Patience and restraint, the two recurrent motifs in India’s approach to the Kargil conflict, are wearing thin on the ground. Five weeks into a bitter, taxing battle in this northern sector, with the forbidding prospect of a long haul ahead, two distinct schools of thought are emerging on the future conduct of operations. The mood among the Indian armed forces deployed on this front is, slowly but surely, veering away from the one basic ground-rule New Delhi has steadfastly clung to: that the LoC is to be kept sacrosanct. The implications, if the militarist view comes to prevail, are colossal.
In pure operational terms, it is felt, crossing the LoC is a bleeding necessity. The reasons are simple, and many. Take the fight for Tiger Hills, which has become a kind of psychological block for the army. Soldiers of three crack infantry units have been at it since mid-May, in a vain bid to dislodge Pakistani troops from the crucial peak. The scenario is near-hopeless: hauling yourselves up on ropes at 15,000-odd feet, over a killing 80-degree gradient mountain face, weighed down by 40 kg backpacks, braving icy winds and sub-zero temperatures. Forget enemy guns, even boulders flung from the top take lives. The bodycount is climbing. Yet, the operation continues.