 4
The imbalance in civil-military
relations and lack of strategic culture on the sub-continent has an
impact on Indo-Pak security relations.
There was a serious misreading
of Pakistani nuclear tests in response to Indian nuclear tests at Pokhran
in May 1998 in the political establishments of Pakistan as well as in
India. In India, Pakistani reaction to go overt was anticipated, and
to some extent even welcomed by some strategists.11
The Indian establishment generally felt that an overt and transparent
nuclear capability is better than a covert or translucent capability.
The former would lead to a more stable Indo-Pak security relationship.
Perhaps this was also the impression in the Pakistani political establishment.
This common impression led to the Lahore Summit and Declaration.12
What the political
and a large part of the strategic community on the sub-continent failed
to perceive was that the overt and neutralised nuclear parity on the
sub-continent would lead to unbridling and early escalation of the Indo-Pak
proxy war by the military establishment in Pakistan. The changeover
of military leadership in October 1998 in Pakistan, from a moderate
to a hardliner, led to such a manifestation and launching of Operation
Badr within months of the May 1998 nuclear tests.13
did such a misreading of overt Pak nuclear weapon capability take place
in India, and even in Pakistan? For this, I hold the imbalance in civil-military
relations in India and Pakistan, and an absence or lack of strategic
culture in both countries, responsible.
issues like Afghanistan, Indo-Pak relations, Kashmir and nuclear capability
are areas of special concern to the military.14
The political leadership- when there is a civilian government - is either
not briefed adequately or finds it difficult to assert on such matters.
This is historical, almost traditional, and is expected to continue.
The opposite is true of India, where the military functions not only
under the political control - as it should - but also under an assertive
and suspicious bureaucracy. As a result, interaction and teamwork between
military and political authorities on politico-military issues is less
than adequate. The Government often decides politico-military issues
without adequate military inputs and discussions. A lack of strategic
culture in India is well known. George Tanham wrote about it in his
However, it must also be mentioned here that the political leadership
has now started taking greater interest in national security matters,
particularly after the Kargil War.
Lesson No 5
Assumption and misperceptions,
a fairly consistent feature, mostly in Pakistan, have been a major cause
of Indo-Pak conflicts. Greater transparency and Confidence and Security
Building Measures are necessary to reduce tension and chances of a war.
In all Indo-Pak wars,
there is continuity not only of objectives but also of wrong assumptions
Before Kargil, Pakistan
had assumed that the Indian military, due to prolonged and over involvement
in anti terrorist and anti insurgency operations in Punjab, J&K
and North East India, was tired and not in a fit shape to fight. Its
weapons and equipment were obsolete since no modernisation had taken
place for more than a decade; and that there was an acute shortage of
officers especially at the junior leadership levels. All this was true
but only to an extent.
As mentioned earlier,
my statement in late 1998 that ‘space existed between the proxy war
and Indo-Pak nuclear umbrella, wherein a limited conventional war was
a distinct possibility’, generated a strong reaction in Pakistan. A
part of the vernacular media in Pakistan mis-presented the statement
as if it was a military threat/challenge to Pakistan. In February 1999,
Lieutenant General Javed Nasir, former head of the ISI, then Chief Intelligence
Advisor to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a well-known Islamic hawk, wrote
a highly publicised article17
"Calling the Indian Army Chief’s Bluff". The crux of that
article was that the Indian Army was incapable of undertaking any conventional
operation. This was not only a gross underestimation of a possible adversary
but also a poor assessment and misperception.
Some other assumptions
and misperceptions which led to the Pakistani offensive operation in
umbrella allows "offensive action" without risk.
community would intervene or stop the war at an early stage.
coalition government in India, weak and indecisive, will either over-react
is militarily weak and unprepared.
frustration will lead to escalation, putting the onus of escalation
operation under the garb of "Mujahideen" would focus attention
on Kashmir and Pakistan would be able to claim this as a victory.
There are several such
assumptions and misperceptions about the military, including nuclear
capabilities, on both sides of the border even now. One of the problems
is near opaqueness of matters military in both countries, which leads
to considerable speculation and misreporting in the media.
In a highly tense situation,
misperceptions of the adversary often lead to a war. The answer lies
in greater transparency and confidence and security building measures
(CSBMs) at political, and more importantly at the military level. Over
the years, several CSBMs have been agreed to between India and Pakistan.
