A short foreign tour has become an integral part of the training provided to senior student officers of the National Defence College.india Updated: Apr 20, 2006 00:46 IST
A short foreign tour has become an integral part of the training provided to senior student officers of the National Defence College. The participants study security problems with all their social, political, economic and international ramifications. The schedule naturally includes meetings with those responsible for the formulation of the country’s policies. Yet, the unexpected always happens, like the tour I led, as head of the college, to a country where the president ran all affairs of the State.
Although we were all in uniform, we went through two security checks. Just before we were to be ushered into the president’s office, a dour-looking security chief took me aside and told me that one of our party would not be allowed in. I was taken aback: who and why? He pointed to a smartly-dressed air commodore. “Unless he removes his headgear,
he will not be allowed to go in,” he said. I explained that a turban was part of a Sikh’s outfit, and the officer was wearing the regulation coloured turban and IAF crest. But the security chief was adamant.
At that moment, the big doors of the president’s office opened and a number of ADCs came forward to escort us. I held my ground. “Either every member of our group goes in or we don’t go in at all.” The ADCs milled around us as we stood our ground, both parties extremely polite and both unbending. For the next few minutes, there was much coming and going of ADCs. Consultations took place in hushed tones. We stood there looking as amiable as possible, and feeling anything but.
Then, to our pleasant surprise, the president came out of his office, greeted us warmly and took all of us inside. Later, the first lady, known for her collection of shoes, joined in and we had an interesting discussion on the country’s social problems. Later that evening, the air commodore received a magnum-size bottle of champagne with a note of apology from the security chief. But no explanation. We never did find out how the turban became a security risk or how its mysterious threat was neutralised.
I have often wondered what the security chief would have said if he’d learnt that the same air commodore later became India’s air chief!