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On Republic Day, Ex-Army Officer Shares Tearful Anecdote From Kargil War

© AP Photo / AIJAZ RAHIIn this July 10, 1999 file photo, Indian artillery guns are engulfed in smoke in Dras, some 155 kilometers (96 miles) north of Srinagar, India as Indian troops fight Pakistani intruders in the disputed Kashmir.
In this July 10, 1999 file photo, Indian artillery guns are engulfed in smoke in Dras, some 155 kilometers (96 miles)  north of Srinagar, India as Indian troops fight Pakistani intruders in the disputed Kashmir. - Sputnik India, 1920, 26.01.2023
India is commemorating its 74th Republic Day this year with a grand military parade at New Delhi's Kartavya Path.
On the occasion of Republic Day on January 26, a former Indian Army officer, who played an active role in combat operations during India's conflict with Pakistan in the Kargil sector of Jammu and Kashmir in 1999, has shared a heartwarming story of a soldier who wanted to continue fighting despite one of his hands getting hit by a series of enemy bullets.
Retired Major General Shashi Bhushan Asthana, a former Additional Director General of Infantry in the Indian Army, was the commanding officer of a battalion of troops engaged in the war operations against Pakistani intruders at the time.
In an exclusive conversation with Sputnik, Asthana speaks about why Kargil was a unique operation for the Indian armed forces before going on to reveal the passion and love of a soldier for his motherland.
Sputnik: You played an active role in the Kargil war against Pakistan. Would you like to share your combat experience with us?
Shashi Bhushan Asthana: Kargil was a unique experience and a unique kind of operation. We don't call it war, we call it an operation, that's why it was called 'Operation Vijay (victory) because the dimension and the magnitude were limited so that the cost of a full-blown war wasn't put on the country. Apart from Kargil and Drass, we didn't open another front otherwise it would have been much easier for us to open another front and engage Pakistan there, but that didn't happen.

Though we suffered a fair amount of casualties too, notwithstanding that we gave a resounding message to Pakistan, clearing every single area where they had sheepishly intruded. There was little doubt that the intrusion was done by the Pakistan military as well as the terrorists based there, although they keep saying that they were terrorists and not soldiers of [the Pakistani] Army. But there are enough pieces of evidence that it was the Pakistan military only that had intruded and nobody else.

Sputnik: Can you throw some light on the morale of the Indian soldiers at the time, considering the Pakistani intruders had occupied most of the mountain heights there while our soldiers were based at a lower altitude?
Shashi Bhushan Asthana: I was a commanding officer during that war and there's one particular incident that I specifically wanted to share from that operation.
The right hand of one of my jawans (troops - ed.) was pierced with multiple bullets, so the doctor told me that we will have to amputate it, otherwise, he can't be saved and I had to take a very hard call and say, OK, do it.
The next day, in the morning, I said I want to be in front of him to break the news when he gets out of his unconsciousness. By that time, we had evacuated him to the hospital as his surgery was conducted on the battlefield itself.
When he returned to his senses, he didn't realize what had happened to him. But then I said, 'son you were hit by a barrage of bullets. Though we saved your life we couldn't save your hand'.
After hearing this, he embraced me and started crying. The next sentence which came out of his mouth was 'if my hand had been amputated after I had killed a few more Pakistanis, I would have been far happier'.
The passion of our soldiers is such that even at that stage, the young man was thinking about his country. We don't get these kinds of soldiers anywhere in the world.
In the end, I would like to put it this way the Indian Army did a great job. What I am trying to say is that it was a unique operation in which we did not increase the extent of the area of engagement. Very precisely, we killed only those who were required to be killed and cleared the area which was required to be cleared and nothing more.
It was a good message to the rest of the world that despite being strong we don't believe in expansionism. But we are also capable of ensuring that nobody takes even one inch of our land.