How should we ‘celebrate’ the Kargil war?

July 26, 2009

Sunday was the tenth anniversary of the conflict between India and Pakistan in Kargil.

The fighting ended with a ceasefire on this day, ten years back.

As a college student I witnessed Captain Manoj Pandey’s body being brought into the Command Hospital in Lucknow cantonment before his cremation later.

He died a war hero while recapturing the Khalubar ridgeline, a dominating feature, and was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest gallantry award, posthumously.

That day driving by the place I had little idea of what was happening, but the solemnity and the silence of the crowd and passers-by peering over the walls of the hospital on a busy road invited a second look.

Ten years on, Sunday was the first instance of the UPA government, in office for five and more years, participating in the celebrations.

“The best tribute we can pay to the gallant officers and jawans is to dedicate ourselves to the gigantic task of nation building and work steadfastly to protect the unity and integrity of our nation,” said the Prime Minister at the India Gate war memorial in a wreath laying ceremony.

The government has been seen to be dragging its feet on the celebrations. Initially only division-level celebrations were planned.

Is that good for the morale of the forces and for the nation?

It has been commented in the media that the unwillingness stemmed from the fact that the victory was won under the rival NDA regime and because of renewed focus on mending fences with Pakistan.

What has been seen as even more of a disservice is that the lessons learnt from the brief but bloody conflict are yet to be implemented.

Apparently the NDA government promoted celebrations of the Kargil conflict over the 1971 celebrations of the India- Pakistan war that led to the creation of Bangladesh won under the Congress leader Indira Gandhi.

“Unless you commemorate all wars, a nation cannot respect its martyrs. Kargil was not commemorated for political reasons, even though the strategic implications were high. In a way, the government has taken a good step,” said Major General (retd) Afsar Karim on the belated decision to join in the celebrations by the government.

A cousin who serves in the Indian army asked me, two weeks back, about how enthusiastic the people are about the Vijay Diwas – the Kargil war day.

He wasn’t too worried about the government’s stand as much as what the attitude of the people was.

I had to muddle through with a response; perhaps the question was calculated to embarrass a civilian like me.

Some fear that such celebrations can encourage jingoism.

But the word celebrate also means:  to perform (a sacrament or solemn ceremony) publicly and with appropriate rites.

Do you think a people who cannot appreciate the cost of war in terms of lives lost can appreciate the benefits of peace?

25 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

No need to celebrate Kargil war, either in India or in Pakistan. If India has its Kargil heroes, Pakistan has its as well. Instead of “celebrating” wars and “preferred perceptions” of how they started and ended, India and Pakistan are better off resolving their issues. Not resolving Kashmir caused the Mumbai massacre. Once again, people are being killed and women raped in Kashmir. If anyone thinks that these abuses would go unnoticed, and won’t lead to disasters to another Kargil or Mumbai massacre in future, thing again.

