Kargil Vijay Diwas – 1999 War

Kargil Vijay Diwas – 1999 War

Kargil-diwas

Commemoration Day: 26 July

Operation: Operation Vijay

Martyrs: 533

Awards: 4 PVC, 9 MVC, 27 VrC

Kargil Vijay Diwas – 1999 War

Kargil Vijay Diwas is celebrated on 26th July every year to commemorate the success of Operation Vijay, under which on this day, in 1999 India successfully took command of all the high outposts in the Kargil region which were being held by the Pakistani intruders.

 

In the winter months of 1998 and early 1999, militants in the guise of Mujahideen were covertly trained by the Pakistani armed forces and sent to the Indian side of the LOC. They captured some of the unguarded posts in the region and aimed to seize control over Kargil sector, which would enable them to cut off the supply route between Srinagar and Ladakh and take control of the Siachin region. The intrusion was detected in the month of May and patrols were sent to check and control them. By the time India realized Pakistan’s hand behind the infiltrations, they had captured many posts in the Drass, Kaksar and Mushkoh regions. Operation Vijay was then launched by the government to clear the area from infiltrators.

 

The air force too launched a mission called Safed Sagar to help in the mobilization of the army. The army set out to recapture the areas along the national highway 1D, which was the main supply route between Ladakh and Kashmir. The Indian army attacked the intruders who held well- fortified positions in the Tololing region. The 2nd Rajputana Rifles along with the 18 Grenadiers laid out a three-week assault which culminated in the recapture of the Tololing region, claiming 23 Indian lives in the process. The Indian army had captured a strategically important position and it took them a further six days to clear out the enemy troops from the nearby areas and take control of the Drass sector. The Indian troops moved forward by capturing the strategic peaks and advanced towards Tiger Hills. Tiger Hills was the highest peak in the Kargil region. Treacherous terrain and well entrenched enemy in the region posed difficulties to the army. Many battles were fought between June and July to capture strategic locations that would facilitate the capture of Tiger hills. On July 4, 1999 the 18 Grenadiers captured the coveted hills after a fierce battle which lasted about 11 hours at the peak of Tiger Hills. This was a very important turn of events for the Indian troops and victory was in sight for them.

 

The then Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif sought help from the United States of America, without much avail. He then agreed to withdraw Pakistani troops from the Indian side of the LOC, owing to International pressure. India carried its final assault in the last week of July and cleared the Drass subsector from infiltrators entirely by July 26.  The battle had been won and operation Vijay was deemed successful.

 

The Kargil war victory was made possible by the heroic efforts of our troops, with various gallantry awards winners, among them, four Param Vir Chakra, nine Maha vir Chakra and several Vir Chakra winners, setting new benchmarks for bravery and service to the nation. The war had large number of causalities from both sides and India lost 527 of its brave soldiers in this campaign. We salute and remember the sacrifices of these valiant souls of India on this day.

There were three major phases to the Kargil War. First, Pakistan infiltrated forces into the Indian-controlled section of Kashmir and occupied strategic locations enabling it to bring NH1 within range of its artillery fire. The next stage consisted of India discovering the infiltration and mobilising forces to respond to it. The final stage involved major battles by Indian and Pakistani forces resulting in India recapturing most of the territories held by Pakistani forces and the subsequent withdrawal of Pakistani forces back across the Line of Control after international pressure.

 

Occupation by Pakistan

 

Infiltration and military build-up

Infiltration and military build-up

During the winter season, due to extreme cold in the snow-capped mountainous areas of Kashmir, it was a common practice for both the Indian and Pakistan Armies to abandon some forward posts on their respective sides of the LOC and to reduce patrolling of areas that may be avenues of infiltration. When weather conditions became less severe, forward posts would be reoccupied and patrolling resumed.

During February 1999, the Pakistan Army began to re-occupy the posts it had abandoned on its side of the LOC in the Kargil region, but also sent forces to occupy some posts on the Indian side of the LOC. Troops from the elite Special Services Group as well as four to seven battalions of the Northern Light Infantry (a paramilitary regiment not part of the regular Pakistani army at that time) covertly and overtly set up bases on the vantage points of the Indian-controlled region. According to some reports, these Pakistani forces were backed by Kashmiri guerrillas and Afghan mercenaries.   Pakistani intrusions took place in the heights of the lower Mushkoh Valley, along the Marpo La ridgeline in Dras, in Kaksar near Kargil, in the Batalik sector east of the Indus River, on the heights above of the Chorbatla sector where the LOC turns North and in the Turtok sector south of the Siachen area.

