File photo | PM Narendra Modi in New Delhi | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
File photo | PM Narendra Modi in New Delhi | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
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Never in the history of free India has the country seen such difficult times and over such a prolonged period. The challenges are unprecedented. While the nation is struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, a sudden flare-up with China on the Line of Actual Control has added to our problems. In the scuffle that followed, 20 of our Army personnel lost their lives and possibly more than 40 Chinese soldiers were killed.

The skirmish at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and particularly the loss of Indian combatants, has caused a storm in India. It certainly irks to read articles flinging pernicious comments and unbridled criticism of the Narendra Modi government and the military at such a sensitive juncture. Are we really accusing them of having the blood of the soldiers on their hands? Such comments are bound to make an impression on the minds of our adversaries. It also seems unfair that assumptions and conjectures have been made quoting failures from 60 years ago. Today, it is not difficult to extract historical data and maps from Google with just the press of a button. We are playing into the Chinese hands when we lament the debacle of the 1962 war. Such outbursts make the Chinese look 12-feet tall.

The Modi government and the military have certainly been aware of what the Chinese were doing, but intentions are always unpredictable, including our own. China and India are vastly different today than they were 60 years ago. There have been generational changes among people, leadership, military and above all – technology available. It is the attitude of the nation that is most important. China, being Communist-ruled, has no problem controlling information. With misinformation, or even incomplete information, we have a large number of people in India willingly playing into their hands. The Chinese are our adversary. Our kith and kin are facing them eye to eye at the borders.


Also read: Xi has thrown the gauntlet at Modi. He can pick it up like Nehru, or try something new


India is prepared

We forget that those at the helm of affairs — be in the military or the government — have access to a continuous flow of data up-to-date. Thousands of staff and hundreds of serving Generals are working across India to keep information updated in real-time without missing any facts. They have a huge responsibility to ensure that their brethren and machines are well prepared to fight a war and that every bit of national security information is well protected.

It is usual for the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to examine the situation along with the military commanders, Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) as many times as required before directing action. We will never get to know the discussions held behind those closed doors, the stance that they took and the rationale for the choices that were made on 15-16 June until they are revealed by the relevant authorities. We will also never know what the military’s intentions are or of their strategy until after the event (Balakot strike was an example). Nothing of operational significance can be known outside the forts of the military and the government.

Today, India’s military is being led by brilliant men and women who are far better professionals, by virtue of their exposure and responsibilities, than their predecessors, and are supported by an astonishing range of technology about which the public and veterans may not be aware of. Our combatants have proved worthy, and far more prepared than their predecessors were. Elements of surprise and fall back options are always embedded in all military plans. They also have the advantage of learning from history, from the finest of traditions and experiences and global exposure — our veterans may have missed much of it. India may have been surprised at the start of the Kargil war, but we stood steadfast and won that war. No one doubts India’s military ability. Why then throw winds at the unknowing and impressionable public?


Also read: To hit China, aim carefully. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot


Superior military

Today, some are blaming the government for not striking at the Chinese before they built their strength in Galwan and Pangong areas, but we don’t know all the facts. Such an action, if taken, could well be perceived as a knee-jerk reaction. It is the government’s prerogative to take a stand, to strike when it decides or to stand down. For now, the answer is to wait patiently. Thousands of brave warriors are at the borders following military directions. We must reflect similar faith and trust in our leadership.

To pressure the government from our drawing rooms is an extremely irresponsible act. We can never imagine the state of mind of a combatant fighting hand to hand to kill (otherwise be killed) at 15,000 feet, on a slippery slope covered by boulders and pebbles, with a river at the bottom that will freeze anyone falling to death within minutes – and, all these at night. It requires enormous courage and strength.

I fit the category of ‘veterans group’. I believe, with good reasons, that the current crop of Chinese soldiers and leadership do not have the combat experience their Indian counterparts do and are very conscious of it. The Indian Army is rated superior in mountain warfare. The Indian Air Force operates combat aircraft of better capabilities and with far greater skills than those that the Chinese Air Force can deploy against India. Our pilots have trained with global partners in Europe, the US, Australia, UAE, Oman, Singapore and Israel. We can fight very well with what we have and we are in far better shape than we were at the beginning of Operation Parakram in 2002.


Also read: Modi govt and military leaders have soldiers’ blood on hands. PM’s dilemma now same as Nehru


Preparing for an operation

The compulsion to use the military invariably arises when least expected. Severe budgetary constraints add to our woes. The situation was similar when we were ready to launch Op Parakram in 2002 after the terrorist attack on Parliament. In 2001-02, I was present in many of the CCS meetings that were held to decide on the starting date and the course of Op Parakram.

