The nation on Tuesday is celebrating the 12th anniversary of Kargil victory. Twelve years ago, on this day, Indian defence forces successfully recaptured the Indian positions lost to Pakistani intruders.
The Kargil war was India’s fourth direct armed conflict with Pakistan and the second after the two countries developed nuclear weapons. The war is the most recent example of high altitude warfare atop mountainous terrain.
In February 1999, then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee journeyed by bus to Lahore at an invitation by his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif and signed the Lahore Declaration, promising to provide a peaceful and bilateral solution to the Kashmir conflict.
However, by that time Pakistan had already initiated infiltration into the Indian territory across the Line of Control (LoC).
The blueprint of the infiltration was designed by General Pervez Musharraf, soon after he took over as the chief of Army staff of Pakistan in October 1998, during the height of Islamophobia in Pakistani Army. It is said that much of the background planning, including construction of logistical supply routes for the intrusion had been undertaken much earlier.
Code named ‘Operation Badr’, the Pakistani infiltration aimed at isolating Ladakh from the Kashmir Valley and thereby occupying Siachen Glacier.
In the peak of the winter, there was a common practice for both the Indian and Pakistani Armies to abandon troops on their respective sides of the LOC, when the minimum temperature in the Himalayan range often dips to as low as -48° C. This was a part of the Simla Agreement, 1971 in which the decision to abandon troops of both countries -- during extreme climatic conditions -- was made under humanitarian grounds. But, Pakistan used the extreme climatic conditions as an advantage for intrusion. Pakistani troops and terrorists sneaked into Indian territory across 160 km of the LoC in Kargil Sector.
The Pakistani infiltrators were numbered as approximately 5,000. Apart from being equipped with guns and grenade launchers, they were armed with sophisticated ammunitions like mortars, artillery and anti-aircraft guns.
Soon after Indian Army detected the infiltration, Atal Bihari Vajpayee government immediately upped the ante by launching Operation Vijay. Vajpayee asked the defence forces to reclaim every inch of the territory from Pakistani intruders.
‘‘I have confidence in the ability of our armed forces. The armed forces shall accomplish this task and ensure that no one dares to indulge in this kind of misadventure in future”, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said addressing the nation on June 7, 1999.
The Kargil war was fought on steep mountain ridges at the commanding heights of over 16,000 feet and at temperatures as low as -15 °C.
A sum total of 30,000 soldiers, consisting of 20,000 from Indian Army, 10,000 from both Indian Air Force and Paramilitary forces of India were deployed in the conflict zone. The Indian Air Force launched Operation ‘Safed Sagar’ to bombard enemy posts and to support mobilisation of Indian Army. IAF MiG-21s were used extensively during the Kargil war. IAF Mirage 2000Hs also carried out strike missions. The Indian Navy also prepared to blockade the Pakistani ports to cut off supply routes.Yes it was a war, but India only fought it in its territory. It did not cross the Line of Control to strike back at Pakistan. By doing so, India won a diplomatic war with the international community.
As the war intensified, Vajpayee strongly indicated that India`s patience was wearing thin and wanted the US and the world to come down sternly on Pakistan.
Failing to cope with the strong military reaction from India, a desperate Sharif made a panic dash to Washington to call on then American president Bill Clinton.
But, when the two leaders met on July 04, 1999, America literally turned its back on Pakistan. A miffed Clinton asked Sharif to pull out all Pakistani troops from the Indian side of the Line of Control with immediate effect. The Pakistani leader could not but leave Washington promising to restore the “sanctity of the LoC” in accordance with the 1972 Simla Agreement with India.
By that time 80 per cent of the intruded area, including most vital points were back under Indian control. Despite being checkmated by US, Pakistan remained defiant not to pull out troops from the remaining area on Indian side of LOC.
Pakistani intruders were evicted from their last occupied post in Kargil on July 26. The day is being marked as Kargil Vijay Diwas (Kargil Victory Day).
By successfully recapturing the ridges from the Pakistani encroachers, India’s defence forces demonstrated exemplary courage and bravery.
India won the war, but during the battle 527 soldiers achieved martyrdom. On this day, let’s remember the sacrifices of the war heroes. Let` salute the martyrs who have sacrificed their lives to save our motherland.
First Published: 8/3/2011 10:10:42 PM