Editor's Note: This piece by Maj Gen. VK Madhok is a continuation of the earlier piece written 32 years back. It aims to once again highlight the critical importance of Infantry in the Indian Army even in this modern 21st century of warfighting.
The Restoration of LoC in Kargil has truly been an Infantryman's battle. This is not to belittle the magnificent contribution made by the Air Force or others. But then aircraft cannot operate in adverse weather nor without fuel: And therefore must return to bases to refuel and maintenance. While the Infantryman must operate continuously 24 hours, in all types of weather, if necessary, without shelter, hot food or water. with dirty socks or in wet clothing but always itching to get close to the enemy to evict him at all cost even if he is on his own.
Infantry School, now is the cradle which shapes such warriors and is engaged in transforming raw and green Infantrymen, officers, JCOs, and NCOs alike into ruthless killers who are taught to be close with the enemy aggressively, whether by day or night and to eliminate him with fire or bayonet. Besides, after acquiring the latest data, it updates and renews the skills of battle-hardened veterans.
But for some reason or the other, the versatile but quiet Infantryman has remained isolated in far-flung areas. In fact, he was even neglected within the Army. But the TV and diverse media have brought him closer to every Indian heart. In the process, his status and rightful image has been restored. Today, a grateful nation which saw him operate cheerfully, braving the rigours of terrain, whether in Drass, Batalik, the Mushko Valley or Kargil or walking fearlessly through Mines and booby traps or moving across steep gradients without Oxygen loaded with his personal baggage and ammunition, without snow shoes or adequate clothing has left an indelible mark on every citizen who is wondering with awe, respect and adoration.
What is the stuff this man is made of? What motivates this wonderful Indian to sacrifice his comfort, his duties towards his family and even to give up life is a question in every Indian's mind. How can he do that for a mere pittance when the rest of India writhes in corruption? Where every politician, sitting in the comfort of his office or making false promises at the rostrum is busy taking all the credit for Kargil? When every corrupt businessman after donating a few thousands from his black money to Kargil fund is feeling proud to see his photograph in the newspaper?
But there is no doubt, that an Infantryman by the very nature of his duties has to function in adverse circumstances and isolation. Although he can be transported by air helicopters or on tanks, ships or dropped by parachutes, he will still have to walk the last hundred yards to close with the enemy against intense fire and shelling through obstacles to remove his opponents. This requires willpower, stamina and plain guts. Infantry School's training syllabus is therefore designed to train him to live off the land with minimum water and rations, to render first aid to himself and his colleagues, to lay and even lift mines, read maps, lay ambushes, mount attacks and to defend himself and others.
In addition, the school teachers him every craft which will enable an infantryman to operate in sub-zero temperatures of Kargil and Siachen, the blistering heat of Rajasthan or the planes and in jungles. Besides, the school trains him in handling personal and specialist weapons which vary from pistol, sten, MMGs to Mortars, anti-tank or anti-air missiles or merely directing artillery fire.
Today, the Infantry School is busy experimenting with innovative techniques to revolutionise methods of instruction. Besides, it is well on its way to impart technology in the infantry. Because technology is now providing those gadgets which will enable an Infantryman to see beyond his post and visual observation to increase the range and accuracy of his personal and team weapons. Technology can now provide him means of early warning with portable and hand held radars. Also means to survive in a gas or chemical environment or to use sophisticated communication equipment to intercept wireless messages.
Yet, in spite of technology and all the equipment it can provide, an Infantryman will not succeed without his fighting spirit and high morale, which is built on inspired leadership, living up to past traditions of his regiment along with individual skills acquired at the Infantry School.
A question arises as to what role the society can play to support their infantry? Because it must be stated bluntly that so far the society has failed and remained insensitive to an Infantryman's needs or his kith and kin when he is away from home. Because he cannot afford to pay huge donations to get his children admitted in schools not he can wait for decades to obtain decisions from courts in respect of property cases. His is a 24-hour job whether at the border or in peace stations where also he must train continuously to learn improve, retain his skills and be always ready to move at short notice. When he returns home on leave from inhospitable borders, he needs priority whether in a civil hospital for his aged parents or in courts or the collectorate and Municipal Corporation. Because he has just enough time to be away from his duties. These are the minimum obligations the society must discharge willingly.
In addition, the future battlefield environment provides a vast opportunity to India's private sector industry. So far, it's contribution towards defence has been dismal. India continues to purchase from abroad AK 47’s and its ammunition, snow clothing, ammunition for infantry's 5.56 mm shell arms systems, bulletproof vests for Jawans, minefield detectors (remote piloted vehicles) and a hundred other items required by the infantry. It is a matter of shame that a nation of 100 crores with the third-largest number of scientists and technical manpower in the world expect Infantrymen to go to Norway, Switzerland and other European countries to purchase extreme cold clothing and even snow shoes for Kargil and Siachen.
So far, India has been lucky to have all those men who go to form its infantry. In future, the infantry will need to expand. Because India's inhospitable Northern borders cannot be taken for granted. Therefore, the Government and the society will need to focus on an Infantryman's problem much more purposefully which only they can resolve and which are beyond the purview of infantry school. In the immediate future, the government must make up the infantry’s deficient officer leadership. It must involve the private industry so that it moves towards indigenisation of infantry weapons, simulators, equipment and clothing. While the society must take all those actions which will assure an Infantryman that the nation stands behind him.
About The Author
(Maj Gen. VK Madhok is a product of the 1st Course JSW/NDA and was commissioned into the 3 GR. He was the BGS HQ Southern Command and the COS at HQ 4 Corps. He retired as the ADG (TA). He lives in Pune. The author can be reached on Email: [email protected] Views expressed are the authors own and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'Mission Victory India')
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(Views expressed are the author's own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India)