“Kargil: From Surprise to Victory”

“Kargil: From Surprise to Victory”

“Kargil: From Surprise to Victory”, written by Gen VP Malik  is an important book in Indian military history. It has been summarized by Om Auty in this blog.

Kargil War

On 11th and 13th May 1998 India carried out nuclear tests at Pokhran.
Pakistan followed with its own tests 15 days later. Both the countries received a lot of flak for the tests.
The tests were followed by the Lahore declaration about their newly obtained nuclear weapons.
This encouraged the terrorists in Pakistan to increase violence in Kashmir. Pakistan saw this as a perfect opportunity to launch “Operation Badr”. This operation was very secretive.  Details were known only to a few people on a need to know basis; even their own PM did not know the full details.

Objectives of “Operation Badr”:
  • Altering the alignment along LOC east of Zoji La pass denying access to the Srinagar -Leh highway.
  • Reviving terrorism in Kashmir and highlighting the J&K issue internationally.
  • Capturing Turtuk, a village located near the banks of Shyok River in Ladakh
  • Revenge for Pakistan Army’s loss of face in the Siachen War.

Summary of Kargil War, “Operation Vijay”

Pakistani soldiers started intruding into the Indian territory disguised as militants. They started establishing their bunkers and bases past the LoC.
The failure of Indian intelligence is what caused surprise. All the intelligence reports suggested that the intruders were only militants and were to be dealt with accordingly. Hence all the initial operations by the Indian army failed. Later on, a conversation between Pervez Musharraf (the then Army Chief of Pakistan) and a senior officer which was intercepted made it clear that the intruders were regular Pakistan Army troops.
On the eve of Kargil War Indian Army’s deployment in the area was as follows:

  • 121 Infantry Brigade with 3 infantry battalions and 1 BSF battalion were guarding the LoC between Kaobal Gali and Chorbat La.
  • 102 Infantry Brigade with 3 infantry battalions were guarding the LOC and AGPL(Actual Ground Position Line) from South of Turtuk to Sia La(Karakoram).
  • 70 Infantry Brigade with 1 battalion was near Leh.

121 Infantry Brigade Deployment:

  • 16 GRENADIERS at Dras.
  • 4 JAT at Kaksar
  • 8 BSF at Chamigund
  • 3 PUNJAB was in Batalik.

Once it was clear that Pakistan army was involved, Gen VP Malik asked for the IAF to be involved in the operations but the CCS(Cabinet Committee on Security ) and the IAF chief declined it as they were worried it might escalate the issue. In late May 1999 Gen Malik managed to convince the IAF chief, the Naval Chief and CSS to start a joint operation. IAF launched attacks and airstrikes on 26th May with MIGs and armed MI-17. The next day India lost 2 MiGs:

  • MiG 27 flown by Flt Lt Nachiketa Rao
  • MiG 21 flown by Sqn Ldr Ajay Ahuja

After this attack, the IAF did not conduct any attack operations as the weather conditions were not suitable and flying was very dangerous as Pakistanis were well equipped with air defense guns and FIM-92 Stinger missiles.
Indian political and military leaders were actively involved in making strategies to tackle the problems. To ensure the safe transfer of resources to the troops in Kargil a secondary road via Pathankot was opened.
On 22-23 May 56 Mountain Brigade launched attacks on Tololing and Pt. 5140 but failed to capture them and suffered heavy casualties. On 13 June a better-planned operation launched by 56 Mountain Brigade succeeded in capturing Tololing.
After the capture of Tololing, the morale of the troops was high. Capture of Tololing was a huge blow to Pakistan as Tololing Ridgeline was almost 5 km from Dras town and Srinagar Leh highway; the intruders could easily bomb the highway and block the Indian army’s vehicular movement.
In mid-June, 13 JAK-RIF was tasked to capture Pt 5140 (1500m from Tololing on the same ridgeline).
Artillery fire was proving to be ineffective due to well-built enemy bunkers hence Bofors regiments were employed. 13 JAKRIF was able to capture Rocky Knob, Humps X, and IX. After further reconnaissance of the enemy base on Pt 5140, the brigade planned a multidirectional attack which included 18GR from the East, 1 NAGA from the Southwest and 13 JAKRIF from the South of the feature and they were successful.
This was a huge morale booster for the army which led to the capture of other points such as Tiger Hill in Mashko Valley, Pt. 4875 in Batalik Sector: Khalubar Top & Pt. 4812 in Kaksar Sector.

 China Factor

During the Kargil conflict, China maintained a neutral posture as it had promised before. However, on ground level, the People’s Liberation Army(PLA) had enhanced its activities along the LAC in Ladakh and opposite of Arunachal Pradesh. The Chinese move demonstrated a support to Pakistan or an attempt to take over the disputed areas by taking advantage of Indian army’s involvement on the western border.
The military operations ended on 26th July 1999; Indian army captured 8 Pakistani Army soldiers and a large number of weapons, ammunition, equipment, and documents.
These documents were proof of the involvement of the Pakistani Army, which Pakistan denies till date.

 Pakistani Withdrawal

Pakistan sought a meeting with the US president Clinton.
Nawaz Sharif met Clinton on 4th July, 24 hours after Indian Army captured Tiger Hill.
Pakistan wanted US to intervene so as to not cause any further embarrassment to their country.
Clinton did not agree and strictly mentioned that India and Pakistan must restore sanctity on the LoC.
Withdrawal of Pakistani troops started on 11-12th July. By 25th July all the Pakistani occupied posts were cleared and operation Vijay was successful.
Now, 26th July is celebrated as Kargil Vijay Diwas.

My Note

Kargil War was won by the courage and determination of the soldiers and junior leaders of Indian Army.  Lt Col Vishwanath, of GRENADIERS, who died in the war, had been an instructor with me at NDA. Maj CB Dwivedi, a course senior to me in INDIA Squadron, a gunner, also died in the war. The country celebrated but for those who lost their family members and bread winners it brought tragedy. I salute them!


Indian estimates of Pakistani casualties stand at 1042 Pakistani soldiers killed. However, the exact number is not certain; Pakistan claims that 453 soldiers were killed, while numbers stated by Nawaz Sharif says there were over 4000 fatalities.
Indian casualties included 527 soldiers dead and 1363 wounded.

Major Gallantry Awards in Kargil War:

  • Grenadier Yogendra Singh Yadav, 18 GRENADIERS, Param Vir Chakra
  • Lieutenant Manoj Kumar Pandey, 1/11 Gorkha Rifles, Param Vir Chakra, Posthumous
  • Captain Vikram Batra, 13 JAK RIF, Param Vir Chakra, Posthumous
  • Rifleman Sanjay Kumar, 13 JAK RIF, Param Vir Chakra
  • Captain Anuj Nayyar, 17 JAT, Maha Vir Chakra, Posthumous
  • Major Rajesh Singh Adhikari, 18 GRENADIERS, Maha Vir Chakra, Posthumous
  • Captain Haneef-u-ddin, 11 Rajputana Rifles, Vir Chakra, posthumous
  • Major Mariappan Saravanan, 1 BIHAR, Vir Chakra, Posthumous.
  • Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja, Indian Air Force, Vir Chakra, Posthumous
  • Havildar Chuni Lal, 8 JAK LI, Vir Chakra.
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