The British High Commission commemorated India’s contribution to the World War I effort by organising a reception in Delhi on October 30. The event was a grand affair, organised in the way only the British can.
Their defence minister Michael Fallon, who was also present, paid generous tributes to Indian soldiers: to their fighting qualities and sacrifices. He presented the Indian government with memorials to honour the six Indian soldiers who won Victoria Crosses during the war (another three VCs were won by soldiers hailing from areas now in Pakistan and two by Nepalese serving with the Indian Army).
Britain is working closely with the United Service Institution (USI) on the commemorative programme for the World War. A guide has been funded by the UK government to help people wanting to visit the battlefields of the Indian Corps in France and Belgium. They have also financed a coffee table book giving a pictorial overview of the war. Both are available through the USI. In addition, war diaries of Indian regiments that fought in the same campaign have been digitised and will soon be made available.
It was heartening to see that the British had not left out the descendants of some Indian soldiers who fought in the world war from the event. Some of these descendants even wore their forefathers’ medals on the right sides of their chests in a hoary military tradition. Stories of their ancestors’ service made a valuable addition to my collection of military heritage.
Our own defence minister Arun Jaitely spoke of the government’s resolve to construct a national war memorial and prepare a structured history of the wars India’s fought since Independence – in short, everything but the commemoration of the World War I! His announcements were, of course, very welcome, but overlooking the role this country played in what was till then mankind’s largest and most widespread conflict is ignoring history.
General Bhalla is new Military Secretary
Lt General Rajiv Bhalla is the new Military Secretary at army headquarters. The Military Secretary, more commonly known by the acronym MS, heads the branch which maintains personnel records of officers, carries out their career planning and is responsible for their postings, promotions, confidential reports and retirements. In addition, the MS Branch also deals with honours and awards to all ranks. General Bhalla, who is also the Colonel of the Jat Regiment, is currently the Director General of Military Training. He succeeds General Shakti Gurung from the Grenadiers, who has now retired.
Retaliation on the LOC
In a political point-scoring exercise, we have been told that “for the first time Indian troops have been allowed to retaliate in full measure to firing by Pakistani troops from across the Line of Control and international boundary” with regards to the recent incidents in J&K. This is patently unfair to the defenders of our borders.
The options of returning fire, retributive raids and even covert responses have always been available to our soldiers. Even in the relatively non-aggressive days of the 50s through the 70s, a policy of robust response was in force, albeit after seeking due permission from higher quarters. This view is born out from a history of the no-war, no-peace confrontation with Pakistan in J&K.
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