All these meetings were attended by the prime minister at the time, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, four senior-most ministers, the PMO, the three military chiefs and heads of R&AW and IB. There were many issues discussed by the CCS before approving military operations, such as preventing escalation, minimising collateral damage, avoiding loss to civilian lives/ property/ industries, impact on the nation’s economy and foreign relations. Objectives of the mission were also laid out. Certain states had to extend support and those likely to be affected were informed. Special directives were given to the Railways and civil aviation. Cabinet approval was necessary to stop or block certain airways. Civil defence was organised. Each service chief was expected to share their views on all these and also project the attrition that their own forces were likely to suffer. Replenishment would have to be planned and special financial powers given.

Such deliberations give a final definition of the strategy and tactics to be adopted by the military. All these are established practices that get continually refined.

Over the last few days, I am inclined to believe that all the crying loud on television about the precious loss of life of our soldiers and officers were mere antics and politics at play. Military honour does not expect tears to be shed. I conclude with a simple request: to show solidarity with the military and to trust them and the government in these difficult times. Be proud Indians.

The author is a retired Air Chief Marshal, who was Chief of Staff, Indian Air Force, 2001-2004. Views are personal.

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52 Comments Share Your Views

52 COMMENTS

  1. A reasonably balanced view of the situation that exists in the here-and-now.

    There is a need to appreciate that once military issues are scripted into political discourse, it tends to set a precedent and serves to justify future comments and public criticism in respect of other military situations that might develop over time.

    If one advantageous situation is used for electoral advantage, it sets the stage for domestic counter-thrusts in the political domain. That is vicious cycle that all involved could aim to steer clear of.

    That is an aspect the article has not touched upon but one that could be worthy of consideration.

  2. Another pathetic article seeking to exonerate the worst PM India has had. In any other country, a PM who has wrecked the economy and created social faultlines, messed up on Covid, and also handed India to Xi would be held accountable. But in India the incompetent are protected. The reason ? He beat up the Indian Muslims in 2002. This is enough for Hindus to worship him It speaks volumes for the Hindu mentality. They are seduced by godmen.

  3. The article speaks how good a person the ex Chief is but he assumes that to question the Government or even the armed forces is blasphemy. Sadly the article gives no specifics but only defends decision makers through statements that they know the best. Sir, this precisely is what makes us a Republic different from the other PRC. No one asks questions and no one can. It is precisely this right and freedom that respects the AirChief Marshall defending the indefensible.
    Was not a Court of Inquiry ordered and held to enquire into failure of Intelligence that eventually led to a whole campaign with nearly 500 casualties?
    If the Government was indeed aware of the unprecedented large build up opposite the Galwan Valley from April onwards calling out a differing perception of LAC should it have been left to come to such a head with loss of life. Just calling Chinese back stabbers and bad guys doesn’t solve the problem. All the bonhomie displayed since 2014 should not be called out for its worth? Why the LAC was not clearly delineated and defined? Why the Army has been left to hold the can for such an unclear ‘perception’?
    Questions now are both imperative and timely to ensure that future gives good reason and good chance to soldiers to survive and win. Not for a rhetoric.
    62 is being politically used. I am a retired veteran and share the responsibility with my senior military leadership in having misjudged and misconveyed to the politician of yore realistic relative strengths. In our effort to look patriot and nstionslist the military should not repeat the error.

    • By ?questioning”, do you mean tactics and strategies of all actions be explained / discussed in public?

      A bit intriguing!!!

      Also diplomacy and military actions exist simultaneously – refer historical data since CHANAKYA. They are not exclusive and bot need mot be belligerent at any time.

      Regards

  4. Good article. Informative. Politics is always part of the game and even PM is not above it. He is the great innovator for leveraging any calamity India faces to win elections.

    • Pathetic article, an elaborate defence of Hindu incompetence and corruption.

      Look at the starting line : Never in the history of free India has the country seen such difficult times and over such a prolonged period.

      The correct and obvious conclusion is that Modi is incompetent and over rated. Economy shattered, civil unrest and Indian land lost. His only appeal to Hindus is communalism. Beating up Indian Muslims in 2002 makes him an evergreen hero.

