Pakistan's Lessons from its Kargil War 1999
PAKISTAN’S LESSONS FROM ITS KARGIL WAR (1999):
An Analysis by Dr. Subhash Kapila
The Kargil War (1999) against India was a military misadventure of the Pakistan Army master-minded and executed by Pakistan Army’s Chief of Staff, General Pervez Musharraf and now the self-appointed President of Pakistan.
The Pakistan Army under General Musharraf, despite some initial gains, ultimately suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Indian Army. With the possibility of India escalating the war from a “limited war” in Kargil and extending it to Pakistan proper, General Musharraf seemingly goaded the hapless Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to rush to Washington and enlist United States aid to pressurize India for a three-day ceasefire to enable Pakistani troops to withdraw to their side of the LOC.
The Pakistani Army under General Musharraf had kept the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the dark about the Kargil military misadventure. Later, the Pakistan Army and General Musharraf, after the Kargil defeat, kept secret this fact from the Pakistani nation. To deflect domestic and international attention from his own personal culpability in this misadventure, General Musharraf, unscrupulous as his wont, blamed PM Nawaz Sharif for Pakistan’s military humiliation and used this as a pretext for launching his military coup against a democratically elected Government Incidentally PM Nawaz Sharif was elected by an overwhelming majority and that too on an election plank of peace with India.
Its only five years later after the Kargil war that analyses have now started appearing analyzing this war from the Pakistani perspective and drawing lessons from it. One such work that is now available on the Kargil War is by Shireen Mazari a Pakistani strategic analyst, with hawkish anti-Indian stances. Shireen Mazari’s research stands published by the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, Pakistan.
The aim of this paper is to dwell on the “Lessons Learnt From Kargil” as brought out by Shireen Mazari in her publication and give a deductive analysis on each of her major points as a commentary. Her conclusions are quoted verbatim in bold print and this author’s commentary follows each excerpt quoted.
It is also the aim of this paper to draw some brief lessons for the United States and India, as emanating after this authors analysis.
“Lessons learnt From Kargil” as Projected by Pakistani Strategist Shireen Mazari:
The short preamble to this portion of the publication praises the Pakistan Army showing “tactical ingenuity and boldness in its execution” and the very next sentences then adds: “ However what the whole event revealed were critical shortcomings in the decision-making process". The observations then follow and to begin with:
Confusion and Dysfunction in Decision Making:
"And as the operation incrementally moved up on the escalation ladder, Pakistan’s decision-making system betrayed signs of confusion and dysfunction. In fact, the short-coming of Pakistan’s national security decision-making were revealed by the Kargil Conflict were not episodic but systemic.”
Commentary: It needs to be remembered that “confusion and dysfunction” in Pakistan’s higher elections during the Kargil War occurred due to the following factors:
• Kargil War was master-minded and launched by General Musharraf on his own personal decision and initiative, without taking PM Nawaz Sharif into confidence or bringing him into the picture at the outset.
• Confusion and dysfunction occurred due to this “dis-connect” between the Pakistani Army Chief and his political master i.e. the Prime Minister.
• General Musharraf and the Pakistani military hierarchy were in a “state of denial” till such time India’s military superiorities started coming into play.
• The growing Indian and international media over-publicisation of the Kargil War added to Pakistan Army’s perplexities as by now plausible deniability exists stood sealed.
• Pakistan’s national security decision making is centered on the Pakistan Army Chief and its collegium of Generals. This phenomenon, despite an NSC in existence will continue.
Lack of Strategic Policy Coordination Between the Military and Political Leadership:
Shireen Mazari observes:
“To begin with the lack of strategic policy coordination between the military and political leadership was so apparent that no serious attempt was made to cover it up. The political leadership did not make any serious efforts to think-through the unfolding military situation on a strategic plan, and until late in the day June 3, 1999 this leadership did not feel the need and made no attempt to try and discuss the issue in the federal cabinet. Hence the utter confusion and lack of coordination once the diplomatic and political stakes rose".
Commentary:• This is a motivated observation by Shireen Mazari aimed as a posterior protection measure for the Pakistan Army and General Musharraf. How could Pakistan’s political leadership exert when the entire operation was kept away from the political domain by General Musharraf. As would be recalled from Bruce Reidels records of the Clinton-Nawaz Sharif meeting of July 4, 1999 the Pakistani Prime Minister appeared to be terrorized by the prospects of General Musharraf’s coup and had come prepared with his family not to go back to Pakistan.
• Shireen Mazari’s very choice of sequence of words “lack of strategic policy coordination between the military and political leadership” betrays who was calling the shots in Pakistan, namely General Musharraf and the Pakistan Army. So therefore, the blame falls squarely on their shoulders.”
