No Time for the Soldier on the Frontlines to be in the Headlines?

"Where indeed is the time for the poor soldier on the frontlines to be in the headlines? He is steadfast and does his duty; unhonoured, unsung and unpraised. Who said it? Freedom is never Free! We honour the dead best by treating the living well."

No Time for the Soldier on the Frontlines to be in the Headlines?

The Prime Minister waxes eloquent on the sacrifices of our brave jawans. The Raksha Mantri gets goosebumps at the full-throated inspiring battle cry of the Sikh Regiment on his visit to Ladakh and wants to hear it again. The Independence Day Speech of the PM was all in praise of our Armed Forces who are ever ready to give a befitting reply to expansionists; the nation has rightly guessed that he means ‘China’.

He praises the forces in his ‘Man ki Baat’ as well at the election rally in Bihar. The operations on the night of 29/30 Aug 2020 was indeed a clincher as the Kailash Range on the Southern Bank of Pangong Tso from Thakung to Rechin La was occupied, pre-empting the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA).

It was followed up with the occupation of higher heights of Finger 4 overlooking the Chinese who were blocking Indian Patrols from the lower height. It has really turned the tables against China and has given us the required pep to talk to the Chinese with an ‘ace of trump’ in our hands.  

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The Communist Part of China's (CPC) Politburo is meeting and Xi would have a difficult time to talk of the situation on his Western Front. He definitely is getting more desperate and India for once is not relenting. He has to rue the day he gave a green signal to his favourite General Zhao Zongqi to teach Indians another lesson as they seem to have forgotten the lessons of 1962? Not being able to teach the required lesson he has been replaced by Lt Gen Xu Qiling.

It has given greater authority to our negotiating team to discuss the modalities of Chinese disengagement, withdrawal and de-escalation on ‘First Come; First Out’ basis. No doubt; the credit should go to the Army Chief and the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) for executing one of the finest manoeuvres in the high-altitude terrains. Kudos! to the PM also for the political will that backed the manoeuvre in the face of the Chinese.

Traitors Within

"Neither a leopard can change its spots nor an Abdullah his coat! He is not a turncoat; the family wears their ‘coats turned’ ab initio."
India's political divide affects the nations interests; Graphical representation 

I also want to congratulate the Opposition parties for being indifferent to the most praiseworthy action of our Armed Forces. Most opposition parties do not want to credit them as it would inadvertently get rubbed off to the PM. Let us look at the past of the Congress; what did their PMs do in similar situations?

Nehru did not commit the Airforce for combat as it could escalate the war and quietly handed over Aksai Chen and lost a war to China. Manmohan Singh would have quietly handed over the entire Ladakh to the Chinese.

Please recollect as to how he wanted to vacate Siachen to Pakistan, in his bid to rename it as ‘Mountain of Peace’. I believe he was given a carrot of being awarded the ‘Nobel Prize for Peace’? Sorry; MMS; you may have to do without it at least in this life. The nation did not allow you to part with a piece of your motherland. It must be one of your sorrowful ‘regrets’ in your life? Just, don’t repent on your missed opportunity; you have still time on your side to cause harm to the nation.

Just for a moment, think if MMS was successful in his bid to vacate Siachen? It would have exposed the Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) from the West from Pakistan and from the East from China. The latter has already occupied the Depsang Plains in May this year. We would be stuck to defend the narrow strip of land; the only access to Karakorum Pass. The DBO airfield would also be within artillery range from both East and West.

The holding of DBO would have been untenable had we gone by the wishes of MMS. Will any news channel drag him to an interview and seek his apologies to the nation for attempting to renege our national security? Just see; how Congress is still in league with the quislings of Gupkar who want to restore Art 370.

Faroukh Abdullah; the one who has lavished on public money want the Chinese to take over J&K. Look at his skulduggery; holding a myriad of constitutional posts, being the sitting Member of Parliament (MP) and having sworn to the Indian Constitution, gorging on the public goodies for the past eight decades of his life now turns to China for his deliverance, notwithstanding that they have incarcerated a million of his Muslim Brethren.

It does not matter to him that the Chinese Central Television Network has picturised ‘Mohd the Prophet’ which is a sacrilege. However, he will still break bread with China to get his personal share of butter; it really does not matter if their actions are against Muslim Ummah; indeed the ‘self comes before everything else; be it nationhood, statehood or any religious aggregation’. You see: they are very practical people who believe in the adage ‘Self First; Always and Every Time’.

China will definitely send the ageing Abdullah to one of their ‘Re-education Camp in Xinjiang. He would indeed be a prodigious learner where the syllabus has been specially tailor-made to develop patriotism and love for Motherland China.  Just take him to the Karakoram Pass and gently nudge him to the North in consideration to his age.  

