Sunday, September 29, 2013

India's Faulty Thinking towards China from 1950!!
Just when we thought the gods had won...
Thursday, 26 September 2013 | Claude Arpi | in Edit

Before the arrival of the Chinese in Tibet, Chamda’s lama had claimed, much to people’s delight, that the gods were on their side. British reporter Robert Ford knew that something more ‘Churchilian’ was needed!

One of the last witnesses of the Chinese invasion of Tibet has departed. Sir Robert Webster Ford passed away on September 20 in London at the age of 90. He had served several years as a radio operator in Tibet in the late 1940s. When the People’s Liberation Army led by General Liu Bocheng and his Political Commissar, a certain Deng Xiaoping, entered Chamdo, the capital of Kham Province in October 1950, Ford was the only white man around.

In Eastern Tibet, the Tibetans had difficulty in pronouncing ‘F’, so ‘Ford’ became ‘Phodo’; Sir Robert was then simply called Phodo Kusho or Ford Sir. During World War II, ‘Phodo’ served as a radio technician in the Royal Air Force. At the end of the war, he joined the British Mission in Lhasa as a radio officer. An audience with the 13-year-old Dalai Lama convinced him to continue to work for Tibet. He was soon transferred to Sikkim, where he worked under the supervision of the Political Officer-in-charge of Tibet Affairs.

When India became independent, Ford decided to return to Lhasa where he was offered a job by the Government of Tibet. He became the first foreigner to be given a Tibetan official administrative rank. In 1949, he was sent to Chamdo to establish a radio station. Lhalu Tsewang Dorje, the Governor General of Kham requested the Tibetan-speaking ‘Phodo’ and three young Kinnauri wireless trainees to quickly establish a first direct link with Lhasa. Lhalu, who could sense the forthcoming danger, was keen to strengthen the defences of Tibet’s borders. Unfortunately, he was soon replaced as Governor General of Kham by Ngabo Ngawang Jigme who did not believe in the Chinese threat.

In his memoirs, Captured in Tibet, Ford mentioned several anecdotes from another epoch. For example, he recalled that just before the arrival of the Chinese troops in the Fall of 1950, the most often repeated mantra in Chamdo was ‘The gods are on our side’. One day, everybody got excited as Shiwala Rinpoche, the head lama of the local monastery, had just performed a divination: The Chinese will not come. The great news spread like wildfire. There was a sigh of relief. The gods had finally won!

The Britisher in Ford commented that Rinpoche’s statement was perhaps good for morale “but it seemed to me that something more Churchilian was needed”. Indeed! In January 1950, Ford had heard an ominous communiqué broadcast by Communist China: “The task for the People’s Liberation Army for 1950 is to liberate Taiwan, Hainan and Tibet.”

On October 11, 1950, at 11pm, Ford had just finished speaking on the radio to his mother in England; he was preparing to go to bed, when he heard a faint tinkle of bells coming from the east. “As bells grew louder I heard another sound, the clip-clop of horse’s hoofs.” Ford immediately recognised an Army messenger riding towards the Residency where the Governor General was staying. He understood that the rider was bringing an ominous message: The PLA had crossed the Yangtze four days earlier.

The main border post at Gamto Druga had been overrun by the Chinese; wave after wave of soldiers had overpowered the Tibetan defenders, who fought bravely, but were ultimately massacred. In the south, the 157th PLA Regiment attacked the Tibetan troops near Markhan, cutting off the retreat route of poor ‘Phodo’! The net was fast closing on the Britisher and on Tibet.

Lhasa was finally informed on October 12 that the Yangtze had been crossed. At that time, the opera season was in full swing in the Tibetan capital; the aristocracy and the Government were busy. For the Tibetan officials, opera and picnic were sacred! In Chamdo, everybody expected Lhasa to respond swiftly before it was too late. But nothing! What was going on?“Radio Lhasa had nothing to say the next day, or the day after that”, remembered Ford. The Tibetan aristocracy was simply living in another world, one which was fast disappearing, though they did not realise it.

On October 19, Ford was ‘captured’. Probably because he was the lone foreign witness to the Chinese invasion, he had to undergo suffering and humiliation as a prisoner of Mao. The Chinese accused him of espionage, spreading anti-communist propaganda and causing the death of a monk, known as the Geda Lama. ‘Phodo’ spent nearly five years in jail, constantly fearing execution; he was subjected to interrogation and ‘thought reform’.