 

India discovers infiltration and mobilises

Initially, these incursions were not detected for a number of reasons: Indian patrols were not sent into some of the areas infiltrated by the Pakistani forces and heavy artillery fire by Pakistan in some areas provided cover for the infiltrators. But by the second week of May, the ambushing of an Indian patrol team led by Capt Saurabh Kalia, who acted on a tip-off by a local shepherd in the Batalik sector, led to the exposure of the infiltration. Initially, with little knowledge of the nature or extent of the infiltration, the Indian troops in the area assumed that the infiltrators were jihadis and claimed that they would evict them within a few days. Subsequent discovery of infiltration elsewhere along the LOC, and the difference in tactics employed by the infiltrators, caused the Indian army to realise that the plan of attack was on a much bigger scale. The total area seized by the ingress is generally accepted to between 130 km² – 200 km²;   The Government of India responded with Operation Vijay, a mobilisation of 200,000 Indian troops. However, because of the nature of the terrain, division and corps operations could not be mounted; subsequent fighting was conducted mostly at the regimental or battalion level. In effect, two divisions of the Indian Army, numbering 20,000, plus several thousand from the Paramilitary forces of India and the air force were deployed in the conflict zone. The total number of Indian soldiers that were involved in the military operation on the Kargil-Drass sector was thus close to 30,000. The number of infiltrators, including those providing logistical backup, has been put at approximately 5,000 at the height of the conflict. This figure includes troops from Pakistan-administered Kashmir who provided additional artillery support.   The Indian Air Force launched Operation Safed Sagar in support of the mobilisation of Indian land forces, but its effectiveness during the war was limited by the high altitude and weather conditions, which in turn limited bomb loads and the number of airstrips that could be used.

 

Naval Action

The Indian Navy also prepared to blockade the Pakistani ports, primarily the Karachi port to cut off supply routes under Operation Talwar. The Indian Navy’s western and eastern fleets joined in the North Arabian Sea and began aggressive patrols and threatened to cut Pakistan’s sea trade. This exploited Pakistan’s dependence on sea based oil and trade flows. Later, then-Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif disclosed that Pakistan was left with just six days of fuel to sustain itself if a full-scale war had broken out.

 

India attacks Pakistani positions

 
Indian soldiers in Batalik, Jammu and Kashmir during the war.

Indian soldiers in Batalik, Jammu and Kashmir during the war.

The terrain of Kashmir is mountainous and at high altitudes; even the best roads, such as National Highway 1D from Leh to Srinagar, are only two lanes. The rough terrain and narrow roads slowed down traffic, and the high altitude, which affected the ability of aircraft to carry loads, made control of NH 1D (the actual stretch of the highway which was under Pakistani fire) a priority for India. From their observation posts, the Pakistani forces had a clear line-of-sight to lay down indirect artillery fire on NH 1D, inflicting heavy casualties on the Indians.This was a serious problem for the Indian Army as the highway was the main logistical and supply route. The Pakistani shelling of thearterial road posed the threat of Leh being cut off, though an alternative (and longer) road to Leh existed via Himachal Pradesh.
 
Indian soldiers after winning a battle during the Kargil War

Indian soldiers after winning a battle during the Kargil War

 

The infiltrators, apart from being equipped with small arms and grenade launchers, were also armed with mortars, artillery and anti-aircraft guns. Many posts were also heavily mined, with India later stating to have recovered more than 8,000 anti-personnel mines according to an ICBL report. Pakistan’s reconnaissance was done through unmanned aerial vehicles and AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder radars supplied by the US. The initial Indian attacks were aimed at controlling the hills overlooking NH 1D, with high priority being given to the stretches of the highway near the town of Kargil. The majority of posts along the Line of Control were adjacent to the highway, and therefore the recapture of nearly every infiltrated post increased both the territorial gains and the security of the highway. The protection of this route and the recapture of the forward posts were thus ongoing objectives throughout the war.   The Indian Army’s first priority was to recapture peaks that were in the immediate vicinity of NH 1D. This resulted in Indian troops first targeting the Tiger Hill and Tololing complex in Dras, which dominated the Srinagar-Leh route. This was soon followed by the Batalik-Turtok sub-sector which provided access to Siachen Glacier. Some of the peaks that were of vital strategic importance to the Pakistani defensive troops were Point 4590 and Point 5353. While 4590 was the nearest point that had a view of NH 1D, point 5353 was the highest feature in the Dras sector, allowing the Pakistani troops to observe NH 1D. The recapture of Point 4590 by Indian troops on 14 June was significant, notwithstanding the fact that it resulted in the Indian Army suffering the most casualties in a single battle during the conflict. Though most of the posts in the vicinity of the highway were cleared by mid-June, some parts of the highway near Drass witnessed sporadic shelling until the end of the war.

