The Serpent Is Under The Carpet – Lt Gen PG Kamath

*THE DEEP STATE IN THE MOD IS AGAINST MODI* This writing has been on the wall since 16th May 2014. Lt Gen Kamath writes in no uncertain terms about what bureaucracy had reduced the Armed Forces to, it’s implications of the political leaders do not learn how to tackle this.
_*THE SERPENT IS UNDER THE CARPET*_

By

Lt Gen PG Kamath

Since the time the NDA took over in mid-2014, I was wondering as to why the rightist government is framing policies against its own armed forces? The volleys against the armed forces have been unabated. There have been three RMs in four tenures and all of them were being played around by the bureaucrats in the MOD like the play dough in the hands of a pre-school child.

It started with the delay in granting OROP and after it was granted its entire character had changed when the details emerged in the government order. The original OROP was badgered and mutilated. The bureaucracy had played its tricks. Then came the 7th Pay Commission as the services got the rawest deal; the officers’ rations were cut in peace times and were given a pittance of financial compensation lesser than what is paid to the convicts in jail in Delhi and other metropolitan cities. Justice Mathur has mentioned in the pay commission report that he was against the NFU however, as it was already in vogue for the past ten years, he let it continue. However, without batting an eyelid he willingly stopped the rations of the officers that were in vogue for over three decades. To quote from what I had read earlier “Justice Retired Mathur Retired Justice” to the armed forces in his recommendations. The government instead of taking him to tasks readily agreed to cut the services to size. The 7th Commission report was accepted without even resolving the Anomalies of the 5th and 6th Pay Commission.

In each quarter the MOD is bringing out one new issue; one after another; seniority issue with the armed forces cadre, not considering the JCOs as gazetted officers in giving them the ID cards of lower class, opening the Cantonments to public by misguiding the RM that the Vice Presidents were responsible for the cantonments, trying to usurp the post of General Manager of CSD from the services, trying to play around with the well laid out procedure and trying to insert an Addl Secretary for selection of Defence Attaches, undermining Gen Shekatkar report by reducing the armed forces personnel without reducing the civilian cadre in Armed forces who are more than 40 percent of the uniformed personnel, reducing the CSD allocations of the forces and taking over Advance Base Workshops so that they have one more cash cow to milk from. Granting NFU for all the central government servants including the PMF but fighting tooth and nail in the court for not granting the same to the Armed Forces, as if they are from a hostile country. They have also made the AFT ineffective, which is functioning with less than forty percent of its authorised benches. The list is endless. Now you may ask why well-settled issues are being raked and new issues are being raised by the MOD to undermine services and lower their morale? The reason should bewilder the PM and RM as well.

The truth is MOD officials are very circumspect and worried of the inquiries into the previous arms deals such as Westland Helicopters. They are also constrained under the NDA that their erstwhile turf is getting reduced and the size of their illegal pie is getting smaller. How marvellous it was under the UPA when there were scams galore; who really had time to talk of scams in defence purchases? Their leverage and their range of operations to milk from cash cows of DRDO and defence deals are getting more and more dangerous as no minister is really partaking and claiming his share of the spoil. To do it alone is dangerous; is it not? The extradition of Christian Michel and Rajiv Saxena has also opened new threats and the best way to guard against the threats is by making Modi very unpopular with the services. The latter to their dismay has also become an approver. The total strength of the Indian Armed Forces is 1.4 million and 2.1 million reservists. In addition, there are well over 5 million veterans. The total adds up to 8.5 million. Multiply this figure by at least 10, the close family circles and extended family circle influenced by the servicemen and veteran and the figure comes to a whopping 85 million voters. The aim of the MOD is to make this 85 million disgruntled with the Modi regime. If even fifty percent of the voters vote against Modi or give the option of ‘NOTA’, it will make a substantial dent into the number of seats for the NDA. We all know how the ‘NOTA’ has made a difference in the number of seats in the recent state elections. As also, the margin of difference has been in some cases a single figure. Once the UPA comes to power they are all smug doing what they want without any threats. The deep state in the MOD can revert back to its antics.

