In gratitude to Kargil war heroes

The unfortunate partition of India in 1947 under the Mountbatten Plan has not done suffice to the satisfaction of those who wished to create Pakistan. This is evident from the misadventures done in October 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999 by the Pakistan military. Having not learnt the lessons from the failure of their military operation like Operation Gulmarg (1947), Operation Gibralter (1965) , Operation Chengiz Khan (1971), Pakistan army dared launch another Operation Badr in 1999 against India in Kargil, Ladakh. Indians owe their gratitude to the bravehearts of Indian defence forces on the Kargil Vijay Diwas being celebrated on 26th July to commemorate the victory of India over Pakistan in Kargil Armed Conflict popularly known as Kargil War.
The reason behind the Kargil conflict was Pakistan intrusion into the Indian side in the Kargil district of Ladakh by crossing over the line of control existing between India and Pakistan. The major objectives behind the intrusion in Kargil were to cut off the the National Highway 1D running between Srinagar and Leh so as to cut off the Indian army’s access to Siachin Glacier and to have advantageous access to Leh from the side of Aksai Chin by their so called Chinese friends. This misadventure by Pakistan was under the immediate memory loss of the success of Operation Meghdoot of Indian army which was pre-empted by India to the attack plans of Pakistan for setting their claims on Siachin Glacier in April 1984. The Siachin Glacier remained unclaimed till 1984 due to the vague demarcation of territories in the Karachi Agreement of July 1949 that did not exactly specify who had authority over the Siachen Glacier area. The success of the Operation Meghdoot resulted in India gaining 70 kilometres long Siachen Glacier and all of its tributary glaciers, as well as three main passes of the Saltoro Ridge namely Sia La, Bilafond La, and Gyong La. This presence of Indian army on the world’s highest battle ground is eyesore to Pakistan, and has become a bone of contention between the two nuclear powered nations.
The aggressions by Pakistan not only shows its frustration of being defeated but it also shows its being devoid of ethical values as it has always been in practice of dishonouring various agreements like Tashkent (1965), Shimla (1971) ; and in case of the the Kargil Conflict which started in the month of May 1999, prior to it there was Lahore Declaration on 21st Feb 1999 that happened between Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharief, the prime minster of Pakistan.
Even being a nuclear empowered nation, India has explicit nuclear doctrine of No First Use known popularly as NFU policy. Firm believer in keeping peace with neighbours as expressed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s words that “you can change friends but not neighbours”, he initiated peace process between India and Pakistan under bus diplomacy. Under this policy, the prime minister of India went to Lahore ( Pakistan) to attend a summit via bus known as Delhi-Lahore Bus or Sada-e-Sarhad and was received by the prime minister of Pakistan at Wagah transit post. The height of the unethical values of the nation can be realised from the fact that on one side it was show offing to the world of their hospitality and on the other hand their army general Pervez Musharraf was planning Kargil War.
Indian army came to know about the presence of intruders at first from a local Ladakhi shephered namely Tashi Namgyal. He reported the presence of individuals in Pathani dress with weapos to the Indian army regiment. Patrolling parties were sent for observation. On 15 May 1999, lieutenant Saurabh,Kalia and five other soldiers namely Sepoys Arjun Ram, Bhanwar Lal Bagaria, Bhika Ram, Moola Ram and Naresh Singh of the 4th Jat Regiment , while their routine patrolling noticed intruders who engaged with them in firefight. However, the group was captured by the Pak army intruders and these all were made prisoners of war. Their dead bodies were handed over to India on 9th June and were found highly mutilated as being tortured to the extreme before being shot dead at head and thus breaching Geneva Convention.
In response to the Kargil aggression, Indian Armed Forces in order to flush out the enemies out from India launched Operation Vijay by Indian army, Operation Safed Sagar by Indian Air Force and Operation Talwar by Indian Navy.
The conflict zone included four sub-sectors namely Mashkoh valley sub-sector, Drass sub-sector (popular Tiger hill and Tololing falls under Drass sub-sector), Kaksar sub-sector ( kaksar and Kargil falls under this sector) and Balatik sub-sector (Juber, Turtuk and Yaldor). The important points near the conflict zone were Sonamarg, Baltal, Matayen, Drass, Kaksar, Kargil, goma, Lamayuru and Leh. The war took place in the extreme adverse environmental conditions, Drass is the world’s second coldest region of the world. The war took place at the heights of eighteen thousand feets and above. Moreover, the Indian posts were not in advantageous position in terms of the position of their troops as Pakistani intruders had settled themselves at the advantageous position in terms of heights of the hills. They took these positions when the locations were abandoned by Indian soldiers during peak winter as part of the usual practice followed by both India and Pakistan. They captured the abandoned positions stealthily. The disadvantageous positions did not deter the courage of our soldiers. The brave hearts of Indian army undertook their operation during night time so as not to be noticed by the enemies sitting at heights. Among the various heights recaptured by India, the popular one Tiger hill and Tololing recaptured under the bravery of our real heros was important to be captured because the height was giving direct line of sight to the enemies on the national highway NH1,the lifeline of all supplies. The Kargil war which started in the month of May escalated upto July. On June 15, US President Bill Clinton urged Pakistan PM to withdraw troops from Kargil. On July 11, Pakistan having lost begins pull out and on July 14, India declared success of operation Vijay. And on 26th July the war came to an end officially.
In this war, India lost her 527 bravehearts and had more than 1300 wounded soldiers. In Kargil war four Param Vir Chakras (PVC) were given. The honoured include Captain Vikram Batra, from 13 JAK Rifles (Posthumous), Lieutenant Manoj Kumar Pandey, 1/11 Gorkha Rifles (posthumous), Rifleman Sanjay Kumar, 13 JAK Rifles and Grenadier Yogendra Singh Yadav, 18 Grenadiers. Besides, the PVCs, our brave real heroes were conferred with Maha vir Chakras and Vir chakras.
One can assess the bravery and zeal of our soldiers from their quotes like “Either I will come back after hoisting the Tricolor, or I will come back wrapped in it, but I will be back for sure” by Captain Vikram Batra; Besides, his success signal – “Yeh Dil Mange More” after capturing point 5140 has been immortalised with his name. Lieutenant Manoj Kumar Pandey is remembered for his quote “If death strikes before I prove my blood, I promise I will kill death!”.
In the memory of the Kargil war heroes Indian army has built Kargil War Memorial or Dras war memorial. The memorial attracts visitors coming to Ladakh. This memorial can become part of the circuit for military heritage tourism in Ladakh along with other places of similar interest in Jammu & Kashmir to promote patriotism and overall consciousness of national integration.
26th July is observed as the Kargil Vijay Diwas by commemorating the sacrifice and contribution of Kargil War heroes. This year India is celebrating the 23rd Kargil Vijay diwas with the relay of a Victory flame which commenced on June 17 from the Northern Command and after traversing important points shall reach Drass where it will be subsumed into the Kargil War Memorial Flame on 26th July 2022. The celebration of Kargil Vijay Diwas and the War memorial remind us that we owe a debt of gratitude to the War heroes which cannot be repaid. We thus share a responsibility to be a part of the celebration to express our gesture of being grateful to the heroes and their families.
(The author is Assistant Professor, Department of Tourism and Travel Management, Central University of Jammu)