June 6, 1999
NEW DELHI, JUNE 5: The non-use of combat aircraft today in Operation Vijay is the clearest indication yet that the decisive phase is set to begin now. The Army’s build-up of troops and logistics in the Kargil sector is now virtually complete “and the final job of taking the operation to its logical conclusion of evicting the intruders is on stream,” said military observers.
Army officials have emphasised that the eviction will be pursued till the troops push the intruders back across the Line of Control (LoC). “No more and no less. We are not interested in crossing the LoC, but we are certainly not letting them stay on in our territory,” said a senior Army officer. The Army’s major gain has been in the Batalik-Chorbat La-Yaldoh-Turtuk stretch.
The Pakistani intrusion and build-up in the Batalik sub-sector was aimed not so much at the vital National Highway-1A (NH-1A), but at areas around the Siachen base. The vacation of some of these heights and repulsing of the build-up against Chorbat La has been asignificant gain for the Army. “We have contained them in Batalik. While pushing back a major effort into Chorbat La, we are now beginning to squeeze them,” it says.It is in this sector that the fighting has been most intense as well as closest.
The recovery of bodies and documents of Pakistan Army soldiers has also been from this area, clearly pointing to the fact that supply routes for the intruders have been cut off.“Otherwise they would have been able to take the bodies back,” said an Army officer.
Identification cards and pay books reveal the soldiers to be Lance Naik Mirbaz Khan and Sepoy Safat Khan of the 4 Northern Light Infantry and Sepoy Mehboob Ali of the 3 Northern Light Infantry. While the intrusion into the Kaksar sub-sector has been reduced to around a kilometre-and-a-half along the LoC, the major area of concern remains the Drass sub-sector. Intruders continue to occupy some of the key positions here, the important ones being Tiger Hill, Point 5140 and Tuloling. These are the areasfrom where the intruders can actually pose a threat to NH-1A. “And this is also where the Pakistanis have brought in the Stinger missiles, clearly indicating that they will fight it out for this area,” said another officer.
The Mushkoh valley area is also of importance for it is only through this part of Kargil that any meaningful attempt can be made to send militants into the Kashmir Valley. They have made infiltration bids through this areas earlier as well, said Army officers who had served there. This was echoed by Lt Gen (retd) V R Raghavan, former Director General Military Operations, and by a Division Commander at Leh.
As far as a time-frame for Operation Vijay is concerned, Army officers believe it is too early to spell that out. “We are only completing the mobilisation phase. It is only after the entire preparation process is complete and we have launched the major assaults can we even begin to calculate it,” said an officer.
There is a general consensus, nevertheless, that the Army’smobilisation is proceeding well. “The numbers that are required are now in place, and what is more important, the acclimatisation process is almost complete,” said Army officials here.
Highlighting the importance of acclimatising the troops, Army officials here, and particularly those who have served in high-altitude areas, point out that “due care has to be taken that the process is not speeded up, or it could prove disastrous. A soldier has to be prepared for an operation in these areas not merely through better equipment and different tactics but also by getting his body used to strenuous tasks in an environment where oxygen is a rarity,” they said.
There is also a realisation at Army Headquarters that the Pakistani intruders have come prepared to stay and fight it out. “The way they have held on to the positions clearly indicates that they planned to stay. And that also clearly points to the Pakistan Army’s presence at these points. After all no militants or irregulars can hold on to such heightsfor a duration of time. These are the tactics of a conventional force, undertaking a conventional operation,” said a senior Army officer.
LAHORE: Pak premier Nawaz Sharif today said “India was not serious about holding peace talks” in response to India’s rejection of the date proposed by Pakistan. He accused India of thwarting peace talks and warned that war between the world’s newest nuclear countries was a possibility. “Chances of a war cannot be ruled out,” Sharif told reporters in Lahore.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.