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25 years ago, how the 'violation' of Lahore Declaration flared the 1999 India-Pakistan Kargil war?

Nawaz Sharif, the newly-appointed PML-N President, admitted on Tuesday that Pakistan 'violated' the Lahore Declaration aimed at peace with India, which resulted in the Kargil misadventure. The Lahore Declaration was signed between Nawaz and former Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee in February 1999.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Islamabad Published on: May 29, 2024 14:03 IST
Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Image Source : PTI (FILE) Former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif with then-Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Islamabad: Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's explosive revelation that Islamabad "violated" the Lahore Declaration signed by him and former Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee grabbed attention in both countries. In a meeting of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) general council after being elected as president of the party, Nawaz said that "it was our fault" as he referred to the historic Lahore Declaration.

The Lahore Declaration was one of the rare attempts to mend the historically strained relations between India and Pakistan and represented a major breakthrough towards peace between the two neighbours. However, this accord was undermined when Pakistani terrorists intruded in the Kargil district of Jammu and Kashmir, leading to the 1999 Kargil war.

Nawaz was soon deposed as the Prime Minister of Pakistan after the 1999 war ended with India's victory by the late military chief and ex-President Pervez Musharraf. The three-time former PM has in the past said he was unaware of the military's plans in the Kargil misadventure, while stressing the need for improved relations with India, Afghanistan and other neighbours. Let's take a look at what transpired before the 1999 Kargil conflict.

Vajpayee's visit and the Lahore Declaration

While there had been relatively fewer armed conflicts between India and Pakistan since the 1971 war, both countries were locked in an aggressive nuclear race and were conducting tests despite establishing treaties and international pressure. The added separatist conflicts in Kashmir resulted in an increasingly tenuous relationship between the two neighbours.

In a step towards establishing peace between the two countries, then-Indian PM Vajpayee visited Lahore aboard the inaugural bus service between New Delhi and Lahore and received a warm welcome from Nawaz Sharif and units of the Pakistan Army. The two leaders signed the Lahore Declaration on February 21, 1999, after a historic summit in the city.

The agreement provided the framework for peace and stability between the two countries and pledged to resolve all issues surrounding Kashmir through peaceful means. India and Pakistan committed to intensify their efforts in finding a solution to the Kashmir issue and take immediate steps to reduce the risk of accidental or unauthorised use of nuclear weapons and discuss concepts and doctrines with a view to elaborating measures for confidence building in the nuclear and convention fields, aimed at conflict prevention.

'Violation' of Lahore Declaration and the Kargil War

Shortly after the Lahore Declaration was signed, Pakistani forces crossed over the Line of Control (LoC) in May 1999 and infiltrated Jammu and Kashmir and seized the Indian Army's posts as part of an operation codenamed 'Operation Badr'. The Pakistani intruders had occupied fortified defences overlooking NH 1A in Kargil's Drass and Batalik Sectors of Ladakh region with the aim of isolating the Indian Army at the Siachen Glacier and cut off the link between Kashmir and Ladakh. This brains behind this operation was Pakistan's military dictator Pervez Musharraf.

The Indian Army was initially caught completely unaware of the nefarious plot by the Pakistani forces, freshly after the Lahore Declaration, which gave the latter a tactical advantage to force India to a settlement on the Kashmir dispute and press a withdrawal of Indian troops from Siachen. The Pakistan Army had an advantage at the beginning of the conflict because they were higher up, allowing them to easily kill their Indian counterparts.

However, Pakistan's audacious gamble gave way when the Indian Army finally learned of the plot and sent 200,000 Indian troops in the area to push Pakistan away from the vacated military spots. The mission was codenamed 'Operation Vijay' and began the war. It was one of the most challenging conflicts India had faced as it was fought at high altitudes, with some posts situated at over 18,000 feet.

The Indian Air Force used the controversial Bofors FH-77B howitzers for the first time to destroy enemies positioned at the top. As many as 2.50 lakh shells, rockets, and bombs were used during the war, marking the first time after World War II that such a massive amount of ammunition and bombardments were utilised in a conflict. Amid the conflict, Nawaz dashed to the US and sought President Bill Clinton's help in mediation in the conflict. Clinton demanded Pakistan to withdraw its forces from the LoC.

Aftermath of the war

After two months of bitter fight between the Indian and Pakistani Armies, the war ended in defeat and embarrassment for Pakistan, as the war propelled international calls for the Pakistani Army to withdraw. According to BBC, there was evidence the Pakistani military leadership had hidden details of the Kargil operation from Nawaz's government, which was forced to declare a unilateral ceasefire. By July 26, India had fully retaken the Kargil posts and there were hundreds of casualties on both sides.

Pakistan continued to blame Kashmiri separatists rebelling under Indian rule in the war, but it later gave rewards to warriors who fought in the war. In India, July 26 became known as the 'Kargil Vijay Diwas' to symbolise India's victory over Pakistan in the 1999 war. A number of Indian soldiers earned awards for gallantry for showing extreme valour during the war and there were major increases in India's defence spending. India also severed all ties with Pakistan as a result of the "violation".

Despite Pakistan's defeat, Musharraf claimed that it was a big success for the military, but the conflict put him at odds with then-PM Nawaz. There were disagreements between the two on several issues even before the Kargil War took shape. In his autobiography, Musharraf expressed opposition to Nawaz's way of working and that he was driven by external pressure to declare a ceasefire, thereby exposing his mediocrity.

Soon afterwards, Nawaz was ousted in an Army-led bloodless coup engineered by Musharraf, who later became the President of Pakistan. His career would later end in disgrace in 2008 when he was forced to resign as President and went into self-imposed exile. Nawaz was arrested and tried in court, before receiving an unexpected pardon from Musharraf and being allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia, where he spent a decade in exile. The war eroded Pakistan's credibility and damaged its international reputation.

ALSO READ | Pakistan broke Lahore Agreement signed by me and Vajpayee. It was our fault: Nawaz Sharif I WATCH


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