Despite numerous agreements such as Non–nuclear aggression agreement (NNAA-1988), Lahore Declaration (1999) and different Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) between Indian and Pakistan to maintain peace along the LOC (Line-of-Control), they fought 3 wars in a span of less than 5 decades. In the wake of Lahore Declaration, India had never dreamed of Kargil conflict that followed heavy bloodshed for both sides.
Atal ji took the initiative to resolve the deadlock between two countries over Kashmir by starting the cross-border Delhi-Lahore bus service. But, what followed next surprised International diplomats. Both countries were standing on the brink of nuclear war. Kargil war was not merely a conflict of ideology or loss of human lives; it also brought out (unleashed) the inhuman face of a war.
1. The divide
The LOC is demarcated on the basis of Simla accord. The Kargil District in J&K is located 205 Km (127 miles) from Srinagar.
2. A victory sweet
The Indian Army is the world’s second largest army with 11 million active personnel’s and 10 million in reserved forces. True to their tradition of courage and sacrifice for the nation, Indian army deployed over 7 Lakh soldiers to push the infiltrators to other side of LOC and secured the area after a 3-month long operation.
3. The basics
The hostile conditions in Kargil were quite similar to Sino-Indian Border Conflict of 1962 and the Nuke test of May 1998 conducted by both India and Pakistan raised tension along the LOC in the summer of 1999.
4. A hope for peace
The NDA led government of 1998 bolstered the forward policy along the LOC since Shimla (Simla) agreement of 1972.
5. On a terrain insurmountable
The NH 1D (National Highway) connects Srinagar to Leh region passing through Kargil. Apart from the aerial route, it’s said to be the lifeline to the people of Kargil region and Army personnel. NH 1 D is full of extremely treacherous terrain where avalanches and landslides are common throughout the winters.
6. And they were spotted
It was on May 3, 1999, when some local shepherds noticed activity in the mountains of Kargil area and informed the Indian Army. They reported presence of some tribal heavily armed people building sentry posts and occupying bunkers thereby.
7. In the UN
Pak hoisted the issue with UN to gain control over Kashmir and occupy Indian posts, but failed due to Indian resistance. It was a complete failure of Pak’s foreign policy and a great victory for the Indian side.
8. A treacherous engagement
Pak Army and Taliban fighters used Stinger SAMs (Surface-to-Air missiles) to hit the Indian Aircrafts in such a high altitude warfare zone (in mountainous terrain). In the Batalik Sector, India lost two fighter jets MiG-21 and MiG-27 in addition to a Mi-17 & Mi-8 helicopter. IAF’s pilot Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja was shot in the head by Pakistan military. Ajay’s death is a cold blooded murder under Geneva Convention.
9. Capt Saurabh Kalia incident
The body of Indian martyr Capt Saurabh Kalia was badly mutilated in the second week of May, 1999 (May 5 onwards) alongwith 5 other soldiers of the patrolling party. On the other side, Indian Army provided proper coffins for martyr Pak Soldiers and treated them with all the dignity and respect they deserved.
10. Destroying a supply line
Pak army along with infiltrators and other militant groups heavily bombarded NH 1A (renumbered as NH 44; connecting Kashmir valley to Jammu) in the initial days (May 1999) of the war to bock the ration and ammunition supply of Indian Army at forward posts.
11. An alternate route
Apart from NH 1D, an alternative road was connecting the Leh (via Himachal Pradesh) with rest of India. NH 1D meets the 474 km-long Leh-Manali highway in Leh. This route was extensively used to move the army convoys to avoid heavy shelling of Pak forces on the NH 1A.
12. Operation Safed Sagar
IAF’s MiG-21s and Mirage 2000 were extensively used in the Operation Safed Sagar during Kargil war.
13. Before the actual war
524 Indian soldiers sacrificed their lives during retaliation and 13,363 got critically injured. While 696 Pak Soldiers lost their lives alongwith 40 civilian lives on the Pakistani side of LOC.
14. Mobilising forces
India made its strong presence in the region of conflict by deploying 69 frontline aircrafts. Also, Indian troops strengthened their position by moving 730,000 soldiers into the region.
15. The pass
Zoji La is the only mountain pass connecting Kargil area to the Kashmir region.
16. The man who did it all
The Indian Army chief at that time was Ved Prakash Malik.
17. Might of the Indian Navy
Indian Navy launched Operation Talwar to blockade the Karachi port during Kargil war.
18. The Last Stand
In the final assault at Tiger Hill (Point 5140), Five Indian soldiers and 10 Pakistani soldiers lost their lives. Captain Vikram Batra also lost his life while rescuing an injured officer (Capt. Naveen) at .4875.
19. And the guns fired along
Indian Army brought around 250 guns to provide artillery support to its infantry and ground troops. The Bofors FH-77B field howitzer played a vital role in securing top positions and gaining control over the infiltrated space.
20. Nothing can stop the boys
Shyok River flows in the east part of the harsh terrain of Kargil (155×75 km area was in conflict at that time). There were 18 degree steep slopes which made it further challenging for Indian Army to get hold of Tiger hill and Tololing.
21. When impossible means nothing
22 highly trained men approached the Tiger Hill via vertical cliff at an altitude of 16,500 feet. It was strategically important to gain control over the Drass-Kargil road as infiltrators were capable of shelling NH 1D from Tiger Hill.
22. Nailing the enemy officially
On July 14 both sides ceased the fire and Indian PM declared the Indian Army’s ‘Operation Vijay’ a success. On July 26 Indian Army announced complete eviction of Pakistani intruders from the Indian side of LOC.
23. Badassery of Himachal boys
3 soldiers from Himachal Pradesh were awarded PVC (2 posthumously and one alive) along with Grenadier Yogendra Singh Yadav (alive) and Lt. Manoj Kumar Pandey of 1/11 Gorkha Rifles (martyr). Lt. Manoj Pandey is still widely acclaimed for his act of valor in the terrains of ‘Tololing sector’ which was critical for capturing the point 5140.
24. The war that popularized Barkha Dutt
Indian journalist Barkha Dutt covered the entire Kargil war and interviewed the bravo Shershah- ‘Vikram Batra’ of 17 JAK rifles exclusively. She was awarded Padma Shri for her services on the line of duty. Actress Preity Zinta portrayed her role of journalist in the movie Lakshya.
25. Inspiring the silver screen
Two Bollywood movies were made post Kargil named as LOC: Kargil (2003) and Lakshya (2004).
26. Kargil Coffin Scam
The BJP led government’s decision to purchase coffins at inflated rates attracted wide criticism and the CAG also confirmed some irregularities in the process.