Posted by Ahmad Munir | Report as abusive

Ahmad, in October of 1947, King Hari Singh of Kashmir acceded ALL of Kashmir to India, including the portions currently being illegally held by Pakistan and China. The 1948 UN resolution called for Pakistan to fully vacate Kashmir immediately. It’s way past time for Pakistan to stop obsessing over Kashmir, return Pak held Kashmir to India, and stop continuing its terrorism against India with the fake excuse of the Kashmir issue, harming India and more importantly hurting it’s own people by deprivation of development. India not only let Pakistan be formed at the time independence, but it is became a secular democratic home to an Indian Muslim population that is roughly as large as Pakistan’s. The rape incident you mention is a stray incident of violation of law and order, the personnel accused of committing the crime have been taken into custody and justice will be served, unlike in Pakistan where the Mumbai massacre mastermind was let go to roam free and start planning his next terrorist attack against India and the rest of the world. Indian Kashmiris have full civil and electoral rights, the same as any other Indian. On the Pak side, i.e. the so-called “Azad” Kashmir and “Northern Areas”, they have puppet regimes dictatorially governed by Pakistan, with ISI brutally suppressing any dissent to the dictat, and with very poor human rights record according to the UN. Pakistan also butchered millions of East Pakistanis (est. 6 to 7 million) resulting in deep resentment among that population which eventually led to the formation of Bangladesh. Immediately after the partition, there were an estimated 15% Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan, in 2001 there were only 3-4%. What happened to the rest of the Hindus and Sikhs and their familial descendants? Were they forcibly converted to Islam, driven out of Pakistan, or were they systematically persecuted and/or killed? The Muslim population in India has not only grown robustly, but many of them are doing well in many fields, eg Azimji Premji (Billionaire industrialist, richest Muslim in south Asia), (former President/acclaimed physicist) Dr. Abdul Kalam, A.R. Rahman, Aamir Khan, etc, and many doing well in sports, many in professional positions, etc. Just where are the non-Muslim minorities that existed in Pakistan at the time of its creation? Pakistani military, ISI and their unstable civilian government need to stop their illegitimate monkey business regarding Kashmir and hand over the land that doesn’t belong to Pakistan back to Indian control. Once that happens and Pakistan dismantles its terror infrastructure aimed against India, India can rebuild and develop Kashmir into the paradise that God and nature made and intended it to be, and make the lives of Kashmiri people better through educational and other infrastructural investments. Once Pakistan behaves itself for 5 years or so after the handover of Pak-held Kashmir, India can help Pakistan with its own development. Just how many more decades do the powers in Pakistan want to perpetrate this nonsense for, and thus not only hinder India’s progress, but also severely undermine their own people via their ridiculous national obsession with Kashmir and trying to wreck India with that excuse instead of building up their own nation? Enough. Six wasted decades is long enough.
– Sunil

Posted by Sunil G. | Report as abusive

Ahamad Munir’s views reflect the warped sense of righteousness that Pakistanis and other idle mind fanatics have regarding the lands it borders (such as Indian Kashmir and Afghanistan) courtesy their vicious propoganda spewed by various government agencies and media outlets. His argument for Kashmir is as spurious as his government’s – He terms the Mumbai massacre as caused by “not resolving” Kashmir. Really? So because Pakistan wants Kashmir (we all know that) it has a legitimate right to brainwash unemployed uneducated youth (its own citizens which it usually disowns unless caught red handed like Ajmal Kasab) and kill innocent Indian citizens? Because Pakistan wants Kashmir, it has a right to create jihadi camps (world’s worst kept secret) and train youth to cross the border in Indian Kashmir (in the thousands) to wreak havoc in the Indian state and when there is retaliation, Pakistan complains of human rights violations? Because Pakistan wants to subjugate Afghanistan as its own territory, it can continue to have links with the Afghanistan Taliban and funnel in arms to crush any secular or anti Pakistani resistance?

The answer to all of these is a resounding NO. Pakistan has NO right whatsoever.

If Ahmad Munir is so eager to “resolve” Kashmir, why doesn’t he put the onus on Pakistan rather than accusing and blaming India to concede territory? Is that because India doesn’t send in terrorists to Pakistan to demand the same from them? If you want to fault India for being a responsible state, than go ahead. Pakistan’s case for all of Kashmir (including the portion of Kashmir it currently occupies) stands on very flimsy grounds, much as its claims over Balochistan and Paktukhwa. It acquired these lands through brutal force and maintains them through suppression (in the case of Kashmir, it sent in irregular and armed milita – usually Afghan and Punjabi, whom it later disowned and let loose in Rawalpindi, leading to large scale mugging and violence in the 50′s) and changed the demography of Pakistan administered Kashmir by settling in large numbers of official Pakistani regulars in both ‘Azad’ Kashmir and Gilgit/Baltistan.

