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PM Modi likely to visit Drass and Srinagar on July 26 for Kargil Vijay Diwas ceremony

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Srinagar: The Governments in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have been informally sounded out about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s possible visit on occasion of the 24th anniversary of the Indian troops’ victory in the 1999 Kargil war.

The main remembrance ceremony for the Kargil martyrs is held on  July 26 every year at Drass, the border township on the Srinagar-Leh highway between the two UTs born out the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019.

If PM Modi’s programme comes through, it will be his 21st visit to the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir in less than ten years and the first ever attendance of an Indian Prime Minister at the Kargil Vijay Diwas ceremony. Then President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, and the Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited the war memorial at Drass and paid tributes to the soldiers respectively in October 2021 and July 2022.

Authoritative sources said that the Indian Army chief, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Udhampur-based Northern Command and GOCs of the Leh-based 14 Corps and Srinagar-based 15 Corps would be attending the ceremony on this year’s Kargil Vijay Diwas as usual at Drass,  which is 10,800 ft above sea level. The Lieutenant Governors of J&K and Ladkah—Manoj Sinha and Brig. (retd.) B.D. Mishra—would also be present on the occasion of paying tributes to the soldiers and officers who were engaged in the Kargil war.

The Prime Minister is expected to travel to Srinagar by a special aircraft and then proceed to Drass in an Army helicopter. He would be staying there for over an hour and paying tributes to the Indian soldiers and officers who gave the supreme sacrifice of their life while fighting Pakistani troops for 11 weeks.

As many as 527 Indian soldiers and officers sacrificed their lives and 1,363 sustained injuries and suffered infirmities in the undeclared war in which the entire Indian territory occupied by Pakistani forces during the winter was retrieved. Pakistan is believed to have suffered more than 1,000 fatal casualties, even as it officially admitted not more than 453.

Sources said that the authorities were working out the possibility of the PM’s meeting with senior officers of the security forces, police and civil administration in Srinagar before his departure for New Delhi on the same day. If it matures, it will be Prime Minister Modi’s first visit to Srinagar after abrogation of Article 370 and reorganisation of the erstwhile State in August 2019.

“In a few months from now, we are planning Prime Minister Modi’s big political visit including his passage through downtown Srinagar and a massive rally at a stadium in Srinagar. In a series of his Kashmir visits soon, he will be dedicating a large number of projects to the nation and laying the foundation stone of many more projects. But most of the infrastructure development projects are likely to be inaugurated in the first four months of 2024”, said a senior BJP leader.

According to the BJP leader, Modi would also pay obeisance at the revered Muslim shrines of Hazratbal and Chrar-e-Sharief. “But that’s going to take some time. There will be many developments before that”, he added.

Narendra Modi has visited Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as many as 20 times in less than 10 years. Before becoming Prime Minister in 2014, for over 25 years Modi was the BJP leadership’s most frequent visitor to Jammu and Kashmir. In the campaign for the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat for his third term and emerged as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, Modi organised a massive ‘Lalkar Rally’ in Jammu on 1 December 2013.

On 26 March 2014, Modi addressed an election rally at Hiranagar in Jammu and paid obeisance at the Mata Vaishno Devi cave shrine near Katra.

As Prime Minister, Modi visited Jammu for the first time on 4 July 2014 when he inaugurated the 25-km long Udhampur-Katra railway line. On 12 August, 2014, Modi visited Ladakh and Kashmir for the first time as Prime Minister when he inaugurated and laid foundation stone for some power projects in Leh and Kargil. It was the first visit of an Indian Prime Minister to Kargil after the 1999 war. He also laid the foundation stone of a road tunnel in Kashmir’s Sonmarg area.

After taking over as PM in 2014, Modi’s 15 visits to Jammu and Kashmir took place during his first term. However, in his second term the frequency of his J&K visits was mainly affected by the over two-year-long Covid pandemic in 2020-22.

He visited J&K only three times—on 27 October 2019 and 24 October 2022 to celebrate Diwali with the troops in Rajouri and on 24 April 2022 to attend the National Panchayat Diwas in Samba.