India remembered Kargil a few weeks back. We all recall with pride the sacrifices our soldiers and airmen made in this conflict ten years ago. Kargil no doubt was a military success but it exposed our inadequate military preparedness and highlighted other lacunae or weaknesses in our defence set-up. This was unfortunate.
A comment which has gained momentum is that none of our higher-ups or political leaders had the courtesy to be present at the Soldiers Memorial in Kargil to honour our dead. Such lapses do no credit to India or its Government. A country is known by the way it respects and treats its War Veterans and dead. What one finds is that while India announces awards and rewards, little is done thereafter. Certainly, medals and decorations are given to the gallant officers and men.
The rewards that are announced have a different track record. Except for perhaps the Punjab and Haryana (which was part of the undivided Punjab), other States are often found lacking in implementation. The Ex-Servicemen have to run from pillar to post to realize what they are promised. This is unfortunate. In times of war we remember the Soldier and God but once peace prevails both are conveniently forgotten and relegated to the basket! This is the sad fact.
None of our higher-ups or political leaders had the courtesy to be present at the Soldiers Memorial in Kargil to honour our dead. Such lapses do no credit to India or its Government.
We owe a special debt of gratitude to France for turning on the spotlight on the Indian Army and its long forgotten international legacy. The occasion was the Bastille Day Parade in Paris, when a contingent of the Indian Armed Forces – Army, Navy and Air Force marched smartly on the Champs Elysees. It was for the first time that this event took place. The French President Nicholas Sarkozy did India the rare honour. India recruited over 1.5 million men in the Army during WW I (1914–1918), with over 950,000 men serving in France, Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia and East Africa. Over 60,000 soldiers laid down their lives in that war. India Gate, the grand memorial, which stands today was raised in their honour and memory and also for all those who died in the three Afghan Wars.
Somehow, we have failed to honour all our soldiers who fell during WW II (1939–1945). India had over 2.5 million men under arms during this period, the biggest all volunteer force raised till then. We honoured our fallen soldiers of the 1971 War by adding the ‘Amar Jawan Jyoti’ at India Gate. It seems that our leaders suffered from an aversion to the Indian Army on account of its association with Britain. This was unfortunate. Now, after 60 years it is high time that India honoured its dead soldiers – good men all who contributed so much to the defeat of the Axis Forces in the African and Italian Fronts, in Palestine, Iraq and Iran and most decisively and massively in the Southeast Asia theatre of war – especially in Burma.
Perhaps this is the right time to give serious thought and decide that India needs to reclaim with pride its record and contribution to world history and also to give active thought to the expeditionary capabilities of our Armed Forces. India, which is rising and gaining increasing economic and political clout, would do well to remember its past record, and be better equipped in discharging its responsibilities as an emerging great power.
Budget allocation allotted for modernization of our military, especially for re-equipment of artillery, etc was surrendered in the last fiscal year! How callous can we get?
The biggest deficiency which was exposed in Kargil in 1999 was in artillery pieces – especially the 155mm gun and light howitzers. Since the BOFORS scandal 25 years ago, due to one reason or the other we have not been able to acquire the required gun and in adequate numbers. This is quite an unprecedented situation! It shows that we are not serious in building up our Army to the necessary level of a credible military force. It is a very dangerous situation for the defence and security of our country.
The Defence Ministry grants are rarely debated in Parliament these days. The MPs have neither the military background nor the aptitude to sit and debate the matter intelligently. This is not a happy situation. The Lok Sabha sat for only 46 sittings last year! In days gone by, it sat for over 100 days annually. This shows the sad decline in our body politic. Budget allocation of Rs.7,000 crores allotted for modernization of our military, especially for re-equipment of artillery, etc was surrendered in the last fiscal year! How callous can we get? I cannot imagine why we allow such things to happen.