In 1954, he was finally allowed to send a letter to his family. A few months later, his trial was held and he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. He was eventually released and expelled from China in 1955. It is in 1957 that he published his harrowing experience, inCaptured in Tibet. On his return to England, Ford entered the British Foreign Service. He ended his career as British Consul General in Bordeaux, France.

I remember hosting Ford for a few days some 25 years ago. He was a charming person. He used to say that his ordeal in the Chinese jails (and specially the PLA’s interrogation methods) were very similar to ones the Indian officers captured by the Chinese in October 1962 had to go through; it was also comparable to the experience of the mountaineer Sidney Wignall, who was captured in western Tibet in 1955. Wignall had discovered that the Chinese were building a road to the Aksai China.

It was only on October 25, 1950, that the Chinese themselves announced to the world that Tibet had been ‘liberated’. A briefXinhua communiqué said: “People’s Army units have been ordered to advance into Tibet to free three million Tibetans.” 

On October 27, The Hindu in Madras published the following piece: “New Delhi is generally inclined to believe the reported movement of troops may be related to some border incidents, but not to any general invasion by Chinese troops.”

The previous day the Indian Prime Minister had given one of the speeches he loved to deliver; he electrified the masses: “The only way to bring peace… was for the people of the world and the different countries to cast away fear from their hearts and minds and think and do the right thing.” India had just lost a gentle neighbour, the Tibetans their country!

Ford later wrote: “I could only think it was a matter of habit. The Lhasa Government was so used to the policy of saying nothing that might offend or provoke the Chinese that it kept it on after provocation had become irrelevant. It was still trying to avert a war that had already broken out. Does it remind you of something familiar in India? Sir Robert ‘Phodo’, we will miss you!
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Pakistan: On a slippery slope
September 26, 2013
The IED attack in Upper Dir that resulted in martyrdom of senior Army officers/soldiers as well as the suicide strike on the Peshawar church, which targeted innocent Pakistani Christians, both are condemnable in strongest possible terms. The church massacre was particularly aimed to lower Pakistan ’s image internationally just days before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s address at UN General Assembly.

The state should give a befitting response to perpetrators of these attacks to let them know that when they hit the Army or civilians and accept responsibility, there will be serious consequences.
While the Upper Dir and Peshawar tragedies served the militants’ purpose to generate public sentiments against peace with Taliban, these acts should not distract us from the All Parties Conference (APC) conscious national decision to give peace a chance through political efforts. This was the result of consensus between the political parties with Army Chief and DG ISI on board.

The state’s offer of dialogue followed by Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP)’s positive initial response came in the backdrop of Army’s successful offensive against Hakeem ullah Mehsud’s armed followers in Khyber Agency’s strategic Tirah valley that led to heavy TTP losses as well as their eviction from this area.

The TTP’s demands would most likely include among others, general amnesty, unconditional release of their armed followers, withdrawal of Army from Fata and imposition of shariah. While the government’s effort would be to work on a bare minimum acceptable agenda, it is not likely to accede to any TTP demand that conflicts with the state’s sovereignty, constitution and law.

The TTP’s reported demand for Army’s withdrawal from Fata is an illegitimate one as Fata is a federal territory and cannot be handed over to local criminals/terrorists in a platter. Pakistan like any other sovereign country will not allow a state within the state.
The TTP should withdraw its support to non Taliban criminal/ sectarian groups. Moreover all foreign fighters sheltered under TTP umbrella in Fata will have to surrender or leave Fata towards other safe havens abroad.

The dialogue’s success would depend greatly on the degree of dissension caused within TTP ranks/groups and the extent to which criminal elements are isolated within TTP so that the core taliban group can then be engaged constructively.

There will be attempts by vested forces to obstruct and derail this peace process. 
Those militant groups that are bent upon creating anarchy and lawlessness in the country with material support from hostile anti Pakistan agencies from across Afghanistan and India, will continue to destabilize Pakistan . They must be denied an environment that helps to achieve their objectives.

The two US drone strikes in South Waziristan that coincided with the Peshawar church tragedy indicate that in line with its past history of sabotaging our peace agreements in Fata, the possibility of fresh drone onslaught against Haqqani/TTP leaders at crucial time cannot be ruled out.

