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23 years of Kargil war: When Op Vijay prevailed over Op Koh Paima

Source : The Sunday Guardian

23 years of Kargil war: When Op Vijay prevailed over Op Koh Paima
Where the Kargil war was fought.



The quote by Horace, “It is courage, courage, courage, that raises the blood of life to crimson splendour. Live bravely and present a brave front to adversity” sums up the fortitude and fearlessness with which the Indian Army fought in an inhospitable terrain and in inclement weather to push back the Pakistani Army, which had ingressed into Indian territory in 1999.

Operation (Op) Koh Paima was the name given by the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army to an operation planned by the “Kargil clique” comprising Gen Pervez Musharraf, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen Aziz Khan, the Chief of General Staff, General Mahmud, General Officer Commanding (GOC) 10 Corps and Brig Javed Hassan, Commander FCNA, to take over certain territories in the Kargil sector of Jammu & Kashmir in India in a well-planned and secrecy shrouded military operation. Koh Paima in Urdu means one who climbs a mountain.

Op Koh Paima was planned because of the following reasons: to capitalise on Pakistan’s nuclear tests in 1998; the weakening of insurgency in Jammu & Kashmir; growing insecurity in the Pakistani military establishment due to the increasing closeness between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif; and the fear amongst Pakistani generals of the weakening of the Kashmir factor and the omission of the “K” word from the Lahore Declaration.

Op Koh Paima was approved by the Pakistani COAS on 16 January 1999, less than five weeks before the signing of the historic Lahore Declaration by the two Prime Ministers on 22 February 1999. The move by the Pakistani Army to occupy the territories in the Kargil sector began soon thereafter.

It was only on 17 May 1999 that the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was briefed about Op Koh Paima by the Director General Military Operations (DGMO) of the GHQ. By then the Pakistani troops were well entrenched inside Indian territory. In attendance were also the Pakistani Chief of Air Staff and the Chief of Naval Staff who were equally dumbfounded to see the presentation as they too like the civilian leadership, were absolutely clueless of the overtures planned and executed by the Pakistani Army.

This briefing to the civilian leadership was necessitated because the cover of Op Koh Paima had been blown and diplomatic pressure on Pakistan was imminent. Now the Kargil clique wanted political and diplomatic cover for Op Koh Paima.

The Pakistani DGMO, further in the briefing, gave four assumptions on which he guaranteed the success of Op Koh Paima. First was that each post occupied by the Pakistanis on Indian soil was impregnable. Secondly, Indians lacked the will to retaliate. Thirdly, there would be no international pressure on Pakistan to end the conflict soon. And lastly, the Pakistan Army would not ask for any additional resources form the Pakistan government in view of the economic crunch being faced by the country

However, this was not to be and the entire GHQ including their COAS and the DGMO grossly miscalculated the Indian response and retaliation and the international isolation that Pakistan faced because of Op Koh Paima.

It was in the second week of May 1999 that the Indian Army detected the presence of the Pakistanis on Indian soil. In the last week of May 1999, Indian Army realised that Op Koh Paima was a well-orchestrated plan. On 26 May 1999, the Indian Air Force was pressed into operation.

On 27 May 1999, the Indian Armed Forces launched Operation Vijay to push back the Pakistani Army from Indian soil. Vijay in Hindi means victory.Thus started the full counter-offensive by the Indian Army to thwart the nefarious designs of the Pakistani Army, which by now saw the whole world in shock as India and Pakistan, both being nuclear nations, were just a nuclear attack away. Repercussions of such a catastrophe would not only affect the Indian sub-continent but the world at large. The world watched with bated breath as the armies of the two nuclear nations fought in the tough and the treacherous terrains of Kargil.

The Kargil War was on in full swing with the offensive launched under Op Koh Paima by Pakistan and the counter offensive launched under Op Vijay by India. The Kargil War lasted from 3 May 1999 to 26 July 1999 and saw 527 Indian soldiers and 1,600 Pakistani soldiers killed in action, resulting in victory for the Indian Army, who made the Pakistan Army vacate every inch of Indian land.

Thus, a third misadventure by Pakistan too ended in a humiliating defeat for them. The earlier two, Operation Gibraltar and Operation Grand Slam in 1965, too had the Pakistanis biting the dust.Kargil Vijay Diwas is celebrated every year on 26 July to commemorate India’s victory over Pakistan in the Kargil War of 1999. This year, as India celebrates its 23rd Kargil Vijay Diwas, our head and heart bow in reverence to all the Indian soldiers killed in action defending the territorial integrity of India in the icy heights of Kargil in and to every personnel of the Indian Armed Forces who valiantly and valorously fought in the Kargil War.

Elmer Davis’ words have a deep impact on every Indian who is in awe and admiration of its brave armed forces “This will remain the land of the free so long as it is the home of the brave”. Lt Col J.S. Sodhi (Retd), who retired from the Corps of Engineers of the Indian Army is an alumnus of NDA, Khadakwasla and IIT Kanpur. He is an M.Tech in Structures and has also done MBA and LLB and is a prolific writer and a public speaker. He tweets and koos at @JassiSodhi24. The views expressed are personal.

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