Friday, February 25, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Surinder Singh indicted
From Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Feb 24 — The Subrahmanyam Committee which went into the circumstances leading to the armed intrusion by Pakistan in Kargil sector has severely indicted Brig Surinder Singh, the Brigade Commander of the 121 (1) Infantry Brigade at the time of intrusion, for not taking timely action.

The committee in its report has said that Brig Surinder Singh was not prepared to take the slightest risk by mounting winter patrols and that his actions on the ground particularly patrolling, which were entirely within his own resources, did not match his expressed concerns. “The Committee is of the view that many of his statements reflected an attempt at ex-postfacto rational,” the report said.

Brig Surinder Singh has been claiming that he had kept his superiors, even the Chief of Army Staff, informed about the threat perception and that his superiors had not taken adequate action. He has also been claiming that he was being discriminated against and was being singled out by the Army brass. He has claimed that his appreciation of the situation was not agreed to and that he was termed as an “alarmist”.

He had recently also written to the President, Mr K.R. Narayanan, seeking an audience from him and saying that he was being discriminated against. In a letter to the President he had said that since he was the supreme commander of the Armed Forces, he was bringing to his notice that the Army chief had also made attempts to buy him out.

However the Kargil Review Committee has projected a different picture than what was being claimed by Brig Surinder Singh. In fact he is the only senior Army officer who has been named in the report, with almost four pages devoted to him, his assessments and the lack of action on his part.

The report said that all commanders deployed on the frontline develop concerns about the possibilities of various types of enemy action within their respective areas of responsibility. Such concerns have to be viewed within the framework of the overall strategic military threat assessment made at appropriate higher levels. It would thus only be prudent for a formation commander to look for additional intelligence across his immediate front and within the resources available to his higher commanders or which can be reasonably made available to him.

“In brigadier Surinder Singh’s case, he was demanding resources for further monitoring and gaining information about enemy across the LoC which the nation as a whole did not have — satellite imagery of adequate resolution and UAVs which could function at the Kargil heights. Some of his concerns such as that of a tactical nuclear strike and the demands made by him appear to have been quite unreasonable. Accordingly, he could not be taken seriously by his superiors.”

The report said in his interactions with the Committee, Brig Surinder Singh stated that he had developed concern towards the end of 1998 regarding the vulnerability of the Dras Sector. He apprehended that completion of the by-pass being constructed South of NH 1A would no longer enable Pakistani artillery to interdict the Srinagar-Leh road from across the LoC. He, therefore, felt that the enemy might attempt to capture some territory in the Dras Sector in order to interdict the new by-pass.

According to the report, when he was asked by the Committee whether he anticipated such a development as an immediate or long term threat, his answer was that he saw this as an immediate threat. He felt that something might happen but he could not clearly visualise what that might be.

The Committee then asked him that if he anticipated so imminent and serious a threat, was it not his responsibility as Brigade Commander to launch protective patrols on vulnerable features and reconnaissance patrols into the unheld gaps even in adverse snow conditions despite attendant risks. He replied that had he done so and had there been causalities on account of avalanches or cold injuries without these patrols discovering anything alarming, he would have been held responsible.

Therefore, weighing the risk of casualties against the perceived threat, the dimensions and nature of which he was not clear, he felt he would not be justified in taking such an initiative. Therefore, patrolling was limited to the normal routine of beating tracks and moving forward as far as possible. In a few cases they were unable to make significant headway.

“Perhaps his decision under those conditions of uncertainty was rational, but the Committee could not help note that Commander 121 Brigade did not read the threat at that stage as being serious enough to warrant high-risk snow patrolling”.

Talking about the communications with Brig Surinder Singh about the “Enhanced Threat Perception” the report said that prior to August, 1998, when the Brigadier briefed the Chief of Army Staff, only one infantry battalion had in fact moved forward from a rear location within the FCNA region. The other movements reflected in the committees assessment took place between the period of October, 1998, and February, 1999, much after Brig Surinder Singh had briefed the Chief of Army Staff.

“The obvious conclusion is that Brig Surinder Singh’s briefing notes were based on information for which he is unable to provide a basis how he came by it at the time of his briefing to the COAS”.

The committee has also pointed out that Brig Singh did not differ with the threat assessment handed down to him at the time of taking over his command. Even after receiving various intelligence reports of activities opposite him, “he continued to consider that the threat was limited to infiltration of militants along with heavy artillery firing to interdict the road. At no stage was the intrusion of the type that ultimately occurred, considered likely.”

In his petition to the Corps Commander on June 15, 1999, he stated, “that the very concept of a large-scale enemy intrusion invasion, with a view to holding territory has never been discussed at any forum, including war games at every level. The entire thrust has been towards infiltration and not an invasion. To this end, all surveillance whether aerial or by patrols has concentrated on possible routes of infiltration, that being the nalas and not ridgelines”.

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