Despite suffering defeats in four wars against India – 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999 – Pakistan refuses to mend its ways and continues to encourage terrorist activities in India. July 26 marks the 25th year of the Kargil War of 1999 in which the Indian armed forces scored yet another decisive victory over Pakistan and since then, this day is celebrated as Kargil Vijay Diwas Day.
The Indian Army recaptured all the military posts in Kargil that Pakistani troops and militants had occupied. Since then, Kargil Vijay Diwas Day is celebrated every year following the victory of the Indian Army’s mission termed ‘Operation Vijay’.
To evict the Pakistani forces and Kashmiri militants who had infiltrated the Kargil area from the Indian side of the Line of Control, India successfully launched ‘Operation Vijay’.
Singular case of warfare at such height
In the history of global warfare, the Kargil War, as war correspondent Vikram Jit Singh who was representing The Indian Express then said in a podcast interview (Mor Talks) with Maj General (Retd) Yash Mor, is the singular example of warfare at such heights against an enemy that had been preparing for it for many months.
From May to July 1999, Indian and Pakistani soldiers engaged in a battle in the Kargil sector of Kashmir and other locations along the Line of Control (LoC).
Maj Gen (Retd) Mor while interacting with Vikram Jit Singh said about the bravehearts who laid down their lives in the defence of their motherland: “Ordinary people did extraordinary things”.
The Indian Army lost 700 soldiers many of them unsung. The bravery, determination and courage displayed by Indian soldiers when fighting an adversary who was indeed well prepared, completely overwhelmed the enemy.
“Kargil War is testimony to the unparalleled saga of raw grit, stoic courage and unmatched resolve of the Indian soldiers, fighting in adverse weather conditions in one of the most treacherous terrains,” said a defence ministry statement. It was indeed an apt description of what the Indian soldiers encountered fighting the infiltrators.
The first indication
Recalling when he first got an indication of the seriousness of the situation, journalist Vikram Jit said that while he was in Sonmarg in Kashmir, a Brigadier from Dras called him and told him, “Vikram, the situation is very serious and heads will roll for this and I am leaving for Srinagar.”
This was virtually a wake-up call for Vikram Jit who, as a seasoned journalist, realised the seriousness of the situation. “I knew it was serious and it was an introduction to the Kargil conflict,” he said in the podcast.
Vikram Jit recalled that he was in Srinagar when on May 14 an incident occurred in which Tashi Namgyal, a simple shepherd who loved hunting, tipped off the Indian Army of unusual activities in the Kargil region where he noticed the movement of tanks and men in salwar kameez – more a dress worn by jihadis and irregulars who mingled with the locals and carried out armed activities.
The role of Ladakh Scouts was also very significant in alerting the Indian Army of the nefarious designs of the enemy in Kargil.
As Vikram Jit said, one of the major factors that led to this situation was that India had let its guard down by reducing the troop strength in Ladakh and moving them into Kashmir to tackle the increasing threat of terrorists.
Pakistan had been observing all this from across the border and struck when it thought India was at its weakest. Having sneaked into the heights in Kargil, they were confident that India would not be able to regain its original position.
Ironically, the Pakistani side did not foresee the determination and doggedness of the Indian troops and their spirit of sacrifice which the other side apparently lacked.
Initially, the Indian troops in the area assumed that the infiltrators were jihadis and declared that they would evict them within a few days. The subsequent discovery of infiltration elsewhere along the LoC, along with the difference in tactics employed by the infiltrators, made the Indian army realise that the plan of attack was on a much bigger scale.
The total area seized by the infiltrators aided by Pakistan is generally accepted to be 130 km–200 km. India responded with Operation Vijay, a mobilization of 200,000 Indian troops. The war came to an official end on July 26, 1999, with the eviction of Pakistan Army troops from their occupied positions, thus marking it as Kargil Vijay Diwas. A total of 527 soldiers from the Indian Armed Forces lost their lives during the war.
Kargil Vijay Diwas, also known as Kargil Victory Day, is an annual commemoration observed in India on July 26 to honour the Indian Armed Forces’ victory over Pakistan in the Kargil War. The conflict took place between May and July 1999 in the Kargil district of the union territory of Ladakh which was part of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The war broke out in the wake of the infiltration of Pakistani troops and armed insurgents into the Indian side of the LoC, the de facto border between India and Pakistan in Kashmir. Pakistani forces took advantage of the terrain and strategic positions along the high-altitude mountains, leading to intense fighting and significant challenges for the Indian military.
The conflict caught the attention of the world as it was the first instance of direct, open warfare between India and Pakistan since both countries conducted nuclear tests in 1998. The war showcased the bravery, determination, and sacrifice of Indian soldiers who fought under extreme conditions to reclaim the invaded territory.
After weeks of intense fighting, the Indian military launched a major offensive and succeeded in recapturing the majority of the occupied areas. The victory came at a heavy cost, with many Indian soldiers sacrificing their lives during the operations. The war officially came to an end on July 26, 1999, when India successfully pushed back the Pakistani forces and declared a complete military victory.
What was indeed extremely creditable was that despite the Pakistani soldiers of the Northern Light Infantry along with Taliban fighters from Afghanistan having occupied the heights and catching India off guard, they were thrown out.
Narrating the sequence of events, Vikram Jit Singh said that a diary which was recovered from a Pakistani Prisoner of War (POW) contained a note that said that General Parvez Musharraf had visited the Pakistan Army post located 11 km inside the Indian territory.
Another fact that came to light was that Major General Javed Hussain had recced the Indian territory in a helicopter.
83 jerrycans of aviation fuel
According to Singh, the 12th Mahar which recaptured the post from Pakistanis, found 83 jerrycans of aviation fuel which clearly indicated the presence of a helipad.
The war was the outcome of infiltration and incursion by Pakistani soldiers and Kashmiri militants into Kargil.
The Kargil War was unique in that it was fought at very high altitudes, with some posts situated at over 18,000 feet, making it one of the most challenging terrains for warfare. Also, Batalik was a tougher terrain compared to Dras.
The conflict took a toll on both sides, with around 500 Indian and more than 700 Pakistani soldiers losing their lives. The war involved extensive use of artillery, airpower, and infantry operations.
The Indian Air Force played a pivotal role in providing aerial support during the conflict, conducting crucial airstrikes to dislodge the enemy from strategic positions.
Tribute to martyrs
Kargil Vijay Diwas is observed across India to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers and celebrate the indomitable spirit and dedication of the Indian Armed Forces. The day is marked by a slew of events and ceremonies held in military establishments, memorials, and public places to honour the war heroes and remember their contributions to the nation. It is a time for the nation to reflect on the importance of maintaining peace and security in the region and to express gratitude to the brave soldiers who protect the country’s borders.
Here are some quotes that have become an intrinsic part of our lives:
“Either I will come back after hoisting the Tricolour, or I will come back wrapped in it, but I will be back for sure.” – Captain Vikram Batra.
“A soldier is not just a person; he is our pride. The army is the glory and honour that we have earned. – Kaushik Dhakate.
“If death strikes before I prove my blood, I swear I’ll kill death.” – Lt. Manoj Kumar Pandey who stuck to his motto “Chodana na Pandey”.
Vikram Jit recalled meeting Manoj Kumar Pandey’s mother in Lucknow who had told her son: “Jang se door rahna,” but the son said, “These Gurkhas are my children and I will lead them from the front.”
Such bravery displayed by Indian Army officers and jawans was indeed what led to the defeat of the Pakistan intruders.
“We live by chance; we love by choice; we kill by profession.” – Officers Training Academy, Chennai.
– The writer is a senior journalist and media consultant. The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda