Military & Aerospace

Army bears brunt of myopic political platitudes
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 18 May , 2023

Despite four wars being fought with Pakistan and thousands of bomb blasts devastating the soil of India, New Delhi’s pursuit of a pacifist policy towards Islamabad, except for occasional surgical strikes, has only emboldened terrorists into killing more and more of highly experienced military personnel. An explosion in Rajouri, coinciding with Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto’s visit to India, claimed the lives of five Army personnel.

Surprisingly, has any celebrity from Bollywood ever voiced support for the fallen heroes, including those that made the supreme sacrifice in the most recent Poonch and Rajouri attacks?

The external affairs minister may have been blunt in denouncing Islamabad’s sponsorship of terror during junior Bhutto’s presence, but it is extremely doubtful whether venting the nation’s collective outrage, through a humiliating snub, would ever halt the tide of these vicious attacks. Had that been the case, then proxy war would have ceased long ago, especially against the backdrop of the irrational hatred that Pakistan harbours for India, ever since it came into being. What kind of compulsion prevents an aspiring superpower from imposing costs on the perpetrators in its own backyard is beyond fathoming.

Predictably, the political dispensation conveniently falls back on clichés and platitudes, which sound like pathetic exercises in self-justification, duly magnified by the concerted breast beating of the print and electronic media, until the next onslaught. What it does not realize is that an ounce of action is always worth a tonne of verbosity, especially against perpetrators of terror. The public may come out in large numbers to honour soldiers slain in counter terror operations, or demonstrate solidarity with their family members. But do they protest when servicemen going home on leave are physically assaulted, vilified or humiliated by politicians, policemen, district officials or even done to death? Why do they forget that soldiers are often the last resort in dire emergencies like floods, natural or manmade disasters?

Surprisingly, has any celebrity from Bollywood ever voiced support for the fallen heroes, including those that made the supreme sacrifice in the most recent Poonch and Rajouri attacks? Rather they have gone out of their way to align with the ‘Break India’ forces and malign the Army or question its loyalty, besides demonizing Indic culture and vaunting a morbid love for Pakistan. One of the starlets even questioned the valour of Galwan heroes by tweeting about it derogatively. Significantly, these pampered entities, propelled by grandiose notions of self-glorification, never let go of opportunities to strut about as Special Forces officers, on the big screen, only to make a mockery of their roles.

Unfortunately, the Army has always been left to deal with the messy outcome of disastrous policies pursued by the first prime minister and successive political dispensations since. The decision to approach the United Nations in 1948, at the behest of the then governor general Mountbatten, especially when Pakistani raiders were on the verge of being thrown out of the whole of Jammu and Kashmir by our forces, left a huge chunk of the state under enemy occupation. The festering sore has claimed more lives of Indian soldiers than accounted by all the five wars. Later Nehru practically gifted China with a seat at the UN Security Council, which was being offered to India.

The veto power has not only served to block India’s legitimate aspirations, but also helped protect some of the most wanted jihadi masterminds, ensconced in Pakistan, from the consequences of their horrific attacks on India.

This act of misplaced altruism, despite Sardar Patel’s dire warning on Chinese designs, encouraged muscle flexing by Beijing and indiscriminate use of veto power. It virtually paved the way for occupation of Tibet, a proud and free country that stood as a buffer between two inimical neighbours. If today Beijing covets Arunachal Pradesh, the Siliguri Corridor and parts of the Northeast, besides grabbing land in Ladakh, are they not then the offshoots of Nehru’s hasty step in the name of a pan Asian bonhomie. Many respected veterans and strategic analysts have exposed Chinese perfidy on the icy desert and its salami slicing. But New Delhi remains adamant on denial or maintains a stony silence.

The veto power has not only served to block India’s legitimate aspirations, but also helped protect some of the most wanted jihadi masterminds, ensconced in Pakistan, from the consequences of their horrific attacks on India. If the ‘rogue state’ dares to treat New Delhi with such contempt and in open defiance of global censure and wreak mayhem on Indian soil, every so often, then it is because of the Dragon’s unfailing encouragement and support, in a bid to subdue its Asian rival. More alarming is the fact of India’s acquiescing in Beijing’s acts of omission and commission, concealing the depth of latter’s duplicity with misleading statements, enough to shame any self-respecting nation.