The Indian media has recently spilled the beans and confirmed what Pakistani authorities have been highlighting since long about Indian involvement in terrorist activities in Pakistan. The military intelligence unit (Technical Services Division-TSD) set up by former Indian army chief General VK Singh undertook sensitive covert operations including ‘Operation Deep Strike’ in Pakistan.
Thanks to the ‘internecine battle’ and rivalry between Gen V K Singh and current Indian Army chief General Bikram Singh, which made this revelation possible.
There remains no doubt that terrorist strikes against Navy’s Mehran and PAF’s Kamra bases, in which few of our strategic airborne warning assets like American supplied P3-C Orions and a Swedish Saab aircraft got destroyed, were the work of TSD in coordination with their local agents.

Pakistanis should beware of vested anti-dialogue elements within country desperate to declare the peace talks a non starter even when these have yet to commence.

The KPK government backed out of its reported decision for the Army’s phased withdrawal from Malakand/Swat starting from Shangla and Buner in first phase. Though principally correct, any hasty Army pullout is fraught with serious dangers.

The Peshawar High Court has rightly restrained KPK government from seeking Army’s withdrawal till necessary legislation is in place to prosecute large number of militants/detainees reportedly held in Army’s internment centres in Swat and Malakand. The Army should go ahead with its long term plans to establish a military cantonment in Swat to ensure permanent peace in the valley.

Why should peace be given a chance? As the US/NATO forces begin their drawdown from Afghanistan , why should Pakistan remain on fire? We should have dissociated long ago from this war that was never ours but was thrust on us by United States.

With over 40,000 of our countrymen including around 7000 brave officers/soldiers sacrificed in this senseless war, with over a 100 billion dollars loss to country’s economy and our social fabric torn apart, it is time we adopted a saner approach.

Fata must be economically developed and integrated in the federation. The affectees of war on terror, the drone victims’ families in particular should be compensated/rehabilitated and our tribals brought in mainstream.

The TTP spokesman’s denial of any involvement in the Peshawar church tragedy should be taken with a pinch of salt because we must never forget this is the same outfit that has killed hundreds and thousands of innocent Pakistanis and would do everything for the purpose of deception. The government as well as TTP should make public their negotiating teams as well as interlocutors for the peace talks as early as possible. The nation should be kept informed about the back channel results as well as ground rules of the dialogue process.

The road to peace with Pakistani Taliban may be long and arduous. It will be a bumpy ride, not a smooth one. There will be successes and failures, hopes and frustrations, that are typical of such difficult and complex negotiations.

The use of military force remains the last resort till all political/ dialogue options are exhausted. The TTP must realize that the state’s might is unchallengeable and that even after twelve years of waging war against the state, it failed to impose its ideology or weaken the will of the people. The ball is now in the TTP’s court.
The writer is a political and defence analyst.
                   Why India Became Independent
Role of the Defence Services for India’s independence
When BP Chakravarti was acting as Governor of West Bengal, Lord Attlee visited India and stayed as his guest for three days at the Raj Bhavan. Chakravarti asked Attlee about the real grounds for granting Independence to India . Specifically, his question was, when the Quit India movement lay in ruins years before 1947, what was the need for the British to leave in such a hurry. Attlee’s response is most illuminating and important for history. Here is the Governor’s account of what Attlee told him:
“In reply, Attlee cited several reasons, the most important were the activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose which weakened the very foundation of the attachment of the Indian land and naval forces to the British Government. Towards the end, I asked Lord Attlee about the extent to which the British decision to quit India was influenced by Gandhi’s activities.
On hearing this question Attlee’s lips widened in a smile of disdain and he uttered, slowly, putting emphasis on each single letter mi-ni-mal.
This ‘unimpeachable’ truth will come as a shock to most Indians brought up to believe that the Congress movement driven by the ’spiritual force’ of Mahatma Gandhi forced the British to leave India.
But both the evidence and the logic of history are against this beautiful but childish fantasy; it was the fear of mutiny by the Indian armed forces - and not any ‘spiritual force’- that forced the issue of freedom. The British saw that the sooner they left India the better for themselves, for, at the end of the war, India had some three million men under arms.
Majumdar had reached the same conclusion years earlier, as far back as 1948 as he records.The most dramatic event after the end of World War II was the INA Trials at the Red Fort — not any movement by Gandhi or Nehru. This led directly to the mutiny of the naval ratings, which, more than anything, helped the British make up their minds to leave India in a hurry.
They sensed that it was only a matter of time before the spirit spread to other sections of the armed forces and the rest of the Government. None of this would have happened without Subhas Bose and the INA.
The crucial point to note is that thanks to Subhas Bose’s activities and the INA, the Armed Forces began to see themselves as defenders of India rather than upholders of the British Empire. This, more than anything else, was what led to India’s freedom. This is also the reason why the British Empire disappeared from the face of the earth within an astonishingly short space of twenty years. Indian soldiers, who were the main prop of the Empire, were no longer willing to fight to hold the Empire together.