Lack of Strong Civilian Institutions/Bureaucracies:
Shireen mazari states”
“To put it simply, Pakistan utterly lacks strong civilian institutions/bureaucracies, inclusive of any national security apparatus, that can integrate various inputs at the upper echelons of the government and then render appropriate advice to the Chief Executive of the country, or set out policy options for him.”
• This malaise will continue in Pakistan till such time the Pakistani masses mobilize themselves politically and force the Pakistan Army back to the barracks.
• The Pakistan Army voluntarily would not permit emergence of viable strong civilian institutions.
Pakistan Military Cannot Fully Fill Civilian-Decision Making Gaps:
The following observation is a telling comment on the Pakistan military:
“Apparently, the conflict, at its various stages was broadly discussed verbally, in official circles, and some quick conclusions drawn. These were then disseminated through ad-hoc chains of communication between various organs. The negative manner in which competing bureaucracies, including military, absorbed and disseminated or refused to disseminate information further aggravated the issue at the national level. To give political context to military decisions, there have to be strong civilian institutions in defence policy making,--------. Military institutions and organizations, no matter how efficient cannot fully fill these civilian decision-making gaps and inputs in an adequate fashion. This is exactly what happed during the Kargil conflict also.”
• This is the most valuable lesson brought out as it puts in proper perspective, all that is wrong with the Pakistani nation state.
• The Pakistan Army has consistently subverted the Pakistani nation state to firm its grip and control on Pakistan's politics.
• The Pakistan Army and its Generals are not competent to act rationally and give mature strategic directions to the nation state of Pakistan. The Kargil War defeat and the previous defeats of the Pakistan Army in earlier wars with India are eloquent testimony to this fact.
• Even under civilian regimes, foreign and defence policies are dictated by Pakistan Army. Notably, even under civilian regimes the control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is in the hands of the Pakistan Army.
• The world and particularly the United States needs to take a significant note of this aspect in relation to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is not under civilian political control but in the hands of military adventurist rulers like General Musharraf.
Absence of Written Records of Security-Related Issues:
It has been brought out, that:
“ A lack of serious thinking and critical assessment of the evolving situation during the conflict is borne out by the near total absence of written records at all levels of government. This aspect, perhaps, reflects a much deeper erosion of professionalism within the government that needs to be reformed. Prior to 1971, official records of defence and security-related meetings, show detailed minutes of government proceedings.”
• The absence of written records on security related issues reflects two serious infirmities of the Pakistan state machinery.
• First, that all records, that may have been maintained within the Pakistan Army itself were either not made accessible to Shireen Mazari, or worse, fearing exposure of the sordid details of General Musharraf's misadventure, they stand destroyed, on the orders of General Musharraf who still continues in power.
• Second, with a virtually continuous military rule in Pakistan post-1971, the Army has made sure that the civilian political executive has no access to the discussions of the Pakistan Army Corps Commanders Conference where all foreign policy, defence and nuclear weapons issues are discussed.
• In such an environment where military decisions are verbally taken and no records of security issues maintained it is self evident that no accountability exists on critical issues of state policy like foreign affairs and defence. Pakistan's credibility therefore in international affairs is pitiably low.
Pakistan Army’s Bungled Military Planning in Kargil and Under-estimating Indian Army’s Response:
The Pakistan Army and General Musharraf in particular stand significantly indicted by the following observations:
“ For the Pakistani military it was essential to evaluate the various anticipated Indian politico-military responses-including the raising of the military ante and worse case scenarios. The military, in planning a division-sized defensive engagement, failed to foresee how the demands of military operational strategy would cross with the exigencies of grand strategy and international diplomacy. It also did not anticipate the degree to which the enemy would vertically escalate the military situation. A major failing of Kargil was to under-estimate the Indian response militarily. Therefore it is vital that the planning and operational conduct of this conflict (Kargil) is allowed to be critically discussed in military training institutions at all levels."
• Pakistani Army’s military planning failures need to be solely shouldered by General Musharraf. He was the mastermind as Pakistan's Army Chief in terms of planning and conduct of the Kargil mis-adventure. He is therefore responsible for Pakistan's defeat in the Kargil War as accountability is vertical.
• General Musharraf, used as he is to military swagger, severely under-estimated the Indian military response. It is the same trait that is in play today in the on-going peace dialogue with India.
• General Musharraf seems to have been misled into militarily challenging India, fortified by the newly acquired nuclear weapons arsenal of Pakistan Army in 1998.
• Regrettably any such future miscalculation by General Musharraf on the use of nuclear weapons could surely lead to the extinction of the Pakistani State.
• The Pakistan Army has always shied away from discussions of its military reverses against India. It would therefore be unimaginable that General Musharraf would allow his military fiasco to be discussed in Pakistan Army training establishments.