India regained control of the hills overlooking NH 1D, the Indian Army turned to driving the invading force back across the Line of Control. The Battle of Tololing, among other assaults, slowly tilted the combat in India’s favour. The Pakistani troops at Tololing were aided by Pakistani fighters from Kashmir. Some of the posts put up a stiff resistance, including Tiger Hill (Point 5140) that fell only later in the war. Indian troops found well-entrenched Pakistani soldiers at Tiger Hill, and both sides suffered heavy casualties. After a final assault on the peak in which 10 Pakistani soldiers and 5 Indian soldiers were killed, Tiger Hill finally fell. A few of the assaults occurred atop hitherto unheard of peaks – most of them unnamed with only Point numbers to differentiate them – which witnessed fierce hand to hand combat.   As the operation was fully underway, about 250 artillery guns were brought in to clear the infiltrators in the posts that were in the line-of-sight. The Bofors FH-77B field howitzer played a vital role, with Indian gunners making maximum use of the terrain that assisted such an attack. However, its success was limited elsewhere due to the lack of space and depth to deploy the Bofors gun.   It was in this type of terrain that aerial attacks were used with limited effectiveness. French made Mirage 2000H of the IAF were tasked to drop laser-guided bombs to destroy well-entrenched positions of the Pakistani forces. However, The IAF lost a MiG-27 strike aircraftwhich it attributed to an engine failure as well as a MiG-21 fighter which was shot down by Pakistan; initially Pakistan said it shot down both jets after they crossed into its territory. One Mi-8 helicopter was also lost, due to Stinger SAMs. On 27 May 1999, Flt. Lt. Nachiketa developed engine trouble in the Batalik sector and bailed out of his craft. Sqn Ldr Ajay Ahuja went out of his way to locate his comrade but was shot down by a shoulder-fired Stinger missile. According to reports, he had bailed out of his stricken plane safely but was apparently killed by his captors as his body was returned riddled with bullet wounds.   In many vital points, neither artillery nor air power could dislodge the outposts manned by the Pakistani soldiers, who were out of visible range. The Indian Army mounted some direct frontal ground assaults which were slow and took a heavy toll given the steep ascent that had to be made on peaks as high as 18,000 feet (5,500 m). Since any daylight attack would be suicidal, all the advances had to be made under the cover of darkness, escalating the risk of freezing. Accounting for the wind chill factor, the temperatures were often as low as −15 °C to −11 °C (12 °F to 5 °F) near the mountain tops. Based on military tactics, much of the costly frontal assaults by the Indians could have been avoided if the Indian Military had chosen to blockade the supply route of the opposing force, virtually creating a siege. Such a move would have involved the Indian troops crossing the LoC as well as initiating aerial attacks on Pakistan soil, a manoeuvre India was not willing to exercise fearing an expansion of the theatre of war and reducing international support for its cause.   Two months into the conflict, Indian troops had slowly retaken most of the ridges that were encroached by the infiltrators; according to official count, an estimated 75%–80% of the intruded area and nearly all high ground were back under Indian control.

Withdrawal and final battles

Following the outbreak of armed fighting, Pakistan sought American help in de-escalating the conflict. Bruce Riedel, who was then an aide to President Bill Clinton, reported that US intelligence had imaged Pakistani movements of nuclear weapons to forward deployments for fear of the Kargil hostilities escalating into a wider conflict. However, President Clinton refused to intervene until Pakistan had removed all forces from the Indian side of the Line of Control. Following the Washington accord of 4 July 1999, when Sharif agreed to withdraw Pakistani troops, most of the fighting came to a gradual halt, but some Pakistani forces remained in positions on the Indian side of the LOC. In addition, theUnited Jihad Council (an umbrella for extremist groups) rejected Pakistan’s plan for a climb-down, instead deciding to fight on.   The Indian army launched its final attacks in the last week of July; as soon as the Drass subsector had been cleared of Pakistani forces, the fighting ceased on 26 July. The day has since been marked as Kargil Vijay Diwas (Kargil Victory Day) in India. By the end of the war, Pakistan had to withdraw under international pressure and due to pressure from continued fighting at battle front and left India in control of all territory south and east of the Line of Control, as was established in July 1972 as per the Simla Agreement.