The RM is busy as a spokesperson of the party than as a defence minister. She really does not realise that the ice below her feet is melting slowly. She has fallen prey to the MOD by opening up the Cantonments to civilian traffic, where she had vested interests and that has cost her the moral clout to give firm directions to the bureaucrats in the MOD. Now that they have ensnared her, they are at liberty to badger the services with hitherto non-existing issues. As on today, there is no General Manager for the CSD. The MOD wants a bureaucrat there as they eye it as a lucrative post to make money. A number of DAs posts are lying vacant as MOD is not approving them as they want to insert one of their Babus in the selection committee for the Military Attaches. There is a well laid out system under the Vice Chief of services operative for the past several decades and the MOD wants to tamper with the system. Even the High Commission of India in the Maldives; the country that is geo-strategically so essential for us to sustain our clout in the Indian Ocean has not been posted with a Naval Attaché (NA). The island nation, which has fallen into our fold, due to divine intervention is without an NA; there we are sending a message of indifference towards the nation. The timing is so essential as their new PM has just visited our country and we are in the process of ousting China from the island archipelago. However, the national interest may go to dogs as far as the ego of MOD Babus prevails; they have won their battle. The delay in approving the DA is an anti-national act: RM has to open her eyes and understand how her act of omission is doing a disservice to the nation. She, unwittingly abetting anti-national elements in the MOD. Please do not be surprised if the Embassy of China posts their NA and fills the gap in the absence of Indian NA. All the energy lifelines to China pass between Maldives and India and the geo-strategic ace in our hands would get compromised overnight; the moment the Maldives prefers China to India.

Dear Prime Minister; please tell your RM to do her job and the spokesman for the party can be someone else. The opposition is flogging a dead horse called ‘Rafael’ and they would continue doing so as they really cannot imagine or understand how a defence deal can be done without middlemen and bribes. You should not really blame them as they have done it from the very first deal of independent India in 1948 when they bought jeeps from Britain. Just tell me; how such a party can conceive a defence deal without allurement? It is beyond their thinking prowess. Do not try to defend the deal any more as the public has seen through it; more they talk of the deal the more alienated they would be from the general public. They are digging a pit called Rafael in which they will collectively fall.

All I can say to you, to open your eyes and win back the servicemen and veteran constituency that has been loyal to you and let them not wander away from you, due to clever mechanisation of the MOD. The serpent is under the carpet; you do not have to look for it elsewhere

Gratitude To A Soldier for Life

“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”
–General George Washington,
November 10th, 1781

14th January is celebrated as Veterans Day and 15th January is Indian Army Day. Both days are significant because Field Marshal Kodandera M. Cariappa’s (then a Lieutenant siachen-1General) took over as the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army from General Sir Francis Butcher, the last British Commander-in-Chief of India, on 15th January 1949 and the same Field Marshal Cariappa retired from the Indian Army on 14th Jan, 1953.

