Ode of remembrance: The Kargil war

New Delhi, Aug.6 (ANI): The strength of a nation is seen by its response to vicious belligerence by inimical forces; its capability to stand for what is right and just under the gravest of provocation; above all, the will of its soldiers to fight for the country against all odds and sacrifice their very lives on the mantle of national honour and sovereignty.

The Kargil war displayed, in full measure, the strength of the Nation and its capability to with stand any challenge, however insidious and deceitful.

As the fourteenth anniversary of the historic battle goes by, it is time to recollect the deviousness of the perpetrators of the conflict, to see how the ignominious design of an aggressive neighbour to intrude on the territorial integrity of the nation was thwarted by a military action that has no parallels in the annals of military history.

It is also time reflect upon the mature and restrained manner in which the political leadership of the country dealt with the treachery and got international acclaim. Above all, it is time to revisit the bravery of the Indian soldiers who fought against insurmountable odds to restore a situation .

Even as India was being feted with an olive branch and the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was visiting Lahore in the inaugural journey of the Delhi-Lahore bus service on February, 20, 1999, Pakistan troops of the Northern Light Infantry (NLI) were on their way to occupy Indian territories in the Kargil sector.

On May 3, 1999, two shepherds reported unusual movement to the Army in Banju and Batalik sector; A Patrol led by Captain Saurabh Kalia to confirm the tip-off by the local shepherds was ambushed.

This established the presence of infiltrators in the area. Further investigations laid bare ingress by Pakistani forces 200 km into the Kargil sector comprising of Maskoh, Kaksar, Bimbar, Batalik, Yaldor and Turtok.

It is well known that Captain Saurabh Kalia and his colleagues were captured by the Pakistani intruders and subject to horrendous torture. Their mutilated bodies were returned after twenty two days.

For the Kargil operation, Pakistan army launched forces exclusively from the NLI. These included 5, 6, 8 and 12 NLI battalions in full strength and elements of 3, 4, 7 and 11 NLI with the Chitral and Bajaur Scouts employed for logistic support.

NLI battalions comprise exclusively of troops taken from the Northern Areas and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir - Indian territories under Pakistan occupation. They are hardy, loyal and well disciplined troops with limited education and a reputation of obeying orders without question. Regardless of their capabilities they are looked down by their Punjabi counterparts as low level soldiers.

It was these troops that were chosen as cannon fodder by the Pakistani military hierarchy for sacrifice on the mantle of its unsustainable ambition.

The capture of a diary belonging to a Pakistani officer of 12 NLI confirms that the operation was launched in February when winter was at its peak. The officer's column lost eleven men in the approach march itself.

The remainder suffered dreadful physical torture. In his diary the officer talks of a terrible thirst and living in igloos (snow tents) in treacherous terrain; it is punctuated with narrations of blizzards and prayers for salvation. Only trained mountaineers, especially clothed, equipped and rationed would risk a passage in such treacherous terrain, yet, these poor soldiers were sent to their almost certain doom.

The soldiers were not aware that, right from the word go, the operation was undertaken with woefully inadequate logistic planning on the misguided assumption that the intrusion would be under a counter attack only for a few days and after that some sort of a cease fire would allow them to stay on and be re-supplied.

Soon enough, the intruders came face to face with the harsh reality of the treachery of their own leaders when they reached their objective and found themselves without support and assistance.

It is quite evident that the operation was militarily unsustainable, irrational and implausible. It was a political gamble aimed at blackmailing the international community to force India to accept a cease fire followed by mediation on the Kashmir issue.

Pakistan took this gamble on a warped calculation of a weak and vacillating Indian reaction, a strong element of surprise and obfuscation of a strong international intervention for fear of a possible nuclear escalation.

The reaction of the Indian army, however, was swift and surgical. The enemy was sitting higher in a terrain that required scaling bare rock with punishing loads of arms, ammunition and essential supplies.

Ten to one superiority required to launch an operation in such a terrain was neither available nor sought when battle was joined. In each attack the approach was contested by unrelenting enemy fire; victory was wrested from the enemy with close combat and hand to hand fighting after the punishing climb.

The Indian air force carried out bombing, rocketing and strafing under most challenging and dangerous conditions made more difficult by the order of not crossing the line of control under any circumstance. The ensuing war lasted about two months, up to July end, when Pakistan lamely announced the withdrawal of its battered NLI units when there was little left to withdraw.

The Kargil war paid many dividends over and above the resounding military victory. The entire Indian nation united in support for its brave soldiers; a feeling of nationalism not experienced since the struggle for independence was generated across the country. The old remembered the heady days of the freedom struggle; the middle aged expressed a feeling of nationalism by chipping in with whatever means that they had in their disposal. The young found new role model and heroes.

Pakistan, on the other hand, regressed into a repressive military regime to save the skins of those responsible for the heinous plan. By Jaibans Singh(ANI)

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