Drass (Jammu and Kashmir): The 16th anniversary of Kargil Vijay Diwas was observed here on Sunday with a solemn ceremony that brought back memories of the bravehearts who sacrificed their lives to lead India to victory in the 1999 conflict against Pakistan.
The proceedings here in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir began with a solemn wreath-laying ceremony at the Drass War Memorial led by the army’s Northern Command chief Lieutenant General D.S. Hooda.
Gallantry award winners, widows and other family members of martyrs, army officers and civil officials paid tributes to those who lost their lives in the line of duty.
This was followed by a pledge taken by all those present at the function to rededicate themselves to the cause of the nation.
The army commander interacted with the families and gallantry award winners.
The somber mood brought back memories of the losses borne so proudly by the families in the summer of 1999.
Many in the audience were moved to tears when the bugles played the poignant notes of “The Last Post” after the wreath-laying ceremony.
The commemorative event is held every year to mark India’s victory.
It also gives many people the rare opportunity to meet the heroes of the conflict in person and interact with them.
Indian Army chief General Dalbir Singh paid homage at the war memorial on Saturday.
Addressing the veterans of the Kargil conflict, relatives of martyrs and soldiers deployed to protect the country’s frontiers in the cold Ladakh region, General Dalbir Singh said nobody would be allowed to repeat Kargil.
The army chief recalled the days when he served as a field commander in the area.
He praised the dedication of the soldiers, saying discharging duties in such a hostile terrain and weather needs exemplary courage for which the soldiers of India are famous all over the World.
An upcoming meeting in Pakistan between a delegation of the United States and Taliban representatives has been cancelled, according to information coming from both sides.
A Taliban leader confirmed, on condition of anonymity, that the meeting was cancelled, “by the Americans.” A Taliban statement issued later in the day said the talks were postponed because many members of its 14 person negotiating team were unable to go overseas since they are on “the US and UN blacklist.” Several of them are on the U.N. Security Council sanctions list which bars them from international travel.
Meanwhile, a U.S. official said Zalmay Khalilzad, who was supposed to lead the American delegation, is not planning to visit Islamabad this week.
The U.S. said it had not received an official invitation from the government of Pakistan for this meeting which was first announced by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid a couple of days ago.
Mujahid’s statement had set February 18 as the date of the talks and said a formal invitation had been issued by Pakistan. In addition, he said, the Taliban delegation would also meet the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.
A day later, Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed the talks during a press conference, calling it a “game changer.”
“The next round of negotiations with the Taliban will be in Pakistan, and as a result of these negotiations, there is a chance of stability in Afghanistan,” he said.
Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry reacted strongly to the announcement of a meeting in Islamabad, saying it was in violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution.
“#Afghanistan complains to #UNSecurityCouncil on #Pakistan’s engagements with the Taliban on which #Afg Govenrment is not consulted,” Tweeted Sibghatullah Admadi, a spokesman for the Afghan foreign office.
Previously, Afghanistan launched a similar complaint against Russia for allowing Taliban members to travel to Moscow for a conference in which nearly 50 Afghans, including various political leaders, former jihadi commanders, and civil society activists were invited. However, the Afghan government was not invited to that conference because the Taliban have so far refused to engage with the Kabul administration despite pressure from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and others.
President Ashraf Ghani lashed out at those attending the conference saying they had no “executive authority” to make any agreements.
“Let hundreds of such meetings be held,” he said.
Some analysts say Ghani’s statements indicated his frustration at being left out of the negotiations between the Americans and the Taliban that first started last Summer. Since then, the two sides have held several rounds of talks.
The last meeting in Doha early January lasted for six days and Khalilzad said the two sides had agreed “in principle” to a withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in return for guarantees that Afghan soil will not be used by any terrorist groups or individuals.
Speaking in a public event at Washington based United States Institute of Peace, Khalilzad said the Taliban do not want to “sit with the government alone” because they did not want to give President Ghani an advantage in the presidential elections scheduled in July.
“There are indications that they will be willing to sit with the government in a multi-party arrangement,” he said. (VOA)