In a gesture that has won the internet, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, at an event in Dehradun, touched the feet of the mother of a slain Army jawan as a token of respect.
WHAT IS THE ISSUE?
In an unfortunate turn to the India story, the country is going through a divisive period again. The government seeks to take political capital out of armed forces strikes, the opposition questions the impact of the strikes, and then both sides seek to question each other’s patriotism. These politicians need to rethink the import of their actions.
For one, our particularly unfriendly neighbours are watching these developments. Politicians unable to agree on something as fundamental to the idea of the nation like the defence of the country’s borders against external forces will embolden these actors to pursue more misadventures. Such sniping by politicians also gives foreign countries a handle to pursue information warfare, which may now complement the use of terror groups to bleed India. The disinformation can sow confusion and turn Indians against Indians.
Secondly, such politicking tends to demoralise armed forces. These men and women put their lives at risk for the country. But if the political leadership is unable to reassure them of the value of the sacrifices they make it will have a debilitating impact on the insurgencies India is fighting in Kashmir, central India, and the north-east.
It is important that the government take the opposition into confidence. Similarly, the opposition can point out mistakes of the government but without drawing the armed forces into the maelstrom of politics. We have glorious examples of government taking the opposition into confidence as in the Kargil and 1971 wars and the opposition holding the government to account after the setback of the 1962 China war. The lessons of the past are in danger of being forgotten. It can cost India dearly. Politicians must weigh their words and actions.
THE TAG LINE OF SCARIFIES
The Safety, Honour and Welfare of your Country come First – Always and Every time. The Honour, Welfare and Comfort of the Men You Command come Next. Your Own Ease, Comfort and Safety come Last – Always and Every Time.
KEY FACTS ABOUT THEM
There is very good reason that the military is trained to follow orders without question. It is because the forces cannot be democratic set-ups where split-second life and death decisions begin to be taken by a committee. Deployment of military assets follows a chain of command unquestioningly because in battle speed and discipline is paramount.
A too smart for his own good soldier who decides to give tippani and inputs during every battle will ruin discipline, operation and risk the lives of all involved. If every strategic or ground engagement decision was taken after a huddle, there will be chaos in the military and no one will listen to anyone.
You have seen what a Parliament looks like. Now imagine that in olive green uniforms instead of white kurta pajamas. That is why a military man must obey unquestioningly, even if that means taking a bullet for a politician you or I despise.
That is the way it must be. While the military’s duty is to obey every command unquestioningly and to engage in any battle or deployment unquestioningly on the orders of the civilian government, it is the duty of civilians like us to ask those questions so that some of the bravest and most disciplined men of our country are not engaged in battles unworthy of their sacrifice. Their patriotism is to obey orders without question. Our patriotism is to question those orders.
It is entirely consistent to respect the armed forces and their contribution while opposing the battle they are engaged in.
“God give me the strength to ask nothing of you – Indian Army. Code of the warrior.” This sign is up in one of the hostels of the Indian Military Academy. The warrior won’t ask – we must. We owe him that.