This is a childish story, at best fit to be recited as a bed time story for small children. This is not meant as a treatise for the old and bold, or even for the ‘Lion Hearted’ young and present breed of very wise and equally sagacious, valorous soldiers still in uniform. Kindly forgive me if I say something amiss below. What I have said is from the heart and not the head. Sometimes, just sometimes, it is better to think with the heart, and not the head. It is a lament from an old man, just a retired type and not a veteran of any merit. But my ‘Dil Mange More’
In the beginning, somewhere in the distant past, there was a man, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, a suave anglicised barrister who threw away his career as well as his clothes, went about near naked frequently chanting ‘Freedom, Freedom’. He was instrumental in frightening the might of the British Empire, enough to make them quit India. In the distant past, a concept called India awoke at the midnight hour anxious for a tryst with it’s destiny. Seems a long time ago. Then came a man called Sardar Patel who went with a stick and carrot to annex 446 kingdoms to convert his concept into reality, a nation called India. India is/was an artificially created nation, with nary a thought for geo-political borders. It may have never have seen the light of the day on 15 Aug 1947 if the Brits had been allowed to ‘Balkanise’ when they were leaving this subcontinent. But for Sardar Patel, we may have been ruled in penny packets by Nadir Shah like Nawabs or Maha Rajas. In retrospect that would not have been such a bad idea since India is now riven with cast creed and politics. The Nawabs and Maha Rajas did not disappear. They are still around, though they are hoteliers tuned agriculturalists turned politicians turned actors …..they are more educated, benevolent and still revered unlike the pompous politicals with myopic strategic vision and no particular love for India. The more they proclaim nonpartisan, secular or nationalistic, the more partisan, non-secular and antinational they are.
Somewhere in the distant past, there were other men in and out of uniform, like Jayramdas and Bob Khathing, who had the vision to annex to India large swaths of adjacent real-estate now a state of the union called the Arunachal Pradesh. Somewhere in the distant past, there were others too, politicals as well as field commanders in uniform, who helped annex Junagarh, Hyderabad, Goa, Damen, Dieu, Nagar Haveli, Pondicheri etc to create what in their vision was a wholesome India with no warts and thorns in the Indian backside. Unfortunately the warts and thorns have only got worse as the days passed by. Sometimes I wonder whether Gandhi did the right thing, shouting himself hoarse for ‘Freedom’, or whether Sardar Patel did the right thing creating this ruddy unmanageable and untenable monolith called India. I sometimes wonder, how soon we are going to fracture like the way the erstwhile Soviet Union went.
Somewhere in the distant past, there were clever dedicated men in the IB and RAW, as well as in the foreign office, who surreptitiously precipitated revolution against neighbouring monarchies without firing a shot, helped annex Sikkim, of utmost strategic importance to safeguard ‘Chicken’s Neck’ the narrow umbilical chord that connects the North Eastern states with rest of India. Now-a-days these agencies continue to create revolutions, for whose benefit I am not too sure. I am also not too sure whether they create revolution inside or outside India, perhaps even export terrorism to neighbouring countries or invite such catastrophe right back to India.
In that distant past, there were lesser mortals too, who in their bonhomie and exuberance, went and gave away islands in the Andamans, hard won Hajipir pass or Chamb, the barren waste land of Kutch and Aksaichin, the Bugina Bulge in Tangdhar, the Jelep-La pass ………..so many. They did not have the strategic vision of the consequences of their generosity. North Coco island is now a Chinese ELINT station for monitoring everything that is launched from Wheelers Island and doubling up as Chinese submarine support base. Hajipir and Chamb plague us year after year and the military continues to loose precious lives. Kutch is the richest oil bearing area in the word, though digging it out is an awesome task. Aksaichin and the Bugina Bulge are the only routes to pipe in petroleum products from Tajikistan beyond the Saksham Valley who are more than willing to make India self-sufficient in energy security. But these strategic areas are now in the hands of the enemy – we gave it away.
