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20 years after Kargil: Newsroom to Govt, reporter to father, how Kargil tipoff travelled

Manvendra Singh, son of Jaswant Singh, and a Territorial Army officer who used to cover defence for The Indian Express in 1999, got to know about the intrusions in the sector through a senior Army officer.

20 years after Kargil: Newsroom to Govt, reporter to father, how Kargil tipoff travelled Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with troops in Kargil in June 1999. (Express archive)

While much of what happened during the war on the icy heights of Kargil in 1999 has been extensively debated and analysed, little known are the details of how senior ministers of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet first learnt of the intrusions in the area. They got to know of it rather fortuitously, after a senior Army officer approached the son of then Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh.

Manvendra Singh, son of Jaswant Singh, and a Territorial Army officer, said, “I was then covering defence for The Indian Express, with well-established contacts and friends in the Defence ministry and the Services headquarters. At the beginning of the second week of May, I got a call from a senior officer in Army Headquarters that I should positively see him that evening.” This was in May 1999.

“I met him for dinner at his residence where he told me that something was happening in Drass-Kargil sector which seems to be serious because a Special Forces unit had been heli-lifted urgently that day and taken to the heights in that sector,” said Singh, who later became an MP and a MLA in Rajasthan.

“When I enquired more, he said that it was some problem with the Line of Control (LoC) management and there are intruders suspected to be in that sector. As a military man, he asked me to convey the same to the political leadership through my father as the matter was serious,” added Singh.

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Singh met his father very early next morning and asked if he was aware of any reports of a major problem in the Drass-Kargil sector. Jaswant Singh replied in the negative and reached for his RAX phone.

“He called his colleague George Fernandes, who was the Raksha Mantri, and asked if he was aware of some unusual happenings in the Drass-Kargil sector, to which Fernandes said no. He told my father that he was due to leave abroad on a reciprocal visit that day. My father suggested that before he leaves, he should ask for a briefing in the Operations Room of the Military Operations directorate for both of them,” said Singh.

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