Every year July 26 is observed as Kargil Vijay Diwas and today is the 15th anniversary of India’s victory in a conflict forced upon it by the adventurism of Pakistan’s generals. This victory came during Prime Minister AB Vajpayee’s leadership. Unfortunately, we live in times when everything — every public institution and national legacy — seems to have been politicised. So it was with Kargil Vijay Diwas, and in the past decade, one often got the impression that the UPA underplayed its importance for most of its early years.
In commemorating Kargil Vijay Diwas with the solemnity and honour it deserves, the Narendra Modi government will not only be correcting a wrong, it will also draw attention to the unfinished agenda for those who have served and serve in our armed forces. The Modi government has made a good start with the announcement of a Veterans Commission, National War Memorial and moving forward on One Rank, One Pension (OROP).
On the OROP issue, it is significant that the order issued by the outgoing UPA government on February 26 does not mention the accepted definition of OROP.
The National War Memorial is a long delayed tribute by the nation to all those who fought and died in the wars of independent India and their families. The UPA had endless meetings but never took a decision. I hope that the National War Memorial complex near India Gate will be built expeditiously.
A few other demands of the armed forces fraternity need to be addressed. First, we must standardise and have a uniform policy of compensation and rehabilitation for gallantry award winners in the armed forces across all states. Different states follow different yardsticks for compensating two soldiers who die under exactly the same circumstances.
Second, many nations like Britain have a Military Covenant, a sacred undertaking by the government and by Parliament, which guarantees the well-being of soldiers and their families, should a life be lost in the service to the nation. The government must embrace this endeavour and make good our promise to our armed forces.
Third, if cricketers and film stars can become some of the 12 nominated Rajya Sabha MPs, why not a veteran? The veteran represents far more crucial ideals and values of service than actresses or cricketers, who rarely make an appearance.
And finally, let’s make this a day to remember the unfinished business of seeking justice for Captain Saurabh Kalia, who was tortured and killed by Pakistani forces during the Kargil War in violation of international law, natural justice and human dignity.
I will be at the Bangalore National Military Memorial on July 26 and encourage those in Delhi to visit the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate and spend a few minutes in prayer in the memory of those bravehearts who fought like lions at Kargil 15 years ago.
(Rajeev Chandrasekhar is Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha. The views expressed by the author are personal.)