Operation Vijay is the name given to two military operations in the history of independent India. The first Operation Vijay was the military action by which Republic of India took control of Portuguese Indian territories of Goa, Daman and Diu in 1962. The second Operation Vijay is more recent military action by India to clear the Kargil sector of Jammu & Kashmir from Pakistani soldiers who had infiltrated the area in guise of Kashmiri militants. The second Operation Vijay, also known as the Kargil War or Kargil Conflict took place in 1999.

Operation Vijay (1999)

In May 1999, Indian Army came across some reports of infiltration in Kargil sector along the Line of Control (LOC). Initially these infiltrators were thought to be Kashmiri separatists and army patrols were sent out to monitor and clear the area. When an Indian Army Patrol, led by Saurabh Kalia went missing and soon their mutilated bodies were recovered, India realized that the infiltrators were actually guerilla fighters sent by Pakistani army. Soon after, a full fledged operation was launched by Indian army to dislodge and recapture the posts occupied by these infiltrators. The military operation was called Operation Vijay.

Kargil heights are one of the most treacherous terrains in the world. Kargil is a District town 205 kms away from Srinagar. During winters temperature often drops there down to – 50 degree C. NH 1D connects Srinagar to Leh. It cuts across Kargil. 180 Kms stretch along the Highway, from Dras to Batalik, was occupied by Pak intruders. The posts on these ridges were between 16000 to 18000 ft which used to be held during the summers and vacated during winters. Pak elite SSG and Seven Northern Light Infantry Battalions backed by Kashmiri insurgents and Afghan mercenaries occupied the vacated heights. The battle which was fought over these mountains, to recapture these posts, which lasted almost 3 months is known to be a battle fought at the highest terrain in the world till now.

High peaks with strongly fortified defences gave the intruders an advantage of a fortress. They also heavily mined their positions. Army’s first priority was to recapture dominating posts closer to NH1D. Hence Tololing and Tiger Hill were captured first. Their capture, tilted the combat in India’s favour. It necessitated large mobilisation of Indian Army from outside J&K. Indian Air Force also got involved in this operation in a big way.

Army mounted direct frontal attacks on many posts as high as 18000 ft. As per military tactics, frontal attacks are better avoided. Army could have gone behind, cut off Pak lines of communication, blocked supply routes and virtually created a siege. Such manoeuvres would have involved crossing the LOC which would have led to expansion of theatre of war and reduced international support for its cause.

Army launched its final assaults in the last weeks of July after Dras sector was cleared of Pak intruders. Fighting came to an end on 26 July 1999 and Army declared the war won. The day has since been marked as ‘Kargil Vijay Divas’. 527 brave Officers and Men laid down their lives. 1,363 were disabled / wounded. July 26 has been since celebrated every year as ‘Kargil Vijay Diwas’

Ironically the Kargil episode happened soon after Indian Premier Atal Bihari Vajpayee had travelled to Lahore by bus in February 1999 to sign ‘Lahore Declaration’ to promote peace. This ‘big peace initiative’ was clear indication of India’s willingness to resolve simmering issues. Follow up Kargil war was ‘a big betrayal’.