Kargil Vijay Diwas: Over two decades later, the war story in retrospect
- The Kargil war was fought between India and Pakistan
- Pakistani Army intruded upon Indian territory
- India thwarted Pakistan’s attempt at occupation and recaptured all posts
Drass, a quaint little hill station in the Kargil district of the Union Territory of Ladakh, has placed itself at the center of the Indian subcontinent’s nationalist consciousness. Why? Because the hill station on the Himalayan foothills was the site of the last war between India and Pakistan, two nuclear-powered neighbours who have been fighting over Kashmir for decades.
July 26 marks the day the Indian Army declared victory over Pakistan in Kargil in 1999 recapturing all posts under occupation. Here’s a brief look on what led to the war and how India, with its military might and diplomatic strength, managed to pushback its neighbour.
It was during the first week of May 1999, the Indian Army headquarters in Delhi started reporting unusual activity in the Kargil and Batalik sectors of what was then the state of Jammu & Kashmir. There were intelligence reports that seemed to suggest that the Pakistani Mujahideen was making intrusions into Indian territory.
By mid-May, it was clear that a large number of intruders had made their way into Jammu and Kashmir and captured vast swathes of territory. The Indian military initially believed that it was still the Mujahideen at work. However, what struck the Indian establishment was that jihadi outfits don’t usually capture territory.
Initial estimates suggested of the Indian Army suggested that the intruders comprised 70% Mujahideen and 30% soldiers from the Pakistan Army. All this while, Pakistan’s Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) kept reassuring his Indian counterpart that the Pakistan Army had no role in the ongoing incursions in Kargil.
Soon after, the Indian Army realised that the Mujahideen had no role to play and it was the Pakistan Army setting up base on Indian territory. Upon ascertaining the points of incursion from local shepherds, the Indian Army launched Operation Vijay.
The Pakistani soldiers and militants had positioned themselves at higher altitudes which gave them a strategic advantage as they could fire on advancing Indian troops. Pakistan shot down two Indian fighter jets while another fighter jets crashed during the operation.
Later on, Pakistan asked the US to intervene. But President Bill Clinton declined to do so until Pakistani troops were withdrawn from the Line of Control (LOC).
As Pakistani troops withdrew, the Indian armed forces attacked the rest of the outposts, managing to get back the last of them by July 26. The Indian victory came at a high price. The official death toll on the Indian side was 527, while that on the Pakistani side was between 357 and 453.
The Kargil was saw India significantly increase its defence spending in the budget presented the year after the Kargil war, but it also resulted in procurement irregularities, like the one in the purchase of coffins for the soldiers who died in combat.