Soldier’s hour

A chronology of Kargil war. And how it was won.

July 26, 1999 | UPDATED 18:05 IST

The Jawan: In a time of hi-tech warfare, a nation’s fate ultimately depended on its infantry. Brave and relentless.  Sentinels of a nuclear power, locked in hand to hand combat.

The Kargil Calendar
A chronology of the war. And how it was won.

May 8-15
Army patrols detect intruders atop Kargil ridges. Army errs in saying 100 infiltrators are occupying 25 km of Indian territory. Then realises Pak plan to cut Leh from Srinagar by taking highway.

May 25
Army acknowledges that 600-800 Pak infiltrators are lodged in remote Kargil-Drass-Batalik sectors. India surprises the foe, ups ante with air strikes.

May 26
Disaster. MiG-27 flames out and Fl-Lt K. Nachiketa is taken pow by Pakistan. MiG-21 on a rescue mission hovers over LoC, shot down. Sqn Ldr Ajay Ahuja is killed in action. Srinagar airport closed.

May 28
Mi-17 helicopter shot down. Four-man crew dead. IA withdraws choppers. Fernandes goofs up, says Sharif and isi have no hand in Kargil operations.

Detecting the infiltrators by chance, the army admitted it was caught unawares by intrusions.

The 8 Sikh Regiment after capturing Tiger Hill on July 4. The re-taking of this key vantage zone, overlooking the Srinagar-Leh highway, in an 11-hour operation gave India the psychological edge

STEEDS OF STEEL:High in the mountains the icy silences were broken by the boom of cannonade. Kargil was as much a battle of unbending nature and unstopping technology.

May 31
Vajpayee says it’s a “war-like situation” in Kargil. As casualties mount, army halts suicidal missions and says its wants time for a proper build-up.

June 1
Fernandes creates a controversy by offering “safe passage” to intruders. Diplomatic efforts begin. France, US hold Pakistan responsible for intrusions in Kashmir and ask it to respect the LoC. Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh ban ptv. This is a precursor to a nationwide ban.

June 3
Pakistan hands over PoW Nachiketa to India in “goodwill gesture”.

Tensions seemed to be escalating as India put navy on high alert in response to Pak build-up.

The Bofors howitzer finally effaced its politicised past and became the sword arm of the Indian Army, as at Tololing

June 6
Troops and logistics buildup sufficiently achieved. Army launches major offensives in Kargil and Drass sectors. These are accompanied by air strikes. The idea is to keep the crucial Srinagar-Leh highway free from any Pakistani threat.
June 10
Pakistan returns mutilated bodies of six soldiers of Jat Regiment. India enraged.

Soldiers formed orderly meal-time queues even in Kargil’s chilly and desperate climes. An army wins battles with its munitions – but it marches on its stomach

FIRE IN THE SKY:Guardian angels of a speck of land they can barely see. Never in the history of the IAF have fighter planes done such service at 18,000 feet.

June 12
Deadlock at first crisis-time meeting between foreign ministers Jaswant Singh and Sartaj Aziz in Delhi. Aziz firmly told intruders will have to go.

June 13
Army captures crucial Tololing peak. War’s turning point. Vajpayee visits Kargil amid heavy shelling.

June 15
Clinton urges Sharif to pull out from Kargil, praises India’s restraint. Jaswant briefs Chinese leaders.

Military photograph of bombardment of Pakistani positions on Tiger Hill

June 17-18
Brajesh Mishra goes to Geneva to meet G-8 leaders, gives Vajpayee’s letter to Clinton aide. Letter warns patience wearing thin. US promises action in “days, not weeks”.

June 20
Troops capture Point 5140, complete Tololing victory. G-8 wants intrusions to end.

June 23-27
US General Zinni visits Islamabad. Urges Sharif to retreat. White House envoy in Delhi.

Expecting help from china and the west, Pakistan was instead reprimanded.

An Mi-17 helicopter gets into action at Tololing. When one such chopper fell to enemy fire, the IAF withdrew all helicopters from the conflict zone

June 28
Diplomatic noose tightens. Sharif dashes to China for support but gets no favourable response. Cuts short visit, goes home.

July 4
Army recaptures Tiger Hill from intruders. Sharif meets Clinton in Washington. Is told to pull out intruders immediately and get back to talks. Appears to agree. Joint statement issued.

In not crossing the LoC and playing by the book India won the world’s respect as the wronged partyJuly 11

Pakistani infiltrators begin retreating from Kargil. India recaptures key peaks at Batalik, sets deadline of July 16 for total withdrawal.
July 12
Sharif makes televised address explaining pullout and proposes talks with Vajpayee.

July 14
Vajpayee declares Operation Vijay a success. Government sets conditions for talks with Pakistan. Wants it to recognise the LOC as sacrosanct and stop cross-border terrorism at once.

Wounded 8 Sikh jawan being taken to Gumari hospital during the Tiger Hill operation

CAMARADERIE: A brotherhood with an oath scripted in blood. Ill-equipped and lacking even glacier clothing, the soldiers forged a compelling bond on the battleground.Injured 17 Jat jawans being removed from Mashkoh valley. Yet again, its soldiers became a metaphor for India. Naga fought alongside Sikh. Tamil wept when Bengali died. India stood as one.

DEATH: An inhospitable graveyard at half the height of Everest. That was Kargil. The cream of a nation’s youth reduced to a mass of blood, scorched flesh – and memories of valour.

The body of Major Iqbal of the Pakistan Northern Light Infantry being brought down from Tiger Hill

A jawan of the 8 Sikh makes his final journey from the same theatre

Helmets of Indian soldiers, splattered with gore and more, at Tololing.In contemporary terms this was an expensive war: India lost 407 sons.

Between the Pakistani Army and mujahideen 696 fell.

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