Why Should You Remember The 26th of July?

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Today, the 26th of July marks the 20th anniversary of the conclusion of the Kargil War. It has been 2 long decades but it still feels like yesterday that the whole world was looking tensely at the LOC with bated breath. Barkha Dutt reporting live from Kargil frontlines became an image that we still remember vividly. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and revisit the Kargil War.
What led to the War?
After the War of 1971, both India and Pakistan had ceased military aggressions for a while since Pakistan had lost half its population. As a result of the war, India was able to conduct surprise nuclear tests at Pokhran in 1974. In ‘84, Operation Meghdoot resulted in India securing most of the Siachen Glacier. The aftermath of the war left deep scars on the Pakistani people. This eventually bled over into underhanded attempts at creating a civil war-like situation in Kashmir in the ’90s. The surprise second nuclear tests at Pokhran in 1998, however, was the tipping point. Almost within days of the announcement Pakistan conducted a hurried nuclear test and declared themselves a nuclear nation to seemingly save face. 
For 20 years since the 80’s Zia ul Haq and Benazir Bhutto had been stonewalling military action in Kashmir due to fear of an all-out war, they were not prepared for. This changed when Musharraf was appointed Chief of Army Staff in October ’98. Musharraf developed and briefed PM Nawaz Sharif, 15 days before PM Vajpayee’s visit on the 20th of February with regards to a coordinated military plan and on May 3rd, local shepherds reported intruders in Kargil.
The War.
The War can be broken down into 3 phases over the 3 months. The first phase was the infiltration and started around April 1999 and 132 vantage points on the Indian Territory were set up covertly. On May 5, an Army patrol was ambushed and 5 Soldiers were captured and brutally tortured and martyred. Pakistani bombardment started on NH-1 soon thereafter. The plan was to choke supplies to the armed forces in Siachen Glacier which went via NH-1 and force them to withdraw. Increased tensions would also internationalize the issue and make the consensus in their favour since the world had been shocked at India’s nuclear tests and had issued sanctions. By the end of May, a large bulk of the army had moved into the Kargil sector and was itching for payback. The Indian Air Force was right by their side. 2 MiGs were shot down on the same day and one pilot was captured alive and the other was ruthlessly executed. 
June, however, saw the end in the Army’s patience. They had found conclusive proof of the Pakistani Army’s involvement and launched a major offensive attack. In 3 days they secured 2 key positions in the Batalik sector. Within 9 days of the offensive, US President Bill Clinton had ordered Sharif to withdraw. The world had finally decided who was to blame and was finally taking action.
By the time July came around, the Indian Army was on a complete warpath. An 11 hour Battle resulted in the recapture of Tiger Hill. The very next day, Nawaz Sharif announced the Pakistani army’s withdrawal. This was allegedly after a meeting with Clinton, however, the army continued to claim its dues by capturing Jubar Heights before the withdrawal began. On the 14th July, Prime minister Vajpayee announced Operation Vijay a success. By the 26th of July, the Kargil War had come to a close and the Indian Army had completely evicted the Pakistani intrusion.
The Aftermath 
The reports from Pakistan vary with regards to the number of casualties on the Pakistani side from 300 to 550. However, in 2010, Pakistan quietly released the official number of deceased as 453 soldiers on the army website. On the other hand, the Indian victory came at a cost of 527 souls who fought a very literal uphill battle every second of the way and will always be remembered for it. 
Pakistan suffered an immense backlash, both politically and diplomatically. When Sharif went to Washington to ask for the support of the US, he was not only snubbed but also rebuked and told to withdraw. The already weakened economy of the recent nuclear nation was put under further stress due to international isolation and inept leadership. 
India, on the other hand, was not only reaping the benefits of liberalization but also saw a 30% growth in its stock market after the war. The Kargil War was the very first televised war and was the first time 2 Nuclear nations had been directly involved in a conflict. During the war, however, The Indian Air Force refused to violate the LOC and only operated in the Indian Airspace during the entire conflict. The Indian Navy had been mobilized and prepared to blockade the Pakistani coast and starve Pakistan of its oil. Had Pakistan forced the issue and gone for a full-scale war, they would have to do so with only 6 days worth of oil as the Navy would immediately cut it off. 
Pilot Ajay Ahuja was brought down in Pakistani territory but unlike Flt. Lt. K. Nachiketa, he was not captured, but instead shot in what can be called nothing but cold-blooded murder. Subedar Major Yogendra Singh Yadav inspired the character played by Hritik Roshan but he could not even capture a small glimpse of the Param Vir Chakra awardee’s bravery on Tiger Hill and his story makes Rambo look like he was playing with firecrackers. Rifleman Sanjay Kumar was also awarded the Param Vir Chakra for his Achilles-like one-man charge on Area Flat Top. There are too many names to cover each one in detail and honour their sacrifice and bravery. I, as a writer, find myself at a dearth of words to describe the courage and passion of every braveheart involved.
Making History
A victory flame is already being carried from New Delhi to Dras in Kargil by a relay of army men. Army Chief Bipin Rawat will receive the victory flame in the 26th in the presence of the Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and the 3 Services’ Chiefs at the Dras War Memorial.  Some of you may ponder upon the vitality of this victory because many of you weren’t even born when this war was waged. But, it is essential to know the significance of this war not only because you belong to a country called ‘India’ but because you belong to a country whose armed forces know to tolerate and fight back with dignity. So, tune in and pay your respects and prayers for the brave soldiers, their families and everyone who took action to ensure that all generations can remember the 26th of July as the Kargil Vijay Diwas.

- Nachiket Bhushan Kondhalkar 

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Why Should You Remember The 26th of July? Why Should You Remember The 26th of July? Reviewed by EMN on July 26, 2019 Rating: 5

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