‘We are trained for battle, but war is not a good thing’

Lt Gen Depinder Singh and Col Anil Kaul discuss operations of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka.

punjab Updated: Dec 09, 2017 14:02 IST
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Indian Peace Keeping Force,Sri Lanka,Army officers
Vir Chakra re cipient Anil Kaul and Lt Gen Depinder Singh during a session on Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka during the Military Literature Festival in Chandigarh on Friday.(Anil Dayal/HT)

“War is not a good thing,” says Col Anil Kaul (retd), a Vir Chakra awardee, who lost his right eye and fingers of the left arm while fighting militants in Sri Lanka during Operation Pawan.

Operation Pawan is the code name assigned to the operation by the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to take control of Jaffna from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka.

“I salute those who did not come back. Platoons were massacred, leaving aside only one man, Gora Singh. He had almost gone mad because he was alive and 35 of his comrades had died. That is the kind of horror that one has seen,” recalled Col Anil Kaul.

He said, “That (war) is what we are trained and paid for, but it is not a good thing. The military accomplishes its tasks, no questions asked.”

Lt Gen Depinder Singh, who was the overall commander of the IPKF in Sri Lanka from July 1987 to March 1990, spoke about some of the lessons learnt from the ordeal.

“The IPKF was formed as a tri-service and high-level representation from the navy and air force. But with time, the presence of navy and air force has started decreasing,” said Lt Gen Singh, hoping that the tri-service unity has improved with time.

He said, “The government had no clear political aim as to why we went in? Was it to protect the LTTE or to protect the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka? I was clueless as to whether I was going as a military governor of Sri Lanka or as an overall force commander of IPKF?”

“Each soldier went in with somewhat inadequate individual training. That was the weakness, but who is to blame?” said Let Gen Singh, who reflected on the ordeal that left 1,500 people killed and 3,000 injured, and said, “In retrospect, it was a good thing. As a major power, we must be prepared to project our might against our neighbours, and so, we require a dose of war with a first-class enemy.”

“Operation Pawan was an excellent but costly blooding in terms of the manpower we lost,” he concluded, expressing that the young officers must experience blooding as well.

First Published: Dec 09, 2017 14:02 IST