What looks barren and useless today may be our only life line for tomorrow. When you go home, tell them about the hundred odd 'Ahir' old men of Razangla post who died fighting, they gave up their today for our tomorrow, for silly ground that had no blade of grass. But they had 20/20 vision about it’s strategic importance tomorrow. I feel sad for the valorous soldiers who guard and fight for the Siachen glacier, the hunk of ice. Of what importance it is, one needs 20/20 vision to perceive it.
In that distant past the old men collectively left us a legacy, ‘Layen Hai Toofan Se, Kishti Nkal Ke’, with a request ‘ Rakh Na Mere Bachon Sambhal Ke’. A man called Ambedkar sat and wrote a watertight constitution, the means to stay a peaceful republic, the power to the elected representatives to govern well. Long ago the elected representatives passed the Army/Navy/AF act and made the military in charge of the National Security because the wise men knew that in Mahabharath the political Kauravas with their coterie of bureaucrats would not have wit, wisdom or strategic knowhow, they would have to depend upon the Krishnas and Arjunas in uniform to keep the nation ‘Sambhalke’.
I lament because I was once a soldier, but not any longer. Now I don’t even have golf balls in my pocket. I lament that the young men in uniform seem to be throwing away their balls, abdicating their responsibility towards their ‘Strategic Vision’ and towards National Security of several kinds, be it real estate, be it energy, be it cyber space, be it anything. They seem not to wish to ‘bark or bite’ on their own, unless someone says, ‘Shoo Dog’. Who is there to say ‘Shoo Dog’ ? The political wrestlers? The buggers can’t even govern, so what vision can they have ?
In my one Rupee worth opinion, the realm of strategic thought on ‘National Security’ is not always in the daily mundane thoughts of the Indian diaspora, bureaucrats or the politicals. They are simply concerned with their daily chores, the cataclysm of survival in a cesspool of democratic life. They don’t even care to govern, they just want to steal what Nadir Shah left behind. The media barons hopes to be king makers, to sell push up bra and ‘deo’ sprays in continuously repeated advertisements. They want to join the loot. Everyone in India has an agenda, except the military (discount the rotten apples, they are just a few). The military is supposed to isolate itself within barbed wire enclosures (cantonments), leading a disciplined, healthy and orderly life, doing continues training as well as courses in house or abroad. Sharpening their wit and wisdom. Their only raison d’etre, of being in uniform, is to have strategic thought and to remember ….. ‘ Rakh Na Mere Bachon Sambhal Ke’. It is their duty to protect the national interest without asking anyone, least of all the bureaucrats or the politicals whose expediency is at best to concentrate on their personal survival. The military is not supposed to think of survival, theirs is to do and die. They are not supposed be canine breed, the ‘Shoo Dog variety’. They are meant to be Lions, to roar and to strike when there is a security threat – and not wait for a Shoo Dog command from a bureaucrat or a political master.
Long ago, around 1966-67, there was an incredible, soldierly GOC of a Mtn Div called Sagat Singh, for a while in-charge of the area around Nathu La Pass. The Chinese made a foray into his sector one night. Next morning Sagat wiped them out using artillery. He was a man who believed in ‘ Rakh Na Mere Bachon Sambhal Ke’. He did not abdicate his responsibility to some bureaucrat or politician, seeking a ‘Shoo Dog’ order. He did not create an embarrassment for the bureaucrats or the politicals, they have no idea what is to be done if the military goes begging to them for ‘Shoo Dog’ orders. There have been other Sagat Singhs too, but just a few. Unfortunately most of the top rung of the military became men of straw. There are many reasons for this slow degradation of the mind and dereliction of duty at the highest levels, too many to list.
