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July 18, 1999
Last of the Pakistanis leaves Kargil
Even as the last Pakistani intruders left the Kargil sector today, the Indian Army indicated that it would henceforth maintain a presence at key positions even in winter.
Operation Vijay to restore the status quo ante on the Line of Control is not over and troops will continue to be in the sector, the army spokesman, Colonel Bikram Singh, said.
He announced the complete pullout of the Pakistanis from the Drass, Batalik and Kaksar sub-sectors and said that by first light tomorrow, Mushkoh Valley will also be cleared up.
"There is no ceasefire or cessation of hostilities. We will wait and watch the situation," Col Singh said when asked if Operation Vijay is now over.
This was corroborated by Defence Minister George Fernandes who said that though the war is over, his ministry is planning a system that will ensure year-long surveillance in the sector.
"There can be no question any more of taking things in the manner which we did from 1972 to 1999 in that sector. Nothing will be taken for granted any more," he told STAR News.
Asked whether the government plans a Siachen-like patrolling operation all along the Kargil sector, he said, "This is a question that is being examined. The Siachen sector is slightly different. In Kargil, you don't have any kind of plateau like Siachen has. Here, you are mainly concerned with mountain peaks and therefore both physical and electronic surveillance will become necessary. How exactly we will divide it is something we are working on at the moment."
Meanwhile, troops searched along the LoC to physically verify that no Pakistanis are left in Drass, Batalik and Kaksar. And in Mushkoh Valley, the army was moving forward to occupy dominating heights along the LoC.
In the last 24 hours, another jawan lost his foot when he stepped on an anti-personnel mine in the Mushkoh Valley. Eight other soldiers have been injured in mine explosions in the past few days.
Col Singh said surveillance detachments had said the Pakistanis had withdrawn from the Mushkoh Valley too, but this would have to be verified.
No enemy activity was seen in the past 48 hours, he said.
In the Drass sector, Indian troops occupied Point 5060 at 1800 IST yesterday, thus taking over every position that had been vacated by the Pakistanis.
The troops reported three loud explosions in the Mushkoh Valley near Point 4388, which is very close to the LoC. It was inferred that the Pakistanis had destroyed some heavy equipment before leaving. The exact details of the equipment destroyed will be known only when the area is combed, Col Singh said.
Replying to a question, he said there was every reason to believe the Pakistanis were equipped with chemical weapons as they had left behind some gas masks.
Pakistan is a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention and has declared that it does not have any chemical arms.
Col Singh said the troops were jubilant about the victory, but it is time now to analyse the operations. He agreed that the 'information war' had played a role in Operation Vijay.
Asked whether the army was disappointed that the Pakistanis were allowed to withdraw, he said, "The Indian Army is a professional, disciplined army. We go by the mandate given to us."
He said army officers had spoken to their Pakistani counterparts about the four soldiers who are listed as missing in action. The Pakistanis denied holding any Indian soldier.
While 698 Pakistani soldiers, including 41 officers, were killed in Operation Vijay, the Indian army lost 410 men, including 25 officers. Besides, 594 have been wounded in the two-month conflict.
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