India will cross the Line of Control (LoC) if the need arises, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Wednesday, speaking on the 24th anniversary of the Kargil conflict. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government has given a free hand to armed forces to launch operations across the border, if need arises,” he added.
The fact that Indian forces did not cross the LoC during the Kargil conflict in 1999 did not mean that they could not do so, he stressed.
“A war is not just between two armies but between two nations... Even after winning the war on July 26, 1999, if our forces did not cross the LoC, it is only because we are peace-loving, we believe in Indian values, and we have a commitment to international law. At that time if we did not cross the LoC, it does not mean that we could not cross the LoC. We could cross the LoC, we can cross the LoC, and will cross the LoC in future if there is a need, I assure the countrymen,” he said, after paying homage at the Kargil War Memorial at Dras, in the Kargil district of the Union Territory of Ladakh.
‘Generosity, not weakness’
Mr. Singh added that, in 1999, Indian armed forces had been specifically instructed not to cross the LoC. “With the victory, India sent a message to Pakistan and the world that our military will not back down at any cost if the nation’s interests are harmed,” he said.
He stressed that India’s generosity should not be misinterpreted. “India has great respect for all other countries. It follows the norms laid down for international conduct, but its generosity should not be mistaken as its weakness,” Mr. Singh said.
The Defence Minister offered an assurance that the government was fully committed to safeguarding national interests. “No compromise will be made in protecting the sovereignty, unity and integrity of the country. We have given a free hand to the armed forces to eliminate the nation’s enemies,” he said.
‘Be ready to play soldier’s role’
He claimed that, earlier, the nation and the armed forces had lacked political will, which has now been provided by their government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “People should be mentally prepared, so that whenever the nation needs them, they should be ready to help the armed forces. Just as every soldier is an Indian; in the same way, every Indian should be ready to play the role of a soldier,” he said.
Citing the example of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the Defence Minister said that the war, which has lasted over a year so far, reflected the unpredictable nature of conflict in these times. He added that the war had been prolonged as the people were training and joining their military in fighting for their cause, a Defence Ministry statement said.
Service and sacrifice
The ceremony at Dras witnessed a gathering of war heroes, as well as the widows and families of fallen personnel. It was also attended by Subedar Major Sanjay Kumar, Param Vir Chakra (PVC); Havildar Digendra Kumar, Maha Vir Chakra (MVC); Manmohan Pandey, brother of Captain Manoj Pandey, PVC and Vishal Batra, brother of Captain Vikram Batra, PVC.
The Defence Minister praised the valour of the Indian armed forces, “who fought valiantly and laid down their lives in the line of duty”, and paid tributes to the fallen soldiers. “The nation will remain indebted to their service and sacrifice,” he said.
“As long as the Army was protecting us on the borders, no one can even have the courage to raise their eyes towards India,” Mr. Singh said, adding that the Army had made the nation proud, not just at Kargil, but several times since Independence.
For centuries, India has seen difficult times but has risen to the situation every time due to its brave soldiers, he said. “The 1999 Kargil war was also a learning process and charted a new direction. Our greatest glory is not in never falling but rising every time we fall. The sacrifices made by soldiers during the Kargil war will be written in golden letters. We are able to breathe free air because these soldiers stood in harsh temperatures here and fought for the country’s self-respect,” the Defence Minister said.
‘War imposed on India’
Mr. Singh said that the Kargil war had been imposed on India. “India was holding talks with Pakistan. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took a yatra to Pakistan and intended to resolve issues, including Kashmir. However, we were backstabbed by Pakistan,” he said.
He recounted how the Indian Army, despite being fewer in numbers compared to the enemy forces, and in disadvantageous positions, had still fought the Kargil war and emerged victorious. “Pakistan even resorted to nuclear blackmailing. There were discussions whether India can take back their rightful territory from a nuclear-armed country. Our Army proved to the whole world what it can do to safeguard the country’s interests. A war is not won with numbers of soldiers or nuclear weapons but determination and will, which was displayed by our soldiers. We are fully committed to safeguarding our national interests even today,” the Defence Minister said.
The Defence Minister was accompanied in Kargil by Chief of Defence Staff General Anil Chauhan, Army Chief General Manoj Pande and Navy Chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar. They all paid floral tributes at the memorial and visited the tombstones dedicated to the fallen soldiers.