Book review. Pioneer, 4 August 2006.
Live for once or die everyday
The central theme coming out of Gen Malik's book is that there will not be an end to Kargil-like situations till Pakistan is convinced of India's military superiority and political will to retaliate against such misadventures, writes MV Kamath
Kargil: From Surprise to Victory - VP Malik; Harper Collins, Rs 595
So much has been written about the Kargil war and how the despicable armed forces of Pakistan cheated India. And how, even as then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was hugging his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharief, that country's Army, in the guise of jihadi militants, was infiltrating India. That one wants to know even more how events came to pass and how, in the end, India won the war.
General VP Malik, who was then Chief of the Army Staff and played a vital role in panning co-ordinating and over-seeing the military operations, avers that the war in Kargil will go down in the history of India as a saga of "unmatched bravery, grit and determination displayed on the battlefield by the Indian Army". The word "battlefield" is slightly misleading. The Indian Army was not fighting in Panipat, but on the snow-covered mountains of Kargil under heavy strain. That, however, did not deter our soldiers who succeeded in eliminating Pakistani forces from their hideouts and planting the tricolour where it rightly belonged.
General Pervez Musharraf had managed to get tactically secure heights taken over by his men in the hope that he would be able to bring Indian Army to their knees. He failed, as other Army Generals had failed earlier. The attempt to capture Kargil has since been described by Pakistani writers as "a complete disaster", "a trauma", "a catastrophe" and "a debacle". One Pakistani writer described Kargil as "the biggest blunder committed in the history of Pakistan", which had given its people "a sense of humiliation".
What moved Gen Musharraf to undertake this hazardous operation? The tragedy with the Pakistan Army is that it functions under the delusion that one Muslim sepoy is equal to 10 Hindu counterparts and that it can get away with murder. As Gen Maik himself put it: "The Pakistan military appeared to have convinced itself that India would not resort to a full-scale war, apprehensive that it may escalate to the nuclear level." And so, remarks Gen Malik, "Such conviction on the part of the Pakistan Army had seriously eroded India's conventional military deterrence."
India did not follow an 'activist' policy. The belief in Pakistani military quarters was that India would not cross the LoC despite the deliberate aggression from its neighbour and that India primarily is a 'status quo' nation. In other words, it was - and probably still is - the feeling in Pakistani military circles that India would not react quickly and would not get provoked easily.
Gen Malik states, "Such an impression may encourage the Pakistani military to continue its adventurous forays into Indian territory under the nuclear umbrella." This has been India's undoing all these years. For one thing, India has never attacked any nation on its own. The nation has suffered for centuries and it has become part of its natural psyche. The time has come for India to teach Pakistan that it will not tolerate any nonsense from Pakistan in future.
India has to be constantly on the guard. Let us face it: Pakistan is untrustworthy. Gen Musharraf had even the impertinence to bring out nuclear weaponry close to the Indian border. The General says that even prior to the Lahore meeting between Mr Sharief and Mr Vajpayee, the former knew what was going on, though he claims that he had been kept in dark. There is no guarantee that such things will not happen in future again.
What should India do then? After Kargil, the Government appointed a Review Committee that brought out several serious deficiencies in India's security management system, particularly in the areas of intelligence, border patrolling and defence management. The report pointed out that despite far-reaching developments affecting India's national security in the past few decades, the country's higher and defence-related decision-making system did not change.
There were other things that came to public notice. One was the crisis of confidence among civil and military officials in the Ministry of Defence and services Headquarters regarding their respective rules and functions. A Group of Ministers, too, had deliberated and found that there was a lack of inter-intelligence agencies' co-ordination, preparation and distribution of assessments about the adversaries with each other and the users.
The defence planning process was handicapped by the absence of a national security doctrine and commitment of funds beyond a financial year. The process suffered due to the lack of a holistic approach, inter-service prioritisation in annual, mid-term and long-term planning and requisite flexibility. The system governing defence acquisitions suffered from a lack of integrated planning and requisite flexibility. Similarly, the system governing defence acquisitions suffered from a lack of integrated planning, weaknesses in linkages between plans and budgets, endless make-or-buy discussions, cumbersome administrate, technical and financial procedures and the absence of a dedicated, professionally-equipped common procurement structure within the Ministry of Defence.
Worse, finding, identifying, educating, motivating and retaining quality manpower for the armed forces had become difficult. A service career needed to be made more attractive. All these and other matters have been effectively discussed by Gen Malik.
The first half of the book details how decisions were taken and how the battles were fought. It describes the heroism shown by our soldiers, besides other matters such as the Army Family Support System, the splendid manner in which the armed forces - the Army, the Navy and the Air Force - worked as one unit. It also talks about the China factor, the role of the US and similar relevant matters.
Gen Malik quotes the words of a well-known Pakistani defence analyst: "To be fair to Musharraf, it is not possible for him to convince his generals and other senior officers of changing the old mindset regarding India. New Delhi (for Pakistan) still remains that top enemy that will have to be fought or vanquished." It is time India gave Pakistan one big wallop to teach it to behave in future, nuclear parity notwithstanding. Living permanently in fear is no way to handle a treacherous enemy.