  5. Two points Sir,

    1. You probably are not aware as to what exactly happened at patrol pt 14 (Not at Galwan and other places along the LAC

    2. If China has risen as an economic power, it has not done so overnight.

    • This is actually a reply to the post by Mr. Surya.

      “Slipped fingers” caused this mishap!!!!!

      Pardon

  6. The article is like a sharp knock on the heads of irresponsible politicians, media men and the public who are good and criticizing the decision makers, as though they have access to all the facts at all times. While the public may be unhappy with the PM ‘s statement being bandied about by the Chinese, it is best to let the government take appropriate decision. At least, we now know that the government is not paralysed.

    • Modi must be shielded because he is a Hindu hero who beat up Indian Muslims in 2002. The fact that he cultivated Xi and India got a beating is of no consequence.

      Maybe Xi should give Modi more beatings from time to time till your Hindu mind can understand he is part of India’s problem.

  7. Very well stated by the erstwhile CAS. As citizens we need to support the Military in their endeavours to safeguard the territorial integrity of the Nation. Wild attacks on military and political leadership will serve the purpose of the adversary.

  8. Many of the problem arise because of the comparisons made by our rulers with the past PMs and Opposition showing them as unpatriots and unwise. They also also had consultations with experts and problems and in fact Smt .Gandhi succeeded in Bangladesh issue and Sastri in 1965 and claiming too much credit for PM is inviting these type of barbs.The attack through cyver media about the diseased PMs and leaders is so vicious and vitperative and no party can remain silent on such insinuations.

  9. This is the best article in recent times and a stinging rebuke to all armchair army veterans on TV screens each giving his opinion and adding to the confusion.

    • It will be better if Modi gave a stinging rebuke to China instead of vanishing with his tail down. Where is Shah, Bhagwat… all in hiding.

  10. Being critical of a Government is not necessarily playing into the hands of the enemy, especially when the statements of the Government is itself playing into the hands of the enemy.

  11. Read this article after hearing about it in cut the clutter. The former Chief of Air force and a war hero no less seems disappointed with the way the whole nation. Various media houses and social media handles have twisted the Galwan incident to suit the tastes and preferences of their respective audience. 1962 in the year 1962 was a failure of imagination. Today it is 2020 and 1962 is a permanent part of our statistical models.

  12. Drawing boards sir really?The Indian taxpayer cannot question the military why when we are already spending billions of dollars on defence and security are we Pakistan or China? Operation Parakram was military coercion which didn’t achieve much really?But it surely gave us experience but with a huge cost at hundreds killed in non combat when minelaying or in traffic accidents.Why don’t we have our ammunition stocks ready just like in 2016 we are issuing emergency powers to vice cheifs.Havr we really moved with unarmed Apaches flying for a show of strength and a couple of migs deployed in Ladakh to give something for news?

  13. Sir with due respect is it anti national to question organisational lapses why and how Chinese incursion went undetected?And is Modi above India that he cant be questioned?

    • Sir,
      Where did you get a confirmed information that Chinese troops have intruded and occupied Indian territory? How many organisations, including the media, do you think know the lie of the land in these parts. for e.g. Galwan valley is not a point but a valley and by its very definition extends kilometres, part in India and part in Tibet. e.g.2 Pangog Tso is a lake which is partly in Tibet and partly in India.

      Speculative “experts’ trying to have their day in the Sun by randomly commenting on Defence matters are more dangerous to National security than adversaries at the border.

      Question the Government by all means. Question the government on measures for National security, arming the Armed Forces etc…. even when there are no hostilities…

      Modi is just one prime minister India has had. There have been many others and there will be many more….But there will always be only one Defence Force to safeguard the Nation, ALWAYS

      • Colonel sahib, can you explain Modi’s body language when he announced the Chinese had not crossed into Indian territory ? He looked like he had a good beating.

        Also, I do not believe 20 Indians were killed and 43 Chinese died. Neither Modi, nor the media nor the military has any credibility. Do you imagine all Indians are uniformly stupid ?

        Modi has been a disaster for India – he has reduced the economy, for Covid, he showed no preparation, and China’s plan was undetected. It is better not to dress up failure as success and let us also pin the blame to where it belongs.

        • If your intention is politics while discussing Defence, you will always miss the point.

          But being a democracy with unbridled freedom to express and believe guaranteed by the constitution which is guarded by the Deference, I will forever support your “Freedom” to say and connect anything to everything.
          But Defence of country is more complicated than the body language of a PM.
          Regards

          • ‘But Defence of country is more complicated than the body language of a PM.’

