144 veterans have addressed a joint statement to the President, PM, RM, CDS and Chiefs of Services drawing attention to the failure in the political, civil, and military establishments, especially in intelligence acquisition in the ongoing Sino-Indian military situation in eastern Ladakh. They have demanded, that a ‘fact-finding body’ be constituted to go into various issues raised by them.
To demand a ‘fact-finding body’ when the situation is still volatile belays good judgement. Besides finding facts ‘the body’ will find faults with individuals who are currently handling a volatile and critical situation. It places a gun to the commanders’ heads at all levels. It’s not fair.
Those officers and men who are up there at 16,500 feet are putting their lives at stake for the safety and security of the nation. Do not demoralize them. Sure, there will be shortcomings and lessons in this entire episode. Some individuals and systems will be found short. They can wait. What is the hurry to have an inquiry when the event is not yet over? When the time comes, I will be the first one to cry hoarse from the Karakorams. Not now! We will attend to them later. Till then, well done boys! Continue to hold the flag high.
On the issue of ‘failure in the political, civil, and military establishments especially in intelligence acquisition’. Sure, there are gaps in capability and structure of our intelligence, acquisition, and operations. However, have they failed like they did at Kargil? No. Let us get the broader perspective right.
China has been itching to put India down militarily ever since we surprised and stymied them at Doklam in 2017. As it has evolved, this operation has been elaborately planned by China at the highest level in minute detail. It is perfidy of the highest order after all the friendship display at Mamallapuram.
The People’s Liberation Army attempted multiple incursions from Naku La in Sikkim to DBO, Demchok, Fingers Area, Hot Springs, Galwan, Gogra, Depsang, Y-junction and maybe elsewhere in Sikkim. All these have been contested. At each of these places, the incursions are nix or negligible except at Pangong Tso. Even here there was a clash at the Fingers Area early in May. So where is the failure? If anything, India has thwarted China twice.
Unchecked incursion at Naku La and Galwan could have resulted in our troops in the Giagong Plateau or the DSDBO road being cut off, respectively. If any of these attempts were successful it would surely have been a national disaster. If the ambush at Galwan had been successful and had the Chinese suffered lesser casualties, China would have declared victory all the way back to the Middle Kingdom and would have painted the town red of having taught India a lesson. Full credit to our boys for giving China a bloody nose.
The Indian armed forces have not only averted a major national embarrassment but have made China look small and stupid. If China has been able to come up to Finger-4 in Pangong Tso area, it is only due to the terrain advantage of a relatively better and faster approach to the area.
Presently there is a dialogue and disengagement process on. Some disengagement has taken place. It is a long haul.
The Pangong Tso incursion should be evacuated eventually. If not, China stands to face some serious strategic repercussions which have started unfolding already. Let us exhibit strategic patience and not political or emotional impatience. In the same breath, I would like to add that some of our worthy senior veterans have been making a bee line to TV studios. Most talk sheer nonsense. One stooped low to utter profanities. Forgotten to be officers or gentlemen?
India is in a dangerous neighborhood with two nuclear adversaries in active collusion. To expect any government to conclude implementable boundary agreements with them is wishful thinking. To expect wonders to happen in defence procurements, counter-insurgency deployments and so on at this stage is premature.
While all these veterans state that they have no political affiliations, the content of their statement says otherwise. For over half a century, successive governments have not declassified the Henderson Brooks Report. There must be a good reason. I was a battery commander in the Hathungla Battalion during 1991-92. Our boys used to often come across unidentifiable remains of the men who fought and died unsung at Namka Chu in 1962. We did our best to honor those brave men by a prayer and an in situ decent disposal of those remains – bones, mess tins, helmets, shoes et al, as possible. It was sorrowful. We let them rest there in peace.
Similarly, let that Henderson Brooks Report lie in its grave. India has moved past it. Opening that Pandora’s box might singe those very parties which are probably backing these venerated veterans.
The 144 veterans have stated that each of them has only has the best interest of India and the Armed Forces at heart in raising issues. I have no doubt about it. After all, some of them have held apex positions and were once instrumental in shaping the destiny of this country. If I were Mark Anthony, I would say, ‘Brutus was an honorable man’. If I were one of the Caesars in the battlefields of Ladakh, I would say ‘Et Tu Brutus’. India is a great democracy and I will only say ‘This too Shall Pass’. I continue to honor my fellow 144 veterans despite their ideas.
(This article first appeared in 'Times of India Blog' and has been reproduced with due permission from the author. Views expressed are the authors own, and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'Mission Victory India')
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