It’s the 17th anniversary of the Kargil war victory. As India celebrates Kargil Divas and pays homage to martyrs of the war, it should be remembered that Indian Air Force played a significant role in tilting the balance in Operation Vijay, in July 1999, in India’s favour.
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A new report in NDTV states that on June 13, 1999, the IAF was also close to launching a full-fledged air attack deep inside Pakistan.
For this, route maps were finalised, targets were assigned, personal revolvers and Pakistani currecy were given to pilots should they have to eject on the other side of the Line of Control (LoC).
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As per these plans, the fighter pilots were minutes away from crossing the LoC, a move which would have likely escalated the Kargil conflict into a full-fledged war between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
The report suggests that Air Force’s plans of a thorough attack could have occurred because of failure of talks between Jaswant Singh, then Foreign Minister, and his Pakistani counterpart, Sartaj Aziz.
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India has demanded withdrawal of Pakistani intruders from the Kargil mountains and abandon the demand for redrawing the Line of Control or de factor border in Kashmir. However, the talks not yielded any results.
“We were to do a 4 ac [aircraft] bombing mission in POK [Pakistan Occupied Kashmir] and BDA [Bomb Damage Assessment] of Chaklala [a major Pakistani Air Force Airbase in Rawalpindi.] Tony, Pradeep, Chou & Doc planned for first mission and Dhali, Gupta for the second. Pal was maha miffed at being left out,” reads the Squadron Diary of the Air Force’s 17 Squadron, the “Golden Arrows”, a formation that flew MiG 21s from the Srinagar Air Force base.
On May 26, IAF struck enemy positions in an operation code-named ‘Safed Sagar’, but were not allowed to cross the LoC. 20 X 20 km area is a very small area for an air force to operate.
IAF then used Mirage 2000 fighters to drop high technology laser guided bombs from high altitude so as to remain above the ground fire lethal zone.
On July 14, Operation Vijay was declared successful by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. On July 26, the operation was officially declared closed.