            You seem to be more interested in shielding a sub standard PM who has put his election gains over Defence.

            The body language of the PM near election time over Pakistan, the use of dead soldiers from Pulwama for electioneering, and saying with drooping shoulders that the Chinese did not take any territory, indicates what his attitude is to Defence of the country.

        • If your intention is politics while discussing Defence, you will always miss the point.

          But being a democracy with unbridled freedom to express and “believe anything” guaranteed by the constitution which is in turn also guarded by the Deference, I will forever support your “Freedom” to say and connect anything to everything.
          But Defence of country is more complicated than the body language of a PM.
          Regards

  14. It’s appalling to see someone like srinivasapuram krishnaswamy to expect no criticism to Modi government in a democracy regardless of what is happening in the valley. Its government’s job to put up their point of view and its citizen’s job to question the government so that they are on their toes.

    • Nope, Govt has a monopoly over information relating to national security matters. We still have no access to the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat report. Similarly, tactical information pertaining to Bluestar and even 1971 has been fuzzy. Even the Manmohan era skirmishes with China were under the shadow of darkness. We have a very polarised country. Even if the information is released there will be those who’ll immediately politicize it. Balakot and Surgical strikes are prime examples.

      • The polarisation has been exacerbated by the current government and therefore all the more reason to criticise its statements. Especially those that are self contradictory and therefore potentially demotivating to the general public.
        The Government dies not have a monopoly on any form of information, even that relating to matters of national security.

  15. Sorry sir, it is a misplaced focus. The challenge we face is not military nor does it seems that China is interested in capturing more land. The challenge is of entirely different nature. It is a case of raising expectations of a nation at abnormally high level and use marketing techniques to hype the scenario. This mindset has been cut down to size. The Galwan incidence shows us the mirror. The Chinese economy is five times bigger than ours. Our imports from China constitute just 3 per cent of their total exports. Our exports to China are just one percent of their imports. Their foreign exchange reserves are at whopping 3 trillion dollar , six times that of India. With six decades of strategy, China is now poised become the topmost economy of the world. While they expanded their economy and made deep inroads into our economy, we were just helpless and mute witness to the process. . We now just don’t know how entangle ourselves from from the Chinese grip. What China wants is not war aor land, it wants economic vassals and obeisance. This way they will dominate the global economy. This is China’s Masterplan. What option we have is the moot question. Obviously, we can’t join the Chinese camp, nor can we depend on America. Possibly, America and China could have a pact and divide the globe amongst themselves. What do we do then? The solution is not military. The solution relates to the economy.

    • Very good analysis Pramod. I see most Indians are delusional and live in a make believe world. You are right, India’s economy is entangled with China’s and we cannot separate from them without damaging ourselves more. The person who facilitated that was Modi himself.

  16. Speaking with wealth of experience, this is a sharp slap on the face of overnight defence experts with few satellite photos to explain. Listen to his sane advise and back the military and the Govt. This is very much applicable for 50 year old Pappu who refuses to grow.

    • Let us see Modi give a tight slap on Xi’s face. All we have seen is surrender Modi. He is a disgrace to all Hindus.

      • National and strategic interests are not protected by acting emotionally. Cold mind and calculated objective must determine time, place, manner and force behind the slap. Noise created by the slap and immediate reply aren’t important, it’s the effect, the outcome, that is. Acting emotionally and immediately would be naiveté, the former Air Chief is right, we aren’t a nation of 1962, nor is our political and military leadership. Today we understand our strategic interests better, we are better trained, determined, committed and we know what we are doing. We have systems, processes and institutions that help the political and military leadership take decisions. And, we have institutional experience of several decades, and we have been learning every day, every month and every year.
        One more important thing, the Air Marshall doesn’t mention the Indian Navy in his article. It too is a formidable and prepared force today and I bet, is looking forward to face the challenge and reply strongly.
        Whether you like the PM or not, whether you like armed forces of the nation or not, whether you are a bot, an event agent doesn’t matter. The leadership chosen by the people and the armed forces irrespective of the colour of their flash or uniform will take every possible action against the enemy to protect our national interests.

