Is India Ready for the Next Kargil?

Written By: Pathikrit Payne
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New Delhi, July 29: The 15th anniversary of India's victory over Pakistan Army in the Kargil War was celebrated with much fervor and passion across many parts of India. Even as India's Defence Minister paid floral tributes to the martyrs and announced that the Government is in the process of finalizing a place for the construction of an iconic National War Memorial, one lingering question that should be given due importance is whether India has finally seen the back of the Kargil kind of saga.

The lingering questions....

Can one completely rule out the possibility of another Kargil War? Is it necessary that the next Kargil would happen in Kargil? Is India prepared enough to make sure that the toll of the next Kargil War would not be that high and that it would be nipped in the bud? Can one entirely rule out the possibility of the next Kargil type siege being orchestrated from within the country by external elements? Fact of the matter is that no one can rule out any of the possibilities.

On the positive side

Over the last fifteen years, strength and arsenal of Indian Armed Forces have been increased considerably. The Indian Air Force now have around 190 frontline Su-30 MKI aircrafts and a whole new array of modern helicopters like new generation Mi-17 medium lift helicopters and Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters,, Indian Navy has added a large number of patrol ships, destroyers and frigates to its fleet while the Indian Army has tried to contain the void created by complete lack of acquisition of the new artilleries with induction of Smerch and Pinaka type Multiple Rocket Launch Systems (MRLS).

Likewise Indian Army and Air Force now has a sizeable fleet of drones which keep constant vigil on vulnerable areas of borders in addition to support from satellite imaging. Meanwhile India has worked hard to reduce the mobilization period of its army to a mere 48 hours which is a commendable achievement and worked well master its Cold Start Doctrine. India is also augmenting the strength of the army with addition of a whole new Mountin strike Corps with 90,000 soldiers at a cost of a whopping Rs 65,000 crore.

On the flip side...

Yet one cannot at the same time deny that there are also major issues that continue to plague the Indian Armed Forces including gargantuan delay in acquisition of many critical equipment including light utility helicopters, combat aircrafts of the MMRCA category, critical artilleries which have not been inducted for decades and even something as basic as new generation infantry assault rifles.

On the flip side there are also issues related to India's War Wastage Reserve (WWR) or the amount of ammunition it has to fight a war. Reports in media earlier this year indicated that India's WWR has reduced to less than half of what ideally it should be ( with the Army not even having enough ammunition reserve to even fight a war for 20 days even when it ideally should have ammunition to fight 40 days of intense war to the least.

The loopholes, the lacunae and the threats in East and South

While one cannot deny the fact that the entire grid along the Line of Control with Pakistan has been considerably strengthened, the incident of 26/11 as well as the increasing intransigence of the Chinese Army along India's eastern borders raise issues about how the shape and location of the next Kargil War would be.

The incident of 26/11 vindicated that what was presumed to be an impregnable sea border has now proved to be permeable. Even though efforts are being made to considerably augment the capacity of Indian Coast Guard, loopholes do remain and that cannot be ignored.

In the same league, Southern India which was always considered to be out of bound of radical terror groups, is now witnessing real time threat from terror groups from inside as well as from neighboring Sri Lanka and especially Maldives which has evolved as a dangerous hub of radical extremism. Also, there are serious apprehensions of the existence of several sleeper cells of Laskhkar and other terror groups in India which are manned by Pakistani nationals living in disguise here.

A volatile Pakistan continues to be a major nemesis

The situation across the border in Pakistan continues to be extremely grave with on one side Tehreek e Taliban's assault in Karachi and their near stranglehold on the Sindh province is a real cause of worry for India. Given the demonstration of firepower and audacious attacks they executed on Pakistani Airports and military bases, it would be naïve to presume that they would never set their eyes on India.

The ISIS factor and the threat of radical jihad in India

Likewise, the sudden resurgence of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, termed as the deadliest terror organization of the world today, is also a major threat to India. Their influence, one should remember, is not just restricted to Middle East only. Recent reports about a large number of Indian Muslim youths having already either gone to Iraq to fight for ISIS ( or are planning to go, comes as a portentous news for the secular fabric of India's multicultural society.

Already it is a known fact that India is in the scheme of things of ISIS so far as their sinister global ambition is concerned. Reports have also emerged about an alleged letter written by Maulana Syed Salman Hussaini Nadvi of the Darul Uloom Nadwa, Lucknow ( wherein it was alleged that he has sought help from the Saudi Government to help him fund the creation of a 5 lakh strong Jihadi force in India to fight for ISIS.

Whether this allegation is authentic or not is subject to scrutiny but one cannot deny the fact that a certain proportion of support does exist in India for ISIS and its success in establishing Caliphate in Middle East. Combining this with the existing threat from SIMI, Indian Mujahideen as well as cross border terror organizations, one has to keep in mind that both the recurrence of a Kargil type incident or a 26/11 kind of a siege is extremely possible but the dimension of either need not be same as their previous occurrence.

The appalling condition of Indian Police- Is it prepared to take on threats from inside?

Reality is that India's Army, BSF or the naval forces are still better prepared to deal with an assault from across the border, but the condition of the internal security forces and especially the state level police forces is grim. There are serious doubts about their ability to provide a credible first line of defense if any major eventuality erupt from inside.

Nearly six years after the happening of the 26/11 incident, ground realities so far as the ill preparedness of India's police forces have not changed much. Further, one cannot also deny the Maoist factor and the possibility of them resorting to major strike leading to a major siege of cities, either on their own or in alliance with other forces inimical to India. The issue of links between Maoists and ISI is not an alien one.

It is therefore critical for India to have a new architecture of national security by combining the external and internal security threats and develop a holistic approach towards dealing with the next Kargil or 26/11.

The next Kargil War need not happen in Kargil

Given the worsening security situation both inside the country and in the immediate and distant neighborhood, the issue of the happening of the next Kargil or 26/11 is perhaps not a question of if but when. Developing a credible deterrence therefore is the only way out. The next Kargil War need not happen in Kargil just as the next 26/11 may not necessarily happen in Mumbai. India needs to be prepared for all kinds of eventualities.

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