However, many of them have got eroded or diluted ever since Pak sponsored
militancy was initiated in Punjab and J&K. Although the war in Kargil
was another major setback to the CSBMs, hot lines between Prime Ministers
and Director Generals of Military Operations were often used, which
helped to prevent escalation of the Kargil War.
There is yet another
politico-military assumption in Pakistan, that China, its strategic
ally, would intervene in an Indo-Pak war. This was so in 1965, 1971,
and no doubt in 1999. Kargil and Siachen Glacier lie very close to the
Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control in Ladakh. The Pak COAS, its Foreign
Minister Sartaj Aziz and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, all visited China
during the Kargil War. But this assumption does not take into account
the changed global and regional geo-strategic environment. The Chinese
reaction during the Kargil War at the political level and on the ground
was pragmatic and responsible. If anything, China leaned closer to India
during the war. Chinese are and would be interested in the sale of weapons
to their traditional strategic partner Pakistan, even in the continuation
of limited tension between India and Pakistan, but it is highly unlikely
today that they would consider physical intervention on the Indo-Tibet
border to bail out Pakistan.
Lesson No 6
(a) Kargil War has re-established
political sanctity of the Line of Control in J&K with the international
community; (b) Militarily, over the years, the defence of Actual
Ground Position Line (AGPL) in Siachen Sector, Line of Control (LoC)
in the rest of J&K, and International Boundary have got linked.
Any attempt to disturb status quo and re-draw the LoC or AGPL forcibly,
is more likely to lead to conflict all along the Indo-Pak border.
After the first
Indo-Pak War in 1947-48, in which Pakistani irregulars backed by Pak
Army units attacked J&K, the two countries signed the Karachi Agreement
on 27 July 1949 under the aegis of the United Nations Commission for
India and Pakistan. The Karachi Agreement delineated and demarcated
a Ceasefire Line (CFL) in J&K, which was signed by Indian and Pakistani
military commanders as well as by UN Representatives.
In 1965, when Pakistan
launched Operation Gibraltar followed by Operation Grand Slam in J&K,
India retaliated by crossing the International Boundary (IB) in Punjab
and elsewhere. Thereafter, fighting took place all along the CFL and
the IB. Following the Tashkent Declaration, the two sides agreed to
exchange the territories captured by each other across the CFL and IB
and restored status quo ante.
The focus in the 1971
Indo-Pak War was on East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, although the war
was also fought along the CFL and the IB on India’s western border with
Pakistan. After the war, under the Simla Agreement, both sides kept
the gains they had made across the CFL. The resultant line was redesignated
as the Line of Control (LoC), which was delineated and demarcated by
military commanders of both countries and an agreement signed to this
effect in December 1972 (Annexure 3). This was a significant transition
from a ‘military line’ separating two armies through an UN arranged
ceasefire in 1949 to a ‘political divide’, which could evolve into a
boundary. The delineation of the LoC was done on two sets of maps, each
containing 27 map sheets, formed into 19 mosaics, each sheet signed
by military commanders. The LoC traverses 740 kms from the IB in the
South up to NJ 9842, from which, in accordance with the unchanged definition
of the 1949 Karachi Agreement, it runs ‘North to the glaciers’. After
militarisation of Siachen Glacier’ area in 1984, this part of the line,
North of NJ 9842, came to be known as the Actual Ground Position Line
(AGPL). Post Simla Agreement, there have been a few occasions when both
sides made efforts to improve their tactical positions along the LoC.
But there were no major incursions till the Kargil War.
During the Kargil War,
the Indian political aim given to the military was to get the intrusion
vacated but not to cross the LoC. The international community endorsed
the Indian position. The United States also insisted on restoration
of the sanctity of the LoC. The joint statement signed by President
Clinton and the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on 4 July 1999,
states the following about the LoC:18
(the signatories) also agreed that it was vital for peace in South
Asia that the LoC in Kashmir be respected by both parties, in accordance
with their 1972 Simla Agreement".
was agreed between the President and the Prime Minister that concrete
steps will be taken for the restoration of the Line of Control
in accordance with Simla Agreement".
President said he would take personal interest in encouraging expeditious
resumption and intensification of those bilateral efforts once the
sanctity of the Line of Control has been fully restored".
If the Kargil War had
not ended as it did, the possibility of Pakistani and/or Indian forces
crossing the IB could not be ruled out. In fact India had adopted a
deterrent posture along the rest of LoC and the IB. Pakistan too had
deployed its forces accordingly.
