Kargil Vijay Diwas: Can Modi honour Indian Army?

Chanakya had told King Chandragupta that the day the soldier has to demand his dues the king will have lost all moral sanction to rule.

 |  5-minute read |   26-07-2015
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July 26, 1999, memorialised from that day on as Kargil Vijay Diwas, marks the successful completion of "Operation Vijay". Along with the December 16, 1971 liberation of Bangladesh, it is one of the great moments in the history of our nation, for which we must thank our armed forces.

Sacrifice

It was on this day in 1999 that hard fighting units of our armed forces regained control of key outposts that had been occupied by Pakistani troops (pretending to be what else but jihadis!). The re-taking of Tiger Hill, a mountain in the Kargil-Dras region of Jammu and Kashmir, was the turning point of that war.

Apart from reminding us of Pakistan’s long and dubious track record of betrayal and untrustworthiness, this war which was the first to be televised, brought the reality of armed conflict to millions of homes. Many realised that serving in the armed forces was more than spit and polish and uniforms and glamour — it was about inhospitable and formidable terrain and weather, hand-to-hand combat at 18,000 feet and lives and limbs being lost. Indians saw this in real time, albeit in the comfort of their homes.

Kargil and the service and sacrifice of the many bravehearts who settled this war for India are firmly etched in our collective memory — Captain Saurabh Kalia, Captain Vikram Batra, Havaldar Chuni Lal, Rifleman Sanjay Kumar, Captain Haneefudin, Major Acharya, Major Sarvanan, Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja, Lieutenant Manoj Pandey, Grenadier Yogendra Yadav, Lieutenant Kenguruse, Captain Vikram, Captain Vijayant Thapar, Lieutenant Nongrum, Major Wangchuk and so many more. It was a nation asserting its will — as a Naga Angami Lieutenant, a Buddhist Major, Tamilian, Andhra, Kannadiga, Malayali, Punjabi, Kashmiri, Rajput, Garwali officers and men united as Indians inflicted yet another defeat on the Pakistan Army. That is why the bravehearts of Kargil were, and are, mourned with a deeply-felt emotion. Sixteen years on the statistics reverberate — 527 killed, 1,363 wounded, two fighter jets and one helicopter lost! It was a collective loss, and felt like a collective loss.

In the years since Independence, our soldiers had served us gallantly, but largely away from the public eye. They had fought insurgencies and terrorists in Punjab, the North-east and Jammu and Kashmir. They had turned up, selflessly, each time they were asked to mount a rescue operation following a natural disaster. But they were always away from the limelight. Kargil brought them back into public consciousness and reiterated their value to our society — as the valiant guardians of our well-being, security and freedom.

Kargil made Indians aware of the obligation the nation has to those who serve in its armed forces. When the soldier goes to the front, he must go with the knowledge that his well-being and the well-being of his family, or his survivors, should he unfortunately not return, is not his responsibility; it is a national resolve. Or should be. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in October, 2014: “The nation's trust was the biggest strength of our armed forces.” And so it is that we must always fulfil our responsibilities to them.

While this resolve is accepted by all in India, its implementation is still an unfinished business. A National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government won the Kargil war. Today, we have another NDA government, one led by Prime Minister Modi, which is not just committed to commemorating the sacrifices of the Kargil war and of the war of 1965 — of which we mark the golden jubilee this year — but also is clear in its resolve to keep our national security and economic interests secure.

Discourse

The Indian soldier needs a new deal. Part of this new deal is an energised weapons procurement and manufacturing programme, the most ambitious in decades. It will ensure that the Indian soldier does not go to battle with, metaphorically, one arm tied behind his back, and with concerns about the quality and quantity of equipments and munitions.

But, when the discourse on defence and national security tends to be all around latest fighters, or tanks or ships or submarines, it’s worth remembering that our national spirit and resolve is linked to the man or woman in uniform and his/her spirit of service to the nation.

OROP

Political leaders may make great speeches and exhort the nation, but it takes thousands of uniformed men and women and their families to translate that into real national grit and resolve. This brings us to real issues for the serving or retired soldier and his family — be it the much delayed One Rank, One Pension (OROP) promise to veterans who have served all these years, a national war memorial, veterans' commission or improving living conditions, including housing, schooling, medical facilities, skilling for the families of those who serve — there are many elements to be completed to demonstrate the commitment of the nation to our armed forces.

The issue of OROP is a particularly wrenching one. The sight of old soldiers, protesting in the heat in the heart of the nation’s capital is gut-wrenching and heartbreaking. Its worth remembering Chanakya’s wise words to King Chandragupta, “The day the soldier has to demand his dues will be a sad day for Magadha. For then, on that day, you will have lost all moral sanction to be king.” This was true 2,300 years ago. It is true today.

As a government that is possibly the most pro-forces one in recent history, I have no doubt that it will eventually deliver on OROP and other things that need to be done as part of our national covenant. The delay is disconcerting and could have been avoided. A just and fair resolution is important both for the dignity of our soldiers/veterans and the ideals of service to the nation that these brave men and women embody. On Kargil Vijay Diwas, let us promise to settle for nothing less than that.

Writer

Rajeev Chandrasekhar Rajeev Chandrasekhar @rajeev_mp

Member of Parliament & Technology Entrepreneur .

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