As far as women being raped and people being killed, thats more a story of Pakistan than any part of India. Too bad the Pakistan media never portrays that side of the coin. One other thing – I love how Pakistanis often asks why India maintains several hundred thousand troops deployed in Kashmir, spinning the story as armed suppression, when in reality, Indian Kashmir borders two aggressive states – Pakistan and China – both maintain part of Kashmir and would love to attack India again and acquire more of Indian Kashmir if India didn’t deploy a large regular force there. The Indian Ocean is not going to attack India, hence no troops waiting at the coastal shores. Pakistan and China can and have when it comes to attacking India, with Kashmir being the unlucky state of having borders with both these aggressors – hence Indian troops deployed in large numbers. Indian troops also are deployed in other states that have a border with either Pakistan or China. That’s basic military defensive posturing.

If Pakistan wants to “resolve” Kashmir, please give India back the part of Kashmir that Pakistan has forcefully occupied, give back to India the portion that was illegally ceded to China by Pakistan and move the Pakistan army settlers back to their original homelands. If Pakistan is sympathetic and willing to pay money to fund the “Khalistan” movement, please convert Pakistan Punjab into Khalistan with Lahore as its capital. Not one inch of Indian land will ever be giving away. If anything, India will fight to take back lands that both Pakistan and China have stolen from it. Take care.

Posted by AG | Report as abusive

dear friend please see that this message for kargil war-1991 in kashmir.

@ Not resolving Kashmir caused the Mumbai massacre.”
@If anyone thinks that these abuses would go unnoticed, and won’t lead to disasters to another Kargil or Mumbai massacre in future, thing again.”
- Posted by Ahmad Munir

–That’s like supporting the terrorist act of Mumbai in the name of Kashmiri freedom. That begs the question who those terrorists were. Is there a doubt left, it was 10 Pakistanis from LeT who did that. Pakistan has accepted that officially (way beoyond conspiracy theory that terrorists were indians!!!). Considering Pakistan painstaikingly created an army of these terrorists, making a link between terrorism and Kashmir issue is a roguish mentality and supporting terrorism for solving the problems (166 dead, 40 were Muslims, 26 foreigners from 10 countries). Above all it will solve nothing. That act moved India/Pak away from the peace process and another such act will do the same.

you get off your high horse and start thinking smartly to solve the issues. Or may be some are just incapable to do that.

was an Indian victory over the rogue state in that war against India. By flushing both Pakistan regulars and its LeT terrorists and recapturing the position, India achieved victory in Kargil war. All Indians should take a moment to pay respect to the war heroes. In addition it is time to curse Musharraf for this.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

1. The writer has very correctly pointed out that celebration means ” to perform (a sacrament or solemn ceremony) publicly and with appropriate rites.” Perhaps this is the meaning which Indians will do well to remember. In the Indian Army celebration certainly does not mean scoring a point over the vanquished foe. It only means that they as soldiers remember and pay tribute to the men who fought and laid down their lives in the service of their nation. In doing so they not only remember their brethren but also draw inspiration from their valour and sacrifice. Perhaps in India nobody has ever noticed, but Europeans celebrate VE Day even today and it is certainly not with the sole purpose of embarrasing coutries like Germany and Italy.
2. Indians, I have observed, are the biggest hypocrites God ever managed to create. They will use this solemn occasion to be jingoistic, discuss Kashmir, relate the celebration of bravery and selfless sacrifice to Mumbai massacre.
3. In the end, i think we should leave the Army alone to “celebrate” every such occasion on its own rather than letting an unfeeling public making a mockery out of it.

Posted by ashish | Report as abusive

I’m very sure there is a large population who knows what the cost of war is and how important peace is in India. As far as “celebrations” are concerned, it doesnt just need to be seen as the victory of India over Pakistan or recapturing of our peaks, we should celebrate the spirit and passion of those young boys who climbed those heights bare foot. What is wrong with celebrating a day which brings out the feeling of patriotism,which only a war or an atack does these days.
As far as Mr. Ahmad Munir is concerned, I’m sure Pakistan too has its heroes but i’m also sure that Pakistan doesnt have ny reason to celebrate 26th of July. I have a bit of advice of the Pro- Pakistani people like Mr. Munir, please keep these threats to yourself clearly because indians can’t be bothered. We have always emerged victorious, be it kargil or Mumbai and will continue to do so, no matter how many scoundrel jihadis u throw at us. Jai Hind.

