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India observes 24th Kargil Vijay Diwas, Rajnath says ready to cross LoC to maintain country's honour & dignity

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh addresses the gathering at Kargil War Memorial at Kargil War Memorial on the occasion of Kargil Vijay Diwas, in Drass, Ladakh, Wednesday, July 26, 2023. Photo: PTI/PIB

NEW DELHI (PTI): India on Wednesday recalled the valour of the armed forces and paid tributes to its fallen soldiers as it marked its victory over Pakistan in the 1999 Kargil War, with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh asserting the country is ready to even cross the Line of Control (LoC) to maintain its honour and dignity.

President Droupadi Murmu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union ministers, chief ministers and leaders cutting across party lines paid homage to the soldiers who had died in the war.

Various events were organised in states and at the Kargil War Memorial in Drass in Ladakh to mark the 24th Kargil Vijay Diwas. In Parliament, members paid their homage to the fallen soldiers.

In a tweet in Hindi, the president said, "Today, on the glorious occasion of Kargil Vijay Diwas, all the people of the country remember the victory achieved by the extraordinary valour of our armed forces. On behalf of a grateful nation, I pay tribute and bow to the memory of the fighters who paved the way for victory by sacrificing their lives to protect the country. Their heroic stories will always inspire generations to come. Jai Hind!"

Modi said Kargil Vijay Diwas brings to the fore the bravery of India's unparalleled warriors who will always remain a source of inspiration to the people of the country.

The Indian Army had launched a fierce counter-assault, Operation Vijay, to push back Pakistani forces that had stealthily occupied important heights in Ladakh in 1999.

The war saw Indian armed forces fight in the most challenging terrains amid harsh weather conditions in Drass, Kargil and Batalik sectors.

Addressing a gathering at the Kargil Memorial in Drass, Defence Minister Singh said India is ready to cross the Line of Control (LoC) to maintain its honour and dignity, and called upon civilians to be ready to support the soldiers in such a situation.

Citing the example of the Russia-Ukraine war, he said it has been going on for more than a year because civilians have stepped up and are participating in the war.

"We can go to any extreme to maintain the honour and dignity of the country...if that includes crossing the LoC, we are ready to do that...if we are instigated and if the need arises, we will cross the LoC," he said.

"Whenever there has been a war situation, our public has always supported the forces but that support has been indirect. I urge the public to be ready and mentally prepared to support the soldiers directly on the battlefield if the need arises," he added.

Singh said the Kargil War was imposed on India, which was "backstabbed" by Pakistan.

"During Operation Vijay, the Indian Army sent a message not only to Pakistan but to the whole world that when it comes to our national interests, our Army will not back down at any cost. We are fully committed to safeguarding our national interests even today," the minister said.

Talking to reporters in Drass, Army Chief General Manoj Pande said the country will never forget the supreme sacrifice of the soldiers in the 1999 Kargil war.

"Operation Vijay was a difficult and high-intensity military operation. It was a difficult terrain that was under the possession of the enemy. It was a challenge that our soldiers accomplished...I also want to commend the Air warriors for their contribution in achieving the final objective," he said.

He also said the dangers and challenges before the armed forces are likely to get more complex in the future and India needs to be ready to face them.

For the families of the jawans who laid down their lives protecting Indian territory from intruders, Kargil Vijay Diwas is an occasion that invokes feelings of both pain and pride.

Kanta Devi, who visited the Kargil War Memorial to pay her respects to her son, Grenadier Udhaymaan Singh, told PTI, "I feel happy and proud to see that everyone is paying respects to my son but I did not want to lose my (only) son. I feel so much pain."

Tears rolling down her cheeks, Devi recalled when her son came home on vacation for the last time.

"When he came home on vacation, I told him that I wanted him to resign from service and stay home. He asked me what would happen to the country if every mother wished the same? He told me that he was the son of the country now and not mine," she said.

Charu Lata Acharya, a Veer Naari, feels that the Vijay Diwas is a celebration of the sacrifices of soldiers like her husband -- Major P Acharya of the 2 Rajputana Rifles.

Manmohan Pandey, the brother of Captain Manoj Pandey -- who was tasked with clearing the route to Khalubar Top for his battalion and fatally collapsed at the final bunker after completing his mission -- said the day evokes a feeling of pride.

"Coming here, seeing those points, I had the same feeling that I had when he (Captain Pandey) achieved martyrdom. It is a feeling of pride. If there is anything we feel inside, it is pride," he said in Drass.

BJP president J P Nadda hailed the valour of the armed forces personnel who sacrificed their lives during the war.

The Congress said Kargil Vijay Diwas is a symbol of the amazing valour and determination of the brave sons of the country.

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge and party leader Rahul Gandhi paid tributes to the Kargil heroes on the occasion.

At an event in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said the world recognised India's military strength during the Kargil War as the armed forces successfully pushed back Pakistani intruders from Indian soil.

In Srinagar, General Officer Commanding of the Army's Chinar Corps Lt Gen Rajiv Ghai led all ranks in paying homage to the soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice while pushing back Pakistani intruders during the Kargil War.

"Today, the nation celebrates 24 years of this glorious victory. The Chinar Corps on this historic day remembers the 527 gallant soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice. We also salute the serving soldiers and veterans who took part in the tough battle at treacherous heights along the Line of Control," a defence spokesman said.

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