Pakistan recently accused India of unprovoked use of arms, including the air force, across the line of control. This accusation coincided with the visit of Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state of the United States of America to the subcontinent. The accusation has since been dismissed as a public relations gimmick but the Indian media carried reports about a Pakistani infiltration in the Dras sector towards the end of July 2002 and its eviction with the help of the air force.
The suggestion was that India could not possibly admit to a Kargil-like action since it would be highly embarrassed if it allowed a “Kargil II” to happen. Pakistan however had to remain silent for fear of attracting international opprobrium if it owned up to its forces crossing the LoC — howsoever successful the operation may have been.
But the important question is not whether a Kargil-like situation occured, but whether it can occur in the future.
After the Kargil intrusions of 1999, the Indian government set up four task forces to make recommendations on border security, intelligence organization, internal security and management of defence. After detailed — often acrimonious — discussion, the task forces’ recommendations were finally approved last year.
Some of the recommendations may have already been acted upon while others will soon be incorporated into the defence system. The media has reported of differences in the dates and areas of operation, but perhaps that is only to be expected. Also there is need for an incisive review of all that has been done in the three years since Kargil ended.
Since 1999, there has been a sea change in international affairs and our bilateral relations with a number of countries, including Pakistan. Given these changes, do these recommendations still retain their validity, in substance as well as in detail' If the action taken on the basis of the recommendations is considered inadequate, not only must corrections be made, but also efforts should be made to determine why the earlier decisions did not stand the test of time. Only then will any “corrective action” begin to carry any significance.
Most of us have a propensity to think that the solution to a problem lies in refashioning the organizational set-up. The organization is often viewed as an end in itself, while it should be more of an aid to better functioning. The requirements need to be clearly enunciated and, then, the organization must act efficiently to meet the requirements. The question is whether organizational changes will do better in the future.
In matters of national security, analysis and action are a continuum. A multi-disciplinary approach is necessary but far more necessary is accountability and action, as opposed to excuses, words and debate. These may sound like truisms but, at times, it is good to be reminded of them.
In the present security scenario, there has to be an effective interplay of “intelligence and information” between the different organs of the government. The review must look into whether there is such cooperation and to what degree.
Checks and balances are essential ingredients of an efficient system. It is important to establish the reason behind failures. For this, an audit of the functioning of the armed forces is necessary. Given the fast pace of change today, a system of continuous and independent audit is necessary. Such a system must not be viewed as interfering with the functioning of the armed forces but as facilitating. Thus, it is of the first importance that proper auditors be selected so that they do not become a self-serving organization which has all the power but no accountability. Also the auditors should take in the ground reality, with all its attendant problems and limitations, even as they are harsh on avoidable lapses.
It is necessary to take these steps to ensure that Kargil II never happens.