When the nation’s first Army chief, Gen Robert Lockhart, sought a directive on defence policy, Nehru flew into a rage and questioned the wisdom of maintaining an Army. The police were good enough, he peremptorily told Lockhart. Shocked out of his wits by the outburst, the general beat a hasty retreat, according to Maj Gen D.K. Palit. Then in 1958, the army seized power in Pakistan, casting an ominous shadow over the fate of politico-military relations in India. It further impacted Nehru’s psyche, which became apparent in the days to come, as for example in 1962.

A panicky government, steeped in Gandhian pacifism and politics of protest, hastily dumped entire formations on the icy Himalayan heights, straight from the sweltering plains of Punjab, without acclimatizing the men or providing them with vital supplies, winter clothing, armaments, artillery or air support, culminating in the Indian Army’s most ignominious defeat. What mortification it must have been for a ‘frugal’ soldiery that had won laurels in European and African theatres and helped the British win the Second World War. Unfortunately, Nehru’s strategic naiveté continues to haunt successive political dispensations.

Ten years down the line, Indira Gandhi committed a blunder of Himalayan proportions by unconditionally returning 93,000 Pakistani POW’s, guilty of the most horrific genocide after the Holocaust. Perhaps she was fulfilling her father’s agenda and vote bank compulsions. The ISI repaid India by waging a proxy war, vowing to inflict a ‘thousand cuts’, first in Punjab and then in Kashmir. Felled by jihadi bullets, thousands of soldiers left behind wailing widows and traumatized children, their future shattered. These stark images caught on video clips and the horrific loss of lives, cost India militarily and economically.

The thriving politics of appeasement helps explain why the most brutal perpetrator of violence on Nirbhaya was let off lightly, just as the horrific torture of Captain Saurabh Kalia and his valiant band…

Did Kargil, playing out under the watch of a non-Congress government, fare any better? The couplet mouthing PM’s bus ride to Lahore backfired, with Musharraf’s hordes occupying mountain tops, poised to commit an act of unparalleled treachery. Vajpayee verily declared the he would wrest back every inch of occupied territory, but later reversed his statement and undertook not to pursue Pakistan is fleeing across the LoC, obviously under US pressure. The Indian forces, fighting virtually blind, did not know where or how many of the enemy were holed up above. Washington spurned requests to provide their locations through satellite imagery, engendering heavy casualties on Indian side.

Does this mindset not permeate the system from top to bottom? The thriving politics of appeasement helps explain why the most brutal perpetrator of violence on Nirbhaya was let off lightly, just as the horrific torture of Captain Saurabh Kalia and his valiant band, dubbed “the single most depraved act of barbarity after the mass extermination of Bengalis in 1971,” matters little to whichever party is in power, fearful of antagonizing vote banks. There is something deeply flawed about the piecemeal approach to terror, which is loaded against the Indian soldiery and needs to be reviewed at the highest levels of the government.

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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

Sudip Talukdar

is an author and strategic affairs columnist.

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7 thoughts on “Army bears brunt of myopic political platitudes

  1. Sudip Talukdar’s article is brilliant and portrays the incompetence of the political establishment right from the time of independence. Sadly, all the PMs down the line are shy to take advice from the Military establishment and end up making strategic blunders. Unmindful of the previous follies it appears no one has done serious introspection to improve the Higher Defence Management in the political establishment.
    This article has to be read by policymakers and for the sake of the country improve our strategic management of our country’s affairs.

    • Not sure what you are claiming here. Could you please explain how India lost the strategic Chamb sector in 1971? Was it not due to complete failure of the military intelligence and incompetence? There was no political interference by the political masters in Delhi in the conduct of that war.
      I do not deny that Gen Manekshaw executed a sterling role in the war as the Army Chief to lead India to a splendid overall victory. But it is also undeniable that India fought that war standing on the shoulder of the then Soviet Union which was made possible only by the determined role played by and the foresight of the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the political level to recall the Indo-Soviet treaty. Otherwise, Nixon-Kissinger and Chou-en-Lai would have brought India down to a disaster.

