Thirteen years ago, the Indian Army found itself drawn into a messy low-intensity conflict with Pakistan in the icy heights of Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir that cost it 527 soldiers.
Today, Gen. V.P. Malik, the then army chief, laments that the major victory scored has all been forgotten. 74-year-old Malik, who lives in the Chandigarh suburb of Panchkula, told IANS in an interview that we must celebrate the Kargil victory.
Q – Kargil war ended on July 26, 1999. From 2000 to 2003, this day was commemorated in a variety of ways. This, however, stopped when the UPA government came to power. Do you see politics in it?
A – Yes, politics got into the Kargil victory and the celebrations became a political football. That's what we saw with political rivals celebrating and criticising the war for reasons that suited them.
Q – What is the need for victory celebrations?
A – We have to tell the people about these battles and if we want to build a strategic culture, we need to celebrate these victories and inform people how these battles were won.
Q – Does it pain you to see that political leadership is shy of celebrating Kargil war victory of 1999?
A – Kargil was India's first television war and could have promoted a ‘strategic culture’ in the country, but the gains were lost because of political compulsions.
The armed forces had tremendous support from the people and the media. But politics got into all this and that's why there were good celebrations initially and there are hardly any celebrations. Slowly people are beginning to forget, because it is not providing much political mileage.
Q – How do you compare Kargil victory in 1999 with 1971 war?
A – The 1971 war was certainly a much bigger, greater victory for India, as we had fought on both (eastern and western) fronts. But that was 1971. In 1999, we were reacting to a situation, as in 1965, and were playing on the back foot.
In 1971, we had taken the initiative in view of the refugees pouring in from the East and there was time for us to prepare for the war.
But the situation in 1999 was different, as the whole world was watching India with suspicion following its 1998 nuclear tests.
We did exceeding well with the army, navy and the air force jointly working out a strategy in a limited war scenario.
(By N.C. Bipindra. Contact at email@example.com)