He will find the required camp soon. Those who do not know his congenital ethical deformity in biting the hand that feeds him; you have to look at his patrimonial inheritances, where even his father met Zhou Enlai, then PM of China in Algiers in Feb 1965; five months prior to the Indo-Pak War. What transpired is not known, however, don’t you worry he would have gone and begged the Chinese to take over J&K and promised his full cooperation.

Probably based on his assurance, Pakistan launched ‘Op Gibraltar’; an infiltration operation in Aug 1965 to stir a revolt against India, that failed miserably. Neither a leopard can change its spots nor an Abdullah his coat! He is not a turncoat; the family wears their ‘coats turned’ ab initio.

Another thing that will surprise you about the ‘Resonating Silence’ from the Left Parties on Chinese aggression. This serpentine party has always remained treacherous and has acted against the interest of the country. The Left Ideologies override nationalism and India’s Constitution. Do not forget the support given to China during their aggression in 1962.

Also, note the recent qualified and conditional support to the Government; in the first instance during Dokalam Crisis, where the party advised the Government; not to provoke China.  

Yes; as a Nation we should always be in awe of China and cater our national responses not in our national interests but in consideration to the likes and dislikes of China? Similarly, why don’t you praise the armed forces of your own country against the expansionist design of China? You cannot digest the fact that your own country is getting the better of the communist enemy power?

Were you not the ones who outpoured your sympathy and support to the seditious agitation in the JNU?  You want to lavish on the rights and privileges that the country offers you but do not have the character to support the Armed Forces that gives you the right to practice your ingratitude to your own country.

Politicians Practising Societal Divide

"A word of caution; please do not term my article as communal...What I am highlighting is; very selective incidents are made political issues by Political Parties."
Protests following the Hathras case; File Photo

The opposition created a drama in the shameful ‘Hathras Case’. The gory and unfortunate incident happened on 14 Sep 2020. It is repugnant as has been reported. The Congress Party issued not less than six press releases on the case. Unlike the Maharashtra Government which contested tooth and nail in Supreme Court, not to hand over the Sushant Singh Rajput  case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI); the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government handed over the case to CBI on its own.  

It took the wind out of the sails, of the Congress; however not to appear to have lost the battle, the party has asked for a sitting judge of a High Court to investigate the case. If that is conceded then they will want a ‘Bench of Sitting Judges of the Supreme Court (SC)’ to investigate the case. Even if that is accomplished, they will want the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to investigate the Hathras Case. Now the SC has ordered a High Court (HC) monitored CBI probe.  

I am sure you understand the credentials of the party whose leadership does not take a hint to quit and treats it as their family heirloom. The politicisation of the victim’s plight is a pass time of our politicians. However, two days before the incident the Congress did not create a hue and cry over the gangrape of a Dalit girl at gunpoint in Rampur. The incident was filmed and uploaded on social media.  

I tried to ascertain as to why Congress is not chagrined on this repugnant incident? The response came after some enquiries. The ‘Rampur Gang Rape’ cannot be made an issue as the alleged rapists are from the ‘minority community’.

Again, on 24 Sep 2020; a Dalit girl was allegedly gang-raped by three men in Ghosia village of Kaushambi district that falls under Saray Akil police station, near Allahabad. Here again, the alleged rapists were from the minority community. Here, as well, the poor child was raped and the incident filmed. Filming a rape gives the rapists a total command over the victims due to shame associated when the video goes viral.

Just to further substantiate my argument; even in today’s Ballabgarh Daylight Murder of a 21-year old girl, there is not a whimper from the Congress though Haryana is a BJP ruled state because the alleged murderers are from the minority community and also a relative of a sitting MLA from Congress. If an issue is made out of it; Congress may lose the vote banks of the minority.

Don’t you feel that there is a very pertinent political logic in their decision making? As per the Congress, the minorities have a right to rape and murder? Indeed logical! I was not aware of it; were you? A word of caution; please do not term my article as communal. A rapist or a murderer does not have any religion; just like a terrorist. A rapist is a rapist and nothing more and nothing less and the strong arm of the law has to be meted out to him.  

What I am highlighting is; very selective incidents are made political issues by Political Parties. Though Priyanka Vadra perfunctorily condemned the Rampur incident, the Congress did not make an issue out of it as in the Hathras Case: Even other parties like the Samajwadi Party (SP), Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPI-M) did not get involved in these cases while they were categorical and vehement in their condemnation of Hathras Case.  

Isn’t it a tragedy that we do not talk as a nation as our politicians are involved in chicaneries and shenanigans to divide our society? Please read my article entitled “Institutionalising the Societal Divide”.

Is Someone Concerned of the Army on Our Borders?

