In a welcome development (and against expectations), the new government has not set off on a witch hunt on the previous government’s handling of the Kargil war. Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee has endorsed the view that the delay in the deployment of air power was not a major cause of casualties – only 35 of the 474 casualties occured before air power was deployed. Also his stand confirmed that the previous government’s extreme caution in escalating the situation was justified. Most importantly, as the Indian Express says, Mukherjee was able to signal that in matters of national defence ‘raucous partisanship’ or ‘careless politicking’ is put aside.
While it may be too hasty to conclude that the lessons of Kargil, both political and military, have been fully learnt, the Defence Minister’s position has given the episode an element of political closure. Institutional measures such as strengthening the National Security Council, making key intelligence agencies report directly to the National Security Advisor and setting up the office of a chief of integrated defence staff have already been taken.
Kargil’s most profound lessons have been at a doctrinal level, where there has been evolution of thought on effectively countering Pakistani aggressions at a conventional level without getting anywhere near the nuclear threshhold.