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Today July 26, 2017, is the 18th anniversary of Kargil Vijay Diwas, marking a successful put down of another of Pakistan’s ill-fated incursions and making Operation Vijay one of the great moments in the history of our nation and Armed Forces’ service to our Nation after the 16 December 1971 victory against Pakistan.
Many of us won’t forget the sudden and unprovoked attack by Pakistan in 1999 against the backdrop of peace talks. It was this day in 1999 - 26 July that the hard fighting units of our Armed Forces regained control of key outposts that had been occupied by Pakistani troops dressed and masquerading as jihadis.
Today, almost two decades later, the service and sacrifice of many Bravehearts who settled this war for India are firmly etched in our collective memory - Lt. Saurabh Kalia, Captain Vikram Batra, PVC, Havaldar Chuni Lal, Rifleman Sanjay Kumar, Capt Haneefudin, Maj Acharya, Major Sarvanan, Sqn Ldr Ajay Ahuja, Lt Manoj Pandey, Grenadier Yogendra Yadav, Lt Kenguruse, Capt Vikram, Capt Vijayant Thapar, Lt Nongrum, Major Wangchuk, Captain Anuj Nayyar , Naik Jasvir Singh, Lance Naik Ahmed Ali and so many more. Young men in uniform from different parts of the country united by our flag and serving the Nation with over 500 laying down their lives.
As we honour the memories of these men and their families – it is also important to recall that for many years of the UPA government – Kargil Vijay Diwas was NOT celebrated at all. Shamefully, it was because there were many in the Congress leadership who referred to this as the BJP war scared that it would overshadow the story of Indira Gandhi and 1971. Putting petty politics over the service and sacrifice of the soldiers. It was only after I raised it repeatedly in Parliament till July 2009, did the then Defence Minister A K Antony reinstate the celebration of Kargil Vijay Diwas and started the practice of the Defence Minister visiting the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate on this day. This pathetic politicking remains to this day – be it trying to demonize a young Major doing his duty or calling the Army Chief names, or secret meetings with the Chinese Ambassador at a time when the nation should stand united against the Chinese bullying of Bhutan.
Our local political villains notwithstanding – the common thread to all our conflicts and deaths of many innocents remains Pakistan. Question is - have we, as a Nation, done enough to unite and call to account and change the behaviour of Pakistan –the perpetrator of the attack in these past 18 years?
This status quo continues even though there is not one man or woman in this country that does not recognise Pakistan’s direct role in fostering terrorism against India and causing the death of thousands of innocent lives and not just for the last few years, but for several decades. The irony is, despite undeniable evidence and widespread desire of the people of India, we have continued to engage with Pakistan diplomatically, culturally and economically in a meaningless engagement, which, in my opinion, serves only one purpose - for time to pass by and memories to fade about the last terror attack.
We tend to forget easily the many who sacrifice their lives defending the borders of the country and those who serve. Data from 1988 to 16 July 2017 shows 14,776 innocent civilians have been killed in terror attacks in our country, 6,314 security force personnel have lost their lives and we have killed 23, 238 terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir alone. The numbers keep mounting with each attack. The most recent being the despicable Amarnath Yatra massacre on 10 July, in which 7 innocent lives were cut short and 19 people injured. It again took our soldiers to help the pilgrims to safety and ensure their safe return home.
The bravery and sacrifices made by our defence forces personnel protecting the nation at the borders as well as fighting enemies within needs no validation. Ironically until recently their sacrifices — of loss of life, limbs, staying away from their families for long durations — go unsung and unrecognised. It took this government to finalise One Rank One Pension that was a plea for honour pending for over last four decades.
More ironical that despite a professionalism and conduct that counts as the best in the world and despite great sacrifices of life and limb, some worthies in this country from the Congress and Left continue to pander to the playbook of our enemies by demonizing and humiliating our men in uniform.
The Armed Forces rely on and need our motivation and support and they must be given their due. Let us not forget that these are the same men and women in uniform who rush to our rescue during time of natural calamities ignoring risks and perils to themselves while ensuring every citizen is safe and looked after. In June 2013 during the devastating Uttarakhand floods and landslides, the IAF airlifted a total of 18,424 persons to safety. Flying over 2,000 sorties and dropped or landed 336,930 kg of relief material and equipment. The colossal task, executed with discipline that is the hallmark of our armed forces. More recently Wing Commander Mandeep Singh Dhillon and Flight Lieutenant P K Singh paid with their lives on 4 July when their helicopter crashed in Arunachal Pradesh while conducting relentless rescue operations – they had undertaken five sorties and rescued 169 people.
In war and in peacetime, these men and their families selflessly give up their tomorrows for our today and we as a Nation have a collective responsibility to honour and remember their sacrifices and thank and support those who serve today. So, as we salute their lives and service, let’s also resolve to do our bit to start a debate about the cause of all this violence i.e. Pakistan. We need to change the present status quo - Where hundreds and thousands of young lives are lost defending our borders and our cities and protecting our fellow citizens and yet we continue to remain engaged with the architect and executor of these attacks on our Nation. More young lives should not be lost because we, as a Nation, are unable to do as what we must do politically and also as a people collectively.
So, on 28th July, - two days after we remember Kargil - I will introduce a resolution in Parliament seeking Parliament’s support to declare Pakistan a terror state. I believe we owe it all those brave men and women who have fallen in the line of duty not only in the Kargil War but before and in the years after in the many attacks by Pakistan to do this.
This article appeared in Times of India on May 25, 2017