  17. “Never in the history of free India has the country seen such difficult times and over such a prolonged period. The challenges are unprecedented. ” If a retired Chief of Air Staff writes these words these must not be taken lightly. Having read these I now really believe that the situation is grim and it is not a make believe crisis .Perhaps the coming months will decide the fate of India. Add to this the paper in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of USA which on hard scientific evidence concludes that in just fifty years i.e by 2070 A.D. one billion Indians will be forced to migrate or die because India will become hot and dry like the Sahara.That we had good fortune for the past 4000 years since the end of the Harappan period is no guarantee that the good times will continue beyond fifty more years.It is clear that every Indian citizen must stop and introspect. Are we moving in the right direction? Is it right to have a budget in which Rs 69000 crores is allotted to Health and Rs 700,000 crores to defense? Is there a better way for national security than ceaseless militarization ?Should the country be at war with itself and with its neighbors because ideology is considered more important than pragmatism? Eminent citizens like the author must help the people to find the right answers.

    • Spread your good and wise thought widely. Glorifying war and soldiering is simple exploitation of fellow humans. Today’s world calls for peoples leaders statesmen who care for lives of fellow humans and not personal glory.

  18. Excellent and most matured article I have read so far about the subject. We need more such saner writers to respond to the otherwise knee jerk, one minute response time articles which rarely ever know what is a war time scenario.

  19. If stops politcalising the problem everything will stop. Every one is standing with govt, but let them not paint Nehru as anti national who gave up our territory and those seeking clarifications from govt as anti national. No one is asking anything from armed forces top brass. Where was Air Marshal when other govt was facing similar problems. Why it’s only when BJP is power all should stand with govt not other wise.

  20. I agree with the writer
    Starting from 1962, 1965, 1971, Kargil( to Balakote) the Enemy narratives at the time of the conflicts have been proved wrong by statistics published decades later. India being a democracy with a free press (unlike our two main adversaries) does not usually hide information, if at all, except temporarily for tactical, strategic and diplomatic reasons. During each of the above wars / incidents we had a lot of “experts” mushroom and ventilate various theories and figures on prime TV and other media. One wonders from where do they get these loads of information.

    By the way, satellite image reading is a specialty like open heart surgery or wicket keeping to spinners on a deteriorating pitch. These days we also have “amateur experts” with Kaleidoscope views on the social media.

    And when the truth is revealed decades later these experts are not on the scene for they have already enjoyed their days in the Sun and created enough damage without a shred of shame!

    • Excellent. Sometimes, I think we perhaps have too much freedom of speech! The remedy against amateure expertise is to commence defence and strategic studies as specialisation in the universities and specialised institutions. In our country, everything related to defence is shrouded in mystery. Allow nonmilitary people also to specialize in military matters.

    • Colonel sahib, Hindutva Hindus are re-writing history, so that Hindus won all their wars. Maharana Pratap won the Battle of Haldighat according to them. Your statement ‘Enemy narratives at the time of the conflicts have been proved wrong by statistics published decades later’ is along similar lines. ‘ So 20 Indians were killed, but Indians went 2 km behind LAC and killed 43 Chinese. We won. Chinese should be commiserating.

      There is a video of Modi making the announcement. His narrative was the Chinese did not cross the LAC and take any land. But his miserable face suggested that he was like one of those POWs, captured by the Chinese and beaten, and made under duress to make a statement that all was fine. Even that captured pilot Abhinandan looked more dignified on PTV.

      Reading you makes me wonder what kind of men we have in the army who can only win by fabricating history.

  21. Where was all this “gyaan” sir when the PM politicised Balakot for electoral gains? Why was your wise counsel not given when Sushma Swaraj was baying for the blood of 10 soldiers for every one of ours? Why did you not stop the PM from using the bravery of the Indian Army at Uri for shoring up claims of 56 inch chest? The present govt when in opposition and in power has politicised national security for electoral benefit – veterans like yourself did not speak then. Now the shoe is on the other foot and the entire army actions and inactions have been tossed around like a football on the political arena. No point in appealing for restraint from others when you yourself never showed it.

  22. Thank you Sir for showing mirror to the ignoramuses. Tis said an organisation or country will not perish cos of poverty, it will certainly perish under the burden of the ignorance.

  23. General public will demand instant justice but government shouldn’t take a knee jerk reactions at the same time PM should avoid talking nonsense (which pleases china).

    • The Hindu general public wants to shield Modi. In any other country, a PM will be held accountable. Modi’s only achievement is a riot in 2002 and another in Delhi in 2020.

  24. Most objective article seen during this period of turmoil and uncertainty. ThePrint should ask all its journalists to study and internalize the message. Writing during the period preceding the war, during the war and after war needs a different level of professional competence than writing a script of war for any Bollywood movie, which unfortunately most of journalists are indulging into.

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