Price of Protecting The Nation: Who is the Real Enemy?
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 04 Oct , 2016

“When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today.  — The Kohima Epitaph

It is past midnight, the company commander is out in an ambush expecting an infiltrating column of terrorists from across the line of control, hands and feet are frozen but not the spirit. He occasionally checks with surveillance team if TI sight is picking up any image or movement of terrorists. In between he checks with his base if all OK at the base. The standby reserve column in the post is ready to move at zero warning; sentries in the camp are looking for some unusual sound and barking of dogs. 

It is no secret that commanders do not sleep for more than three to four hours in a cycle of 24 hours. The physical and mental stress level is very high and in such an environment they have to perform and deliver.

In the meantime the commanding officer calls up the post and informs that intercept has been received that terrorists (suicidal) are likely to strike some post. The brigade operations room is active, commander and his staff is monitoring the encounter going on in another battalion area. Reinforcements are required to be moved and a casualty has occurred that need urgent evacuation. 

In military hospital lifesaving surgery is going on and the time is 0300 h in the morning. Divisional Commander is woken up by his staff informing him a major encounter taking place in one of the sector and movement has been detected in another area. Movement of Pakistan regulars noticed close to LOC and may be attempting border action against a forward post along the LOC. Special forces team in base is asked to mobilise to be heli-lifted before the first light to deal with the terrorists holed up in a built up area with hostage still stuck inside.

Commanding officer of one of the Rashtriya Rifles unit who was rushing home to look after his ailing family is informed by his Adjutant that few men have suffered critical injuries and encounter is raging with the terrorists, he decides to return back because safety of his men and success of operation is utmost and he decides to move back to his tactical headquarters to reach back before the first light. He considers well being of his men is more important than the sickness of his family. 

The convoy commander a young lady officer, is tasked to lead the convoy from forward areas to Srinagar with specific orders to ensure safety and security of men under stone pelting and threat of ambush enroute by terrorists.

This is a regular routine and men and officers can’t even get mandatory six hours of uninterrupted sleep. This routine is 24×7, 365 days in a year.

One can’t even imagine the cost these men pay to protect the nation. One has to go through to feel the pain and agony.

It is no secret that commanders do not sleep for more than three to four hours in a cycle of 24 hours. The physical and mental stress level is very high and in such an environment they have to perform and deliver. Even if one man fails, the team fails.

Next mission at hand does not give even time to the team members to mourn the loss of a comrade. Before the soldiers get over the physical and mental fatigue the domestic worries and unresponsive administration back home takes the toll on the morale of the soldiers, because his land is being encroached, his wife is being harassed and child is suffering from acute sickness.

One can’t even imagine the cost these men pay to protect the nation. One has to go through to feel the pain and agony. Someone has said that “to those who died securing peace and freedom; To those who served in conflict to protect our land, and sacrificed their dreams of the day to preserve the hope of our nation keeping motherland free, we owe our thanks and our honour.  It is important to not only recognize their service but to respect their devotion to duty and to ensure that the purpose for which they fought will never be forgotten”.

What this man wants from the countrymen is a big thank you that too he is deprived off. There are no bouquets, no cards of thank you, no one to receive him at railways station except old parents and his wife who waits to see their only bread earner returning home from the national duty.

A commanding officer can bear the mental and physical fatigue as long as his command is intact. But what he can’t bear is the loss of his comrades. His voice never wavers while ordering men to do impossible, but his voice wavers while giving the call to the family that his or her son/ husband has become a martyr for the cause of the nation. Throat chokes, voice wavers and hand shivers while holding the phone. He can’t even cry because men are watching, he maintains a look of an iron man; his grief is private as he bids adieu to the martyr those who are more than a comrades.

CO’s voice never wavers while ordering men to do impossible, but his voice wavers while giving the call to the family that his or her son/ husband has become a martyr for the cause of the nation.

The frustration of commanders on ground increases with not due to the inability of his men or lack of grit or steely resolve, but the restrain he has to exercise on his men to the extent that they will not fire till they are fired upon. He is angry because he has to fight this hybrid threat with whatever he has and not what he should have.

His base does not have boundary wall to protect his men, his camps do not have night surveillance equipment to keep the area around his camps under vigilance. His men are almost night blind and his shelters are not bullet proof. He realises that it is criminal to lose men while sleeping and eating yet he accepts it as a hazard of military profession.

He is convinced that bureaucrats in Delhi do not understand the constraints under which he drives his men to limit of breakdown to ensure safety and security of the country.

He wants body armour; he wants his camps to be secured by structural and electronic security so that he does not look back while fighting enemy of the nation. He wants light weapons that are effective and does not betray men during engagements. He wants good warm and comfortable clothes that keep his men comfortable in all weather.

He knows his men are the best and need no further proof of their capabilities yet they are categorised unskilled labourers.

He wonders who his real enemy is, beyond LOC or within who keep his men below the threshold of operational readiness?

He wonders who his real enemy is, beyond LOC or within who keep his men below the threshold of operational readiness? A young company commander once told the author, sir I can handle the enemy with the weapons, but I can’t handle the enemy with the pen and rubber stamps.