It is obvious that
over the years, the sanctity of the AGPL in Siachen, the LoC, and the
IB have got linked militarily. Any attempt by either party to redraw
the LoC or the AGPL through force can lead to retaliation and escalation
of conflict elsewhere. The ‘restrain’ term of reference given to the
Indian Armed Forces during the Kargil War came under severe public criticism
in India and might not be acceptable next time. The lesson and conclusion
we may draw here is that the post Kargil durability of the Line of Control
has increased. This durability, or sanctity, provides a longer-term
base for a future dialogue between India and Pakistan.
Lesson No 7
like the Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration will not inspire adequate
The Pakistani Kargil
initiative was a major violation of the Simla Agreement, signed by the
Prime Ministers of the two countries in 1971, which had maintained a
reasonable amount of stability between the two countries for long. This
war repudiated two important articles of the Simla Agreement: namely
that (a) the two countries will settle their dispute through bilateral
negotiation and (b) the LoC will be respected by both sides and not
altered. Also, the war coming so soon after the Lahore Declaration (Annexure
4) created a deep sense of betrayal and of being let down in India.
It took two years and considerable pressure from the international community
for Indo-Pak political level dialogue to be resumed.
No agreement with Pakistan
after the Kargil War shall inspire the same confidence in India. Despite
the ‘U’ turn taken by Pakistan in its policies on Afghanistan and terrorism
under US pressure, the Indian public does not trust or feel confident
that President Musharraf’s military regime, which initiated the Kargil
War and subsequently took over the Pakistan Government in a military
coup, will remain faithful to any Understanding/Agreement with India
Lesson No 8
Secular India, which
has a larger Muslim population than the entire population of Pakistan,
would find it difficult to live in peace with a less than moderate Islamic
Behind Pakistan’s attempts
to achieve politico-military objectives in the Kargil War, the development
of a Jihadi culture in Pakistan since the beginning of the Afghan War,
the right wing reaction in India, and the thoughtless political rhetoric
on both sides of the border, was a strong motivation.
Pakistan was formed
on a religious basis; the idea that Islam defines nationhood. Indians
accept the establishment of Islamic Pakistan as a sovereign state but
they reject the two nation communal ideology because it contradicts
and challenges the Indian core values - democracy, secularism, federalism
and social justice, as given in the Directive Principles of the Indian
Constitution - fundamentally.
With the advent of
the Afghan War and development of the Jihadi culture, the social environment
on the sub-continent started changing. Increasing Islamisation of Pakistan,
with moderate elements remaining mute spectators all through the Bhutto-Zia-Nawaz
period, shifted the ideology from Islam being the foundation of its
nationhood to being the basis of the state. This has sharpened the ideological
conflict with India and also created some internal contradictions within
Pakistan. In fact it has rejuvenated communal forces in both countries.
While this is constitutionally checked in India, there has been little
attempt to do so in Pakistan. The Army, the ISI, which is only an extension
of the Pak Army, and some political parties in Pakistan, have continued
to encourage this ideology till recently.
My observation is that
secular India, which has more Muslim population than the entire population
of Pakistan, and a less than moderate Islamic Pakistan, are unlikely
to be able to live in peace.
After the events of
11 September 2001 and launching of Operation Enduring Freedom, it is
obvious that the US is committed to stay in Pakistan and support the
Pak President in his efforts to fight terrorism domestically and reform
Pak Madrassas which have been churning out Mujahideen and Taliban. This
development has far reaching implications for India, the sub-continent,
and the region. If this move works out successfully, we may see the
emergence of a moderate Pakistan and a more conducive security atmosphere
for tackling Indo-Pak disputes.
Lesson No 9
India’s defence modernisation
in the coming decade on account of Kargil may cause the arms race between
India and Pakistan to continue. However, this would have a serious adverse
impact on Pak economy and socio economics.
India spent nearly
Rs 30 crore (US$ 6.9 million) per day during the Kargil War. Pakistan’s
expenditure would have been fairly close to that.
An important strategic
lesson for India from the Kargil imbroglio is that Simla and Lahore
types of agreements notwithstanding, the country cannot afford to be
complacent and cannot let down its guard on matters concerning national
security. The progressive decline in the Indian defence budget since
early 1990s when the process of economic liberalisation began, had affected
its armed forces’ ability to modernise and to prepare for the type of
war they were called upon to fight, or were expected to fight. Indians,
after Kargil, have started taking greater interest in national security
matters and would not be prepared to compromise on its requirements.
