The cause of the Kargil war is deeply entrenched in politics, and a long history of conflict and competition between two countries. The full depth of the rivalry is well outside the scope of an answer here. But what must be categorically stated is that contrary to the claim above, religion has nothing to do with it.
Post-Kargil, a research was conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center (ISDPC) of RAND’s National Security Research Division (NSRD). NSRD conducts research and analysis for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Commands, the defense agencies, the Department of the Navy, the U.S. intelligence community, allied foreign governments, and foundations. The purpose of the research was specifically to understand how India and Pakistan viewed the significance of the Kargil conflict, what lessons they drew from this conflict, and the implications of those lessons for future stability in South Asia. This was subsequently published as a book:
Limited Conflicts Under the Nuclear Umbrella: Indian and Pakistani Lessons from the Kargil Crisis by Ashley J. Tellis, C. Christine Fair, Jamison Jo Medby.
Their report states:
The most important lesson Pakistan took from the crisis was that
Kargil-like operations have high political costs, especially for
Pakistan’s international reputation. That said, the Kargil fiasco does
not appear to have extinguished Pakistan’s belief that violence,
especially as represented by LIC, (low intensity conflict) remains the
best policy for pressuring India on Kashmir and other outstanding
The most important lesson learned by India was that it must be
prepared to counter a wide range of Pakistani threats that may be
mounted by what is essentially a reckless but tenacious adversary.
India must therefore develop the robust capabilities it needs to
thwart surprise and to win even if surprised by Pakistan. Another
lesson is that if India is obliged to respond forcefully in future
episodes, covert rather than overt action may be preferable.
India and Pakistan have been designated as countries who not only have the ability, but also the intent to use the bomb. (I hope this is not true). But rhetoric and high drama apart, India has always considered the military regime in Pakistan as a dangerous element, with a definitive history of actively engaging beyond their borders, such as with their "Strategic Depth" doctrine.
India, on the other hand has been known to be a laggard and ambivalent in its Nuclear doctrine after Independence. While Nehru, the Prime Minister favoured a Non-Nuclear world, Bhabha, the man behind the nuclear technology in India, clearly preferred weaponization.
Indian politicians after independence in 1947 viewed the Indian army
with suspicion as including the last supporters of the British Raj and
did their best to isolate the military from policy and influence. This
attitude was further reinforced by the views of two giants of the
Indian nationalist movement, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.
Gandhi’s ardent belief in nonviolence left little room for accepting
the role of the use of force in an independent India. It also shaped
the views on military and defense of the first generation of
post-independence political leaders in India. But more important has
been the legacy of Nehru, India’s first prime minister, who laid the
institutional foundations for civil-military relations in India. His
obsession with economic development was only matched by his disdain
and distrust of the military, resulting in the sidelining of defense
planning in India.
Source: Contemporary Debates in Indian Foreign and Security Policy:
India Negotiates Its Rise in the International System by Harsh V. Pant
After India's Pokharan tests in 1974 many expected India to be a more assertive voice in the international scenario. But that did not happen. Nuclear policy too, lost its way amongst domestic problems.
The neglect of nuclear policy was reversed only in the mid-to-late
1980s when leading Indian strategists concluded that Pakistan was
close to or already in possession of the bomb. They were correct. In
addition to intelligence from their own sources, Indians had only to
read the increasingly frantic public statements by American officials
warning Islamabad it should not cross certain “red lines” as it moved
toward a nuclear weapons program; Chinese assistance was also a widely
Source: Arming Without Aiming: India’s Military Modernization by
Stephen P. Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta
On 11th May 1998, India simultaneously detonated three separate nuclear devices. One a thermonuclear device, one roughly a Hiroshima-sized fission device, and the third a miniaturized, sub-kiloton device. Two days later, India tested two more sub-kiloton devices. One reportedly used a reactor-grade, rather than the purer weapons-grade, mix of plutonium. Just 2 weeks later, on 28th May 1998, Pakistan also conducted nuclear explosive tests. Two days later, Pakistan tested another device. While the number of tests is not clear, and yields of both countries' tests are contested, but evidence showed that they were unquestionably nuclear devices.
Interestingly, the series of nuclear tests came only months before the Kargil war. And even more interestingly, India did not have a nuclear doctrine at the time. (In fact, one of the quick repercussions of the Kargil war was that India reacted immediately to draft a Nuclear policy.) On 17 August 1999 the government released a six-page preliminary draft nuclear doctrine prepared by a 27 member National Security Council advisory board. The draft outlined the broad principles for the deployment and employment of the nuclear force. Although the government would work out the policy and strategy details later, the draft indicated that the authority to release India’s nuclear weapons rests with the prime minister or his or her designated successors.
It was only after another set of saber-rattling between the two countries that the doctrine was officially accepted. In that sense perhaps every conflict has had an impact on formalizing the nuclear doctrine- at least in India.