India’s political discourse has become so polarized that even the army is now being used to settle scores, writes Brijesh D. Jayal
Since Independence, the nation has grown up with the knowledge and belief that its armed forces are pillars of strength and symbolize probity and the spirit of sacrifice. This belief is reflected in polls conducted from time to time, and is strengthened when citizens see men and women in uniform risking their lives to save people during natural disasters like the one that struck Uttarakhand in June this year. From this comfort zone to be exposed to the events of the last year culminating in the present must have left them not only disoriented but also hopelessly confused.
To briefly recapitulate, the former army chief, V.K. Singh, completed his tenure at the end of May 2012 on the basis of his age in the record books. His appeal to the defence minister to have the age corrected was turned down. Had it been otherwise, not only would his tenure have been extended, but as claimed by some it would have upset an apparently well-crafted succession plan. The successor reportedly enjoyed high contacts within the civilian leadership and enjoyed its support. In a dubious first in the history of the armed forces, a serving army chief then approached the Supreme Court for relief, but was turned down.
During this unholy phase when a serving army chief and the government were at odds, a few strange happenings came to light. It transpired that Singh had been offered a bribe by a retired officer to facilitate the induction of sub-standard trucks being produced by Bharat Earth Movers Limited, a defence undertaking. In spite of bringing this to the notice of the defence minister, no action was taken. Then, in two successive months, a national daily published reports, one claiming that the chief had set up a Technical Support Division within the military intelligence that was snooping on the communications of defence ministry officials and the defence minister. The ministry of defence is reportedly investigating the matter. The next report — more damaging than the first — claimed that some army units had moved suspiciously towards Delhi on the very day the army chief had gone to court. The hint of coercive tactics without using the dreaded word, coup, was apparent. This was denied by the defence ministry.
Whatever may have been the facts, a perception had been created that here was a serving army chief who was not averse to resorting to unconventional and even unconstitutional means. In the context of civil-military relations in India, in which the polity has kept the Indian military at more than an arm’s length, preferring to deal with it through the all-powerful bureaucracy, this should have set alarm bells ringing.
So grave were these allegations and their impact on the integrity of a serving chief and, consequently, on the morale of the armed forces that it was incumbent on the government to act in haste and get to the bottom of the allegations with the help of a high-level, independent investigation to clean the Augean stables. This would have had the following salutary effects. First, the nation would have been taken into confidence on precisely what the truth was. Next, wrongdoing, wherever applicable, would have been identified and the perpetrators held accountable. Finally, a message would have been sent to the armed forces that favouritism in promotions, high-handedness, or political interference in the functioning of the army would not be tolerated. In short, a sad chapter in the annals of civil-military relations would have been nipped in the bud and the supremacy of civilian leadership over the military enhanced. If it were revealed that the former army chief was guilty, the price would have been worth the revelation. Equally, if it was established that there was no wrongdoing on his part, then he along with the institution deserved an apology.
But for reasons best known to the defence ministry, it failed to act. Instead, it heaved a sigh of relief once Singh went into retirement, hoping that all will be forgotten. Later, even the CBI case against the retired officer who allegedly offered the bribe was dropped for lack of evidence, even though irregularities in the BEML have come to light that have led to the suspension of its chairman and managing director. Clearly there is scant realization that leadership in the armed forces is a multi-layered and multi-dimensional phenomenon and insult or injury to its leadership is as damaging as that against its rank and file.
While one can understand the defence ministry’s happiness in having got its way in promoting its chosen chief (as has been done on many occasions earlier, often at the cost of merit) and the overconfidence this engendered, it is hard to understand its political naivety that led to it underestimating Singh’s post-retirement socio-political ambitions.
That is why when the same daily that had reported the earlier stories now comes out with even more astounding ones, it almost seems as if the nation and its revered democratic institutions are suffering from a death wish. The new report tells us that a secret internal Board of Officers was set up by army headquarters (clearly under the new dispensation) last year to look at the functioning of the TSD, and that the latter had allegedly funded efforts to topple the elected government of Jammu and Kashmir, fund an NGO ostensibly to stymie the succession plan in army headquarters and is responsible for vast unaccounted expenditures. This report was submitted to the defence ministry in March this year with the army recommending further investigations since the one conducted by it was not a legal inquiry.
Even a layman would agree that an internal investigation of this nature, let alone such a damaging report, has the potential to inflict untold damage on the pride and morale of the armed forces and needed to be handled with utmost diligence and sensitivity. But for reasons that remain inexplicable, the defence ministry kept silent for six long months.
The sudden media exposé that followed the defence ministry’s admission that the latest report hinges on matters of national security and that measures had been put in place to prevent any such undesirable activities in the future makes one suspect that both the timing of the media report and the subsequent proclamations by exuberant cabinet ministers are not borne out of any belief of serious wrongdoing by Singh.These seem to be political reactions to Singh’s appearance at a large political rally. For the good of democracy, one sincerely hopes that this assumption is proven wrong, but unless there is evidence to indicate otherwise, this perception will prevail amongst impartial observers.