Somewhere in the distant past, during the partition, the Indian military mostly stayed within their barracks, ignoring the murder and mayhem, the exodus, largest human tragedy equalling the World War. They were waiting for ‘Shoo Dog’ order that never came. There was none with the wisdom to give the order, the political masters at that time did not have the wherewithal, the British still had control over the military and they were not going to let the British officers start fighting each other across the border. The Kashmir imbroglio happened in the distant past, simply because the politicals and the ruddy babus wanted everything to be politically correct. The military had the wits, wisdom and a-priori information, but they waited too long for the ‘Shoo Dog order’. The politicals did not have the will and zest to be bold and decisive. In 1962, the darkest hour, the political masters did indeed order ‘Shoo Dog’, rather knee jerk and inappropriate. But the military did not use their wits or wisdom to apprise the political masters that for a dog to go running to bite, there is some amount of planning to be done, logistic preparations to be made, that a war cannot be fought at a moment’s notice. The military at that time was competing with each other, they had been told to show obeisance and sycophancy to the political masters. It is happening all over again.
In 1965, the military had enough notice to prepare, but chose not to, despite the provocations. And when the masters did give the Shoo Dog order, it was rather late in the day. There were the brave hearts, who went beyond the call of duty and gave their lives, and saved the day and our honour. The finest hour was 1971. There was an incredible bond between the military and the political, the political was prepared to take a back seat and allow the military to run the show. It was the only exception when we had a ‘Higher Defence Command’, personal amity and bonhomie between the services.
Subsequently there were many other operations, Chequer Board, Brass Tacks, Pawan ………, till the Pakis came up with ‘Zorbe Moimim’, a tactical nuclear strike strategy to suck up Indian strike corps deep into Paki deserts in Sind and Nuke them there, in their own territory, the world would not complain. The N Bomb makes the politicals and the babus quake in their langot. ‘Zorbe Moimim’ made the Indian military absolutely redundant and impotent. The military no longer has an option to wage war, even if the ruddy parliament is attacked. The military could at best bomb our own territory, rattle our sabre, aka Kargil. So somewhere in recent past, the military began to turn their strategic vision and focus from external to internal security and left the Foreign Office and RAW to help avoid a confrontation or war with the enemy. They turned the military to a service at best capable of waving flags, blowing whistles and holding up banners asking the enemy to leave us alone, like it happened recently in DBO and Demchok. It has become catch 22, no one wants to do or die, it is more of ‘avoiding doing anything to stay alive’.
I am not a war monger. However, I do believe that we have to upgrade the air fields at Nayoma, Chushul and the DBO. We have to have a mountain strike corps. The Navy must become a blue water force. The Army must have their own Air Corps, with strike and lift capability. I believe that we need to upgrade our military and give them the best there is to stand and fight. I believe that we must have a full-fledged base in Tajikistan, to extend our strike capability east, southwest and to west if such a need arises. But for heaven sake we must stop holding press conferences, beat our chest like Tarzan, and go ‘gung ho’ declaring everything that we are going to do, declare superpower ambitions – did the Chinese declare that they are going to build a road in Aksai Chin or build air fields in Tibet or modernise their military ? Why can’t we do things quietly like them ?
And while India upgrades and out guns it’s military, we have to get the military out of the syndromes of ‘avoiding doing anything to stay alive’, they must re-learn the adage of ‘Do or Die’. For this we need unified commands with commanders who have balls and not the canine breed who wait for ‘shoo dog order’. We have to have commanders who give up their today, give up post retirement gubernatorial ambitions, for a better tomorrow. Perhaps it is time we had a CDS and do away with the entire MOD.
History has an uncanny way to repeat itself. That is why the perceptions of ‘Somewhere in the distant past’ are important. It is time to get someone to rewrite the old 420 movie song
Mud mud ke dekh, mud mud ke, zidagaani ke safar me tu akelaa hi nahi hai,
ham bhi tere hamasafar hai
If anybody takes one step inside our territory, or send intruders and terrorists, you must use every means you have, throw stones if you must, but get them out immediately. Don’t create a problem for Babudom, the 'kingdom of GoI', by asking for ‘Shooo Dog’ orders. The politicals or the babus don't have a clue what to do, if you don’t do something that you must do on your own, trained and conditioned to do on your own.
Cheers, Somewhere in the distant past .......
I can hear the ghosts of Razangla sing in chorus, ‘Mud Mud Ke Dekh………’