One of the first war that I have seen happening in my life time is the Kargil war. This was India's fifth war against Pakistan since the two countries Independence. This was the first ground war between the two nations. The war started during May 1999 and lasted till July 1999. India lost close to 600 brave soldiers during the Kargil conflict.
The cause of the war was the infiltration of Pakistani soldiers and Kashmiri militants into the Indian side of the Line of Control, which serves as the de facto border between the two nations. Initially Pakistan blamed the fighting entirely on independent Kashmiri insurgents but later the documents left behind by casualties and later statements by Pakistan's Prime Minister and Army Chief made it clear about the involvement of Pakistani paramilitary forces. The Indian Army, supported by the air force, attacked the Pakistani positions and, with international diplomatic support, eventually forced a Pakistani withdrawal across the Line of Control (LoC).
There were three major phases to the Kargil War. First, Pakistan captured several strategic high points in the Indian-controlled section of Kashmir. India responded by first capturing strategic transportation routes, then militarily pushing Pakistani forces back across the Line of Control.
The area which witnessed the infiltration and fighting is a 160 km long stretch on the border of the LOC, overlooking a vital highway on the Indian side of Kashmir. Apart from the district capital, Kargil, the frontline in the conflict encompassed the tiny town of Drass as well as the Batalik sector, Mushko Valley and other nearby areas along the de facto border. The military outposts on these ridges were generally around 5,000 metres (16,000 feet) high, with a few ones as high as 5,600 metres (18,000 feet). One of the main reasons why Kargil was specifically targeted for incursions was its terrain lent itself to a pre-emptive seizure. With tactically vital features and well-prepared defensive posts atop the peaks, it provided an ideal high ground for a defender akin to a fortress. Any attack to dislodge the enemy and reclaim high ground in a mountain warfare would require a far higher ratio of attackers to defenders, which is further exacerbated by the high altitude and freezing temperatures. Additionally, Kargil was just 173 km (108 mi) from the Pakistan town of Skardu, which was capable of providing logistical and artillery support to the Pakistani combatants. All these tactical reasons, plus the Kargil district being a Muslim majority, were probably contributing factors to why Kargil was chosen as the location to attack.
Amazing thing is that the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif claims that he was totally ignorant about the preparation of intrusion and came to know about it only when he received a urgent phone call from his Indian counterpart, Atal Bihari Vajpayee informing about the situation.
In some vital points, neither artillery nor air power could dislodge the outposts manned by the Pakistan 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. Since any daylight attack was 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 11 to 15 degree celcius 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 escalation of the theatre of war and reducing international support for its cause.
As the Indian counter-attacks picked up momentum, Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif flew to meet U.S. president Bill Clinton on July 4 to obtain support from the U.S. Clinton rebuked Sharif, however, and asked him to use his contacts to rein in the militants and withdraw Pakistani soldiers from Indian territory. On the other hand, he applauded Indian restraint for not crossing the LoC and escalating the conflict into an all-out war. The other G8 nations, too, supported India and condemned the Pakistani violation of the LoC at the Cologne summit. The European Union was also opposed to the violation of LOC.
During one of my train journeys from Chennai to Bangalore I happened to meet two ex-servicemen of the Indian Army. The conversation started with one person telling me that I have good height and I should be joining the army instead of the usual software techie job. Later while talking to them I realized that I was talking to a soldier who fought in the Sino-Indian war in 1962 and the other person was from one of the batallion that fought in the Kargil war to capture Tiger hills. They were telling me about their experiences in the war and how different and pride full it was to serve the country. This interaction lasted only for about 6 hours but it had an impact for many days and months on me. I always have a feeling that I am not serving my country, I get disgusted at myself many times thinking I am useless to my country.
I thought I will write a post on Kargil war today because today, July 26 is Vijay Diwas, the seventh anniversary of the Kargil war. I dedicate this post to all the soldiers who fought/are fighting bravely inorder to give us all a safe, secure and worry free India to live. Jai Hind.