Regrettably, it would appear that so polarized has the national political discourse become that even using the armed forces as instruments of political warfare is now fair game. This is something that had never happened earlier. Senior politicians from Jammu and Kashmir are openly casting aspersions on the army and screaming television hosts and participants have gone to town entertaining us with their take on an issue that is important enough for well-meaning citizens and the responsible media to have maintained a dignified silence till the government got its act together and took the nation into confidence.
Few have thought of the adverse impact of this self-defeating debate on the morale in the cantonments and messes around the country. Fewer still have reflected on the long-term impact this can have on civil-military relations. Cheap politics and media ratings are threatening such values as common sense and sanctity that are required to deal with the needs of national security. It truly is open season and general headquarters in Rawalpindi must be chuckling, as must the separatist forces in Kashmir.

It will be a brave person who, in the midst of such confusion, would attempt to draw a meaningful conclusion and identify where the truth lies. But one thing appears to be certain: every institution involved in this unsavoury saga looks like it belongs to a banana republic than to one of the largest democracies in the world that aspires to take its rightful place as a permanent member of the UN security council.

So here is a fervent appeal to all political parties from an aam admi and a veteran. Elections will come and go and so will governments, thus strengthening our democratic roots further. Let us resolve to help keep the armed forces out of politics. Let us also resolve that politicization of the higher echelons of the armed forces is a poison which, once injected, will spread like cancer consuming the entire institution. 

Finally, since there can never be any ideological differences on the need to have our national security institutions free of political interference and bias, let all the parties evolve a code of ethics that they will adopt while handling issues relating to India’s armed forces. To draw inspiration from an old army recruitment poster, do we have it in us to take this novel step?
The author is a retired air marshal of the Indian Air Force

