Saturday, December 18, 2010

Honour the Soldier : India must Never Forget its Armed Forces

THIRTYNINE years ago, India recorded a spectacular military victory over Pakistan which has since been closely studied and analysed by several military forces the world over. The military victory, which involved considerable planning, evoked the largest surrender after World War-II, a record that was later broken by Saddam Hussein’s mother of all surrenders during the 1991 Gulf war. The most significant consequence of India’s military victory was that it rendered irrelevant Jinnah’s two-nation theory – East Pakistan broke away from West Pakistan to build a national identity based on (Bengali) ethnicity and language rather than on the commonality of religion.Indeed, the record of the Indian soldier has been among the most glorious. From conducting nation-consolidation operations starting with Junagadh, Kashmir, Hyderabad and later Goa to nation-preservation against attacks from Pakistan and China, the Indian military has also been wantonly misused if not abused as evident from its involvement in Operation Bluestar in Punjab, Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka and internal security operations in Kashmir and in the Northeast due to a long history of gross political and administrative mismanagement.Yet, the stoic and apolitical Indian soldier has performed uncomplainingly and with aplomb even as some governments in our neighbourhood succumbed to military interference or coups. His sacrifice remains mostly unheralded. In April this year the Supreme Court observed that our soldiers were being shabbily treated by the government. Disgustingly, successive governments have failed even to build a national war memorial. The India Gate, where our President ritualistically lays a wreath every Republic Day and which we treat as a war memorial, was, ironically, built by the British colonialists to commemorate the 90,000 Indian soldiers who died fighting in World War-I and in the Third Anglo-Afghan war. It is a national shame that ex-servicemen have been returning their gallantry medals to the indifference of our politicians. Unlike the US where successive presidents starting from US Army Colonel Harry Truman to Air Force First Lieutenant George W. Bush or the present British Royal family starting from Queen Elizabeth-II to her grandson, Royal Army Lieutenant Prince Harry, all of who have a distinguished record of military service and of seeing action in wars, the Indian politician ranks among the most corrupt and self-seeking with rare examples of either he or his son serving in the military. India cannot afford to forget that all books of statecraft starting with Sun Tzu’s Art of War, Kautilya’s Arthashastra, Niccolo Machiavelli’s Prince warn against neglecting the soldier. We can risk this only to our own peril.
Published in Tribune on Friday, December 17,  2010

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