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-anointed President of
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,
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.”
It needs to be remembered that “confusion and dysfunction” in
Pakistan’s higher elections during the Kargil War occurred due
to the following factors:
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
and dysfunction occurred due to this “dis-connect” between
the Pakistani Army Chief and his political master i.e. the
Musharraf and the Pakistani military hierarchy were in a
“state of denial” till such time India’s military
superiorities started coming into play.
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.
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".
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.
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
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
malaise will continue in Pakistan till such time the Pakistani
masses mobilize themselves politically and force the Pakistan
Army back to the barracks.
Pakistan Army voluntarily would not permit emergence of viable
strong civilian institutions.
Pakistan Military Cannot
Fully Fill Civilian-Decision Making Gaps:
following observation is a telling comment on the Pakistan
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.”
is the most valuable lesson brought out as it puts in proper
perspective, all that is wrong with the Pakistani nation
Pakistan Army has consistently subverted the Pakistani nation
state to firm its grip and control on Pakistan's politics.
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.
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.
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.”
absence of written records on security related issues reflects
two serious infirmities of the Pakistan state machinery.
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.
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.
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
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
“ 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
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.
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
Musharraf seems to have been misled into militarily
challenging India, fortified by the newly acquired nuclear
weapons arsenal of Pakistan Army in 1998.
any such future miscalculation by General Musharraf on
the use of nuclear weapons could surely lead to the
extinction of the Pakistani State.
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
Pakistan Army’s Military
Confusion and Disconnect with the Political Government:
It is stated that:
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.”
culprit for the “disconnect” stated above was essentially
no offensive formations were moved by the Pakistan Army, than
the responsibility once again lies with General Musharraf.
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..
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
Shiren Mazari states:
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.”
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
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.
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.
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
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
is a singularly erroneous misconception in terms of a
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.
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.
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
is a highly militarised and militant state under the iron grip
of the Pakistan Army.
Pakistan Army is not inclined to let go its vice-like grip on
Pakistan’s foreign policy and politics.
Army would not permit the emergence of strong civilian
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:
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?
United States feel safe with nuclear weapons being under the
control of an irresponsible and strategically blind Pakistan
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
Lessons for India
India needs to take sharp
notice of the following factors and devise appropriate responses:
Pakistan Army is a military adventurist Army and has the
propensity to repeatedly initiate new conflicts with
India notwithstanding any episodic peace rhetoric.
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.
should not mistake the 'peace with India' yearnings of the
Pakistan masses as the aspiration of Pakistan's Generals,
including General Musharraf .
Army under military pressure could initiate a nuclear exchange
with India. India needs to be politically and militarily
prepared for swift appropriate responses.
militarily and in terms of civil defence measures should
prepare itself for an irresponsibly initiated nuclear conflict
launched by Pakistan.
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:
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
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:
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.
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.
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”:
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”.
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
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