Posted by r | Report as abusive

if all of us are so bothered about the nation and the national pride then its better to do some action for the development of the country rather sitting on internet and critisising each other

Posted by rajendra | Report as abusive

I think we all are digressing from what actually we were discussing . firstly is there a need to celebrate the kargil day and secondly “Do you think a people who cannot appreciate the cost of war in terms of lives lost can appreciate the benefits of peace?”
i will answer the first – i think the celebration decision should be left to the army to decide rather than letting our great politician’s make a mockery of it. They are more bothered about getting mileage out of this solemn occasion, everyone now wants to be seen on the camera when not even one of them crossed ahead of srinagar when the things were hot so i think the politicians should not be allowed to say a word on this….but then i really feel sad that it will again be the babus deciding this….anyway the second question is as to how many people do actually bother about what happened ???? everyone has drawn his bit of mileage out of it —-let’s see politician’s got a medal to flaunt that we took this step —-bollywood got a film —and the list can go on ….
but i feel that our memories are short lived we cannot actually keep memories of yesterday for too long …things come and go and we will never be able to appreciate the magnitude of sacrifices done by our war heroes in kargil. lets pay them homage and not make a mockery out of this.

i think i will be failing if i do not answer ahmed’s points. I think ahmed is weak at history lessons or his books need a revision. We never went in to conquer kashmir …we were there to save it form thousands of rogue men who had left nothing unturned to achieve barbaric decorations…..what was done to ladies in punch , skardu, uri and many other places is not hidden from the world so what is he talking about a single incident in which the government has already initiated stern action ……anyway i can write a book on war crimes if i start so let’s nip it here and YES we really need to find a viable solution to the Kashmir issue coz it is eating into too many of the resources of both the countries…let’s utilise this money better and progress rather than fight like crabs —one tryin to pull the other down

Posted by harry | Report as abusive

I was telling a brother Officer yesterday that I truly regret to not have been commissioned during the Kargil war. We heard about it in Academy during our training and always wished if we were only a bit senior, wished we were there to fight with them…fight with those gallant men about whom we used to hear about everyday and also share the passion they had for their country. yesterday when I mentioned about 10th anniversary of our Kargil victory to one of my civilian friends. His first reaction was ‘really !! ooph..time really flies by’. I was amazed, is that what it all means to our fellow citizens. I was thinking that is it that we come together as a nation only during crisis like Kargil and look up to our men in uniform when they have made the supreme sacrifice… may be that would be too generic. After all there are concerned people like this writer or a friend who reminded me yesterday that 26th of July was an auspicious day.. ” The Kargil Vijay Diwas”

Posted by vivek | Report as abusive

I think that these are topics which do not merit discussion as we Indians are the most unpatriotic people on the planet.
The issue is not about celebration with all pomp and splendour, it is about honouring our heroes which i think is thoroughly justified.
Bickering political parties hoping to gain mileage out of this solemn occasion should realise that the Army is of a Nation, not of any political party
As for Mr Ahmed the lesser said the Better I hope he will get the message

Posted by Aman | Report as abusive

totally agree with harry.

Posted by r | Report as abusive

Well i would we need to commission more and more vessels liks INS Arihant, ICBM’s, Tanks, LCA and keep strengthening our attack options. This is how i would like to celebrate and mark the occasion.

Posted by Aj | Report as abusive

I agree with what many have said here. Leave the Services to remember their fallen comrades,in the way they see fit. I know this has been discussed at great length by humbug politicians and TV anchors with all the attendant crocodile tears and sham sentiments that go with such discussions.

