KARGIL has proved, beyond doubt, the mettle and resilience of the Indian army. By the time the guns ceased booming, most of the mountain heights occupied by the infiltrators had been recaptured through militarily suicidal missions which left, officially, 413 Indian soldiers killed and 584 injured. But as the dust settles on the longest border engagement between India and Pakistan since ’71, in the cold light of a post mortem analysis, questions are being raised within the army and the defence establishment on whether the Kargil episode could have been avoided with a little more alertness and foresight. Or, given a different set of circumstances, done differently.
In retrospect, army officers say the high-casualty war could have been precluded but for a sense of complacency that set in among the intelligence agencies, local military formations and political masters. It would be churlish, they say, to pin the blame on any one establishment or individual. It was, rather, an all-round relaxation of vigil that in the end exacted such a high human cost. This stemmed from a false sense of confidence generated by Pokhran II and the Lahore peace mission, after which the message from the government was that India and Pakistan were now friends.