Recently, the 13th Battalion of Jammu and Kashmir Rifles completed a motorcycle rally in Kargil, in celebration of Operation Vijay of 1999. Operation Vijay is also referred to as the Kargil War of 1999, which was the name of the Indian operation to clear the Kargil area of militants and infiltrators. It was one of the most prominent wars that India was a part of and it took place between 3 May and 26 July in 1999. It resulted in a severe loss of life in both India and Pakistan, and led to India recapturing all territories and posts in Kargil. To honour the soldiers, 26 July is celebrated as the Kargil Vijay Diwas all over the country.
What was Operation Vijay about?
The Kargil War between India and Pakistan took place after the Pakistan Army was found to have intruded into the Indian territory across the Line of Control, and occupied various strategic peaks, including Tololing Heights, Tiger Hill and Point 4875 (Batra Top), overlooking the Srinagar-Leh National Highway and targeted traffic on it.
The Indian Army launched 'Operation Vijay' in May 1999 and regained the territory after evicting the intruders in a fierce battle, considered the toughest in the military history of high-altitude warfare in mountainous terrain.
Initially, Pakistan blamed the fighting on Kashmiri insurgents. Later on, documents left behind by casualties and statements by Pakistani authorities showed involvement of their paramilitary forces, led by Pakistan's general Ashraf Rashid.
Timeline of the War
It all started when a couple of local shepherds reported sightings of militants and Pakistanis in Kargil and proceeded to alert the army. Initially, the army soldiers assumed that they were a couple of Kashmiri separatists and claimed to oust them as soon as possible. Eventually, the discovery of more militants and infiltrators across the Line of Control led them to realise that it was an attack on a much larger scale.
As a result, Indian troops were sent to Kargil, in the Dras, Kaksar and Mushkoh sector. Five soldiers were captured and tortured to death, including Captain Saurabh Kalia, who was also one of the six Indian Army personnel whose mutilated bodies were handed over by Islamabad.
Pakistan increased its attacks and bombed the NH 1A, the highway that connects Srinagar to Leh and which cuts through Kargil. During February 1999, the Pakistan Army sent forces to occupy some posts on the Indian side of the LOC.
Around June, the army had released documents indicating Pakistan's involvement in the infiltration. Heavy shelling by the Pakistan Army had led to damage to the ammunition dump in Kargil. India had released intercepts of conversations between Pakistan's army chief General Pervez Musharraf and Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Aziz Khan.
The battle to recapture Tiger Hill was a major turning point in the Operation Vijay. Tiger Hill, a mountain that is 5,307 metres high (17,410 feet), was one of the highest peaks, and also one of the most difficult ones to capture. It had been realised that the capture of Tiger Hill would be majorly beneficial to India.
Air Force and Navy involvement
The Indian Air Force initially was sent in to neutralise the militants and infiltrators, but lost two aircrafts — MiG-21 and MiG-27. In a second attempt, an MI-17 was shot down by Pakistan, which led to the death of four aircrew members.
Indian Navy deployed warships from the Gulf to the western Indian coastline. IAF prepared all its bases and aircraft for war. A troop moved for operation from Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the western coast. A part of Eastern Naval Fleet moved to the Arabian Sea.
Pakistan faced heavy criticism from all fronts internationally. It not only received international diplomatic opposition to the event, but also faced a threat of isolationism. Then US president Bill Clinton asked Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif to pull his troops back out from Kargil.
As per a report in the Daily Times, a leading newspaper in Pakistan, India gained the confidence of the US while Pakistan 'lost its credibility in the eyes of both India and Pakistan'. Russia and Israel also came forward to support India's stance, as reported by India Today.
The Kargil war was also one of India's first televised battles. Barkha Dutt of the Star News channel televised the action live from Kargil into people's homes. As the recapture of Tiger Hill came closer to triumph, people across the country cheered for the army.
A total of 500 soldiers lost their lives during the war, and over 1,500 were injured. Pakistan Army's losses were difficult to determine. Pakistan confirmed that 453 soldiers were killed. According to numbers stated by Nawaz Sharif, there were over 4,000 fatalities. The Pakistan Peoples Party said that "thousands" of soldiers died.
Today, the Kargil Vijay Diwas is celebrated on a grand scale. Memorials, celebrations are held over three days from 25 to 27 July, and movies like LOC Kargil were released. Uri is being re-released to commemorate the bravery of all Indian troops involved in the mission.
Twenty years after Indian troops recaptured several mountain tops overlooking the strategic Srinagar-Leh highway from Pakistani intruders, members of the Indian Army will again scale the jagged heights and recreate the victory scenes to mark the anniversary.
"We are proud of our army which fought a deadly short war in these rugged, remote and inhospitable sectors and reclaimed all our posts," a resident of Garkhon village in Batalik sector, Tsering Dolkar, told PTI.
People living along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Batalik sector, where the intrusion by Pakistani troops was first detected by some residents in early May 1999, say they are looking forward to reliving the moment when the troops unfurled the Indian flag after some of the fiercest battles of the conflict.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jul 26, 2019 11:54:52 IST