Blog Hour

Past Forward: A timeline of Kargil War

As the nation basks in the glory of sacrifices made by our jawans by celebrating 20th Kargil Vijay Diwas, we bring you a timeline of one of the most prominent Indo-Pak wars of all times:

It’s been twenty long years since India registered a glorious feat over its belligerent neighbour Pakistan with the quick response and unparalleled courage shown by its army men, and  the pragmatic statesmanship demonstrated by the then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

As the nation celebrates the 20th Kargil Vijay Diwas today, let’s take this moment to commemorate the exceptional valour of Indian men in uniform, who stayed true to their oath of safeguarding the nation’s integrity, some to the last breath.

We bring you a detailed timeline of the events that led to and followed the intrusion of Pakistan armed forces into Kargil sector, which culminated into Operation Vijay emerging as a success.

The prelude

After the signing of peaceful Lahore Declaration in February 1999, promising to provide a peaceful and bilateral solution to the Kashmir conflict, some elements of the Pakistan armed forces infiltrated into the Indian part of the line of control (LOC). The infiltration, referred as ‘Operation Badr’, was aimed at severing the only link between Kashmir and Ladakh. If successful, Operation Badr would have caused Indian forces to withdraw from the Siachen Glacier.

It would have also forced India to negotiate a settlement of the broader Kashmir dispute. The infiltrators also believed that any tension in the region would contribute to the internationalization of the Kashmir issue, potentially resulting in a speedy resolution.  Defence analysts also claim that boosting the morale of the decade-long rebellion in Jammu and Kashmir by taking a proactive role could have been yet another motive behind initiating the conflict.

The infiltration

The infiltration of Pakistan armed forces in the Kargil sector was first revealed by Tashi Namgyal, a local shepherd, who spotted the Pakistani infiltrators while looking for his missing yak.

Namgyal recalls the events, “On the morning of May 3, I had moved up some 5 km along Jubbar Langpa stream with one of my friends. We were looking for my missing yak. I was scouring the mountainside through a pair of binoculars. It was then that I saw groups of men in Pathan attire. The camouflaged Pakistani soldiers were digging bunkers. Some of them were armed.”

He adds, “It was not possible for me to ascertain their numbers. But I was sure of one thing – they had come from the other side of the LoC. So I came down and immediately informed the nearest post of the Indian Army.”

Namgyal’s information alerted Indian army. Upon cross-checking, the army found that the information about the intrusion of Pakistani soldiers was correct. What seemed like an inoffensive intrusion at first turned to be a full-fledged military operation of the Pakistani Army.

Operation Vijay

Upon the confirmation of an armed intrusion on part of Pakistan Army, the Indian Air Force conducted the first air strike against the intruders on May 26, 1999.  Dubbed ‘Operation Safed Sagar’ the air strikes supported the mobilisation of Indian land forces. The Indian government allowed limited use of Air Power only on May 25, fearing undesirable escalation. The IAF fighter jets, however, were not to cross the LOC under any circumstance. This marked the first time any air war was fought at such high altitudes.

The mobilisation of 200,000 Indian land troops was named ‘Operation Vijay’. The nature of the terrain posed a great challenge for the Indian troops; division and corps operations could not be mounted. The fighting that followed was conducted mostly at the regimental or battalion level. Two divisions of the Indian Army, numbering 20,000, were deployed in the conflict zone, along with several thousand from the paramilitary forces and the air force.

After some initial hiccups, the Indian Army and Air Force coordinated their war effort efficiently. The Cabinet Committee on Security met at regular intervals until the war ended in the second week of July, the end of the war.

The total number of Indian soldiers involved in the military operation was close to 30,000. Official statistics reveal the number of infiltrators, including those providing logistical backup, to have been approximately 5,000 at the peak of the conflict. This figure also counts in the troops from PoK that provided additional military support.

Kargil War: A Timeline

Date

(1999)

Event
3 May Pakistani intrusion reported by local shepherds in Kargil
5 May Indian Army patrol sent up

Five Indian soldiers captured, tortured to death

9 May Heavy shelling by Pakistan Army damages ammunition dump in Kargil
10 May Infiltrations noticed in Kaksar, Dras and Mushkoh sectors
Mid-May Indian Army mobilizes more troops 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 Prisoner of War
28 May Four air crew died as IAF MI-17 shot down by Pakistan
1 June Pakistan bombs NH 1
5 June Indian Army releases documents recovered from Pakistani soldiers
Pakistan’s involvement revealed
6 June Indian Army launches major attack in Kargil
9 June Indian Army regains control of two key positions in the Batalic sector
9 June Indian Army regains control of two key positions in the Batalic sector
11 June India releases intercepts of conversation between Pakistan Army Chief

Gen Pervez Musharraf and Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Aziz Khan in Rawalpindi, as a proof of Pakistan Army’s involvement in the conflict

13 June Indian Army secures Tololing in Dras
15 June The U.S. President Bill Clinton asks Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to pull out from Kargil
29 June Indian Army captures two crucial posts: Pt 5060 and Pt 5100 near Tiger Hill
2 July Launch of three-pronged attack in Kargil by Indian Army
4 July Tiger Hill recaptured by Indian army after an 11-hour battle
5 July Indian Army takes control of Dras

Nawaz Sharif announces Pakistani army’s withdrawal from Kargil post his meeting with Clinton

7 July India regains control of Jubar Heights in Batalik
11 July Pakistan begins pull-out; India captures key peaks in Batalik
14 July Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared Operation Vijay a success
26 July Kargil conflict officially came to an end with Indian Army announcing complete eviction of Pakistani intruders

The aftermath and legacy

July 1999 brought both exhilaration and relief for India for the manner in which the brief, but potentially destabilising, Kargil war ended. Led by General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s perfidy of posing a challenge to India’s territorial integrity by occupying rough mountain peaks in the high Himalayas was thwarted by the raw courage and sheer resolve of the Indian military.

However, a heavy price was paid to achieve the feat. Almost 550 army men made the ultimate sacrifice. As many as 1,400 were left injured. Though India lacked critical military inventory, it was compensated by the leadership of the middle and junior ranks.

Often symbolised by the image of the do-or-die young Indian soldier atop a re-captured peak with the tricolour and the jingle “Yeh dil mange more” — the roll call of honour includes Vikram Batra, Manoj Pandey, Hanif-ud-din and Yogendra Yadav among many others. The extraordinary air effort and the many tactical innovations in the latter phase of the operations contributed substantially to the final outcome.

The Kargil War will forever be etched in the memory of the country. The war united India in an unprecedented rally of patriotism. While common people came together in solidarity and set up blood donation camps and relief funds, noted businessmen like Sahara India founder Subrata Roy also came forward to aid the families of the martyrs.

The then-Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee lauded Subrata Roy Sahara’s humanitarian efforts in his post-war address to the nation. Apart from Sahara India, The Telegraph and Anand Bazaar Patrika had also set up the Kargil fund, where the compatriots could make a donation. Several compassionate people like Veni Prakash Khandelwal, who gave away his sagan to the fund, and six-year-old Satrupa Das, who collected money every morning for the same, also made contributions to the cause in their own unique way.

Years later, Sahara India televised the struggles of the military personnel who fought for their homeland through its series Mission Fateh. We, too, honour the memory of our martyrs in our own way by celebrating Kargil Vijay Diwas.

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