The first officer to be commissioned into the newly raised 11th Gorkha Rifles, Major General Rajendra Nath, originally from Sham Chaurasi, Hoshiarpur, was a young Captain serving in the Military Intelligence Directorate at Army Headquarters in 1952.
Volunteering to lead a special reconnaissance into the forbidding Aksai Chin area of Ladakh, he found himself at Srinagar in July that year making arrangements for the journey. Apparently, the powers that be were apprehensive that the Chinese - having taken over Tibet in 1950 - might have infiltrated into Indian territory. Aksai Chin was a vast, high-altitude desert ranging in height from 15,700 to 18,000 feet. It had no resources and was practically uninhabitable. Its only human value was the ancient trade route passing through it.
Equipped by 19 Division, which then - as now - defended the Kashmir Valley, Rajendra Nath selected his party which was to comprise, besides himself, an engineer officer, a doctor and 15 men, mostly from the infantry. Flying in by IAF Dakota into Leh in mid-September, they were prepared logistically for the arduous journey by troops of a Punjab battalion detached from the garrison at Kargil and the J&K Militia (now the Ladakh Scouts). Ponies, camels and yaks were to carry stores.
There were plenty of dry rations - flour, daal, rice, sugar and milk powder but no tinned vegetables or meat. Meat on hoof (live goats or sheep) was to be purchased en route. Ladakhi and Tibetan interpreters from among the locals and Chinese linguists sent by Army HQs from Delhi were attached. Materials for distribution along the way included sweets, kerosene oil, sugar, condiments and medicines. In addition, the party was to give pep talks to the locals on subjects of national importance.
Starting on October 5, the party proceeded via the Chang La (height 17,800 feet) and Marsmik La (18,300 feet) passes to reach the Chang Chenmo River valley. From there, they travelled to Lanak La pass at 18,300 feet, the extent of their reconnaissance. There was no Chinese presence, though reports were received about their occasional army patrols in the area. The party returned on November 15 after a gruelling journey.
True to our perverse sense of secrecy, the report on Rajendra Nath's expedition remains top secret to this day. He was refused permission to publish it, thereby depriving him of the United Service Institution's MacGregor Medal awarded for valuable military reconnaissance. The reconnaissance party's report lulled the Indian establishment into a false sense of security. Major SL Tugnait's 1956 expedition discovered a Chinese presence as well as evidence of road-building activity, but that is another story.
Stress mgmt expert and marriage counsellor
Colonel Gursewak Singh's post-retirement career as a stress management consultant and marriage counsellor is a fine example of how army service shapes and trains one in useful skills. Belonging to Mohi village in Ludhiana district, he served with 47 and 130 Air Defence Regiments.
While posted with a Ground Liaison Section at Avantipura airbase in Kashmir, he was asked to help with pre-operation motivation of fighter pilots during the Kargil war. The experience helped him recognise his inherent skills in personality development, motivation and counselling and making use of his talent. He soon blossomed into a full-time instructor, motivator and speaker who was much in demand in the corporate sector and with educational institutions. Besides motivational and development lectures, he has written two books on stress management.
The retired colonel says that his service and training in the Army helped him immensely in his second career; that his tenure as an instructor honed his skills in conducting classes and workshops and man-management, so important in the Services. The self-discipline that the Army teaches was an all-important asset in all-round development. Interestingly, he says that his rural background and its intrinsic weaknesses as perceived by him made him work harder to achieve parity with other officers.
This in turn instilled a useful spirit of competitiveness. Commenting on the current scenario in the Services, he says that an irregular schedule, negative emotions and distance from their families cause the highest stress levels among personnel deployed in counter-insurgency operations.
Promise on PVC awardee not kept
On Sunday (Jan 20), the 20th anniversary of the passing away of Captain Karam Singh of 1st Sikh and the first Param Vir Chakra awardee from Punjab was observed by his family at their home in Barnala district. A promise made by the then chief minister in 1993 to the effect that his native village would be renamed Karam Singh Mallian in his honour has not been kept. Would the government care to explain why the memory of a braveheart is not important enough to stir it into action?
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