The Tragedy of the Indian Army

September 27, 2013
In the mad race to boost circulation and viewer ratings, the media may have, in one go, started the process of demolishing one of the last institutions that has stood rock solid in defence of idea that is India.
Nitin Gokhale
The Indian Army’s greatest tragedy!
In my three decades of reporting on the Indian military, I have never felt more uneasy about the military-media interface as I have in the past three months.
This is not because the media has been accused of being sensationalist or because many unsavoury truths about internal rivalry and groupism in the military brass have created bad blood in the top hierarchy.
My unease stems from the damage that the events of the past few months have inflicted on the average Indian soldier.
For at least a quarter of a century now, we have been lamenting the steadily diminishing status of the ordinary Indian soldier in society; that soldiering is no longer respected as a noble profession in our rural areas; that the jawan struggles to get his due from a civil administration increasingly contemptuous and apathetic towards him; that he continues to get paid poorly and treated unfairly by a society solely driven by materialism.
Now, following a spate of reports based on half-truths and outright lies, motivated by God alone knows what, we may have done the ultimate disservice to the Indian soldier: Planted the seed of suspicion about his loyalty in the minds of ordinary Indians.
The ultimate disservice to the Indian soldier
While I will defend the right of every media person to report what he or she thinks is right, I am afraid none of us has thought through the consequences of the effect it will have on the psyche of the Indian soldier and, more importantly, the way ordinary Indians will view the Indian Army.
In the mad race to boost our circulation and viewer ratings, we may have, in one go, started the process of demolishing one of the last institutions that has stood rock solid in defence of the idea that is India.
For the first time in my now reasonably long career in journalism, I feel like hiding from my friends in the military.
I feel we have not paused to think about the long-term damage we have wrought upon the profession of soldiering.
While all dramatis personae are equally culpable in the current controversy, we in the media certainly have a greater responsibility not to add fuel to the fire.
The Army is India’s Brahma Asthra
I say this because from disaster relief in floods, tsunamis and earthquakes, to rescuing an infant Prince from a deep tube well and from quelling rioters in communal strife to being the last resort in internal counter-insurgency operations, the Indian Army has been omnipresent.
It is, what I call, India’s Brahma Asthra (the ultimate weapon).
The Indian Army’s versatility, adaptability, selfless attitude and resourcefulness has allowed it to be what it is today: Nation Builders.
Viewed in the context of India’s immediate and extended neighbourhood, the Indian Army’s stellar role stands out in stark contrast to its counterparts in other countries.
Remember, the Indian and Pakistani armies originated from the same source, the British army. Yet, six decades since they parted ways, there couldn’t be a bigger dissimilarity in the way the two have evolved.
As they say, India has an army while the Pakistani army has a nation!
More importantly, despite India’s increasing dependence on its army to pull its chestnuts out of fire time and again, the Indian Army has scrupulously remained apolitical.
A systematic assault on the Indian Army
The Indian Army’s contribution in nurturing and strengthening democracy with all its faults can never be underestimated.
It has put down fissiparous and secessionist forces within India at great cost to itself over the last 60-odd years. It has protected India from within and without.
The Indian Army also has a unique distinction of helping create a nation (Bangladesh) in the neighbourhood and then quietly walking away to let the people take charge.
In contrast, the Pakistani army has never really allowed democracy to flourish in its country. Instead, it has created a military-industrial complex that has spread its tentacles in every aspect of governance.
Even today, the Pakistani army does not let go of any opportunity to undercut democracy; it nurtures and treats jihadi elements as its strategic asset against India and the United States.
Even in other smaller nations around India — Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh, for instance — the armed forces have had to intervene and run the affairs of those countries at some point.
The Indian Army has also withstood systematic assaults on its status from politicians and bureaucrats who are forever looking for ways to downgrade the military’s status.
While the principle of civilian supremacy over the armed forces is well entrenched and understood in India, what is incomprehensible is the constant chipping away at the military’s standing.
The Army, the civilian and the politician
The nation as a whole, and indeed the people at large, have the highest regard and affinity for the men in uniform for the yeoman service they render in every conceivable situation.
However, most mandarins at the ministry of defence and some politicians do not have the same opinion and are repeatedly trying to run down the military without realising the immense damage they cause to the only available bulwark we have against any attempt to Balkanise India.
Now, unfortunately, even we in the media seem to have joined this ill-informed and devious bunch of opportunists.
