The 21st martyrdom anniversary of Kargil War heroes Captain Karnal Sher Khan and Havaldar Lalak Jan will be observed tomorrow on (Tuesday) at their native villages.
Captain Sher Khan and Havaldar Lalak Jan were two of the 10 recipients of the country’s highest military award, Nishan-e-Haider.
Both the army officials embraced martyrdom at the Gultari sector along Line of Control (LoC) in 1999 during the Kargil conflict – the three months-long war at high terrain fought between May and July 1999 in the Kargil district of Kashmir and elsewhere along the Line of Control (LOC). In India, the conflict is also referred to as Operation Vijay.
Until 1999, Indian and Pakistani soldiers manning the mountain-top posts had an unwritten winter armistice on the inhospitable Kargil frontier.
Both sides abandoned front line posts during the harsh winters when temperatures plunged. Two decades after nuclear-armed neighbors fought in the hills of Kashmir, the disputed region continues to be on edge.
Drass, located in Kargil district, nearly 150km east of Srinagar, is separated from the Kashmir valley by the Himalayas. In the summer of 1999, it was on its western edge with rocky and barren Himalayan peaks that India and Pakistan fought their last war.
In 1999, Pakistan’s military and Kashmiri rebels occupied strategic positions on the Indian side of the border between them (known as the Line of Control or LoC), prompting a counteroffensive by India.
The Kargil war killed more than 500 Indian and nearly 400 Pakistani soldiers and ended with India successfully pushing back Pakistani fighters to the other side of the LoC. Meanwhile, Pakistan named its move to take over the control of Indian posts along the LoC as Operation Badr.
Because the war was fought in the era of satellite news channels so it was broadcasted directly to homes in both the countries, making Drass a symbol of India’s nationalism, inspiring a raft of jingoistic Bollywood movies. Every year since 1999, the Indian army has marked July 26 – the day the Kargil war ended – as “Vijay Diwas” (Victory Day), this week being its 20th anniversary.
The border tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors are high even after 21 years of Kargil Conflict – the deadly conflict that affected and killed many civilians on either side of the border beside the loss of military men, and damages to local infrastructure.
The main point of contention between the two nuclear-armed neighbors is the issue of Kashmir. Kashmir, the former princely state, was controversially acclaimed by India and Kashmiri people have yet to demonstrate their right of self-determination. Until and unless there’s a solution to Kashmir issue the clouds of conflict between India and Pakistan would continue to make their presence on and off.