Life in the military makes you a multi disciplinary professional. The five pillars on which your life will revolve is so ingrained in you that you cannot think otherwise. The pillars are service before self, mental & physical toughness, a spiritual not religious approach to life, trust & faith, social contribution. You will see this in varied shades in every soldier.
The Army makes you a soldier for life. Which is why, so many Veterans find it difficult in the initial years of retirement to adjust to civvy street. The punctuality, discipline, a methodical approach to doing things and the very thought process itself is very very different.
Indian Army has answered this country’s call several times and will continue to do so. It is engaged in both military & civil operations whenever & wherever necessary. It is time to honour that commitment & dedication of our soldiers. Every soldier who serves unflinchingly expects only one thing from us – respect & honour for the work done by the Armed Forces. The Services must know that we are a grateful nation and are thankful to them. However, the relationship between the Indian soldier, government & citizens is a sad testimony.
Time and again it has been observed the ignorance and worse, apathy towards most things military. I will not comment on the bureaucracy – politicians – military relationship. There are enough experts who write on it regularly. I am more interested in bringing the awareness in a common citizen. Hence, I relist 50 things we can do for our soldiers to show them the respect and honour they so richly deserve. This list is from an earlier blog of mine.
  1. Listen to their stories with interest. If they have fought wars or are a war-veteran they have seen things you will never see. Listen & learn.
  2. Initiate a special talk by anyone from the armed forces fraternity in your schools or colleges.
  3. Greet a soldier in uniform or a veteran with a smile and a thank you.
  4. Start a social drive for them. Gather people in the neighbourhood or like minded people and work on a veteran oriented project.
  5. Make greeting cards and post them to the soldiers, veterans and their families you know.
  6. Send e cards using social media.
  7. Post messages of gratitude in social media pages dedicated to the Indian Armed Forces. Some of the pages are Indian Defence Review, Defence & Security Alert, Indian Defence News, Indian Defence, etc
  8. If there are veterans & their families in your neighbourhood, acknowledge them on special days like Indian Armed Forces Flag Day, Republic Day and Independence Day.
  9. Invite veterans, soldiers and their families to give a talk on those special days. army women
  10. Those of you who knit, sew or embroider, make something for veterans or their families and gift it to them.
  11. If you are dining out or having a coffee or a drink and you know there is a member of the armed forces (serving or retired), invite them to join you. I promise you…you will have a great conversation.
  12. Do a random act of kindness for the members of Indian Armed Forces.
  13. Visit War Memorials in different parts of India, whenever you travel next. You will also meet some of the serving soldiers then. Talk to them…listen to them.
  14. Talk to your children about the pride we have and ought to have in our military. Instil in them the value of being a nationalist and a patriot.
  15. Open your homes on festivals for soldiers on leave, veterans and families. Make it an occasion they will not forget…neither will you.
  16. As parents and teachers, encourage your young ones to write about the Indian Armed Forces. Post it on social media.
  17. Whenever & wherever you hear our national anthem playing, stop, stand and give a thought to our security forces. They have sacrificed for us hear the national anthem. join-indian-defence-forces
  18. Employers – look beyond the usual hiring process and re-employ veterans. They can truly bring a lot of strength to your organization.
  19. Organizations – do not stereo type members of the Indian Armed Forces. You do not know what potential they bring to the table. Think out of the box…they did when they had to save your freedom.
  20. You will find a lot of car stickers that say Army, Navy, Air Force or Armed Forces. Leave a thank you note on the windshield. You will make their day.
  21. Find out which businesses or companies support veterans in your areas or communities. Become their customers.
  22. If you are running a business yourself, offer discounts to your veterans, soldiers and their families.
  23. Check if the local armed forces hospital will allow you to spend time with recovering soldiers and families. Become a support system there.
  24. Do you know parents of soldiers or veterans? Thank them for raising India’s true heroes.
  25. Proudly display “I love Indian Armed Forces” “I support Indian Armed Forces” stickers on your vehicles. Saluting Our Heroes
  26. If there is a military member at the same restaurant as you, send across a drink or dessert expressing your gratitude.
  27. Support war widows in their endeavour to stand on their own.
  28. Find out Ex Service Men organizations that support children of our martyrs. Work with them in enabling and empowering those children.
  29. Become part of developmental projects in villages and towns our war heroes come from. One such project is the Vir Sainik Graam Yojana.
  30. With the help of your local corporator, mayor, panchayat head, district officer or politician organize an event acknowledging and rewarding our veterans.
  31. With the same people helping, you could also organize a pot luck lunch and invite the local community and veterans.
  32. Take a couple of veterans and their families out for a picnic. Swap life stories…you will realise how different their lives are.
  33. Get in touch with local army schools and see how you can help in some of their projects.
  34. Talk to the local army formations and see what kind of community initiatives they run. The Indian Army has some projects going on where they work with civil society. Become part of those.
  35. A number of Ex Service Men organisations also work with local army formations for certain initiatives. Connect with them and contribute your time and skills.
  36. If you have a special talent, offer to teach that talent to children of soldiers and veterans.
  37. Donate your “air miles” to a veteran family you know.
  38. It is not the job of a military man to campaign or publicize what they do. We can do it for them. It also shows how proud we are of them, what they do to protect us.
  39. A group of like minded people can come together and hold an exhibition with the help of veterans on a particular military theme.
  40. As civilians let us ensure our government does it’s duty, so our Armed Forces can do what they do best – protect our country.
  41. During a family union, please raise a toast to the veterans in your family – immediate and extended. Express your gratitude.
  42. Teach children and the youth of our country India’s proud history and legacy. We have much to be proud of and this legacy we have to pass on to our next generations.
  43. Pass out small flags on Armed Forces Day in your neighbourhood. Share small stories that you know or get people to share those stories with you.
  44. Dedicate a patriotic song in honour of a veteran or active soldier on your favourite radio channel.
  45. Offer a pick up or drop to the airport or railway station to your veteran neighbour and their families.
  46. Encourage your kids to spend time with the veterans or active soldiers whenever there is an opportunity. They will learn a lot. martyrs-day
  47. Teach children patriotic songs and get them to sing them on various occasions.
  48. Employers & Companies – host a special lunch for your veteran colleagues. Acknowledge their contribution to the growth of your company and your country.
  49. Vote. Exercise your franchise. Don’t let their sacrifices come to a naught. A good citizen votes to protect the freedom of our country. Do not take that freedom for granted. Our soldiers have paid with their lives for that freedom. Value it, cherish it.
  50. To truly honour our armed forces make the best of the opportunity the sacrifices of our fighting men and women have provided. Love India with passion, and do what you can to make it a better place.