This led to a 28 per cent increase in the defence budget soon after
the War, and about 10 per cent increase in the year 2001.
The Pak economy on the
other hand has been under tremendous pressure after Kargil. It was forced
to cap its defence budget. In fact, the defence budget was reduced by
Rs 2 billion last year and the Soviet Union type of economic phenomenon
has been staring it in its face. (An analyst in the US National Defence
University, Washington has already drawn the conclusion that acceleration
of India’s growth rate and relative stagnation of Pakistan economy will
increase India’s economic, military and diplomatic profile.19)
The reduction of Pak
defence budget, however, is unlikely to have any significant impact
on the Indian defence budget. India is likely to maintain its defence
expenditure between 2.5 to 2.75 per cent of its GDP in the foreseeable
future to meet modernisation demands of its armed forces.
Lesson No 10
is no military solution to J&K problem.
of J&K is more a military agenda than a political agenda in Pakistan.
major breakthrough can be expected on Kashmir dispute in the coming
decade unless the military in Pakistan and a strong political centre
in India are prepared to change their stance.
This was the fourth
war over J&K, not counting the ongoing skirmishes in Siachen Glacier
area and Pak sponsored proxy war in large parts of the State. That makes
it obvious that the J&K problem cannot be resolved militarily by
Pakistan or India.
There is no doubt that
J&K is an important and a complex dispute identified by most Pakistanis.
However, it is worth noting the hard-line consistency of military-bureaucratic
elite over the issue, and slight lack of it in Pak political leadership.
It allows the military elite to maintain its politico military status
in Pakistan. FM Ayub Khan initiated the war in 1965 when he was the
military ruler in Pakistan. As Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto raised
the pitch of this through shrill speeches and unrealistic promises.
The same leader, politically more experienced but out of power now,
sounds more conciliatory and accommodating on this issue. For Nawaz
Sharif, Kashmir was not an electoral issue when he was returned to power
in 1997. During elections, he focused more on domestic issues and seldom
made any provocative statements on Indo-Pak relations. In the wake of
new pressures due to a socio-economic crisis, the Kashmir dispute, though
very much alive, was placed on a back burner. This was reflected in
his talks with two Prime Ministers of India, IK Gujral and AB Vajpayee,
and in the gradual decline of militancy in J&K. As in the past,
Pak military-bureaucratic elite saw it as a threat to its importance,
supremacy and status in the national power structure. By launching the
war in Kargil, it was able to assert its authority and also revive national
and international interest in the J&K dispute.
The Indian legal position
on J&K is established through the Instrument of Accession signed
by the ruler of J&K in October 1947 and subsequent resolutions in
the State Assembly and the Indian Parliament. The problem is more difficult
for India where the democratically elected government has to create
a political consensus in the country. A ruling party in India would
be committing ‘harakiri’ if it backs down from the Parliamentary resolution,
without creating such a consensus. A coalition government will find
it extremely difficult.
My observation is that
the J&K dispute, which has been the cause of three wars and also
the ongoing proxy war, is more a Pak military agenda for its own vested
interest than a political agenda. Over the years, it has become the
core issue for the Pak military, which must keep it alive, and at the
centre of domestic politics and external policy.
India and Pakistan
have hardly any option or room for manoeuvre to resolve the J&K
problem. This dispute along with other fundamental ideological differences
cannot get attenuated in the coming decade.
AFTER KARGIL PROGNOSIS
The biggest casualty of the
Kargil War, apart from 1,200 lives lost on both sides of the LoC, was
trust and confidence in Indo-Pak relations. The two nations took two
years to travel the ‘high road’ from the Kargil War to the Agra Summit.
Prime Minister Vajpayee’s initiative to hold a summit with the Pak military
ruler, considered in India as the architect of the Kargil War, was bold
and courageous. Pak President General Musharraf himself acknowledged
The approach to the
Agra Summit was cautious and bumpy when both sides began stating their
case through the media. The summit started on a cordial note with the
Government of India unilaterally announcing several ‘people to people’
confidence-building measures. But it ended on a jarring note, unable
to agree to an acceptable joint statement.
Musharraf, with his suave, clever articulation and repeated assertion
of his stand on Jammu & Kashmir to the media, won the Public Relations
exercise handsomely but made no long-term gains: a tactical victory
but a strategic loss.... like the Kargil War. It is not possible to
conduct summit level negotiations through media, much less on the Indian
sub-continent. The over enthusiastic electronic media coverage raised
hopes of the people high and then brought them down as quickly. However,
what also emerged clearly through this media hype was the fatigue and
desire of educated people in India and Pakistan to resolve differences.
