The Kargil War was an armed conflict between India and Pakistan that took place in the Kargil district of Kashmir and elsewhere along the Line of Control (LOC). This war which was fought for more than 60 days, ended on 26 July and resulted in the loss of life on both sides. On this date in 1999, India successfully took command of the high outposts which had been lost to Pakistan.
On 26th July 1999, India had announced an end to hostilities in the Kargil sector after Pakistani forces were evicted from those icy heights, by the Indian army.
Why did Pakistan undertake a military operation that was foredoomed to failure?
Clearly, the Pakistani military establishment had become frustrated with India’s success in containing the militancy in J&K to within manageable limits and could not bear to see its strategy of ‘bleeding India through a thousand cuts’ evaporating into thin air.
The Pakistan army’s offensive was an ill-conceived military adventure across the LoC that had violated India’s territorial integrity. By infiltrating its regular soldiers in civilian clothes across the LoC and physically occupying ground on the Indian side, the Pakistan army had added a new dimension to its 10-year-old proxy war against India.
The strategic aim of the Pakistan army in engineering these intrusions under the facade of Kashmiri militancy was to provide a fresh impetus to the flagging militancy — wrongly called jihad and again attempt to focus international attention on the Kashmir dispute. In the Dras, Mushko Valley and Kaksar sectors the military aim was to sever the Srinagar-Leh National Highway 1A to isolate Kargil district and cut India’s lifeline to Leh, with a view to eventually choking supplies and reinforcements to Indian troops.
Then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government appeared to be inclined to accept India’s hand of friendship, in keeping with the mood of popular opinion within Pakistan, and was committed to opening up trade, liberalising the visa regime and encouraging people-to-people, cultural and sports contacts. This approach was resented by the Pakistan army as it undermined the army’s salience in Pakistani society.
The acceptance of the concept of the LoC as a permanent border between India and Pakistan had begun to gain currency. It was in such a scenario that in an act more out of desperation than strategic planning, the Pakistan army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate decided to launch an organised intrusion into the militarily vacant remote areas of the Kargil district to once again ignite the spark of militancy and gain moral ascendancy over the Indian security forces. Unfortunately, for them, their plans were foiled quickly and they failed miserably in their endeavour.
It is said that the plans for the Kargil operations had been suggested by the Pak army brass first to President Zia in 1980s and then to Benazir Bhutto in the 1990’s, but they both refused to go along with it considering it too dangerous. Nawaz Sharif on the other hand has come in for criticism for the conflict being initiated within months of his landmark peace deal with Vajpayee. But apparently, he too was taken by surprise since he was informed by General Musharraf once the operations were already under way in April 1999!
It was an act of betrayal, that had caught the Vajpayee government by complete surprise, since earlier that year Prime Minister AB Vajpayee had visited Lahore in February 1999, to build better ties with Pakistan. The Lahore Declaration that was signed between Prime Ministers Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif, had re-affirmed a commitment to peaceful co-existence, specially so as both countries had in 1998 become nuclear powers. Thus, the Indian establishment was initially at a loss to explain how all this good will had gone up in smoke with the Pakistani intrusions. The culprit of this deceit however was essentially the then Pakistan Army Chief, General Parvez Musharraf along with three other generals.
Operation Vijay was finely calibrated to limit military action to the Indian side of the LoC and included air strikes from fighter-ground attack (FGA) aircraft and attack helicopters of the Indian Air Force on the posts established by the Pakistan army. Artillery firepower played a key role in paving the way for India’s brave infantrymen to take back the occupied heights inch-by-bloody inch.
It is to the credit of India’s fearless soldiers that a tactical reverse could be turned so quickly into a resounding victory.
The Indian army headquarters realised early that attacking up the steep high-altitude mountains would not be easy. It was realised that maximum available firepower would need to be employed, including that of the artillery and the Indian Air Force. Coordinated preparatory bombardment would be required to degrade the combat potential of the enemy’s posts and break the enemy’s will to fight before infantry battalions launched physical assaults to regain each position.
Infantry battalions of the Indian army launched some of the fiercest attacks in the annals of military history to take back the high-altitude mountain tops occupied by the aggressors. Despite daunting odds, they were completely unrelenting in their resolve to evict every Pakistani intruder from Indian territory.
What finally took Pakistan and the world by surprise was the severity of India’s military response and the sheer determination of Indian troops to evict about 2500 Pakistani intruders over 160km area along the LOC. But took over 500 Indian lives.
To its everlasting discredit, the Pakistan army disowned its dead soldiers and refused to take back many bodies, particularly in the initial stages.
Successive governments in Islamabad have sought with varying degrees of intensity to destabilise India, wreck its unity and challenge its integrity and this is unlikely to change. In international politics, the policy of mutual friendship and cooperation with one’s neighbours has to be balanced with vigilance. A neighbour’s capacity to damage one’s security interests should never be underestimated, leave alone disregarded. As we celebrate the Kargil Vijay Diwas today, India must remain on guard against sinister operations being launched in future by Pakistan’s vengeful and devious military leadership that continues to have a hate-India mindset and the mentality of primitive warlords.
26 Jul 20/Sunday Source: Saima Ibrahim