New Delhi: India commemorated Friday the 20 years of its victory over arch rival Pakistan in the Kargil War, saluting the supreme sacrifices and valour of the fallen heroes in recapturing several mountain heights seized by intruders in Kashmir.
It was on July 26, 1999, Indian Army had declared successful culmination of ‘Operation Vijay’, declaring a victory after nearly three-month-long battles on the icy heights of Kargil. India lost around 500 soldiers in the war.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh led the nation in paying tributes to the Kargil heroes, extolling the courage, bravery and dedication of the soldiers who were part of the operation.
Rajnath Singh said the ‘unwavering courage and supreme sacrifice’ of the Kargil martyrs ensured the safety and sanctity of India’s borders.
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa and Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh paid tributes to the war heroes at the Kargil War Memorial at Dras in Jammu and Kashmir.
President Kovind was scheduled to participate in the function in Dras but bad weather prevented him from reaching the venue. He paid respects to the fallen soldiers at the Army’s 15 Corps headquarters in Kashmir’s Badami Bagh cantonment.
“July 26 is immortalised as ‘Kargil Vijay Diwas’ and represents a saga of glorious victory of the nation in the Kargil conflict fought from May-July in 1999. Indian Army soldiers fought legendary battles in Dras, Kaksar, Batalik and Turtok Sectors. We salute the courage, valour and sacrifices of our martyrs and heroes,” the Army said in a statement.
The Indian Army responded to the intrusion with ‘Operation Vijay’, fighting battles on rugged terrains and difficult peaks. The IAF had joined the operation with their ‘Operation Safed Sagar’ under which, the IAF for the first time used high-precision bombs to target the enemy.
The Mirage-2000 aircraft played a crucial role in the battles fought during the war and also hit enemy targets bunkered in at the Tiger Hill, besides tasting success at Muntho Dhalo in June 1999. “Mirage-2000 was the game-changer in the Kargil War,” senior IAF officer, Group Captai Anupam Banerjee, told this agency.
Air Marshal BS Dhanoa, who was the commanding officer of the 17 Squadron at the time of the war, said deploying Mirage-2000 jets and air support to ground forces had turned the tide of the 1999 war in favour of India.
“Tiger Hill was also a message at that particular time that no matter how small you are, no matter how precariously you are positioned, we will be able to get you and hit you,” Dhanoa said.
Various cities across the country hosted commemorative events to mark Kargil Vijay Diwas.