July 26 marks 18 years of India’s victory over Pakistan in the Kargil War, a high altitude mountain war that broke out in May 1999 along the peaks of Kargil near the Line of Control, the de-facto border that divides Kashmir between the two nations. This fourth full-fledged military showdown between the two countries followed earlier encounters in 1947, 1965 and 1971, erupting after military infiltrators from Pakistan were detected taking control of hills by local nomads in the Indian Territory. Since then, July 26 has been observed annually to commemorate the sacrifices made by soldiers in this war.
Indian and Pakistani armies fought the war in May-July 1999 district of Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere along the Line of Control (LoC). India launched ‘Operation Vijay’ to clear the Kargil sector of infiltration by the Pakistani soldiers and Kashmiri militants on the Indian side of the Line of Control.
May 4 was the day on which the reports of infiltrators atop heights of Kargil camein the Kargil out. Soon the army patrol was sent up to survey the area. Some soldiers went missing from there as they were captured by the enemies. On May 26 the Indian Air Force launched the air strikes. The very next day an IAF MiG-27 went down. Pilot was taken a prisoner of war by Pakistan, but later was released after eight days.
On May 31 the honourable Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee declared a “war-like situation” in Kargil. The month of June was a difficult one for the troops of India. Many Indian soldiers had lost their lives. The Ministers were conducting talks and even US President Bill Clinton urged the Pakistani PM to withdraw troops from Kargil. Still the Pakistani army continued capturing areas. On June 29 two important posts near Tiger Hill were under the enemy’s control.
As the Indian army moved ahead, Nawaz Sharif announced the withdrawal of troops from the conflict in early July following his meeting with Bill Clinton. With Tiger Hill and Dras retaken in the first week of July, Pakistani forces began pulling out of the areas, with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vaypayee declaring Operation Vijay a success on July 14, 1999. The operation officially came to an end on July 26, marked since as Vijay Diwas (Victory Day). The official death toll on the Indian side was 527, while that on the Pakistani side was around 450. Kargil war was the first televised war viewed extensively by the country.
The Kargil War is considered a rare example of high altitude warfare between two nuclear states. The difficult terrain of the region limited the extent of engagement with heavy artillery shelling the attack of choice owing to restrictions and risks to providing land support with arterial highways such as the NH 1D (Srinagar to Leh) under Pakistani fire.
Kargil Vijay Diwas is observed to honour the war heroes and participants. Every year, the Army organises functions and events across the country. This year, the Army will pay homage to the martyrs through events held in all stations across the seven states under the area of responsibility of the Central Command of the Indian Army. The functions will be followed by felicitation of participants of Kargil War, ‘veer naris’, kin of martyrs, veterans and widows.
Our PM Narendra Modi hailed the bravery of the armed forces and said the day reminds us of India’s military prowess, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley paid tributes to martyrs at the Amar Jawan Jyoti in New Delhi on Wednesday. Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba and Air Force Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa accompanied Jaitley.