Nandpur Kalaur, twin villages in Fatehgarh Sahib district of Punjab, have contributed handsomely to the nation's defence. Over 250 stalwarts from here have served or are still serving in the military. Niranjan Singh, a Somal Jatt Sikh is one such. Enlisting in the Indian Signal Corps in 1935, he served with the Peshawar District Signals in the 2nd Mohmand Campaign of 1935 (marked by the first operational use of tanks in the subcontinent). Incidentally, both the brigade commanders in these operations, Claude Auchinleck and Harold Alexander, rose to the rank of Field Marshal in World War 2.
Later, Niranjan Singh took part in the efforts to nab the elusive Faqir of Ipi in Waziristan (1936-39) with his unit, the Waziristan District Signals. The redoubtable Faqir not only eluded the British forces but managed to keep his campaign going till 1960 when he died, to receive the ultimate tribute of an obituary in The Times of London! The Second World War saw him serving with 5 Indian (Ball of Fire) Division in action in Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Ethiopia and the Burma front. There was to be no retirement for him ever; he worked in the private sector until well into his seventies. Coming back to his village, he assumed charge of the local ex-servicemen, going around the area on a bicycle, collecting their applications and papers and taking up their cases with the concerned authorities.
Niranjan Singh remembers the signal equipment of the '30s - the heliograph, flags, signal lamps, carrier pigeons and the unreliable wireless sets numbers 1 to 6 usually transported on horses. This is in contrast to the digital, satellite and broadband communications of today. What hasn't changed is the signalman's determination to get his message through at all costs. If there's one regret that the 96-year-old has. It's that his beloved Corps no longer invites him to functions.
Strike formation to counter the Chinese
The latest Chinese provocation in Ladakh fits into a pattern. The reason is quite simple. India's strategic moves - military modernisation and expansion, friendly overtures in China's neighbourhood, steady efforts to build up an offensive capacity -- have all alarmed Beijing.
Secondly, the Chinese feel that their bid to construct an energy corridor through an alternative route via Pakistan needs to be secured by diverting India's attention away from the Karakoram. We shall, of course, continue our traditional policy of disarming such aggravations through diplomatic overtures. However, all such peace initiatives must be backed up by military might.
The govt's recent sanction of a strike corps to operate in the mountains is a step in the right direction. This must be backed up with proper equipment like lightweight artillery, armoured fighting vehicles, heavy-lift helicopters, state-of-the-art infantry kit and ground-attack aircraft to clear the way for advancing troops. Above all, a coherent military doctrine needs to be crafted. The absence of advanced infrastructure like strategic roads, railways, airfields in the border areas, and of public institutions like schools, will severely hamper any credible military response to further Chinese provocations.