"The Himalayan Heights are formidable, punishing, ruthless, merciless and uncompromising. A misstep could land one, thousands of feet below with no possibility of their bodies being recovered. Winds cut through the skin and leave it cracked and burnt."
Indian soldiers deployed in a High Altitude Area; File Photo 

The opening of the ‘Atal Tunnel’ could not have been timelier, as the Army has to pull through the devastating winters and live under fifty feet of snow on the mountain tops. No appreciation from the Opposition? Also, no appreciation for the improvement in road infrastructure when the RM inaugurated 44 critical bridges of which 40 connect Indo-China Occupied Tibetan Frontier.

This would give the Armed Forces sound logistics to sustain and fight a successful war against the Chinese.  It makes no sense to the politicians.  Nation? Whose Nation and why? As most of them have forgotten that our Armed Forces are manning heights in Kashmir, Siachen, Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal.  The fast-approaching winter this year has been already predicted to be very severe by the weathermen.

Dear PM; just praising sacrifices of soldiers will not do. Their prestige and status have to be restored. A soldier’s pay has to increase by several folds to cater for his early retirement at the age of 35. Rescind the Non Functional Upgradation (NFU) for all; if the bureaucrats would not let it happen for them please ensure it is applicable to the Armed Forces, as well.  

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The pride of the veterans has also to be restored. People of a country join the Armed Forces by just looking the way the nation treats its veterans. A nation survives because braves are born. It is a chromosomal inheritance and let it flourish in our country. The veterans’ health scheme has been found wanting; the less said the better. One Rank One Pension (OROP) is a far cry; ordained for automatic revision every year has been diluted to once in five years.  

Even that is stuck up since mid-2019. When it comes to the welfare of the veterans the RM and PM have washed their hand of their responsibilities and have delegated their primary role to the Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA; a babu of finance department) to give succour to the 25 million veterans. A clear abdication of responsibility!

Several times a day and most importantly when I hit the comfort of my bed at night; I am tormented by a gnawing concern, restlessness and unease; remembering our soldiers on the snowy frontiers eyeball to eyeball with the PLA.

The Himalayan Heights are formidable, punishing, ruthless, merciless and uncompromising. A misstep could land one, thousands of feet below with no possibility of their bodies being recovered. The winds cut through the skin and leave it cracked and burnt. The oxygen in the atmosphere is around 60 per cent and heart and has to pump several more times to get the required oxygen to the body; failure of which will cause ‘pulmonary edema’ where the death engulfs in a matter of minutes.

He mounts watch over the icy cold heights trying to hear the noise of the approaching enemy filtering out the whistle of wind that drowns it. The soldier’s hearing sense is trained to hear what others don’t. His eyes pierce through the darkness trying to observe from the rod cells in his eyes which are concentrated at the corners.

He sometimes hears his own breath, which he needs to stop to hear the silence of the night. Stopping breath for long in the rarefied atmosphere is again difficult as it is invariably followed by a couple of minutes of heavy breathing to meet the physiological needs of the body, already starved of oxygen.  

He gets dehydrated and needs to maintain his regular supply of warm water as the contents of his water bottle would have frozen. On a cloudy night, it will be so dark let alone seeing a couple of meters away; he will not be able to see his own palm.

He is a human, after all; and a few stray thoughts of his boisterous children, his loving wife, his doting parents, his fawning sisters and hobnobbing brothers may flash across his mind, which he banishes to concentrate on his eternal vigil.  

Their families live in trepidation just shuddering at midnight call from an unknown number; dreading the ominous portent that could shatter their lives!

I just cannot help remembering George Orwell when he says “people sleep peacefully at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf”. How true? Do our countrymen remember our soldiers? How many of our people send their silent prayers beseeching God; to give our Armed Forces the wisdom and strength to safeguard our country?  

To give them the courage, endurance, the indomitable fighting spirit and fortitude to kill the enemy and vanquish him in battle. How do we make a soldier confident that the will of the nation is with him? Have not Colonel Santosh Babu and his nineteen Bravehearts showed to the country their dedication and sacrifice as also, countless of his likes in the history of our country?

The soldiers have already been long forgotten: The media is concerned with local issues; Hathras, Ballabgarh, Palgarh, SSR, Drug Scandal of Bollywood with tinsel damsels playing offscreen lead roles, Mumbai Police, Bihar Elections, the incoherent banter of Raga, farmers bill, Covid and its vaccine; Diwali bonus, Dussehra, the furore over itemising a woman minister, Indian Premier League (IPL) and a myriad of mundane issues;

Where indeed is the time for the poor soldier on the frontlines to be in the headlines? He is steadfast and does his duty; unhonoured, unsung and unpraised. Who said it? Freedom is never Free! We honour the dead best by treating the living well".

(Lt Gen. PG Kamath is a highly distinguished general who has held some of the most prestigious appointments in the Indian Army. Views expressed are purely the authors own and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'Mission Victory India' The author can be reached on email: [email protected] and on LinkedIn )

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