Date(1999) Event
03-May Pakistani intrusion in Kargil reported by local shepherds
05-May Indian Army patrol sent up; Five Indian soldiers captured and tortured to death.
09-May Heavy shelling by Pakistan Army damages ammunition dump in Kargil
10-May Infiltrations first noticed in Dras, Kaksar, and Mushkoh sectors
Mid-May Indian Army moves in more troops from Kashmir Valley to Kargil Sector
26-May IAF launches air strikes against infiltrators
27-May IAF loses two fighters – MiG-21 and MiG-27;. Flt Lt Nachiketa taken POW
28-May IAF MI-17 shot down by Pakistan; four air crew dead
01-Jun Pakistan steps up attacks; bombs NH 1A
05-Jun Indian Army releases documents recovered from three Pakistani soldiers indicating Pakistan’s involvement
06-Jun Indian Army launches major offensive in Kargil
09-Jun Indian Army re-captures two key positions in the Batalic sector
11-Jun India releases intercepts of conversation between Pakistani Army Chief Gen Pervez Musharraf, while on a visit to China and Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Aziz Khan in Rawalpindi, as proof of Pakistani Army’s involvement
13-Jun Indian Army secures Tololing in Dras
15-Jun U.S. President Bill Clinton, in a telephonic conversation, asks Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to pull out from Kargil
29-Jun Indian Army captures two vital posts: Point 5060 and Point 5100 near Tiger Hill
02-Jul Indian Army launches three-pronged attack in Kargil
04-Jul Indian Army recaptures Tiger Hill after an 11-hour battle
05-Jul Indian Army takes control of Dras. Sharif announces Pakistani army’s withdrawal from Kargil following his meeting with Clinton
07-Jul India recaptures Jubar Heights in Batalik
11-Jul Pakistan begins pullout; India captures key peaks in Batalik
14-Jul Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declares Operation Vijay a success. Government sets condition for talks with Pakistan
26-Jul Kargil conflict officially comes to an end. Indian Army announces complete eviction of Pakistani intruders.

Param Vir Chakra Maha Vir Chakra Vir Chakra
Capt. Vikram Batra, 13 JAK Rifles – Maj. Vivek Gupta, 2 Rajputana Rifles Col Umesh Singh Bawa,
Lt. Manoj Kumar Pandey, 1/11 Gorkha Rifles – Maj. Padmapani Acharya, 2 Rajputana Rifles Col Lalit Rai,
Grenedier Yogender Singh Yadav, 18 Grenediers Capt. N Kenguruse, 2 Rajputana Rifles Col M.B. Ravindranat (posthumous),
Rifleman Sanjay Kumar, 13 JAK Rifles Naik Digendra Kumar, 2 Rajputana Rifles Lt Col Yogesh Kumar Joshi,
  Maj. Rajesh Singh Adhikari, 18 Grenadiers Maj S. Vijay Bhaskar,
  Lt. Balwan Singh, 18 Grenadiers Maj Deepak Rampal,
  Capt. Anuj Nayyar, 17 Jat Maj Vikas Vohra,
  Lt. Keshing Clifford Nongrum, 12 JAK Light Infantry Maj Amrinder Singh Kasana,
  Major Sonam Wangchuk, Ladakh Scouts Maj Rajesh Sah,
    Maj Mohit Saxena,
    Maj M. Saravanan (posthumous),
    Capt Shyamal Sinha.
    Capt Amol Kalia (posthumous),
    Capt Sachin Annarao Nimbalkar,
    Capt Sanjeev Singh.
    Capt Haneef Uddin (posthumous).
    Capt Sumeet Roy (posthumous),
    Capt Maridhvodan Veetil Sooraj,
    Capt Jintu Gogoi (posthumous),
    Capt R.Jery Prem Raj (posthumous),
    Lt Vijyant Thapar (posthumous),
    Sub Chhering Stobdan.
    Sub Bahadur Singh (posthumous),
    Sub Lobzang Chhotak (posthumous),
    Sub Randhir Singh (posthumous),
    Sub Bhawar Lal (posthumous),

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  • http://www.thehindu.com
  • http://www.indianarmy.nic.in

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