Who is a military man? A military man – whether active duty, retired or in reserve or re employed – who at one point in his/her life signed a blank cheque made payable to the “Republic of India” for an amount of “up to & including his/her life.” That is honour. A lot of people do not appreciate or acknowledge or understand that fact.

Let us stand up for them, raise our caps, raise a toast and salute the honour and integrity of these brave hearts.

Happy Army Day!

Manohar Parrikar – The Man, The Minister

After having gotten over the news of Manohar Parrikar going back to Goa as the Chief Minister, I write this piece as someone who has had the opportunity of meeting & interacting with him. My interactions with Mr Parrikar happened because I work with an Ex Service Men (ESM) organisation called Akhil Bharatiya Poorva Sainik Seva Parishad (ABPSSP) and as a member of a Mumbai based think tank, Forum for Integrated National Security (FINS).

I first met him in a conclave organised by FINS in February 2015. What struck me in that conclave was unlike other politicians, I found him listening more than talking. His speech at the conclave was brief, to the point and his vision of Make in India to succeed in the

manohar-parrikar-afp-file-650_650x400_51434000668

Image courtesy NDTV

defence production segment was one of hope, positivity, and inclusiveness. He said he wanted more local manufacturers, big & small, to be part of the defence production process and assured them business from the Ministry of Defence if they were willing to commit to quality, timely deliverables & cost effectiveness. He made notes and asked questions to clarify, validate and understand. What a refreshing change it was to find a Minister do that.

The preceding months I had read enough criticism about him in/by the media – print, electronic and social. How he does not understand defence & security, his dressing sense, how he cannot salute, etc. etc. After having met him, the media view seemed so shallow. I wondered (still do) why the media focuses on the negative and destructive criticism rather than positive and constructive criticism.

In the following months, I had the opportunity to meet and interact with Mr Parrikar again. This time it was to do with my work in ABPSSP and working for the welfare of ESM. OROP agitation was at its peak and he was doing his best to resolve it in a conducive manner. His predecessors were in no way close to the patience he displayed towards all the ESM organisations and his commitment in seeing the OROP issue resolved. As OROP

manohar-parrikar_759

Image courtesy Indian Express

became a reality, he personally instructed my organisation to keep validating with our ESM members & families about the money being credited into their accounts. In fact, Mr Parrikar became a guiding force for ABPSSP to organise several meetings to resolve any pension related challenges of our ESM. On a visit to remote Mahuadan village in Jharkhand, when I addressed about 250 plus ESM & families and asked them about receiving OROP, they all affirmed positively. Not only that, they said, “We bless the Raksha Mantri for having made this possible.” Few politicians actually get blessings from the public!

Formal education and current position can define your worthiness. What makes you different is defined by your attitude towards others. And this is seen in Mr Parrikar. He always returned calls, responded to emails and did not bother about detractors who underestimated his intellect & judged him only by his outward appearance.

The energy and the “to do attitude” was so evident and infectious, that Mr Parrikar inspired the implementers endlessly. He himself is a man of action with a simple, straight forward approach. I had once asked him how he views his role as Raksha Mantri of the country. His response reflects his attitude. He said this is a role with responsibilities that has been entrusted to him by the government and he must deliver results to ensure proper functioning of the ministry. He shared great vibes when he visited formations and addressed the soldiers. Many of my serving friends in the armed forces have come away pleasantly surprised by his no nonsense approach & positive outlook towards bringing in necessary changes in the armed forces.

This must do approach again became evident when he facilitated a meeting between ABPSSP and Skill Development Ministry as we had requested for it. His support to build skill sets for our retiring soldiers and encouragement to use the skill sets they have developed while in service enabled us to create projects at the state level for both – the retired & the retiring soldier.

