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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Kargil War & Ladakh standoff: Here’s all 5 major similarities and differences

India observed Kargil Vijay Diwas on Sunday to commemorate its victory over Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kargil district and along the Line of Control. The entire country paid tributes to the soldiers who lost their lives in the 1999 war that continued for around three months.

Just a day ahead of the Kargi Vijay Diwas, the border standoff between India and China saw some major developments. The Galwan tensions died down recently and military arrangements were disengaged from the patrolling sites. Many hail it as India’s diplomatic and military prowess. There have been several comparisons between both Kargil and Ladakh tensions at the common people level and also among experts. In this article, we will highlight those common and different factors between Kargil and Ladakh standoffs.

Here are 5 major similarities and differences between the two major and worst border tensions of India

1. Both intrusions caught India unawares

The major similarity between the Kargil War and the Ladakh standoff with China is that both the disputes happened so suddenly that it caught India unawares. In the first week of May in 1999, 3 Infantry Division received information about an intrusion in the Batalik sector. Later, it was detected that the intrusion had taken place over a very wide area, Lieutenant General Mohinder Puri (Retired), who had led the 8 Mountain Division during Operation Vijay, said in a report recently. The Galwan intrusion also happened all on a sudden. On May 5 evening, a large group of Chinese soldiers, armed with sticks and stones, descended upon a group of Indian soldiers, who were taken by surprise and eventually hit back.

2. Both were high-altitude border rows

In terms of locations, both Kargil and Ladakh disputes were similar. Both were high-altitude mountain terrain standoffs where the soldiers had to face severe weather conditions and hardships. The Kargil town is located around 205km from Srinagar. It has a continental climate. Summers are cool with frigid nights, while winters are long and chilly with temperatures often dropping to −48 °C. The military outposts on the ridges above National Highway 1 were generally around 16,000-ft high, with a few as high as 18,000ft. Similarly, reports stated that Indian and Chinese troops clashed on ridges at a height of nearly 14,000ft on steep terrain, while some Indian soldiers falling into the fast-flowing Galwan river in sub-zero temperatures during the Ladakh standoff. In both cases, the combating sides had to face severe logistical problems owing to extreme weather conditions and high altitudes.

3. Both point at intelligence failure

Questions have been already raised by various quarters whether Galwan was another instance of India’s intelligence failure as it was proved in the case of the Kargil War. In 1999, the Kargil Review Committee had pointed out major flaws at multiple levels in intelligence gathering, army’s operational strategies and organization and the sharing of data by various security agencies. Years later, the Ladakh standoff showed that all these flaws still persist.

According to defense experts, there are three broad surveillance and intelligence-collecting layers that are employed along the LAC. They are the army’s Ladakh Scouts and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel, imagery and signals intelligence supplied by Israeli drones and operated by the army and the Indian Air Force and the third most formidable tier: dedicated military satellites. Apparently, all these well-established surveillance measures failed to detect the Chinese PLA’s movement into the Indian side. Now the question is: why the country repeated the same mistakes regarding vigil lapse in 2020 even after the flaws were pointed out following the Kargil War in 1999?

4. More Indian soldiers died in Kargil than in Ladakh

This is the biggest difference between the Kargil War and the Ladakh standoff. According to an estimate provided by the BBC, India had fully retaken the Kargil heights by July 26 in 1999. We lost more than 500 men in the war, while estimates for Pakistani losses range from 400 to about 4,000. Thousands were left displaced on both sides by the conflict. Wheres 20 Indian soldiers, including a Colonel, died in the clash between India and China in Ladakh. The Ladakh standoff continued for a month or so but the Kargil War continued for three long months.

5. Unlike China, Mujahideens fought for Pakistan

There is another significant difference between the two worst border disputes. Unlike the Pakistanis two decades ago, the Chinese in Ladakh neither used mujahideen warriors as frontline nor employing pretence or denial.

The Chinese attack in the Galwan valley was more of an in-your-face intrusion by a uniformed soldiery that reportedly took over 50 square kilometres of territory along the undefined Line of Actual Control (LAC) that India claims as its own. For a group of experts, the Pakistanis were far less trouble to push back across the LoC than the formidable, and intractable Chinese and the PLA. However, neither Pakistan nor China can be trusted for their repeatedly changing stance over the border politics with India.

Kargil is undoubtedly the closest reminder of the border intrusion by the Chinese in Ladakh. Both the disputes provide strikingly similar stories of weak vigil, questionable patrolling, failure of intelligence and information-sharing besides sluggish reflexes, authority concerned’s complacency and blame-gaming between the government agencies and political parties when a crisis turns too difficult to deal with.


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