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Of a Misadventure Under the Nuclear Shadow


P.R. Chari

ASSYMMETRIC WARFARE IN SOUTH ASIA: THE CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF THE KARGIL CONFLICT
Edited by Peter R. Lavoy
Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2010, pp. xvii+407,, Rs. 995.00

VOLUME XXXIV NUMBER 8 August 2010

The Kargil conflict of May-July 1999 just refuses to go away. A senior Indian Army officer was indicted recently for ignoring in- formation that Pakistan had intruded across the Line of Control, but pinning the responsibility for this lapse on junior officers. Indeed, several aspects of the Kargil conflict are of abiding interest, since it occurred between two nuclear weapon powers, and could have escalated unpredictably. There were other unique aspects to this conflict. What occasioned the failure of intelligence on the Indian side? What motivated Pakistan to undertake this aggression without anticipating India’s violent reaction or the international opprobrium against its irresponsible conduct? The literature holds that nuclear weapon states do not fight each other, constrained by fears that hostilities might cross the nuclear threshold. Indeed, this conflict is only the second between nuclear weapon states—the first being the border clashes along the Ussuri river that occurred between the erstwhile Soviet Union and China in early 1969. After the Kargil conflict, the realization accrued that conventional war between India and Pakistan was unlikely, but this did not imply that all conflict between them would cease. Thereafter, concepts like ‘limited war’, ‘Cold Start’, ‘minimum credible deterrence’, ‘redlines’, ‘no-first-use’ and so on began to gain currency and adherents. The book under review is a collection of essays written by leading members of the strategic communities in the United States, India and Pakistan. Addressing these issues classified under causes and conduct of the Kargil conflict, consequences and impact of that conflict, and, finally, the lessons learned. The result is a balanced analysis blending facts, strategic theory and policy prescriptions that would interest scholars and practitioners. The editor, Peter Lavoy, is currently Deputy Director for National Intelligence in the United States, and has studied nonproliferation and counter-proliferation issues within and outside the US Government. An interesting sidelight noticed by Lavoy in his opening essay is the Pakistan’s Army’s penchant for secrecy, which has led to several disasters. Its Kargil misadventure closely resembles its failure in Operation Gibraltar (another infiltration attempt) that triggered the India-Pakistan war in 1965. Both operations were planned in great secrecy by small coteries of Army officers: the Foreign Ministry or the Air Force or Navy and even the Military Operations Directorate were not informed; reliance was placed on ‘preemptive defense’ (read calculated aggression); and utilizing ‘asymmetric forces’ (read irregular forces). Zafar Iqbal Cheema’s paper on ‘The Strategic ...


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