The Nation is geared up to celebrate Army Day on January, 15, 2011. It was on this historic day in 1949 that the Indian Army divested the control of the British with Lieutenant General (later Field Marshal) K. M. Cariappa taking over as the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army from Sir Francis Butcher, the last British commander. The intervening period has witnessed the Indian Army coming of age and discharging its solemn duty to the Nation with great valour, courage and devotion to duty. This is an apt time to revisit the contribution and more importantly the sacrifices made by the brave soldiers of our great Army towards upholding the national cause.
The foremost aspect is the courage and bravery much beyond the call of duty exhibited by our soldiers in times of war. The first challenge came in the form of a tribal invasion of Kashmir sponsored by Pakistan. The rapacious invasion would have well succeeded but for the bravery and courage exhibited by soldiers like Brigadier Mohammad Usman, Lieutenant Colonel Diwan Ranjit Rai and Major Som Nath Sharma amongst many others whose bravery is now a subject of folklore. This test of fire for the nascent Indian Army saved the region from coming under yet another colonial yolk
In 1962, China launched an unprovoked invasion into Indian territories. The war was fought with utmost bravery by the Indian troops despite being overwhelmed in both numbers and equipment. On 20 November 1962, a cease fire was declared and the Chinese withdrew from all the disputed areas. This happened mainly due to a realisation that the Indian troops, would not be a walk over once they were reinforced and refurbished.
In 1965, Pakistan had a slight edge in military capability, hence, she decided to launch a desperate gamble code named Operation Gibraltar. The plan was to infiltrate thousands of “raiders” into the Kashmir Valley to orchestrate a local revolt and at the same time attack other places along the border so that reinforcements could not be sent into Kashmir. The end result was yet another bloody nose for Pakistan. The Battle of Asal Uttar proved to be a grave yard for their much vaunted Patton tanks and in Kashmir the local population supported the Army against the sham uprising that frittered out soon enough.
The Indo-Pakistan war of 1971 is heralded as one of the most convincing victories of annals of global military history. The liberation of Bangla Desh after the abject surrender of Pakistani forces in East Pakistan with almost 100,000of them being detained as prisoners of war speaks for itself.
In May 1999 Pakistani intrusion was identifies in some sectors of Kargil. The Indian reaction was swift and ferocious. The brave Indian soldiers motivated by the support of a billion of their people pounced upon the intruders and evicted them in disgrace. In the process they performed unprecedented acts of bravery. The battle of epic proportions culminated with Pakistan lamely announcing the withdrawal of its battered Northern Light Infantry formations when there was very little left to withdraw.
The Indian Army has incessantly been called upon to face the most brutal forms of foreign sponsored terrorism and insurgency in various parts of the country like Kashmir, the North east and Punjab. In true form it has committed all the means at its command towards eradication of this menace. Counter insurgency and counter terrorist operations of an unprecedented dimension have been witnessed in all affected regions to gain operational and psychological ascendancy. Special effort is invariably made to avoid collateral damage and to ensure that civilian causalities are kept at the barest minimum. In these areas, the Army also makes special efforts to ameliorate the suffering of the people who are living under deprived conditions due to this foreign sponsored unrest. It provides a life line through generation of employment, provision of medical facility, community and infrastructure development especially in the remote areas of these regions where access of government agencies is also difficult. As a result of these operations at the cost of great sweat and blood, no foreign sponsored insurgency or terrorism has been able to make a dent to the country’s intrinsic fabric.
It is a well known fact that the Army is the first to respond in all incidents of natural disaster be it earthquakes like the one in Kashmir in 2005 or the Tsunami in the coastal regions in 2004 or the floods of the Kosi river Bihar in 2008. In all such instances the response of the Army is spontaneous and this serves as the greatest morale booster for the affected population.
Residing in metropolitan cities blessed with a salubrious ambience, one often forgets the relevance of the armed forces. It is only when one treads more hostile and peripheral locations of the land that the importance and relevance of the army begins to dawn. Just pause and think, while newspapers are dedicating volumes to the recent cold wave that has beset the national capital where the minimum temperature has gone to about 3-4 degree Celsius nobody has given a thought to the condition of the soldier in Siachen who is surviving, at this very moment, in minus 50 degree Celsius.
The Indian Nation is going through some testing times. The Kashmir Valley continues to be embroiled in an unabated cycle of violence, the condition in the North east can, at best, be termed as fragile and the Naxal issue has gained criticality. Despite this, the peaceniks of the country harp on maintaining cordial relations with neighbouring countries and cutting down on defence expenditure, the “Armed Forces Special Powers Act” has emerged as a favourite whipping boy for all such individuals and organisations. All this simply has to stop because we as a Nation surrounded by belligerent enemies cannot afford to bring down our level of defence preparedness and vigilance.
The people of India see the Indian soldier as the epitome of all that is the best in the country due to his demonstrated qualities of courage, self sacrifice, integrity, strength of character and commitment to the cause of the Nation. It is therefore, the bounden duty of the Nation to ensure that the blood spilled by the soldier as also his contribution to the national cause does not go waste. To ensure the same all out efforts should be made to maintain him at a highest pedestal professionally, socially and psychologically.