      • Kissinger-Chou-en-Lai bringing down India lies in the realm of pure speculation and is not relevant to the discussion. Why did Field Marshal Rommel win many battles, but ultimately lose the way? Does it detract from his greatness or strategic brilliance. What if Manekshaw attacked Pakistan at the insistence of a strategically dumb Indira Gandhi in July. He had the foresight and the stature to warn her of the ensuing disaster during monsoons!

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with the observations of the author. The Indian political establishment knows very little about our armed forces. To make matters worse, the mind-set of many of our political leaders (and also many civil servants) is quite short-sughted. This creates an unfortunate scenario, since the armed forces rely on the others in the mational power structure to ffer the requisite support to our warriors. More power to Sudip’s pen.

  3. “… Indira Gandhi committed a blunder of Himalayan proportions by unconditionally returning 93,000 Pakistani POW’s …” –
    I do not agree here.
    First, “unconditionally” is factually wrong since Bhutto had to sign the Shimla agreement which stipulated that there will be no third-party involvement between India and Pakistan in the Kashmir dispute. This effectively has superseded the 1048 UN resolution on Kashmir.
    Secondly, had India held on the POWs much longer Pakistan might have been able to take their case to the UN with support from the US and China for resolving the impasse. In that era the US administration was extremely hostile against India and the UN involvement would have been disastrous.
    Many political analysts in India blame Indira Gandhi for not settling the Kashmir problem once and for all with Pakistan having achieved a decisive victory. But that is not a correct conclusion to draw in the context.
    There is a Kashmir file in the UN which is dormant but not closed. To resolve the Kashmir problem in the international arena, that UN file has to be closed. But India has no clout in the Security Council for that. Any move to close that file is going to be vetoed by China and possibly the US for sure. In sum, Indira Gandhi achieved for India the maximum India could achieve under any circumstances. May be the Ukraine war could trigger an upshot for India in future leading to a restructure of the Security Council where Delhi secures elevated position in power play by Russian support.. This could enable then for Delhi to get the grip for its Kashmir case to resolve it forever.

    • Whether one may or may not agree is beside the point. It cannot obscure the incontrovertible fact that Mrs Gandhi held a trump card in her hand, namely the 93,000 Pakistani PoWs, guilty of butchering three million Bengali Hindus, a genocide next only to the Holocaust. Had Pakistan committed the folly of taking the case to the UN, which often acts as the puppet of Washington, then India could have mustered overwhelming evidence to have them tried as war criminals. But Nehru’s daughter lacked the spine to do it, or out of the fear of antagonizing vote banks to which her party was beholden. Such was the politics of appeasement. and still is.

      Many skeletons have come tumbling out of the cupboard of she who has been excessively glorified as the iron lady. Even a debauched Bollywood, which supports the Break India gangs, is all set to glorify the termagant, when she committed serial blunders and murdered democracy, besides dismissing dozens of elected governments. She displayed zero knowledge of strategic matters, when she insisted on attacking Pakistan during monsoons, which floods East Pakistan and turns it into a vast swamp. But for the sagacity and firmness of Gen Manekshaw. Apologists will always find enough reasons to justify her releasing PoWs for free, based on logic that won’t survive a moment of scrutiny.

      One of the biggest banes of Indian politics is that none of the politicians, nor the bureaucrats, nor their offspring have ever served in the Army, unlike eight US Presidents. So that they can play fast and loose with policies bearing on national security or tinker with military uniforms, commit a fiasco in Pathankot terror attack.

  4. One fails to fathom the logic behind changing the pattern of uniforms from the rank of brigadier onwards, when the IPS lobby is merrily appropriating all the insignias, ribbons and symbols of the Indian Army. Even lathi wielding constables and those from the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) are sporting military combat fatigues with gay abandon, pretending to be the official militia of the government. What is even more contemptible is that inimical elements with the tacit encouragement of the babudom are relying on Youtube clips to characterize them as faujis. It is the Indian Army that has to handle all the toughest assignments at the LoC and the LaC, not the CAPFs. By highlighting the role of Marcos and the NSG in the context of the G-20 meeting in Kashmir, a subtle attempt is being made to downplay the importance of the Army. Remember Pathankot disaster and a feeble defence of the blunder!

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