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Claims and counters: book triggers Kargil II
- Indian intelligence failure beyond doubt

New Delhi, Sept. 25: Copies of General Pervez Musharraf’s book being released tonight in New York reached Indian shores today to a noisy rebuttal of his claims on the Kargil war of 1999 even before In the Line of Fire could be displayed on shopfronts.

Although much of what the Pakistan President has said while hardselling his work is being denied, there also seems to be some corroboration of events that were only surmised earlier.

For instance, it is now not deniable that the occupation of the heights of Kargil and the long time it took to detect the intruders was a massive failure of Indian intelligence and the army.

Musharraf claims that the Pakistan Army achieved a “tactical marvel of military professionalism” when it set up about a 100 posts in the winter of 1998-1999 on heights that used to be vacated by the two sides during the harshest weather.

General V.P. Malik, who was the Indian Army chief in 1999, appears to concede this point in his book Kargil: From Surprise to Victory that was published just three months back.

“The Pakistan Army had been proactive. It had taken the initiative and achieved tactical surprise, leading to penetration along a limited front,” Malik wrote.

Consignments of Musharraf’s book were yet to be cleared by customs at the airport and the earliest major bookshop owners like Anuj Bahri of Bahrisons in the capital were expecting the copies late tomorrow afternoon.

But in Indian Army headquarters and defence establishments officers rifled through sheaves of documents on the Kargil war to trash Musharraf’s claims in the published excerpts available on the Internet.

The upshot of the controversy stoked by Musharraf is that Simon and Schuster — his publishers — have been guaranteed handsome sales of the book that the Pakistan President promoted so openly in Washington.

Indian Army officers have already been making enquiries to book orders for army institutions.

Sources in army headquarters said Musharraf’s claim that Pakistan tied down four divisions of the Indian Army with just five battalions (about 5,000 troops) in Kargil was a lie.

Pakistan had actually denied the involvement of its army regulars (mostly of the Northern Light Infantry) and said the heights were occupied by “freedom fighters” (mujahideen).

It was only after Indian troops displayed paybooks and identification papers found on dead Pakistani soldiers that Islamabad indirectly admitted its involvement.

The sources said the deployment by Pakistan of seven NLI battalions (about 7,000 troops) alongside the mujahideen on heights overlooking Kargil was, in fact, a big force.

In mountain warfare, Indian Army headquarters had concluded in 1999, troops have to be used in massive numbers to eject intruders.

“A heavy machine gun on a mountaintop can hold off a battalion of advancing forces if they are within line of sight,” a senior officer explained.

Reacting to Musharraf’s claim that the gains of the Indian forces were “insignificant”, an army headquarters source made the point that “we were not trying to gain territory; we were only ejecting intruders from our territory”.

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