Pakistan Army’s Military Confusion and Disconnect with the Political Government:
It is stated that:
“By the end of May 1999, there was a total disconnect between the political government and the strategic planners, as a result of which no offensive formations were moved to the front which sent a clear signal to the Indians that Pakistan was in no mood to fight a war. Once ambivalence and confusion were not maintained at the military level by Pakistan for the enemy, India gained an assured level of focus.”
• The culprit for the “disconnect” stated above was essentially General Musharraf’.
• If no offensive formations were moved by the Pakistan Army, than the responsibility once again lies with General Musharraf.
• This may yet be another reflection of General Musharraf’s personal trait of resorting to brinkmanship, but shying away from hard choices when actually facing the brink..
• It reflects poorly on General Musharraf’s qualities as a military leader and his professionally poor appreciation of the enemies capabilities ie. India.
Pakistan Lost the Information War:
Shiren Mazari states:
“ The information war was lost from the start because of the decision not to inform the public at home and an equally half-hearted approach regarding what to give out to the international community. There is no clear cut evidence to pinpoint who actually made the decision not to inform the domestic polity, but clearly the lack of coordination at the highest level of decision making was the major factor.”
• It is surprising for an astute strategic analyst like Shireen Mazari to state that no clear cut evidence exists as to who decided not to inform the Pakistani public about the Kargil misadventure.
• Obviously, it was General Musharraf and the Pakistan Army which all along had kept PM Nawaz Sharif out of the decision- making loop of the Kargil War and the Pakistani defeat.
• This phenomena of the Pak Army and its Generals has been noticeable in all the conflicts with India. The Pakistani masses are never taken into the picture by the Pakistan Army, which calls all the shots in Pakistan and in the process fudges its military reverses against India.
• Why go further, published reports in Pakistan indicate that even the Pakistan Air Force Chief and Pakistan Navy Chief were not taken into picture on Kargil by General Musharraf till a late stage in the conflict.
Wrong Military Lesson Drawn By Shireen Mazari in Terms of Indian Responses
As if to soften the indictment blows on the Pakistan Army in terms of her preceding comments, Shireen Mazari in the concluding para comes to this final conclusion:
“ However, one positive lesson from Kargil was that Pakistan could sustain limited military encounter in conventional terms in the face of India raising the conventional ante, and still prevent India from opening an all-out war front along the international border.”
• This is a singularly erroneous misconception in terms of a conclusion.
• It was the military restraint imposed by India’s political leadership on the Indian Army not to cross the LOC which permitted the Pakistan Army to sustain its military misadventure in Kargil. The outcome would have been otherwise had the Indian Army not been politically restrained.
• It would also be erroneous for Pakistan to believe that India would not cross the international border in future. India did it in 1965 when its military resources were limited. With increased military might, India may not be all that restrained in the future notwithstanding Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
• Whether in conventional war or into nuclear escalation by Pakistan in the future, Pakistan’s capacity to withstand both conventional and nuclear attrition is limited and therefore Pakistan's Generals need to exercise abundant caution before stepping on India's toes.
United States Needs to Re-evaluate its Strategic Ally in South Asia
The major lessons/deductions arising from an analysis of Shireen Mazari’s publication are that:
• Pakistan is a highly militarised and militant state under the iron grip of the Pakistan Army.
• The Pakistan Army is not inclined to let go its vice-like grip on Pakistan’s foreign policy and politics.
• Pakistan Army would not permit the emergence of strong civilian bureaucratic institutions.
• Pakistan Army is a reckless body led by military adventurists generals like General Musharraf.
If these be the hallmarks of the Pakistani nation-state run by military dictatorships, the United States needs to decide whether:
• Can United States national security interests be served by Pakistan under a military dictatorship devoid of civilian political support from the Pakistani public and its polity?
• Can United States feel safe with nuclear weapons being under the control of an irresponsible and strategically blind Pakistan Army?
• Can the United States afford a nuclear conflict in South Asia initiated by a Pakistan Army Chief under whose sole control exists the Pakistan nuclear arsenal. United States needs to remember that India has declared a "No First Use" nuclear policy whereas Pakistan has not done likewise.
United States seems to be unwisely forgetting that the bigger danger is not of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling in the hands if Islamic Jehadis, but that Pakistan Army itself handing over nuclear weapons to Islamic Jehadis for proxy war against the hated enemy of Islam, that is the United States.
United States must recognise that if ever a nuclear conflict takes place in South Asia it would be directly of Pakistan's making and indirectly that of the United States.
Lessons for India
India needs to take sharp notice of the following factors and devise appropriate responses:
• The Pakistan Army is a military adventurist Army and has the propensity to repeatedly initiate new conflicts with India notwithstanding any episodic peace rhetoric.
• In this it is buoyed by United States permissiveness of Pakistan Army’s military control over Pakistan, denial of democracy and emergence of strong civil institutions.
