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A war hero's honour must be restored

chandigarh Updated: Jan 29, 2013 12:10 IST
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Why must soldiers pay for the decisions of their political masters? The value of our armed forces lies in the fact that they are above all parochial considerations. How else can they rise above all such matters to do their duty in keeping intact the unity and integrity of the country? To deny General Ranjit Singh Dayal's family access to a place of worship for political reasons flies in the face of all that he and all others in uniform fought for.

A fitting tribute to the memory of a brave general, a show of solidarity by soldiers providing balm to the bereaved family and a repudiation of identity politics which threatens to gnaw inexorably at the nation's vitals would be for the uniformed fraternity to organise an all-faith prayer meeting in the best Services tradition at an iconic spot, say the Chandigarh War Memorial This writer for one would deem it a privilege to be part of such an initiative.

Preparing Adampur airbase for war

During the 1971 war, Adampur airbase near Jalandhar was responsible for the air defence of Punjab as well as offensive air operations and ground support. The three squadrons based there - Numbers 1, 26 and 101 (the first with Mig-21 FLs and the latter two flying Sukhoi-7s) flew over 500 missions, providing close air support to ground troops in a wide sector ranging from Chhamb to Suleimanke and offensive strikes on a number of targets. They prevented any enemy air raid on their own base, were the only ones to fly counter-offensive operations on the night of December 3 and ended the war covered with glory.

Air Commodore Randhir Singh took over the air base in June 1970. Hailing from Bhasaur in Sangrur district, he was commissioned in 1942, learnt his trade on the North-West Frontier and Burma during World War 2 and won a Vir Chakra in the First Kashmir War.

Believing that war was imminent, he set a tough regimen of training, focussing on the highest possible state of operational readiness. The station worked round the clock on exercises sometimes lasting a week, preparing for instant offensive capability, reaching maximum effort in 30 minutes. Dry runs of different missions were repeatedly flown and thoroughly practiced.

Mrs Randhir Singh visited families of airmen and prepared them for air raids. A heightened security consciousness resulted in the nabbing of three Pakistani spies. Panchayats and villagers in the periphery of the base were mobilised. Ground defence was organised using available manpower. Trees were planted for camouflage by the forest department. A great sense of purpose motivated all the officers, SNCOs, airmen and other personnel to work up to 16 hours daily.

Air Chief Marshal PC Lal said that 1/3rd of all Western Air Command missions were flown by Air Force Station, Adampur. This is a tribute to the leadership and drive shown by its commander, Randhir Singh, who retired as an Air Marshal and AOC-in-C, Training Command.

PU department of defence, national security studies

The development of strategic thought and the culture of national security consciousness in Chandigarh received a fillip in 2001 with the establishment of Panjab University's department of defence and national security studies in 2001 with Dr Rakesh Datta, a renowned academic and thinker, becoming it's head in 2005. It offers a Master's course in defence and strategic studies, including research degree programmes.

The department also offers an MPhil course in defence and strategic studies to armed forces officers posted at headquarters of Army Training Command, Shimla, and its training establishments as well as headquarters of Western Command, Chandimandir. A one-year postgraduate diploma course in disaster management and security is a useful tool in these perilous times.

The quality of work done by its students as part of their dissertations for their MPhil is impressive. In the last five years, some of these topics include - 'India's security environment 2020' by Major General Harkirat Singh, 'Militarisation of space and the road ahead for India' by Colonel Piyush Agarwal, 'Failure of intelligence in India; causes and remedies' by Colonel Puneet Naithani, 'China's military modernisation' by Colonel Sushil Pradhan, 'Psyche and culture of the Pakistan army' by Colonel Manu Tewari, 'Water channels: A security concern with special reference to the Indian subcontinent' by Colonel Satish S Kekre, 'Hacker warfare: A threat in being' by Brigadier Ravi Dahiya and 'Challenges of non-traditional threats in the Indian ocean and the role of the Indian Navy' by Sarvshreshtha Dhammi.

The value of the department as a think tank and fulcrum of strategic thought needs to be augmented by enhanced funding by the government and the corporate sector. Growth of such vital institutions is imperative to fuel national advancement.

The writer would like to hear from families with three or more generations of unbroken military service. Please write in to msbajwa@gmail.com or call on 093161-35343.