India's Nuclear doctrine outlines:
• Building and maintaining a credible minimum deterrent;
• A posture of NFU; (No First Use)
• Retaliatory attacks only to be authorized by the civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority;
• Nonuse of nuclear weapons against nonnuclear weapons states;
• India to retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons in the event of a major attack against India or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons;
• A continuance of controls on export of nuclear and missile related materials and technologies, participation in the FMCT negotiations, observance of the moratorium on nuclear tests, and working toward the goal of universal nuclear disarmament.
It was perhaps under the umbrella of a nuclear deterrent that Pakistan sought to engage in the Kargil. On 12th April 1999, General Pervez Musharraf announced that while nuclear weapons had dramatically changed the nature of war, "this, however, does not mean that conventional war has become obsolete. In fact conventional war will still remain the mode of conflict in any future conflagration with our traditional enemy." (cited in Kargil Review Committee)
Pakistan's intrusion was, in retrospect, a miscalculation even by their own assessments. The geography of the region played an important part in their calculations, as did their own nuclear capability. If Pakistan could capture the Kargil area (stretching across 140 kilometres of mountain ranges) it could interdict the highway from the Valley to Ladakh and cut off India’s approach to both Ladakh and Siachen. In fact, they assessed that nuclear capability would provide the umbrella protection required to engage in a limited war and ultimately gain territory.
It is in this context that Pakistan launched “Operation Badr”, the
invasion of Jammu and Kashmir through the Kargil sector...Most
important, the Pakistani assessment was that the Indian Army would not
be able to resist and push back Pakistani forces once the latter
entrenched themselves at strategic heights on the Himalayan ranges in
the vital Kargil sector. This assessment was based on repeated reports
in the Indian media about our army being short of officers and
equipment and its morale being low throughout the 1990s. There was
also the confidence that if Indian military resistance became
unmanageable, Pakistan could resort to using nuclear weapons which
would bring in international intervention, and at the same time temper
Indian inclinations to expand the war and threaten Pakistan’s general
security as had happened in 1965 and 1971.
Source: India-Pakistan In War & Peace by J.N.Dixit
The Kargil sector of the Line of Control covering the Mushkoh valley, Dras, Kaksar, Chhainikund, Shingo Batalik and Chorbat La, because of the terrain, was not manned in detail and around the year. There were gaps between brigades providing security to the Siachen region and brigades responsible for security at Kargil and Gurez. India believed that the composition of the Buddhist-Shia population of the area would be a natural preventive against any extensive Pakistani military intrusion. However, India claimed that Pakistani forces came across the Line of Control all along the 140-kilometre stretch, penetrating into Indian territory to a depth of 10 to 12 kilometres between March and May 1999. When challenged by India, Pakistan argued that it had not crossed into Indian territory, that the Line of Control in this sector was not clearly demarcated or delineated.
In November 1998 Pakistani Northern Light Infantry Regiment soldiers
infiltrated across the 11,483-foot-high mountain passes along the line
of control to occupy high ridges in Batalik, Kaksar, Dras, and the
Mushkoh valley. The intrusions would enable the Pakistanis to dominate
and control the Srinagar to Leh Highway 1a. According to the Indian
army, the Pakistani incursions into the Kargil sector were a desperate
attempt to internationalize the Kashmir issue in the wake of the
collapsing ISI-backed militancy in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Pakistanis completely surprised the Indian army. The Indians first
detected the infiltrators on 14 May 1999, when the Pakistanis ambushed
routine patrols, causing heavy casualties. In response the Indians
sent in more patrols, only to face a similar fate. Only when
reconnaissance flights over-flew the area on 21 May did the Indian
army realize that the Pakistani-backed "intruders" were some 300–400
in number entrenched on 14,000–16,000 foot-high ridges. The chief of
army staff, General Malik, on a trip to Czechoslovakia returned to
India and flew to Kargil to receive an on-the-spot assessment.
Conceding that it had suffered a major intelligence failure, the army
began a massive troop buildup to eject the intruders, who it now
assessed were Pakistani regulars.
Source: The State at War in South Asia by Pradeep P. Barua
Operation Vijay (victory) required a gradual troop buildup because of eography. Almost 25,000 additional troops had to be deployed. On 10th and 11th June the Desert Scorpions Paracommando Unit gained on Point 5203, a commanding position on the Yardol Ridge in the Batalik subsector. The seventy-five paracommandos took ten days to encircle the Pakistani bunkers on the peak and then seized it in a surprise assault on the night of 23rd June. There were Pakistani attempts to cut off the Siachen sector, but this was tharted by the Ladakh Scouts. Apparently there have been heavy casualties on the Indian side.
Thus, miscalculation and information failures were responsible for
Pakistan wrongly assuming that the Indian leadership, cognizant of
Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities, would decline to use overwhelming
force and would also avoid a dramatic escalation or expansion of the
conflict. . . . Pakistan’s overt nuclearization had . . . bolstered
this sense of false optimism. Pakistan decision-makers had convinced
themselves that their achievement of rough nuclear parity with India
now enabled them to probe along the LoC with impunity.
