- Maj Udai Singh, SM, Shaurya Chakra (posthumous), after he joined 1 Para (Special Forces); martyred in Rajouri, J&K, fighting terrorists.
The Indian State has faced multi-dimensional challenges in the paradigm of security and warfare both at an internal and external level, since independence in 1947. On one side is the Chinese agenda of fragmenting the largest democracy and a power; on the other is the Pakistani obsession with Jammu and Kashmir, continued after the 1947-48 war, to further which in 1988 the Inter Services intelligence was given charge of the nefarious design to bleed India through a thousand cuts by President Gen Zia-ul-Haq.
China opened a limited skirmish in the North East during the 1971 Indo-Pak war to keep our troops occupied; its incursions continue in areas of Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh even today. Apart from this, there is overt and covert support to militants in north eastern states, who are provided direction and arms. The agenda of destabilizing India with the help of the Maoists gets impetus each day from the Chinese.
‘Operation Topac,’ the Pakistani proxy war with India in Jammu and Kashmir, was launched by the ISI when deeply involved in training Afghan Mujahideen (read terrorists). Pakistan set up training camps for Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen (HuM) and Harkat-ul-Jehad-al Islami (HUJI) to fight against the Soviets during the Afghan war, which led to the killing of President Najibullah of Afghanistan and catapulted the Taliban to power. This led to arms for and terror training of JKLF cadres in large numbers in training camps established by ISI in Pak- occupied Kashmir (PoK).
On Jan 25, 1990, Squadron Leader Ravi Khanna was standing in uniform along with his colleagues near the Rawalpura bus stand, waiting for an Indian Air Force bus to take them to the airport. At about 07.30 am, a Maruti Gypsy and a two-wheeler carrying four to five JKLF terrorists drew up and fired a hail of bullets from AK 47s and Sqn Ldr Khanna and 13 other IAF men fell to the ground. Three died with Khanna, and 10 were injured. These sentinels of the sky could not retaliate and were killed in cold blood as IAF personnel do not have service weapons as part of their uniform.
50 yards away was a Jammu and Kashmir Police picket, manned by a head constable and seven subordinates. Their eight .303 rifles remained silent as the terrorists emptied their weapons and fled the scene.
Later, JKLF leader Yasin Malik (read terrorist) defended the killings: The IAF personnel were not innocent victims. They were the agents of the ‘enemy’. Yasin Malik has admitted the killing of a group of unarmed Indian Air Force men waiting for transport to arrive in the period 1989-1994 - in an interview with Tim Sebastian. Yasin Malik was then area commander of JKLF working under chief commander Ishafaq Wani, who was later killed in a counter-insurgency operation by the Army in 1994.
Denial and betrayal of justice in the killing of IAF personnel will continue to haunt the nation as Yasin Malik moves freely across India and abroad, even as the case drags on in the Jammu High Court.
As Operation Topac moved into its second stage in 1993, the terror tactics changed as did the dimensions of terrorist attacks and ambushes from gun-welding terrorists to fidayeen attacks to agitational terrorism. While the political set up struggled to give a fitting reply to emerging threats due to the terrorists, the brave Army men led by example.
Major Udai Singh of 1 Para, Special Forces, spent almost his entire career fighting terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir till his martyrdom in Rajouri on 29 Nov 2003, when his party suddenly came face to face with a group of terrorists approaching from higher ground at a close range of 10 meters. During the deadly firefight that ensued, he sustained a gunshot wound in the neck, while his body sustained multiple gunshot wounds. With supreme courage and utter disregard to personal safety, he continued to close in on the terrorists, killing one and wounding another. Major Udai Singh then helped extricate a fatally injured buddy before succumbing to his injuries.
There is only ONE truth which I know. Being a commando in the Indian army and leading men into the jaws of death will make my soul rest in peace one day! Because when the great scorer comes to mark against my name, for all that I did, I will be a proud man who served this country and a cause for which so many brave Indian men laid down their lives. I will make my place in the world. I might not accumulate a lot of money, but at the end of the whole game of life, I will probably be one of the richest Indian men
- wrote an elated Maj Udai Singh on a piece of paper after being commissioned into 1 Para; he stuck to each word as a soldier.
Capt Sunil Kumar Choudhary, 7/11 Gorkhas, after being decorated with a Sena Medal on Jan. 26, 2008, after he killed two top action group commanders of ULFA, asked his father, a serving army colonel, ‘Father, do I make you feel proud of me?’ The very next day he received a Kirti Chakra.
Capt Choudhary received information of the presence of some terrorists in village Naopathar in Assam. Leading a column of one officer and 18 Other ranks to the village, he killed one terrorist even as they tried to flee. Sustaining grievous bullet injury in the neck yet retaliating, and managing to injure another terrorist, he entered the forest leading to a fight at close range and in a superhuman effort shot and killed the terrorist, but himself succumbed to blood loss.