His sharp grasp of complexities and result oriented approach saw many a change in the Ministry of Defence. That was him as the Minister. What a lot of people may not know is the humane side of Mr Parrikar. His quiet visits to families of martyred soldiers, action towards their problems that were stuck in the bureaucratic labyrinth of the Ministry, ensuring quick decisions were implemented & cross verification of the same, his simple approach when he interacts and easy manner of communication, are all traits that make him differently unique in the world of politics. Families of martyred soldiers have a lot to be thankful for. In November last year, Mr Parrikar quietly doubled the compensation for widows and families of soldiers dying while fighting for the country in five categories. He has taken personal interest in every case that was put up to him for rehabilitation or resettling of families of martyred soldiers. For two ladies, Mrs Swati Mahadik (w/o Late Lt Col Santosh Mahadik) and Mrs Nidhi Dubey (w/o Late Naik Mukesh Dubey) he helped cut down the bureaucratic process of applying to the Officers Training Academy and today both are proud lady cadets at the OTA.

Mr Manohar Parrikar definitely initiated change in the Defence Ministry. However, as the man performing the role of a minister, he sets the benchmark high. That is a tall act to follow.

 

Fifty Ways To Thank Our Armed Forces!

Spending time in the UK led me to discover some amazing day to day aspects of British society treats people in general, and the armed forces in particular. In the last couple of days, I took the opportunity of visiting St John’s House, Museum of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (Royal Warwickshire). The museum tells the story of over 300 years of history of the County Regiment, from its raising in 1674 to the Fusiliers of today…a fascinating journey!

What was more fascinating for me was my conversation with a veteran, Major James Fullarton, who was visiting the

St Johns Museum, Warwick

St Johns Museum, Warwick

museum. Major Fullarton was curious to know why an Indian woman was visiting this particular museum as he said not many foreigners are seen here. I explained my background of being an Indian army brat and we started talking. His grandfather had served in the British army in India in the 1920s and his father served in the Royal Navy. Our conversation led us to discussing many things about the state of the armed forces world over and he shared some things that made me feel proud & elated, yet, disappointed & sad. Proud & elated because the community of armed forces world over is based on the same set of ethos and principles, unlike the governments they are part of. Disappointed & sad because we in India, do not do half the things that British, American or any European society does for their soldiers.

Part of my learning that from Major Fullarton is compiled into what I would call Fifty Ways to thank our armed forces and this includes veterans and military wives and children. 1_Flag_of_Armed_Forces_in_India

  1. Listen to their stories with interest. If they have fought wars or are a war-veteran they have seen things you will never see. Listen & learn.
  2. Initiate a special talk by anyone from the armed forces fraternity in your schools or colleges.
  3. Greet a soldier in uniform or a veteran with a smile and a thank you.
  4. Start a social drive for them. Gather people in the neighbourhood or like minded people and work on a veteran oriented project.
  5. Make greeting cards and post them to the soldiers, veterans and their families you know.
  6. Send e cards using social media.
  7. Post messages of gratitude in social media pages dedicated to the Indian Armed Forces. Some of the pages are Indian Defence Review, Defence & Security Alert, Indian Defence News, Indian Defence, etc
  8. If there are veterans & their families in your neighbourhood, acknowledge them on special days like Indian Armed Forces Flag Day, Republic Day and Independence Day.
  9. Invite veterans, soldiers and their families to give a talk on those special days. army women
  10. Those of you who knit, sew or embroider, make something for veterans or their families and gift it to them.
  11. If you are dining out or having a coffee or a drink and you know there is a member of the armed forces (serving or retired), invite them to join you. I promise you…you will have a great conversation.
  12. Do a random act of kindness for the members of Indian Armed Forces.
  13. Visit War Memorials in different parts of India, whenever you travel next. You will also meet some of the serving soldiers then. Talk to them…listen to them.
  14. Talk to your children about the pride we have and ought to have in our military. Instil in them the value of being a nationalist and a patriot.
  15. Open your homes on festivals for soldiers on leave, veterans and families. Make it an occasion they will not forget…neither will you.
  16. As parents and teachers, encourage your young ones to write about the Indian Armed Forces. Post it on social media.
  17. Whenever & wherever you hear our national anthem playing, stop, stand and give a thought to our security forces. They have sacrificed for us hear the national anthem. join-indian-defence-forces
  18. Employers – look beyond the usual hiring process and re-employ veterans. They can truly bring a lot of strength to your organization.
  19. Organizations – do not stereo type members of the Indian Armed Forces. You do not know what potential they bring to the table. Think out of the box…they did when they had to save your freedom.
  20. You will find a lot of car stickers that say Army, Navy, Air Force or Armed Forces. Leave a thank you note on the windshield. You will make their day.
  21. Find out which businesses or companies support veterans in your areas or communities. Become their customers.
  22. If you are running a business yourself, offer discounts to your veterans, soldiers and their families.
  23. Check if the local armed forces hospital will allow you to spend time with recovering soldiers and families. Become a support system there.
  24. Do you know parents of soldiers or veterans? Thank them for raising India’s true heroes.
  25. Proudly display “I love Indian Armed Forces” “I support Indian Armed Forces” stickers on your vehicles. Saluting Our Heroes
  26. If there is a military member at the same restaurant as you, send across a drink or dessert expressing your gratitude.
  27. Support war widows in their endeavour to stand on their own.
  28. Find out Ex Service Men organizations that support children of our martyrs. Work with them in enabling and empowering those children.
  29. Become part of developmental projects in villages and towns our war heroes come from. One such project is the Vir Sainik Graam Yojana.
  30. With the help of your local corporator, mayor, panchayat head, district officer or politician organize an event acknowledging and rewarding our veterans.
  31. With the same people helping, you could also organize a pot luck lunch and invite the local community and veterans.
  32. Take a couple of veterans and their families out for a picnic. Swap life stories…you will realise how different their lives are.
  33. Get in touch with local army schools and see how you can help in some of their projects.
  34. Talk to the local army formations and see what kind of community initiatives they run. The Indian Army has some projects going on where they work with civil society. Become part of those.
  35. A number of Ex Service Men organisations also work with local army formations for certain initiatives. Connect with them and contribute your time and skills.
  36. If you have a special talent, offer to teach that talent to children of soldiers and veterans.
  37. Donate your “air miles” to a veteran family you know.
  38. It is not the job of a military man to campaign or publicize what they do. We can do it for them. It also shows how proud we are of them, what they do to protect us.
  39. A group of like minded people can come together and hold an exhibition with the help of veterans on a particular military theme.
  40. As civilians let us ensure our government does it’s duty, so our Armed Forces can do what they do best – protect our country.
  41. During a family union, please raise a toast to the veterans in your family – immediate and extended. Express your gratitude.
  42. Teach children and the youth of our country India’s proud history and legacy. We have much to be proud of and this legacy we have to pass on to our next generations.
  43. Pass out small flags on Armed Forces Day in your neighbourhood. Share small stories that you know or get people to share those stories with you.
  44. Dedicate a patriotic song in honour of a veteran or active soldier on your favourite radio channel.
  45. Offer a pick up or drop to the airport or railway station to your veteran neighbour and their families.
  46. Encourage your kids to spend time with the veterans or active soldiers whenever there is an opportunity. They will learn a lot. martyrs-day
  47. Teach children patriotic songs and get them to sing them on various occasions.
  48. Employers & Companies – host a special lunch for your veteran colleagues. Acknowledge their contribution to the growth of your company and your country.
  49. Vote. Exercise your franchise. Don’t let their sacrifices come to a naught. A good citizen votes to protect the freedom of our country. Do not take that freedom for granted. Our soldiers have paid with their lives for that freedom. Value it, cherish it.
  50. To truly honour our armed forces make the best of the opportunity the sacrifices of our fighting men and women have provided. Love India with passion, and do what you can to make it a better place.

Who is a military man? A military man – whether active duty, retired or in reserve or re employed – who at one point in his/her life signed a blank cheque made payable to the “Republic of India” for an amount of “up to & including his/her life.” That is honour. A lot of people do not appreciate or acknowledge or understand that fact.

Let us stand up for them, raise our caps, raise a toast and salute the honour and integrity of these brave hearts.

Jai Hind Ki Sena!

The Blood Flows And My Land Turns Red

Death visits the mundane a heightened gravity, making life’s trivia beautiful and everyday weighty. Had Col MN Rai, Lt Col Sankalp, Maj Mukund Varadrajan or the countless others lived, each of them would have grown old with their spouse, experienced the pains & pleasures of bringing up teenage children, cared for their parents, done their bit for society. Above all, they would have lived to tell the tale.