As a former chief of the army staff, General S Padmanabhan, says in his book, A General Speaks, ‘Even after Independence, India’s political leaders found it convenient to keep the Army, Navy and the Air Force out of the policy-making bodies. The service HQs were left at the level that the British left them — that of being attached offices of the ministry of defence. Even at the level of defence minister and service chiefs, exchanges on major matters of defence policy were few and far in between.’
Another former army chief, General Shankar Roy Choudhury, has observed: ‘It is essential in the national interest that the armed forces are upgraded and updated on an ongoing basis, something which governments have been traditionally loath to acknowledge and undertake, the Indian government perhaps more so than others in this respect.’
We must back the nation’s strongest asset
Historically, it is to the credit of the Indian Army that it has fulfilled its role as an organ of the State; it has functioned effectively in every type of role, in spite of the general lack of a supportive government environment by way of adequate finances, resources, equipment, personnel policies, or higher political direction.
A nation’s military provides what is called a hard-edged back-up to its international standing.
A strong military — and especially a powerful, well-trained, fully-equipped army — acts as a deterrent against adversaries.
It is therefore essential that the nation’s decision-makers consciously back the army and provide it with the support it needs to meet diverse challenges that exist and are likely to come up in the coming decade.
So far, the Indian Army has fulfilled its role in nation building admirably well.
All of us — ordinary citizens, media persons, politicians, bureaucrats — must continue to back the nation’s strongest asset and further strengthen it, if we desire to see India as a global player in the decades to come.
The Army is vital for India’s survival
Centuries ago, Kautilya, the wily old strategist, told Emperor Chandragupta Maurya why the soldier is important for the kingdom’s survival.
If India has to survive as a nation-state, this advice (reproduced from a piece written by Air Marshal S G Inamdar for the USI Journal) is worth repeating in its entirety here.
As the learned air marshal says: ‘It is amazing how clearly those ancients saw the likely faultlines in governance, the intricacies of management of the military by the state functionaries, the nature of the military and the citizenry and the close interplay between them all. It is truly amazing how those observations continue to be so completely relevant today, even after 2,000 years.
‘Here’s what Kautilya told the king of Magadh:
‘The Mauryan soldier does not himself the royal treasuries enrich nor does he the royal granaries fill.
‘He does not himself carry out trade and commerce nor produce scholars, thinkers, litterateurs, artistes, artisans, sculptors, architects, craftsmen, doctors and administrators.
‘He does not himself build roads and ramparts nor dig wells and reservoirs.
‘He does not himself write poetry and plays, paint or sculpt, nor delve in metaphysics, arts and sciences.
‘He does not do any of this directly as he is neither gifted, trained nor mandated to do so.’
What the soldier does for his nation
The soldier only and merely ensures that:
‘The tax, tribute and revenue collectors travel far and wide unharmed and return safely;
‘The farmer tills, grows, harvests, stores and markets his produce unafraid of pillage and plunder;
‘The trader, merchant and moneylender function and travel across the length and breadth of the realm unmolested;
‘The savant, sculptor, painter, maestro and master create works of art, literature, philosophy, astronomy and astrology in peace and quietitude;
‘The architect designs and builds his Vaastus without tension;
‘The tutor (acharya), the mentor (guru) and the priest (purohit) teach and preach in tranquility;
‘The sages (rishis, munis and tapaswis) meditate and undertake penance in wordless silence;
‘The doctor (vaidyaraja) tends to the ill and the infirm well, adds to the pharmacopoeia, discovers new herbs and invents new medical formulations undisturbed;
‘The mason, the bricklayer, the artisan, the weaver, the tailor, the jeweller, the potter, the carpenter, the cobbler, the cowherd (gopaala) and the smith work unhindered;
‘The mother, wife and governess go about their chores and bring up children in harmony and tranquility;
‘The aged and the disabled are well taken care of, tended to and are able to fade away gracefully and with dignity;
‘The cattle graze freely without being lifted or harmed by miscreants.’
The soldier is the very basis of a nation
He is thus the VERY BASIS and silent, barely visible CORNERSTONE of our fame, culture, physical well being and prosperity; in short, of the entire nation building activity.
‘He DOES NOT perform any of these chores himself directly: he ENABLES the rest of us to perform these without let, hindrance or worry (nirbheek and nishchinta).
‘Our military sinews, on the other hand, lend credibility to our pronouncements of adherence to good Dharma, our goodwill, amiability and peaceful intentions towards all our neighbour nations (Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinaha, Sarve Santu Niramayaha…) as also those far away and beyond.
‘These also serve as a powerful deterrent against military misadventure by any one of them against us.’
