After the humiliation of 1962, Indian soldiers and airmen put in their best efforts against the Pakistani aggression in 1965. The determination and renewed spirit was visible in the gritty action by 1 Para to take Haji Pir, in the desperate fighting by 20 Lancers to protect Chhamb-Jaurian, in the actions of 3 Jat at Batapore and Dograi, in the plucky Gnats taking on the renowned Sabres and winning and, above all, in the great defensive battle fought by 4 Division, 2 (Independent) Armoured Brigade and their artillery at Asal Uttar.
But 1965 was essentially a defensive war and though we defended our land, taking the war into the enemy’s territory, there was no tangible victory to speak of.
The 1971 victory was crafted by the higher leadership and implemented on the ground by the soldiers, who fully realised that our people had suffered through a millennium of demeaning foreign domination and badly need a strategic victory to restore their confidence and hone their aspirations.
It was truly a case of “Nischaya Kar Apni Jit Karun”, Guru Gobind Singh’s immortal words translated as “will to win”, for Indian soldiers, airmen and seamen in 1971, something that they had to prove to themselves, to their countrymen and the world. The fierce determination for victory was overpowering.
Why don’t we celebrate the Bangladesh victory as a national event? Not just the military, it was a triumph of the entire nation. The modern Indian civilisation took firm roots and gained that all-important self-belief only after the victory in 1971.
Be pragmatic on golf courses
Senior officers of the defence services too need exercise in order to keep fit but are unable to play games with the troops like they did as youngsters. Golf is an appropriate exercise and recreation for them as well as other officers who take it up. Why then should the defence ministry object to the playing of the game or, more relevantly, to the use of government land for golf courses? So much so that the armed forces have no recourse but to operate such courses under the hypocritical appellation of “environment parks and training areas”. If the objection is to defence personnel or resources being used to maintain such courses, a viable solution could be to allow such facilities to enrol civilian members. The fancy fees that such non-service members are willing to pay to play on such well-run courses could well finance proper maintenance.
Such a change in mindset propelled by pragmatism would be wholly appropriate to the changing times. It’s time we moved forward.
National War Memorial
Why is there next to no progress on the proposed national war memorial? Those sympathetic to the armed forces’ concerns can understand that the babus want no further deification of the men in uniform. But why are politicians, who use victories on the battlefield to spur them on to electoral success, a la Bangladesh (1971) or Kargil (1999), so wary of raising an appropriate memorial to those who laid down their lives to protect our sovereignty?
The answer lies not so much in our politicians’ fear of a military takeover, as has been suggested by some commentators, but in their mistrust of militarism. This is largely irrational but it exists. What about jingoistic right-wingers? Their brand of militarism stands apart from the Indian military’s inclusive, secular, mainstream ethos and ideology formed through centuries of experience. But commemorating those who made the supreme sacrifice in wars does not amount to glorifying militarism or replacing the national ideology with it.
Building an appropriate memorial will not turn us into a Prussia or a wannabe military nation like Pakistan. Such a memorial located fittingly somewhere on the Central Vista in New Delhi would be a proper tribute to those who fought as much as to those who made the battlefield their last resting place.
INS Baaz, India’s hawk eye
INS Baaz, the new naval air station under the joint-service Andaman and Nicobar Command commissioned on July 31 near Campbell Bay on Great Nicobar Island, overlooks the strategic choke point of the Strait of Malacca. Its importance is underlined by the fact that at least a quarter of the world’s trade and, more importantly, some 80% of China’s oil supplies pass through this strait.
The air base will initially be used by Dornier Do228 reconnaissance aircraft. Its runway will be progressively lengthened to enable all heavy aircraft to operate from the base.
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