Pakistan’s military incursion into Kargil did catch India by surprise.
However, after the initial shock and setback, the Indian Army and Air
Force battled Pakistan in a 73-day conflict. With a series of air
strikes, India dislodged the intruders and managed to recapture key
positions occupied by Pakistan. It was only by the end of July that
the infiltrators withdrew and gave up their positions...
Source: Military Intervention and Secession In South Asia by Anne
Noronha Dos Santos
The India-Pakistan war in Kargil lasted from 6 May to roughly the end of July 1999. It was the fifth large-scale conflict between the two countries. Pakistan planned to use four independent groups from four infantry battalions and two companies of the Special Service Group (SSG), which were already located in the FCNA (Force Command Northern Areas).
(1) 4 Northern Light Infantry (NLI) Battalion, the FCNA reserve located in Gilgit.
(2) 6 Northern Light Infantry (NLI) Battalion (ex 62 Infantry Brigade) located at Skardu.
(3) 5 Northern Light Infantry (NLI) Battalion (ex 82 Infantry Brigade) located at Minimarg.
(4) 3 Northern Light Infantry (NLI) (ex 323 Infantry Brigade) located at Dansam.
The two companies of the SSG were to be allotted in smaller teams varying from 32 to 94 numbers among the four battalions. The groups were also allotted shoulder-fired Air Defence AD missiles of the Stinger variety. This coupled with 12.7mm AD machine guns integral to the NLI Battalions, gave them a modicum of air defence capability.
Some militants from the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Harkat-ul-Ansar and Afghan war veterans were also grouped with each battalion to give it the facade of a jehad. After the intrusion, 800 or more militants were brought to the Skardu area for further reinforcements.
Pakistani artillery numbering 20 batteries was to provide fire support to the intruding groups from the Pakistani side of the LoC. This ensured that each intrusion had the support of three to four batteries. Observation post officers from the Pakistani Army were also grouped along with line and radio communications.
Although nuclear weapons were not actually deployed in 1999, and
although previous Indo-Pakistani crises had taken place under the
shadow of emerging nuclear capabilities, the nuclear context of Kargil
had three unprecedented effects on the strategic behavior of India,
Pakistan, and outside parties, especially the United States. First,
the achievement of mutual nuclear deterrence emboldened Pakistani
military leaders to take assertive military action in Kashmir. Second,
Indian elites believed that the nuclear revolution fundamentally
changed Indo-Pakistani relations, and thus reacted in a slow and
confused manner to the infiltration. As Pakistan’s military role
became apparent, India responded with unexpected vigor, both
militarily and rhetorically. Third, India’s forceful response fed into
the worst fears of the Clinton administration about nuclear escalation
and spurred President Clinton to become personally involved in
effecting Pakistan’s withdrawal and preventing escalation to
Pakistan ultimately misread the impact of nuclear weapons on Indian
and American behavior, mistakenly believing that India would not
expend sizable resources to restore the status quo ante and that any
international intervention would freeze the ground situation to
Source: Asymmetric Warfare in South Asia: The Causes and Consequences
of the Kargil Conflict Edited by Peter R. Lavoy
India's huge intelligence failure, as well as the new paradigm of war under a nuclear threat prompted change in its military doctrine.
In line with the
Limited Conflicts Under the Nuclear Umbrella report mentioned above, India in turn developed what is known as the "Cold Start" doctrine, although this has been denied by the defence establishment.
But the story hardly ends there.
The real test for these changing doctrinal assumptions came during the
crisis that erupted between India and Pakistan after India’s
parliament was attacked by terrorists in December 2001. It has been
suggested by some that it was the failure of “Operation Parakram”—the
2002 army mobilization on the border—that forced the Indian political
leadership to explicate the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) and
provide an outline of the nuclear doctrine. A major factor in this
failure was that India lacked the capacity, conventional and nuclear,
to bend Pakistan to its will. The top political leadership failed to
give the Indian armed forces any clear directives as to what
objectives India wanted to achieve through the mobilization of its
army. The threat of the use of nuclear weapons by Pakistan deterred
India from undertaking a military offensive, even a limited one. In
fact, the Pakistan army claimed that the Indian army’s “redeployment,”
or withdrawal, was their “victory.”
Source: Contemporary Debates in Indian Foreign and Security Policy:
India Negotiates Its Rise in the International System by Harsh V. Pant
Pervez Musharraf made a speech to Pakistan Air Force officers in December 2002 asserting that it was Pakistan’s threat to use "unconventional tactics" that prevented India from launching a full-scale war against Pakistan in 2002. India, in retaliation and equivocal sabre rattling warned that a nuclear strike against India would be met with “massive retaliation.”
The story continues.