He feels hurt when administration displays insensitiveness towards his men and their families. He feels let down when his plea to look into the grievances of his men fall on deaf ears. He feels insulted when the body of his fallen comrade is moved like an ordinary cargo into the hold from the rear gate. He feels sad when the captain of the aircraft flying his comrade on his last journey home, even refuses to acknowledge that a soldier has given his today for our tomorrow and he is privileged to fly him on his last journey home.

He tolerates it in silence because new day has brought new challenge. He motivates himself with these words of George S. Patton Jr, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men ever lived.”

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Brig Narender Kumar (Retd.)

Senior Fellow, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.

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7 thoughts on “Price of Protecting The Nation: Who is the Real Enemy?

  1. A very realistic article on the life of an officer posted on the Line of Control in Counter Insurgency environment. Sadly, those sitting in their air conditioned offices/houses under in the security provided by the soldiers do not realise this. Since they do not have to pay any price for the freedom and the security available to them, they tend to believe that everything that is told about a soldier’s plight is exaggerated. While it has been written umpteen number of times to make it mandatory for every Govt servant to serve in the filed areas for at least one year, nothing is done by the powers that be. Also, the condition of our living shelter and defences on all along the borders/LC continue to be in a poor state even after 69 years of independence. Both lack of adequate funds and apathy on the part of the establishment are responsible for this sorry state of affairs. Add to that the attitude of the civil administration and the police back home and you realise that the soldier is on the receiving end from all quarters. Yet the motivation to serve the nation and make the supreme sacrifice are hallmarks of the Indian soldier. I only wish that some day the Govt in power rises to the occasion and does enough to improve the plight of the soldier. Congratulations to the author for putting forward an excellent description of the soldier’s life candidly.

  2. right to the point. excellent article. There is a need to create greater awareness amongst the citizens about the nations army and the armed forces. There is near zero awareness in our country about the armed forces. A glaring example is that even the official web sites, officials and political leaders since many years mix up even aspects such as which are the the Central Armed Police Forces ( BSF,CRPF,RAF), Para military forces ( Assam Rifles, Coast Guard, SFF) and the armed forces (Army, Navy and Air force). For most of them, these are all just security forces. While one must appreciate the wonderful job being done by the CAPF in maintaining law and order and internal security, they must not be mistaken for the armed forces. It is in the interest of the country that certain minimum level of awareness is created about its armed forces. There could even be a small chapter in our school text books imparting barest minimum information on the armed forces of the country apart from more educative and informative articles in main stream periodicals.

  3. Sir, an excellent article. You have captured the true essence of the feelings of a company commander operating in the present day CI environment. Simultaneously he has to mentally deal with a multitude of tasks and responsibilities and also deliver on all fronts. Apt and proper recognition of the sacrifices of each and every soldier is the need of the day, else the day is not far when they will question the need to make such sacrifices for an ungrateful Nation.

  4. A realistic and hard hitting article which correctly shows the consistent failure of sucessive govts to provide basic wherewithal to our Armed Forces and also pliant attitude of Forces to keep on accepting. All must pay heed to what author has articulated. Above all soldiers need to be truely respected. Mere rhetorics and sentiments at time of crisis may not work.

  5. I agree with the views expressed by the author. He has described the moments correctly as it happens in the forward areas where troops are exposed to threats continuously. We have to constantly fight the enemy both external and internal. The internal enemy are more dangerous for the Armed Forces, because they are formulating policies for defence of the country from the safe heaven in Delhi provided by the soldier. The blame goes squarely to Indian Politico-Bureaucratic vicious nexus they are so self centred and selfish they are always busy for their own benefits. It is no surprising that after latest Uri incident makes a stupid comment that action will be taken against the commanders for the lapses. The reasons evident in a place like Uri there is no SECURITY WALL , NO PROPER NIGHT SURVEILANCE DEVICE and so many others. If he really wants to know the reasons then he should look into his own MOD why the People in MOD are sleeping. What work they are doing. If he wants any corrective measure then first thing he should do 1. All Babus in MOD should have six month tenure in op area in forward posts and carry out all the jobs starting from morning stand to 2. Patrolling 3. Ambush 4. Cordon and search 5. Live in bunkers and face the terrorists and fight as we do. They should also do one month tenure in Siachen. Then only he will be allowed to stay in MOD, even the RM should also go through the same routine, he is young should not hesitate to go through this, he should be proud to volunteer. Then only he can make comments.

  6. Most of officers get posted in counter insurgency area -be as a youngster or as a senior commander in hierarchy and the issues highlighted by the author ate actually facts that we have always experienced.
    We have also experienced an unknown fear /uncertainty moment our columns are out at night and it ends only after their safe return to base.Our nights usually disturbed – often waking up even with the slightest noise
    Professional excellence tough training and confidence in command immensely help commanders to with stand such pressures .Such pressures can only realised by those having operated them selves in these areas.
    Very well analysed article.

  7. A very well article by most experienced officer of Indian Army in Counter Insurgency Operation in both J&K and Manipur. He has brought about the real experience of CO & the Cdrs in such situation and what they undergo to keep their men under high operational preparedness. Wish this article revolves around the think tank of Government to understand the tough situation of the Army on their Line of Duties, before they cut their dues & bring down their status.

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