The last year and half has seen many deaths in the Kashmir Valley. Death – that is what it is like. It doesn’t matter what uniforms the soldiers are wearing. It doesn’t matter how good the weapons are. And, that is the thing about death. No one can get used to it. Just when you think you are reconciled, accepted, you hear about it again, and it just hits you all over, that shock.

A lot of my friends had pertinent questions sometime ago, when we were discussing the futility of a war thrust upon a country because of political whims and fancies. Irrespective of how a war happens, one thing is certain…Herbert Hoover said, “older men declare war, younger men fight & die.” One of the questions that came up was, “when we talk of army preparedness and training and strategy, why is it that so many of our soldiers die?” Well, to all those who have that question on their mind, I would like them to read what Lt Gen Ata Hasnain of the Indian Army has to say. He said this in the context of Col MN Rai being martyred yesterday in the Valley.

“In ‘Last Mile’ tactical level operations for elimination of terrorists there will be casualties and the traditional ratios of own against terrorist losses will rise, at times abnormally. This must not draw the ire of the higher leadership but rather its constant monitoring and advice. Losses occur due to the lowering of guard and failure to take sufficient precautions in apparently simple operations. The return of suicide acts by terrorists, last witnessed in the early part of the millennium, remains a distinct possibility with targets being in the areas closer to the LoC. This has the effect of forcing LoC formations to shed more troops for security at the cost of the counter infiltration grid at the LoC.

Horribly proverbial but rightly predicted I feel. It takes away nothing from Late Col MN Rai’s valor and leadership. Most casualties occur either in the first TWO MINUTES of a contact or then, in urban ops, during attempts to break in by the Search elements. In this case it was neither. I recall a similar situation at a village called Batpura, on outskirts of the Old Airfield, where in a long stand off with six to eight LeT trts in 2000, the then GOC Victor Force forced me (I was then Col GS) against my advice to take him to the Cordon to witness the search operations. We were watching the operations without Bullet Proof Jackets and standing on a vantage point provided by the terrace of an incomplete house. Suddenly, I found two trts breaking the close cordon and running towards us, firing on the run. The fire raked the building around and we could just pull the GOC out of harms way. The valiant soldiers of 6 SIKH then eliminated the two trts. I learnt my lesson of not interfering with ops of ground troops.

Late Col Rai’s action is not akin to the above. He was providing frontline leadership. It is usual in the RR for the CO to move to the spot with his QRT and take charge. Let us not fault him on that at all. I am not aware whether he was wearing a BPJ; he must have been because that is an SOP. Possibly, for a momentary break in SOPs he stepped out from cover to examine for himself where the target area was. That is when possibly he was shot at. A case of sheer bad luck but then people have to realize that officers of our Army have this passion to be there with the men and facing the same odds that their men face. If it is not so, no individual under fire is going to raise his head. The presence of a CO with them energizes all ranks. That is the risk that Late Col Rai took and no one can fault him for it. Given the situation I would have done exactly what he did. There is an element of such risk which goes with your responsibility. That is why we are all saying that Late Col MN Rai, YSM, sacrificed his life in the finest tradition of the Indian Army. Such acts need not be faulted, for the sake of the officer – man relationship which exists in our Army.”

Leadership in the army is walk the talk. Harold AcAlindon once said, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.  ” That is exactly what our brave soldiers do, when they are battling the enemy. They leave a trail behind them, a trail that few us can comprehend, much less follow. To such an army, what tribute or homage do I pay? My eyes are filled with unshed tears, knowing that while they lay down their lives to protect us, their families miss them in the everyday routine. A song heard, a festival celebrated, a birthday party hosted, a movie watched…how does one get over the vaccuum. The absence of that one person in the family leaves a void that can never be fulfilled, a dark gash that cuts through the family every time they think of him. I have lost friends who died fighting for us. The families feel proud….yet, there is an emotional part that dies with the soldier. A mother whose youth snapped over her son’s death, a father who weeps silently rocking himself on a chair, grandparents who keep wondering why it couldn’t be them, instead of their grandson, a wife who feels is presence in everything around her.

For my part, I can only spread the word, share my feelings and help build an awareness of what is it that our Armed Forces are all about. Remember, we have a confirmed threat against our country and I for one am grateful for the Indian Armed Forces sitting in deserts, on snowy peaks and plains all through out the year. I see three commonalities.

(1) Passion. The Indian Armed Forces runs on this one factor…passion to serve the nation, passion to protect, passion to be the best.