There was too much
of ‘form’ and little ‘substance’ in President Musharraf’s visit to India.
If you ever need a lesson that adequate preparations are essential before
a summit, here is one. The military President of Pakistan might be the
sole arbiter in his nation, but the Indian Prime Minister is not. The
political decision-making process in both countries is very different.
The messages that came
across from Agra were that:
to Pakistan, relations cannot normalise unless India agrees to discuss
Kashmir within the framework of Pakistani objectives.
per India, it is prepared to discuss Jammu & Kashmir, along with
other Indo-Pak issues but there can be no surrender of Jammu &
Kashmir or its territorial alienation from India. Also, Pakistan must
give up sponsoring violence and terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir.
The only gains made
during the summit were (a) that the two leaders got to know each other
and their constituencies, and (b) they agreed to meet again and continue
the dialogue. These gains were not small under the prevailing circumstances.
There is another important
question beyond the next Summit: that of political, economic and social
dynamics in Pakistan.
Pakistan today stands
torn between democratisation, the demands of military rulers, and of
the, till recently, rising strength and influence of its religious leaders.
There were about 150 Deeni madrassas (religious seminaries) in 1947.
Their number today is more than 5,000. This number is related to the
number of people living below the poverty line in Pakistan (130 million),
which has increased fourfold in the last 20 years. Will General Pervez
Musharraf, with US assistance, succeed in reforming these institutions,
eliminating religious fundamentalism, and thus reducing Mullah power
is in a bad state with a total debt amounting to about $ 65 billion.
Will it be able to turn the corner now that US and other donor nations
and institutions have resumed financial assistance to Pakistan?
developments have taken place on the sub-continent after 11 September
2001 and America’s war on terrorism. Afghanistan is no longer the backyard
or ‘strategic depth’ for Pakistan. The new Afghan government due to
its own strategic and economic requirements, and under US and UN influence,
is likely to follow independent but not unfriendly policies towards
Pakistan. We can expect a ‘forget and forgive’ Pak-Afghan relationship
if Pakistan does not support Taliban again or interfere in Afghanistan’s
internal affairs. The US, whose influence in the region has increased
considerably after the beginning of the war against terrorism, is likely
to maintain a close relationship with Pakistan. It will ensure that
the Jihadi infrastructure in Pakistan is gradually dismantled through
‘carrot and stick’ means. It is unlikely to abandon Afghanistan or Pakistan
as it did from the former after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. The Bush
Administration has also declared that unlike in the past, it will not
involve itself in a zero sum game and its policies and relationship
with India and Pakistan will be independent of each other.
The terrorists’ attack
on the Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001 and subsequent deployment
of armed forces of both sides on the border has once again increased
tension between India and Pakistan. Another war has been averted in
the nick of time through US diplomacy. The US has also put some Pak
terrorist organisations - Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba and
Jaish-e-Mohammed on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist
This will enable its authorities to deny visas and carry out deportations
of suspected members of these organisations. However, if the US is unable
to dissuade Pakistan from following its current terrorism/proxy war
policies against India, we may expect Pakistan to act bold and continue
with its hard-line stance in resolving Indo-Pakistan disputes.
What kind of elected
government in Pakistan will there be after President Musharraf’s promised
election in October 2002? Will it lead to political stability or instability?
The general impression is that in both contingencies, the Pak military
would remain a dominant factor. What is also obvious is that a "failed"
Pakistan would be disastrous for India and the region. This would lead
to mass migration, mostly into India, which the Indian Government would
not be able to handle.
As already stated,
the Kargil War was the fourth to be initiated by Pakistan over J&K,
not counting the ongoing skirmishes in Siachen Glacier and the twelve
year old Pak sponsored proxy war. That, along with more difficult strategic
and economic conditions prevailing on the sub-continent now, should
make it obvious to both India and Pakistan that the J&K problem
cannot be resolved militarily. Even when political attempts are made
to resolve the issue in a hurry, it could lead to greater violence on
both sides of the LoC.
Indo-Pak talks, which
began after two years of the Kargil War, have once again got stalled
after 13 December 2001. The hawks on both sides have taken over. The
Jihadi terrorism in J&K has increased and so has the tension and
insecurity on both sides of the border and the LoC. Such a situation
between two geographic neighbours cannot go on forever but one can foresee
that the talks, whenever resumed next time, will move at a snail’s pace.