But through it all, I am left with one just thought, brought out by a retired Air Force pilot who posed a very simple question – if it is agreed that the armed forces have served the country well why hasn’t the country, in return, served the Services properly? As a retired serviceman, and having observed life in civy streets for many years now, I wonder how many people will give that question another thought.

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive

What celebrations? Our neighbor sneaks into our land and we then counter attack and take the captured land back. We did not even had the guts to declare a full war on Pakistan and get all of PoK back. What a golden opportunity that was but it was all wasted.

Posted by Nitya singh | Report as abusive

@vivek
@I was telling a brother Officer yesterday that I truly regret to not have been commissioned during the Kargil war.
- Posted by vivek
@After all there are concerned people like this writer or a friend who reminded me yesterday that 26th of July was an auspicious day.. ” The Kargil Vijay Diwas”
-Vivek: We are proud of you whether you are doing service in war or in peace time! Wish you roaring success in all your missions!!!

Some people truly and silently appreciate the sacrifices made in these wars. This is what matters the most. Some ex-servicemen are trying their best in educating the masses about diferent aspects of the Army since a large section remains unaware. Few months ago one of my close relatives, a 1965-Indo-Pak war veteran, published a book on the Indian Armed Forces in a regional language to familiarize those who cannot read English.

As a kid, I recall saluting Jawans going in Shaktiman trucks and getting a response from them was such a big deal.

The least a politician can do is to pledge to provide an appropriate gear to jawan to an officer who fights the enemy at such heights.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Thank you rajeev, i really appreciate your comment.

Posted by vivek | Report as abusive

@What celebrations? Our neighbor sneaks into our land and we then counter attack and take the captured land back. We did not even had the guts to declare a full war on Pakistan and get all of PoK back. What a golden opportunity that was but it was all wasted.
- Posted by Nitya singh

-Nitya, counterattack in defense has always been Indian policy and served India well in my mind. Otherwise there is no end to using “war by first attack” in an attempt to achieve one’s objectives. There is nothing morally wrong in my mind about waging war but only if it is clear that the the objective will be achived. We have to recognize that it is not state vs state, it is Indian state vs state+terrorists situation that will aggravate the problem. How much it has benifited Pakistan–4 overt wars with zero results plus International humiliation. When one fails as an aggressor it makes the aggressor more desparate like Pakistan is and starts using alternative covert means–terrorism. Plus we have to identify that Pakistan is nuclear. Having said all this, I would say that it is better to instil in enemy the fear of war than the war itself. But this all also means that India should be much more aggressive and foxy in non-military diplomatic policies than the nations who wage wars. This is the limitation and Indian politicians and diplomats all need to accept this as a huge problem and work on it.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

@Rajeev..

i agree with u… but my head hangs in shame when all we do is whining and complaining. Recent example, what the hell Manmohan Singh was thinking while signing the Egypt treaty. Have we lost all the self respect? Why can’t we ever take a strong position? Why can’t we ever make enemy taste the blood it spills in our lands?

Posted by Nitya singh | Report as abusive

@Nitya,
@joint India-Pak statements from Egypt:

Quotes
“With Pakistan resisting any reference to the “infrastructure of terrorism” on its territory, the joint statement noted that terrorism was the main threat the two countries was facing and that India and Pakistan would cooperate with each other in the fight against this menace. Specifically, it said they would “share real time, credible and actionable information on any future terrorist threats.”
“Asked whether he (PM Manmohan Singh) believed the terrorists in Pakistan were “non-state actors” or had connections with the establishment, Prime Minister Singh said, “I am not accusing the present Pakistani government of involvement but as far as past history is concerned, I did say there were elements [from the establishment] that were involved. But I did not accuse the present, democratic government of Pakistan of this,” he stressed.

—-So India did not formally put the blame on the present Pakistan govt, which they should have done. Is it a doubt that LeT a Pakistani product. Retired Pakistani ISI/Army maintain and train the terrorists with full knowledge of Pakistan. So the Pakistan govt name should have been on the paper.