‘If Pataliputra reposes each night in peaceful comfort, O King, it is so because she is secure in the belief that the distant borders of Magadha are inviolate and the interiors are safe and secure, thanks to the mighty Mauryan army constantly patrolling and standing vigil with naked swords and eyes peeled for action (animish netre) day and night (ratrau-divase) in weather fair and foul, dawn-to-dusk-to-dawn (ashtau prahare) quite unmindful of personal discomfort and hardship, loss of life and limb, separation from the family, all through the year, year after year (warsha nu warshe).
‘While the Magadha citizenry endeavours to make the State prosper and flourish, the Mauryan soldier guarantees that the State continues to EXIST! He is the silent sine qua non of our very being!’
Can we all people in uniform, civil services, politics, media and society at large — imbue this spirit?
Nitin Gokhale is Security and Strategic Affairs Editor, NDTV. This article first appeared in
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7 Responses to “The Tragedy of the Indian Army”
  1. RK Anuj says:
    An outstanding piece. Wish we could all imbibe that spirit and get over the mindless gloom and disbelief that has unfortunately invaded our minds about every single institution of our country. But, most of all, we need to spare the one institution that Nitin very correctly appreciates as the sole guarantor of the very survival of our great nation.
  2. S. Suchindranath Aiyer says:
    While there are several points of value to secrecy and discrimination in matters of “National Security”, one must remember that it is secrecy and immunity to media inspection that has fostered corruption in the Armed Forces. But for the expose of “Adarsh”, the Government would never have had the compulsion to bring in Gen.V.K. Singh, an outsider to the cozy golf courses, free booze, messing, complimentary carpets and furniture of the main stream General Staff, was brought in from outside the “line of succession” established over decades by the Congress party to soothe the ruffled feathers of the honourable sections of the Officers’ Corps that comprise the junior echelons and real teeth of the Army and who were extremely upset by the Adarsh scam et al that called their very self image and raison de etre into question. His being brought in led to several startling revelations including the the lack of ammunition and the hollowness of the military and the misuse of the military and the “defence budget” to bribe influential politicians of recalcitrant states to “purchase” stability. We should take a cue from the United States. The proceedings of the Senate Overview Committee on Defence is conducted in full public glare. The money spent on defence is spent on defence. Corruption is minimised by openness. India will be made more powerful when the secrecy and the sleaze that flourishes within it in the name of “patriotism” are eliminated and the higher echelons of the armed forces are made as professional and appreciative of integrity and merit as the lower echelons of the Officers Corps.
    • RK Anuj says:
      Yours is precisely the kind of behavior that Nitin has decried. While your views may never rise above the level of speculative insinuations, considering that you cannot possibly have any first hand information on the subject, it is the fact that you smear the name of the organisation when you thus speculate, that you fail to understand. Guess, there’s only so much that good old sane advice can achieve.
  3. I hope the people sitting in the power of corridor in North n South Block wake-up and stop all this interferance at once and leave the great Indian Army to do it job in the manner they are doing till date with Dignity and Hon our.
  4. Neha Joshi says:
    I have grown up admiring the devotion, integrity and professionalism of the Indian military in holding the nation together when all else seems to be falling apart. Yes media activism and transparency are understood but when imbecile politicians like Lekhi comment on the moral fibre or the integrity of the armed forces there is a time to take a deep look at the rot. Yes there would be bad apples everywhere but to discredit the men fighting an inhospitable 5000 Km border, numerous insurgencies and internal duties are blood boils.
    Salutes to the soldiers of this great army
  5. Thankful to Nitin Gokhale for initiating and
    summarising the truth about Indian Army.
    This is the only institution left over, to save
    country from disasters. Govts should make
    It stronger and leave them alone for the safety
    and security of country . Present state of Army
    Is because of politically immature Govts mishandling
    it on the advice of incapable staff . A corrective action
    taken earlier will be better for all in this country.
  6. Ravi says:
    While I agree with you about the current turmoil and the greatness of Indian soldier, I tend to disagree about Indian Army being great organization.
    What you see today are all advanced symptoms of a cancer that started a long long ago.
    On the stroke of midnight of Aug 15, 1947, a British Mercenary army transforms into a patriotic national army. Not single colonial loyalist was thrown out. Sadly we had mercenary officers from Britain serving our army. We inculcated most of the colonial practices as our ‘tradition’. Can you believe that indian army units still flaunt battle honors like ‘Bharatpore’, where they fought and killed own countrymen for the British?
    Ever wondered whose names are inscribed on the walls of India Gate where every sucker allegedly pays homage?….Third Afghan War.
    Self serving individuals never make a good army. Sadly we have lots of them amongst veterans and in uniform now.
    Army needs to get out of the colonial culture and peace time Ladies Clubs. They need to become ‘professional’ to earn respect.