Failure to move forward would have an adverse impact on both countries.
It is also obvious that there is no alternative to a slow, gradual incremental
peace process through political, economic and military CBMs. Peace cannot
be created by dramatic gestures or a few meetings between the top leaders,
but through gradually increased confidence building measures. India
and Pakistan have a long way to go before they can create a win-win
situation on any of their problems. The best hope is that both countries
can agree to create a situation of trust and confidence: to live and
Even if India and Pakistan
do not fight a war in the future, only a miracle would avoid an ‘armed
peace’ between them in the next decade.
1. "Kargil was Pakistan’s biggest
disaster after 1971". Nawaz Sharif in June 2000.
"Kargil has been Pakistan’s
biggest blunder. Pakistani people who were told that Pakistan was winning
the war, are bewildered and humiliated". Benazir Bhutto in July
2. "Four Wars, One Assumption".
Altaf Gauhar, The Nation, 5 September 1999.
3. The Directors General Military
Operations of India and Pakistan made use of the hotline throughout
the war. They met once in the Border Security Force premises on Wagah
Border on 11 July 1999.
4. Following intelligence reports
about the impending occupation of Siachin Glacier by Pak Army, Indian
troops occupied the Saltoro Ridge line running North of Point NJ 9842.
5. Interrogation reports of PsOW,
captured documents, diaries and Identity Cards found on the dead bodies
6. "Small Arms Big Impact",
Report by Michael Renner, World Watch Institute.
7. "Don’t be carried away by
the rhetoric of the Indians whose armed forces are totally exhausted
and whose morale is at its lowest". General Musharraf on 29 October
1998 in Pak 1 Corps.
8. The Radcliff Award, which was
the basis of Indo-Pak boundary at the time of partition, and later the
CFL / LoC, have created ethnic divide all along the Indo-Pak border.
Similar ethnic divide exists along India’s border with other neighbouring
9. The USA did not question Pak nuclear
programme earlier so that the latter could continue as a frontline state.
Indians believe that it was a serious mistake on both counts ie, acquisition
of nuclear weapon and low cost proxy war capability.
10. Federal Minister of Pakistan
for Religious Affairs made such a statement.
11. General K Sundarji, Former Chief
of the Army Staff, India, advocated overt nuclear capability by both
India and Pakistan to reduce the chances of war between the two nations.
12. The preamble of the Lahore Declaration
states, "The nuclear dimension of the security environment of the
two countries adds to their responsibility for avoidance of conflict
between the two countries. That an environment of peace and security
is in the supreme national interest of both side".
13. General Pervez Musharraf is considered
a hawkish person by the Indian establishment, as compared to his predecessor
General Jehangir Karamat, who resigned due to differences with Prime
Minister Nawaz Sharif.
14. Para II.6 of The Kashmir Study
15. "India’s Strategic Thoughts"
by George Tanham
16. "The manner we lurched into
it (Kargil war) unthinkably and on the basis of a set of false assumptions
reflected the intellectual bankruptcy, which holds sway in our corridors
of power". Ayaz Amir, The Dawn, 6 August 1999.
17. "Calling the Indian Army
Chief’s Bluff". Lt Gen Javed Nasir, Defence Journal, February-March
18. Text of the joint statement:
- "President Clinton and Prime Minister
Nawaz Sharif share the view that the current fighting in the Kargil
region of Kashmir is dangerous and contains the seeds of a wider
- They also agree that it was vital for peace in
South Asia that the Line of Control in Kashmir be respected by both
parties, in accordance with their 1972 Simla Agreement.
- It was agreed between the President and the Prime
Minister that concrete steps will be taken for the restoration of
the Line of Control in accordance with the Simla Agreement.
- The President urged immediate cessation of the
hostilities once these steps are taken. The Prime Minister and the
President agreed that the bilateral dialogue begun in Lahore in
February provides the best forum for resolving all issues dividing
India and Pakistan, including Kashmir.
- The President said he would take personal interest
in encouraging expeditious resumption and intensification of those
bilateral efforts once the sanctity of the Line of Control has been
- The President reaffirmed his intent to pay an early
visit to South Asia."
19. "The Relationship Between
Security and Economics in South Asia", Patrick Clawson, INSS,
National Defence University, Washington, December 1997.
20. President Pervez Musharraf’s
televised interaction with Indian media over breakfast in Agra on 16
21. US State Department’s announcement made on 7