As the 22nd anniversary of the Kargil War is marked between India and Pakistan, analysts say “mistrust” persists between the nuclear neighbors.
To mark its “victory” in the war in 1999, India commemorates the day by organizing “Vijay Diwas,” or “Victory Day,” every year with the main event observed on July 26.
According to Indian military experts, the last 22 years have seen ups and downs in relations between the two nations where Kashmir continues to be the main bone of contention.
“Today, Indian and Pakistani relations are mired in mistrust, despite the ongoing cease-fire. The short-term trends are not positive,” retired Lieut. Gen. Deependra Singh Hooda, former Chief of the Northern Command of the Indian Army told Anadolu Agency, while referring to a truce on the Kashmir border announced in January.
While the guns have fallen silent on the borders for the last six months, the relationship, experts said, continued to be icy.
Talking about the “many ups and downs,” Hooda said from the low of post-Kargil, it improved in the mid-2000s until the deadly 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that claimed more than 150 lives.
The war broke out in 1999 in Kargil in the disputed Ladakh region.
It took place months after then-Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari and his Pakistan counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, signed a peace accord.
Sameer Patil, a fellow of international security studies at the Mumbai-based Gateway House think tank, told Anadolu Agency that since the war, the relationship has “continued to fluctuate.”
“After Kargil, the trajectory of India-Pakistan relations has really gone through ups and downs because we have had periods of engagement between the two countries followed by periods of long estrangement,” he said. “It’s also true that no phase has lasted for long.”
Sameer maintained that a big change happened in the Indian defense procurement and preparedness after the conflict.
“I would say that change really happened much later when the India-US defense relationship began to flourish after the 2005 agreement on defense cooperation and since then, India has purchased advanced equipment from American defense companies,” he said. “Also, in terms of procurement, the timelines have been expedited in the case of India-US defense deals. However, in terms of overall procurement, this is really a blip on the radar.”
Hooda argued that after Kargil, there was a great deal of analysis by the Kargil review committee formed by the Indian government, and “it led to a number of changes in the areas of defense preparedness, intelligence, and higher defense management,” he said.
While over the years, India has been scaling up its defense capabilities, what is now emerging as a challenge is the chance of a two-front challenge: simultaneous armed conflict between India and China, and Pakistan.
Experts said it would be the biggest challenge for India.
“In my opinion, India is not really prepared to fight a two-front war,” said Sameer. “The government may have made contingency planning for such a scenario, but the military appears to be over-stretched when meeting the China challenge, especially on the LAC [Line of Actual Control] and cyber front.”
The LAC is a demarcation line that separated Indian-controlled territory from Chinese- controlled territory.
Earlier this year, Indian Army Chief Gen. Manoj Mukund Naravane said there is increased cooperation between Pakistan and China in military and non-military fields, and “a two-front situation is something we must be ready to deal with.”
Pravin Sawhney, a former Indian army officer and editor of the FORCE defense magazine, echoed Sameer’s views.
“Today the US army sees China as their peer competitor. If they are competitors of the US, common sense should tell you they can’t fight the PLA [Chinese People’s Liberation Army]. So if you can’t fight the PLA, how would you fight at two fronts,” he told Anadolu Agency, adding that a two-front war is a “slogan” and “not workable” at the moment.
Soon after the Kargil War, deficiencies in intelligence capabilities in India came to the fore.
Retired Brigadier M. P. S. Bajwa, commander of the Indian Army’s 192 Mountain Brigade that was assigned to capture Tiger Hill during the war, said Kargil brought many lessons to be learned for India.
“Be it intelligence or any other areas in the Indian army, there has been a lot of change since the Kargil War,” Bajwa told Anadolu Agency.
Hooda, however, said more is needed in terms of India’s intelligence capabilities.
“The number of structural and policy changes were made to improve intelligence sharing between various agencies. The NTRO [National Technical Research Organisation] and Defence Intelligence Agencies were raised which have improved our intelligence capacity,” he said.
“We still have some way to go, particularly in our intelligence capabilities along our northern borders against China,” he added.
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