This July 26, a central minister will take part in commemorations of India's victory in the Kargil conflict after a gap of five years. Defence Minister A K Antony will lay wreaths at Amar Jawan Jyoti to pay tribute to the martyrs of the 1999 conflict with Pakistan, a defence ministry spokesperson has said.
"All these years we have been commemorating the Kargil Vijay Diwas at our level, there was no political participation," said a senior Indian Army official, requesting anonymity.
The Kargil conflict took place when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was in power, and its main constituent the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) commemorated July 26 as Kargil Vijay Diwas in a big way till 2004, when the NDA lost power.
Senior politicians of the current United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government have not taken part in the commemorations since then, till now, said a sneior officer of the Indian Army who did not want to be named.
"The defence minister and the three service chiefs will lay wreaths at Amar Jawan Jyoti (at India Gate) to pay tribute to the martyrs of Kargil," a defence ministry spokesperson told IANS.
The army, on its part, will observe the occasion, as always. There will be a large function in Kargil on the 10th anniversary this year.
"We are planning to observe the occasion in Kargil on a large scale by bringing the relatives of the martyrs to the area. Last year we held a wreath-laying ceremony, released advertisements in newspapers and television channels, the sanction for which had come at the last moment," said the army official.
The face-off in the snow-peaked mountains of Kargil in the summer of 1999 had brought India and Pakistan virtually to the brink of their fourth full-scale war. An estimated 530 Indian soldiers were killed in two months of fighting before the Pakistanis were pushed back across the international border.
Retired armed forces officials see the move to commemorate the Kargil conflict as a good sign.
"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.
"I don't think martyrs' sacrifices should be politicised. They have died for the country and not for a political party so it should be kept that way. And no matter which party is in power their sacrifices should be respected," said Lt. Gen. (retd) Raj Kadyan.
The NDA, on its part, had promoted Kargil Vijay Diwas at the cost of commemorating India's victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war, when Indira Gandhi of the Congress was the prime minister.