Today, India is celebrating the 23rd anniversary of the victory of the operations that started in May 1999 and was declared over by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Soon after the 1999 Kargil War, there was a serious thinking on introducing reforms and modernisation of the armed forces. And reforming the control and command structures. In 2020, because of the Galwan Valley incident between the forces of India and China, importance of new-age technologies like cyber warfare, drones, Artificial Intelligence, Disruptive Technologies were highlighted.
The incident in 2020 and the recent war between Russia and Ukraine has turned all attention of the government towards self reliance in the defence sector.
How prepared is the Indian Armed Forces these days compared to the 1999 Operation Vijay?
The quote by the then Indian Army chief, Gen VP Malik was “we will fight with what we have”.
Speaking with Financial Express Online, Lt Col Manoj Channan (retd) says, “In 1999, during the winter months, the posts at high altitudes were vacated as logistical support was an arduous task. To maintain a check, winter surveillance sorties were undertaken by the Indian Army Aviation as well as the Indian Air Force. These were further supported by long-range patrols.”
“The troops in Siachen were well equipped and occupied the oxygen-starved heights after pre-induction training and acclimatisation,” he says.
In 1999, 121 (Independent) Infantry Brigade, was holding a frontage of approximately 160 km and had a more significant complement of units.
Nevertheless, “this only augmented the boots on the ground, ISR resources were negligible and the peaks could be seen as well as the activities around them from the line of sight,” the Indian Army veteran shares.
These shortcomings were known and well exploited by Gen Pervez Musharaff, who inducted the Northern Light Infantry with the support of Mujahedeen.
The ambush of the 4 JAT long-range patrols under late Capt Saurabh Kalia, was captured and tortured with eyes gouged out and cigarette burn marks.
The operation by the Indian Defence Forces after prolonged battles captured the peaks back. Bofors which had been under clout delivered by its devastating fire assaults.
According to Lt Col Channan “Since then, this day the Indian Army has not only taken a forward posture by deploying troops at key heights, duly augmented by Battle Field Surveillance Radars and UAVs.”
“The Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy too have better capabilities for ISR including the Boeing P8I with its on board electronic surveillance suites.”
Also, “satellite imagery and the resolutions are an added bonus as ISRO has the indigenous capacity to monitor the areas of interest 24×7. Personal weapons, habitats, clothing, and equipment have ensured that the troops are equipped to face the enemy and the inclement weather.”
Infrastructure & Drones
Adding, “The border roads have done a wonderful job of building roads as well as making tunnels at the base of the high passes to cut down on travel time as well as ensure logistical support even during the winter months. The aero bridge remains the lifeline.”
“Trials have been carried out to use drones to supply war-like stores at high altitudes as well as logistics to ensure sustenance.”
In his opinion, “The Chinese intrusions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) have ensured that the Indian Government and the Indian Army in particular remain poised to meet the challenge and will never be short of resources to fight a coordinated defensive / offensive battle.”