(2) This brings me to the second commonality…we are all Indians. Yes, we fuss, we have differences of opinions, but we are all Indians and not hyphenated Indians.

(3) The third and most important commonality is the fact that we all bleed red.

And from where I am, it is the same red blood that is seeping through my land, turning the colour of the soil, choking me, numbing me and a silent cry…how many more, how many more?

 

 

The Race To Dhaka – 1971 & Beyond

Forty three years ago India stood tall on this day as the Indian Armed Forces came of age, from fighting tactical battles to perfecting the art of joint services collaboration and multi-theatre war.The Pakistan army’s surrender was a victory of India’s intelligence agencies, diplomacy and the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

On this historical day, Pakistan army’s Commander of East Pakistan – Lieutenant General A.A.K. Niazi – surrendered before Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora, who was the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C) of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army. Lt Gen Niazi took off his lanyard, badges of rank and pistol and signed the surrender document marking the end of a 13-day blitzkrieg. This was the only war that the independent Indian Army planned, executed and carried out with precision and captured 93,000 prisoners.

I am not going to chronicle the war itself today. I write so that some of my readers do not forget what we as a country did and are capable of  image_3doing. Our politicians and governments have all but forgotten 1971. As a result, our younger generation does not know India’s aggressive attitude that was showcased in December 1971.  This war created a lot of firsts for us:

  • First major victory for a young Indian democracy that helped strengthen the confidence of the leadership and population.
  • First time that the Indian leadership took a decisive action on moral grounds.
  • First time that we violated the UN Charter.
  • First time that we stood up to the US of A, China & Europe.
  • First time that we put our heads together to rectify a mistake that the British had made.
  • First time that India decided the Bangladeshi immigration problem must have a solution that would give Bangla Desh legitimate freedom.

A country that won a war, liberated it’s neighbour, resolved certain geo political issues in the region did not celebrate this victory in a manner image befitting a winner. We let go of our position as a power to reckon with and developed a psyche of shunning/ignoring our defence forces, instead of building the capability & potential of our Armed Forces. Lord Meghnad Desai puts it well, “If we continue to be embarrassed about our Armed Forces, we will never be able to establish leadership in Asia. And it is especially relevant now as Pakistan is not a threat, it is a pin prick, our competitive threat lies in China.”

With the 1971 War, Indira Gandhi achieved a lot, bordering on the impossible. She dismembered Pakistan, permanently reduced its territory and humiliated it militarily. A humiliation from which the country has never recovered, so much so that last week General Pervez Musharraf told a Pakistani channel that he launched the Kargil operation as a ‘tit-for-tat’ for the 1971 war. He lost that war as an army chief, and it was a shame that he brought upon his country is something he conveniently ignored talking about. As did the journalist who interviewed him.  image_1

The war also removed any feelings of inferiority of the Indian Armed Forces. Unfortunately, that’s where it stopped. Post 1971,  we have become a country that refuses to acknowledge the selfless contribution, sacrifices and service of the defence of this country. We do absolutely nothing to invest emotionally in a victory that took place after 8 centuries of foreign domination. In fact, as a nation, we have done precious little emotional investment in our armed forces.

World over, December 25th marks the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Truce of the First World War. Homage is being paid to the Indian soldier and his bravery recognized across the European countries. Indian Army’s exploits in Europe, their landing in Marseilles is being celebrated by the French. Israel, even today, celebrates Liberation of Haifa from Ottoman Empire in 1918. Over 900 Indian soldiers became martyrs in a foreign land. Israel acknowledges with gratitude, every year, the supreme sacrifice of those Indian soldiers. It saddens me to say here, in India, we refuse to recognize the victorious exploits of our Armed Forces. 1971 War is all but forgotten by the nation. image_2

A sense of nationalistic pride must be instilled in the younger generation about our achievements and what we are capable of today also. Let us make a beginning by paying tribute to all the known and unknown heroes who have protected India and all Indians for the last 7 decades.

The time has come for us to recognize, acknowledge and salute the soldiers who sacrifice their everything for our something. I felt humbled this morning to meet the war veterans of 1971 at the Vijay Diwas Memorial Service in Bangalore, knowing that they stood tall at our borders, only for us to sleep safely at night.

As a citizen of this great country, I appeal to the 125 crore Indians to pay homage to the Indian Armed Forces, because of whom, we have inherited a favourable geo strategic environment, in which we can build a progressive and prosperous India.

Jai Hind!