Indian Defence

From Rupees to Lives: The True Costs of the Kargil War

The origins of the Kargil War lie in the capture of Siachen by our forces. The Siachen conflict began with an undefined border in the region, and in April 1984, the Indian Army launched Operation Meghdoot, gaining full control of the Siachen Glacier. At that time, Musharraf was a brigadier of the Special Services Group (SSG) and made numerous attempts to capture a foothold on the Saltoro Range, but failed. Thus it is believed that the Kargil War in 1999 was an attempt to avenge the loss of Siachen.

The Kargil conflict began with the covert infiltration of Pakistani troops and militants into positions on our side of the LoC, strategically overlooking the vital Srinagar-Leh highway. This infiltration posed a severe threat to supply lines and military positions in the Siachen. The Kargil War violated the Lahore Declaration, an agreement between the then Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif.

Costs of the Kargil War

The financial and human costs were high. The conflict was estimated to cost us between Rs 5000-10000 crore. The Indian Air Force conducted around 300-350 air strikes costing Rs 2000 crore, while army operations incurred daily costs of Rs 10-15 crore. General Ved Malik pointed out that some countries exploited our urgent needs by overcharging for old refurbished weapons from the 1970s, with satellite imagery costing around Rs 36,000 per image. Despite these high costs, our robust economy, with a $33.5 billion foreign exchange reserve and a $10 billion defence budget, could have sustained prolonged military expenses.

The most significant cost, however, was the loss of our brave soldiers. The war resulted in the loss of 527 soldiers and left 1363 wounded.

The Kargil Review Committee Report

After the war, the government set up the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) to analyze the conflict and suggest measures to prevent future incursions. Chaired by K. Subrahmanyam, the committee included Lt Gen (retd) KK Hazari, BG Verghese, and Satish Chandra. They highlighted several key areas for improvement:

Intelligence and Surveillance

The Kargil War exposed significant gaps in our intelligence apparatus. The infiltration by Pakistani forces caught us by surprise, highlighting the need for better surveillance and intelligence gathering. Recommendations included enhancing technological capabilities, like satellite imagery and drones, to monitor border activities more effectively.

In response, the Government established the Defence Intelligence Agency, handling intelligence for all services, and the National Technical Research Organisation for technical intelligence. With satellites like GSAT-7 and GSAT-7A supporting the Navy and Air Force, and the upcoming GSAT-7B for the Army by 2026, we’ve significantly boosted our network-centric warfare and secure communications. Satellites like RISAT and EMISAT also aid in intelligence gathering. Additionally we now have whole lot of intelligence and surveillance drones in our arsenal and parallelly other efforts are being made to bridge the capability gap.

Military Preparedness

The committee recommended improved communication and coordination among various branches of the armed forces to form an integrated and rapid response to future challenges.

Creation of a Full-Time National Security Advisor (NSA)

The KRC suggested creating a full-time NSA, a position previously held by the principal secretary to the prime minister, to be accompanied by a second line of personnel for periodic intelligence briefings.

Establishment of a Group of Ministers (GoM)

Following the KRC report, the Prime Minister set up a GoM to review the national security system.

Integration of Tri-Services

A key recommendation was integrating the Army, Navy, and Air Force to increase jointness and coordination. This led to the creation of the Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) and the appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), along with the establishment of the Strategic Force Command and the tri-Service Andaman & Nicobar Command. While significant steps were taken, the implementation has been slow, and more needs to be done in terms drafting a national security strategy and specialist staffing of higher defense organizations.

Young Army

The KRC recommended reducing the average age of soldiers in the Indian Army to maintain a fit and effective force. Following this, promotions up to the rank of commanding officers (COs) were expedited, resulting in younger officers in command positions.

Other than Kargil Review Committee recommendations, the Indian Army And IAF also conducted the internal assessments, based on the learnings, certain improvements has been made and some them are still ongoing such as


The Indian Army, having witnessed the effective role of Bofors guns, is currently inducting new big guns such as the K9 Vajra, ATAGS, and M777. These modern artillery systems are set to enhance the Army’s firepower and operational capabilities significantly.

New Assault Rifles

During the Kargil War, the INSAS rifle faced several critical issues. The cold weather caused the polymer magazines to crack and break apart, and it was prone to various failures during firefights. The gas regulator, essential for the weapon’s function, would also occasionally break. To address these shortcomings, the Army has now started inducting the AK-203 rifle.

Light Attack Helicopters

Image Credit: Zee News

During the Kargil IAF felt the need for light attack helicopters(LCH) which could carry out attacks at higher altitudes. The IAF’s existing fleet of Mi-25/35 Hind helicopters was limited in its operational altitude, capable of flying only up to 16,000 feet. This limitation highlighted the necessity for aircraft that could perform effectively at much higher altitudes. In response to these challenges, the need for a dedicated light attack helicopter (LCH) that could operate at altitudes of up to 21,000 feet was identified.

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Development of HAL LCH Prachand: To address this critical capability gap, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) developed the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), now known as the Prachand LCH. This helicopter was specifically designed to meet the requirements of both the Indian Army and the IAF for high-altitude missions. The LCH can carry out precise attack missions, and provide close air support at high-altitude battlefields up to 21,000 feet.

The conflict led to significant military, intelligence, and other military administrative reforms. As we are now in June, it is important to remember that 25 years ago, the battle to reclaim our posts from Pakistani intruders was still ongoing. Let’s remember, honor and never forget the bravery displayed by our soldiers during those critical times.


Bheemanagouda M Patil

Hi, I'm Bheemanagouda Patil, currently I'm pursuing Mechanical Engineering (3rd year) from Dayanand Sagar College Of Engineering. I write on topics related defence and geopolitics.

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