Sitrep: A tribute to the indomitable infantry

During peace, the military prepares hard for war, and cannot be spared for routine tasks

opinion Updated: Nov 05, 2017 15:51 IST
infantry,army,armed forces
A depiction of a bayonet charge by one of the army’s famous infantry regiments.(ADGPI)

On October 27, we celebrated the Infantry Day commemorating the first occasion when the armed forces were deployed to defend a free India, 70 years ago. What comes to my mind when I think of infantry and it’s qualities?

I visualise a rifle company in the forming-up place (FUP) waiting for the order to launch an attack. An anxious young company commander, though looking calm and composed, waits for the H-Hour (designated time to launch the assault). The men wait, apprehensive yet resolute, in the classic infantryman’s stance, in the ready position. Ready to lunge up and attack or lie prone, hugging the ground to return fire.

The infantry must get priority for procurement of the latest weapons and equipment if it is to retain its decisive edge on the battlefields of the future.

As the appointed time arrives, quiet orders — Sangeen laga, aagey barh! (fix bayonets, move forward) — are given. The company moves forward in its assault formation, raising its battle-cry with fervour. And in the immortal words of orientalist Ralph Lilley Turner (he had served with the third Gorkhas in the World War 1), “….and at the last, your unwavering lines disappear into the smoke and wrath of battle. Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous.”

Committed, as our army is to permanently defend the long frontiers and long-term counter-insurgency deployment, the infantry will always retain its pride of place. However, valorous and dedicated as our infantry is, all is not well with them. They occupy the lowest priority when it comes to up gradating weapons and equipment.

While the attention of our decision-makers is fixed on the procurement of big-ticket items, the infantry is crying out for a better assault rifle, personal load-carrying equipment, night-vision devices and even basic articles of modern warfare such as bullet-proof jackets.

Perceptions must change and the attitudes most evolve if our infantry is to retain its edge on the battlefield.

The Military In Peace Time

One reaction, particularly on social media, to the recent controversy over whether the army should undertake construction of civil works of a routine nature, has been, “They might as well earn their pay, being unemployed during peace.”

Nothing could be furthered from the truth! War is not only a hard business. It must be emphasised that there are no prizes for runners-up in conflict. The militaries train hard for war all year round in order to retain that decisive edge, that complete synergy of man, machine, doctrine and preparedness.

Our armed forces are no different. The annual training cycle consists of perfecting individual skills, collective exercises with units and formations and soldiers undergoing courses at schools of instruction. In an emergency, the defence services are always willing to shoulder whatever tasks are given to them. A wise and pragmatic political leadership will however ensure that training and preparation for war are not impaired.

Terrorists’ Weaknesses

A weakness for the fairer sex has led to the undoing of a large number of terrorists in Kashmir, both foreigners and the indigenous variety. Sometimes it is the penchant for multiple romances that leads to their doom, with a scorned woman giving up the insurgent to the security forces. Or the militant’s too frequent visits to a particular locality or house gets on the radars of intelligence agencies, which pursue these terrorists either through electronic surveillance, cultivating a source or inserting their own operative in the neighbourhood.

(Please write in with your narratives of war and military life to msbajwa@gmail.com or call/WhatsApp on 093161-35343; views expressed by the writer are personal)

First Published: Nov 05, 2017 15:51 IST