Many more including Col GS Sarna, CO of 29 RR; Col Vasanth V, CO 9 Maratha Light; Maj Gopi Singh Rathore, Guards 14 RR (ADC to President KR Narayanan); Lt Nawang Kapadia, 4/3 Gorkha Riffles; Maj Sandeep Unikrishnan, of the NSG; Maj Laishram Jyotin Singh AMC, stood up unfalteringly for the integrity of the country, fighting with valour and deep commitment and paying with their lives to secure the nation.
On 21Oct 2010, Captain Gaurav, Lance Naik Karnail Singh and Sepoy Karan Singh of the Sikh Light Infantry laid an ambush near the Line of Control in Uri Sector for a group of terrorists trying to sneak into the Valley. As they lay in wait, a landslide stuck the area. The captain and two soldiers died instantly, in the line of duty.
Defence Minister A.K. Antony says the Army has been quite successful in countering the proxy war and minimising incidents of terror. Still, as long as the terror infrastructure across the border continues to flourish, we cannot afford to drop our guard. The threats are real and continuing. The terror mechanism in Pakistan still churns out terrorists and firing at border outposts by Pakistani Military continues to give cover to infiltrating terrorists or to divert attention for such bids to be successful.
Political short-sightedness has led to an unnecessary debate on the issue of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s wanton attack on the Army in the State is unwarranted, a game of political short sightedness that will play havoc with the morale of the Defence Forces. The Central Government and the Cabinet Committee on Security should, instead of fire-fighting for the loose-tongued Chief Minister, be looking into the shortage of blood coagulant as an essential in the emergency kit of each soldier; which is missing and has cost many a brave life during counter insurgency operations.
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on 22 Oct 2010 said ‘We must understand the concept of contemporary national security within a wider strategic and economic matrix. An enlightened national security policy should therefore be based on a holistic appreciation of the many interrelated aspects and concerns that impinge on a nation’s overall well-being.’ Dr Singh said internal and external aspects of security are getting increasingly interlinked and said ‘Defence capabilities buttress the ability of a state to defend itself against armed aggression or insurgency. They act as a deterrence to use of force by others.’
Are we battle ready and prepared? Yes, in terms of courage, though the Defence Forces have to fight for their pay commission and respect. And for one rank one pay. Their respect and dues are lost in the corridors of power and bureaucratic wrangles, where many would not know the height of the Siachin glacier or Bomdila.
Yet they falter in the paradigm of equipment, shortage of personnel, whether in conventional warfare or in fourth generation warfare. There is a deficit of over 11,500 officers in the Army, 1,507 in the Navy and 1,237 in the Air Force, including 600 pilots.
Almost 50 years after the Chinese aggression, the Indian army is finally looking to set up its own Rapid Reaction Force (RRF) at its border with China (read north east), whereas the Chinese already have 23 RRFs. The Chinese RRFs are battle ready and can move into combat mode without notice. India has nine mountain divisions to counter China, but has no RRF (elite units that can be mobilised quickly).
According to highly reliable sources, the plan for setting them up was drawn up by the Military Operations Directorate and sent for discussions and feasibility study, but the government is yet to take a final decision on it. The Defence Forces need a sustained strategic assets build-up. The Navy needs at least three aircraft carriers, with development of at least 3 Marine Expeditionary Forces and a significant increase in land-based naval aviation assets for both surveillance and combat. Nuclear Submarine with SLBMs project should be accelerated in a time bound manner.
The Army needs to raise another 6-8 infantry divisions and at least 3 Special Forces Brigades. The Indian Air Force needs at least 65 squadrons, with the creation of an air-transportation and logistic lift capability for at least two Army divisions, although the projected strength need of the Indian Air force was 45 squadrons a few years back, they are still struggling at 39.
But most important is the Political will to use power to protect the geo-political and security interests of the country without falling to pressure. India has a duty to cater to its sovereignty, territorial integrity, security and geo-politics. Its presence and interests in the emerging global order go much beyond South Asia. Our security environment covers the Persian Gulf to the Straits of Malacca across the Indian Ocean, including Central Asia and Afghanistan in the North West, China in the North East and South East Asia too. Our strategic thinking and defence preparedness has to extend to these horizons. The emerging threats internally and security interests externally need thorough preparedness and reliable and lethal force.
‘The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools. But, the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.’
- Thucydides (400- 460 BC), Greek historian, History of the Peloponnesian War.
The Nation today still reels under the debt of the brave Unknown Soldier: yet time and again we hand them a betrayal. A betrayal which will in time turn out to be a betrayal of the consciousness of the nation, of the strength of the nation, of the spirit of the nation, of the spine of the nation, of the honour of the nation.
The author is convener, Daughters of Vitasta
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