• India should not mistake the 'peace with India' yearnings of the Pakistan masses as the aspiration of Pakistan's Generals, including General Musharraf .
• Pakistan Army under military pressure could initiate a nuclear exchange with India. India needs to be politically and militarily prepared for swift appropriate responses.
• India militarily and in terms of civil defence measures should prepare itself for an irresponsibly initiated nuclear conflict launched by Pakistan.
• No amount of US guarantees or interceding on General Musharraf’s behalf be considered or accepted by India.
With the benefit of hindsight, Shireen Mazari at many places elsewhere in her published work, tries to cover up the Pakistan Army and General Musharraf. Some of those observations need quoting and these are:
• “In fact the international attention focused on the Kargil conflict took Pakistan by surprise especially since Pakistan saw it as yet another tactical operational exchange similar to others along the LOC, but which incrementally escalated as a result of India raising the military, political and diplomatic ante.”
• “another damaging result of Kargil has been the use of the Pakistan military as a scapegoat not only by the Indian and American analysts but also by elements within Pakistan’s political elite and civil society. There is an increasing attempt to undermine the institution of the military and place it at odds with civil society”
Many questions get raised and many factors come to the fore from these assertions and these are:
• If Kargil was not planned as a deliberate well planned military operation by General Musharaaf, then what was the necessity of keeping the Kargil developments a secret from the Pakistani public. Tactical operational exchanges along the LOC are regularly reported in the Pakistani media, than why not the Kargil Conflict developments.
• President Clinton and his Administration would have not come out so heavily on Pakistan and General Musharraf , had the Kargil misadventure been just “ another tactical operational exchange similar to others along the LOC.” Obviously the United States also held evidence of Pakistan’s more wider and strategic grandiose designs in the illusionary mind of the military adventurist Pakistan Army Chief, General Musharraf.
• Unlike the present President Bush and his Administration, President Clinton had not much respect for General Musharraf and his credibility, it seems.
Concluding finally, one could offer Pakistan and Shireen Mazari, the following advice which could be added to her “Lessons Learnt From Kargil”:
• In any future military misadventure by Pakistan’s head-strong Generals, India may go in for a military sledge-hammer rather than an “incremental escalation” in response to what Pakistan would like to call “as another tactical operational exchange along the LOC”.
• The Pakistan Army was not made a scapegoat in the Kargil War. It was the Pakistan Army and General Musharraf who made PM Nawaz Sharif as the scapegoat as a cover-up for their military follies. It was General Musharraf who kept the Pakistan nation, his Prime Minister and the other Chiefs in the dark about Kargil.
The Pakistan Army is a state within a state and a law unto itself. It is high time that Pakistanis, especially strategic analysts like Shireen Mazari joined hands with other Pakistani intellectuals to politically mobilize the Pakistani masses to rein in the Pakistani Army. The Pakistan Army was responsible for disintegration of Pakistan in 1971 (civil war leading to creation of Bangladesh) and it may now be leading towards another disintegration of Pakistan in Balochistan and Balwaristan.
(The author is an International Relations and Strategic Affairs analyst. He is the Consultant, Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. Email drsubhashkapila @yahoo.com)
I doubt the fact and figures are correct in this document. By blaming Pakistani Army of everything and hailing the indian institutions, this documents seems malicious.
Kargil was not a military misadventure...........yups it was political failure and it happened on wrong time just after one year of nuclear test. But as far as with respect to military strategy it wasn't misadventure.
i would say it presents good views from an Indian perspective but it doesnt gives complete picture. highly biased i would say
In my view everything about Kargil was stupid. It was the greatest military disaster of sub-continental history.
By the way my friend, i am all available for helping you with the english thing. My address is in my profile.
Whether military misadventure or politacal failure,
I wonder if it had not happened , the two neihbour would have
been at much better entente.
The Pakistan Military truly faced a major draw back in Kargil due to a number of reasons. Most importantly better planned Indian counter attack. Pakistan Army could not plan the whole Operation in a professional way and hence faced consequences.
Pervez Musharraf had always been planning an attack like Kargil, may be to as an act of vengeance for his 1987 defeat in Siachen. General Mirza A B also say that Musharraf had this plan in his mind during the times of BB, and his plan was bitterly opposed by her.
Pakistan Army was shelter-less to the Indian Airforce's bombardment during Operation Safed Sagar whereas Indian Army was conducting there successful Operation Vijay. It was also found out that a lot many soldiers of our NLI were disguised as Mujahideen but later revealed. The losses of Pakistan army were indeed drastic at the Tiger Hill.
Conscious does make cowards of us all...
My friend Qaisrani
Because i like doing debate although i have same opinion, as the other have, about kargil. I just love making people angry and love to look at the faces when they lose temper. You replied after a long time about helping me, i was hoping your reply in the other thread.
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