Snowbound at
18,000 feet

Toys for
General Geek

Spies and spymasters

But life
goes on


On a cool, tense morning last May,'s Chindu Sreedharan remembers setting out from Srinagar for the heights of Kargil.

The conflict had not officially started. In government parlance, what had happened beyond Zojila Pass was still 'infiltration'. Not 'intrusion'. The army believed that militants were trying to sneak into Kashmir.

The militarily important National Highway 1A had just reopened after winter, and Sreedharan was part of the first media team permitted to what later became the battle zone.

His brief was to report on the situation in Kargil town: for the third consecutive summer, it was under shelling from Pakistan. The assignment was not expected to last more than three days.

As things turned out, he ended up overstaying. And covering more than mere infiltration.

The Kargil he drove into was in sharp contrast to his expectation. He had thought it would be a ghost town. It was not. Shells burst on the hillocks. Yet the people were staying put.

Two days later, on May 26, that changed. India launched air strikes. In retaliation many expected Pakistan to shell Kargil out of existence. There was a mad scramble out of the town. Operation Vijay was on.

It is one year since. Today Kargil is quiet. But the conflict has left its marks -- and not just in the form of shelled-out buildings.

For the first time, Indian and Pakistani soldiers maintained a winter vigil along 150 km of border in what's probably the world's most inhospitable terrain. Here the temperatures dip to 60 degrees below zero. The altitude ranges between 12,000 feet and 18,000 feet. Even normal breathing is a supreme effort at such heights.

In New Delhi intelligence gathering and technological advances are being keenly pursued. It is hoped that this will prevent another military misadventure.

In Kargil, people struggle to get on with their interrupted lives. All the while, they look over their shoulder for another threat, another conflict.

In a four-part series put together with the help of Senior Correspondent Josy Joseph and Reporter Swapna Khanna in New Delhi and Special Contributing Correspondent M D Riti in Bangalore, Designer Sunil Krishnan and Senior Researcher Rupali Nimkar, Assistant Editor Chindu Sreedharan chronicles the impact of India's undeclared war with Pakistan.

ON TO PART 1: Snowbound at 18,000 feet