“”"However, in the first-ever reflection in a joint statement of Pakistani apprehensions about alleged Indian interference in its internal affairs, the text blandly notes that “Pakistan has some information of threats in Balochistan and other areas.” This is a reference to allegations the Pakistani intelligence establishment has made of covert Indian assistance to secessionist forces in that rebellious province, a charge the Indian side denies.”"

“”The Prime Minister denied this represented a climb down by India or a concession to Pakistan. “Mr. Gilani raised the issue of Balochistan and said people say India is active [there]. I said our conduct is an open book and that we are willing to discuss anything… If you have any evidence, we are willing to look at it. We are an open society.”

–This in itself is not a big deal if India clears the cloud quickly.

But my only concern is how on earth the India=Pak joint statement was accepted since Pakistan associates India’s name with Balochistan in written has been acceted, while India, despite several lines of evidence that Pakistan trains anti-India terrorists (proofs from not just of Mumabi attack but collected over past 20yrs), does not return the favor.

All this means is that the Pakistan is tested with the longest possible rope.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Nitya:

continuation of my last post:
This is what I call the need of aggressive and smarter diplomacy. Give concessions without getting screwed up, not that India is yet, but might get stuck on a side issue.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

TO RAISE WAR AGNIST TEERIOST IN J&K. WE ALL ARE VERY HAPPY. OR FELL PROUD IS THAT WE WON WAR AGNIST TEERIOST IN J&K. BUT THE STILL CONDITIONS ARE NOT IN OUR FEVOR. STILL DAILY OUR ARMY JAWANS.DIED EVERY DAY.THIS IS FACT LOTS OF OUR JAWANS KILLS EVERY DAY THERE NAME ARE NOT PUBLISHIED IN ANY NEWS PAPER OR ANY KIND OF NEWS IN FACT SECREATELY THE BODY OF OUR JAWANS HAS BEEN SEND IN THERE HOME TOWN EVEN TELL ANY BODY????????????

PLEASE THINK OF MY WORDS PLEASE???????

IF YOU HAVE ANY ANSWER PLEASE REPLY ME AT panku.dasila@gmail.com

Posted by pankaj dasila | Report as abusive

Dara:

@But through it all, I am left with one just thought, brought out by a retired Air Force pilot who posed a very simple question – if it is agreed that the armed forces have served the country well why hasn’t the country, in return, served the Services properly? As a retired serviceman, and having observed life in civy streets for many years now, I wonder how many people will give that question another thought.
- Posted by Dara

Dara: It will be helpful to elaborate on “why hasn’t the country, in return, served the Services properly?” I am not saying that it is a wrong question to ask but what makes you ask this Qn.

In any case, politicians’ self-serving habits of corruption, inefficiency, lack of respect and value of human life is extended equally efficiently when dealing with Armed forces. Ex-servicemen who understand Armed forces issues are the best persons to become defense ministers and in such position of power. My close relative, a young IAF pilot is a CO, and was half-jokingly telling me last year that he would like to become Indian defence minister. I did not ask why he thinks so but he might have same thing in his mind as you and the retired IAF pilot you quoted.

We see the problem with US too. The soldier fights the war is values and is poster boy but when injured and goes home, he/she is does not get the necessary medical attention. But there is value of life. I was watching on TV how hundreds of people in UK attended a memorial procession in honour of soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
Do we do that for our fallen soldiers?

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

The coffin scam should be solved and the martyrs family should be paid the coffin money.

It is sad India has to import even coffin.I am sure any workshop in India can make cheap and good quality coffins.

The govt of india makes a mockery of the indian soldiers and their lives.

Posted by Capt Kakes | Report as abusive

I wish to request Indian Military to put pictures of those who have died fighting for the country since our independence (or before). Currently we only have names of the soldiers there which is not enough in my opinion. People feel more connected to a picture than a printed name. I also wish defense budget would have a provision of hiring professional PR firms (I doubt if we have that in place already).

Posted by Seth | Report as abusive