Several Indian leaders paid their tributes to war veterans on Friday as India observed the 20th anniversary of the Kargil Vijay Diwas.

India and Pakistan had fought a war in Kargil district of Jammu and Kashmir between May and July 1999. India successfully pushed back Pakistani fighters during “Operation Vijay”. Since then, the Indian Army celebrates July 26, the day the war ended, as “Vijay Diwas”.

“On Kargil Vijay Diwas, a grateful nation acknowledges the gallantry of our Armed Forces on the heights of Kargil in 1999,” President Ram Nath Kovind said on Twitter. “We salute the grit and valour of those who defended India, and record our everlasting debt to those who never returned.”

Vice President Venkaiah Naidu paid his respect to the “brave soldiers of Indian Army who made ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty to protect our nation”. “I salute all the heroes of the Kargil war and Operation Vijay who secured a valiant victory on July 26, 1999,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted photos from his visit to Kargil during the war. “During the Kargil War in 1999, I had the opportunity to go to Kargil and show solidarity with our brave soldiers,” he said. “The visit to Kargil and interactions with soldiers are unforgettable.”

Modi said he was working for the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh at the time.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh paid his respects to the soldiers at the National War Memorial in New Delhi. “Their unwavering courage and supreme sacrifice ensured the safety and sanctity of our borders,” he said on Twitter.

Credit: Rajnath Singh/Twitter
The “Dare Devils” motorcycle display team of the Corps of Signals performs in Drass in Kargil district as part of Vijay Diwas celebration. (Credit: Indian Army)
The Suryakiran aerobatic team performs at the Air Force Station in Bidar, Karnataka on the occasion of Kargil Vijay Diwas. (Credit: PRO Defence Bengaluru)

The three service chiefs – Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa and Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh – paid their tributes at Drass, according to ANI.

“Today is a day to pay homage to those soldiers who laid down their lives, to those who were wounded in battles and those who fought wars,” Rawat said, according to NDTV.

The Congress and the BJP also released statements praising the soldiers.

“On Kargil Vijay Diwas, we are proud to wish all the citizens,” the Congress said. “On this day, our brave soldiers defeated Pakistan with their might and sent a message of self-respect and courage to the whole world. We offer our tribute to all the soldiers who were part of the Kargil victory.”

“We pay tribute to the Kargil martyrs and soldiers who protected the country and the tricolour’s honour and prestige through their indomitable courage and bravery,” the BJP said.