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Facing flak, PM decides to attend Kargil victory celebrations

Faced with criticism over the absence of the political leadership in commemorating 10 years of the famous Kargil victory when Indian armed forces dislodged intruding Pakistani army regulars, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will pay homage to martyrs at the Amar Jawan Jyoti on Sunday.

The PM will be accompanied by defence minister A K Antony and the three chiefs of staff on Sunday morning at the memorial before leaving for Visakhapatnam to launch the country’s first nuclear powered submarine. The moment of remembrance follows Army organizing functions in Kargil to mark its victory over Pakistani intruders.

Comments that the celebrations in Kargil were only an armed forces affair and no senior political figure, defence minister or anybody else, bothered to show up seem to have hit home. The PM’s visit to the armed forces memorial in the Capital seems an effort to make the point that the government fully shares the nation’s sense of pride in the victory.

The chariness about participating in Kargil celebrations saw some commentators suggesting that UPA was not keen to be part of an event that had taken place during the NDA’s tenure in office. The recent much-criticised India-Pakistan joint statement saw the allegation being levelled that the Kargil show was too militaristic for the government’s liking.

The 1999 military success had been hard-fought, at considerable human cost, as the Army had to win back the icy heights of Kargil, Drass and Batalik after Pakistan’s army units occupied high bunkers abandoned in winter.

The battle was literally uphill all the way and Indian commanders had to use World War II type tactics of sending wave after wave of soldiers up the hills to overwhelm the intruding Pakistanis.

The hand-to-hand fighting and movements in difficult terrain saw some outstanding acts of gallantry even as Pakistan denied the involvement of its regular troops. Once the Pakistani positions were overrun, Indian troops recovered mounds of evidence of the involvement of units like the Skardu-based Northern Light Infantry.

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