By Lt Col Manoj K Channan, (Retd)
“The military don’t start wars. Politicians start wars.” — William Westmoreland
A few days prior to the celebrations of the republic day and the elections, the government announced that the eternal flame burning at the India Gate since 1972 would be extinguished at India Gate and merged with the Eternal Flame at the National War Memorial.
When the National War Memorial was inaugurated, the Government made a statement that the sanctity of the Eternal Flame will be maintained at India Gate.
Two days ago a Political Statement was made that India gate was a relic of the British days and those who had fallen during the First World War were part of the British Indian Army.
Nevertheless, the politician and the bureaucrat forgot that they were Indians.
Change is welcome and one must evolve with the times. In a profession of arms, its your history, traditions, which simply put are Naam, Namak and Nishaan, prevails on military men to do the utmost of sacrificing their lives, as victory goes to the side that prevails against all odds.
The Indian Defence Forces have fourth/fifth generation now serving the Indian Armed Forces, to call their ancestors as mercenaries and creating a fault line which will be exploited by India’s enemies is something that cannot be ignored.
India is engaged in Hybrid Warfare with Pakistan and China and this is a catalyst for their propaganda machinery. We are still to up the ante on this with our adversaries.
Indian Defence Forces have been at the forefront, whether it is aggression at the borders, internal insurgencies and left wing extremism, aid to civil authorities during natural calamities or pulling children from unclosed bore wells.
Now that the Eternal Flame has been merged, it is unlikely at least under the present government that it will be changed. However, one cannot state what will happen in the future.
The issue of Indian National Army and the roles of the Indian Army post independence wasn’t addressed; for better or worse, is a debate which can continue to eternity. It would be pertinent to mention within a year of independence when the raiders attacked Kashmir, the Indian Army proved its mettle and pushed the raiders back, till the operations were halted under the orders of the Government.
Unlike Pakistan which has been under martial law since its creation and if we look at Bangladesh, it too was taken over by the Generals and fortunately came out of that vicious cycle.
In India, this bogey has been misplaced and never have the Indian Defence Forces and the Indian Army in particular had any political ambitions.
Politics, religion and women are issues not tolerated in the units and the focus remains on the primary task. Units do train and remain prepared to assist the civil administration for which the SOPs are well defined.
The military has a mystique around it and it is at times envied because unlike the police forces which have considerable political influence, the cutting edge at the unit level remains out of reach of the political and bureaucratic dispensation. This is perhaps the only reason that the Indian Defence Services have been able to deliver when ever called upon for assistance.
The political leadership has to be sensitive to its decisions that impact the last bastion of protection of this country. The Defence Forces must remain outside the political games politicians play, but than it’s the hallmark of the subcontinent. The politician too has to mature and understand the downside of this thoughtless pursuit.
Last but not the least remember two Field Marshals and one Marshal of the Air were commissioned in their respective services and rose to these dizzy heights in independent India.
The Indian Armed Forces should not be milked for political ambitions.
(The author is Indian Army Veteran. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited).