Chances are, a surprise military infiltration could overthrow an entire state, let alone a city. Provided it is timed right and intense enough. On this day, 21 years ago, this terrible fate was exactly what Operation Vijay prevented. It’s quite devastating, looking back, at the 527 souls lost to this splendid response to a mindless military blunder. So, on this Kargil Vijay Diwas, let us have a moment’s silent prayer in the memory of those kind souls lost, those that survived and thank the almighty for watching over us. Kargil Vijay Diwas is celebrated annually on the 26th of July in the commemoration of Operation Vijay. This was India’s answer to the Pak sneak attack that was Operation Badr.
It is not every day that you come across infantry intrusion while walking your sheep, even for the daunting valleys of Kargil. Alas, this wasn’t the case on 3rd May 1999, when local shepherds reported Pak army presence in Kargil. One thing led to another and by Mid-May, yet another Indo-Pak war comes into play. Subsequently, both sides suffered the loss of several lives. It was only by the end of July that the Pak forces finally pulled out and the Indian army celebrated a complete eviction. Let’s have a quick history lesson about Operation Vijay and Kargil Vijay Diwas and what this meant for both sides.
War is never fun, no matter the justifications. While the Pak PM pled his case of innocence regarding the issue and the stead-fast and firm action of the Indian Army led to a quick resolution, let’s just never overlook the fact that no amount of explanation will account for the lives lost in Kargil and the events surrounding it.
What really happened?
The Simla agreement in 1972 marked an end to the long ongoing Indo-Pak wars. At least, on paper. Though minor conflicts did occur especially around the Siachen Glacier, these were nothing of the Magnitude of Operation Vijay, White Sea and everything that happened in between. After failed discussions and the ever-increasing uneasiness between the two countries, all backed by the conduction of nuclear tests in 1998, the Lahore Declaration seemed to fit right in. This bilateral agreement meant cease-fire between the respective military forces. Keep in mind that this happened in February 1999. So with Peace finally setting into the valley, something definitely seemed off.
On 3rd May 1999 local shepherd report insurgent activities in Kargil. Unbeknownst to the Indian Army Patrol, danger lurked all over Kargil. The Pak army had been covertly training troops by then. The goal of this troop was the infiltration of the India side of the Line of Control. This was how Operation Badr came into being. The objective was to separate Kashmir and Ladakh, pressurizing the Indian forces to withdraw Siachen Glacier. This could ultimately lead to the speedy resolution of border conflicts.
In response to the report by the shepherd, Five Indian Army Patrol units dispatched to patrol Kargil. The Pak army made their move by catching these soldiers and torturing to death. As the first of the series, the incident received less attention. The perpetrator possibly being the mujahideen. But, heavy shelling and reports of parallel infiltrations in other sectors suggested otherwise. This caused the Indian Army to deploy more units as well as the IAF launching airstrikes. On 27th May, Pakistani homing missile, Anza Mk-II shot down two IAF aircraft, a MiG-21 and a MiG-27 and held Flt. Lt. Kambampati Nachiketa Prisoner of War.
The Pak army continued their attack by the bombing of NH-1. Sometime later, occupation and re-capture of several strategic points by either side throughout June. The Indian Army retaliated with Major offensive in Kargil. Pak PM Nawaz Sherif simply added to the confusion by denying any knowledge or links to Said attacks. India released sensitive documents suggesting a possible connection. On 29th June, Under repeated pressure, the Pak PM cut off supplies to the Pak army forcing them to pull out.
On 2nd July, the Indian Army went full-on and launched attacks throughout Kargil, capturing several points forcing the Pak army to evict the country by July 11th. The Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee later declared the operation a success. What followed was a wide array of negotiations. The Indian army claimed Kargil completely devoid of Pak intruders on 26th July. This was how the 26th became the Kargil Vijay Diwas. To honour the fallen, a war memorial built in Dras.
Kargil Vijay Diwas: Present Day
Fast forward to 2020, India celebrates 21st Kargil Vijay Diwas today. The day marks an important milestone in the Indian border defence. It respects the valiant efforts of the Indian Army, the brave sacrifices of the soldiers who lost their lives and stands as a symbol to showcase the military power. Every year, the PM pays homage to soldiers at Amar Jawan Jyothi, India Gate. The celebrations usually span throughout the Kargil-sector, the National Capital, New Delhi as well as associated functions held throughout the country.
Amidst the ever-bothering COVID situation, the Govt. has decided to dial down the ceremonies. The commemoration will involve wreath-laying ceremonies at the war memorial, Dras and New Delhi by the Defense minister Rajnath Singh, accompanied by Cheif of Defense Staff; General Bipin Rawat and three service chiefs. North Army Commander Lt Gen. Y.K. Joshy, a celebrated Kargil war veteran, will follow with a wreath-laying ceremony.
A word from the leaders
The Hon. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his Mann ki Baat programme, said the following:
“Twenty-one years ago on this day, our Army won the Kargil war, India was then trying to have cordial relations with Pakistan, but it is said that it is in the nature of the wicked to have enmity with everyone for no reason.” The prime minister said Pakistan undertook the “sinister misadventure” to capture Indian land and to divert attention from its internal problems”.
The Hon. President tweeted the following:
This day means a lot to us patriots. It is a brilliant portrayal of how perseverance and firm belief leads one to glory. While that is the case, keep in mind that COVID 19 is still at large. We have to make sure to celebrate the day indoors and keep outside contacts to a minimum. The country is proud of its Army and how reassuringly safe it feels to be the citizen. So yes, we are proud to be Indians. Jai Hind.