At a time when the belligerence of China is playing out at the Line of Actual Control, and our soldiers have braved the onslaught of the People’s Liberation Army and sacrificed their lives while retaliating in equal measure, the last thing I wanted to see was the wisdom and actions of those involved being questioned. Because that is what the opening lines of the statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office on the all-party meeting held on 19 June does when it says, “Attempts are being made in some quarters to give a mischievous interpretations to remark by the PM at the APM”.
The Army has a mechanism to learn from every development, and we will see it in due course. But, to question each action, when the tactical and strategic issues are yet to unfold in those icy heights and other areas, will harm the interests as well as the morale of the armed forces.
Trust the soldiers
In a situation where the adverse elements that confront the soldiers — the terrain, remoteness, the icy temperatures, the intention of the Chinese PLA, the rules of engagement, etc — are at their worst, the actions and reactions of the soldiers in units and subunits are driven by their deep-rooted beliefs and their group cohesiveness.
It will be very difficult for someone who has not served physically in such adverse situations to appreciate and understand the behaviour of the soldiers in combat. There are media reports about continued buildup of forces along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh on both sides, which indicates that the entire episode is not likely to end anytime soon.
Indian troops are the best fighting soldiers. It is the need of the hour to have implicit trust in them. But, the soldiers need moral support from the people of their country to accomplish their mission. This is not to suggest that the guilty should not be held accountable for their commissions or omissions. These issues can be addressed once the dust settles. But, it is imperative that the unit and subunit morale remains high at all times to take on any adverse situation with flying colours.
So, while social media users have the freedom to express their opinions, it may be prudent to reflect on the possible impact of irresponsible actions, including statements from some veterans. The enemy is known to exploit and manipulate adverse content of internal debates to its advantage.
Don’t spread misinformation
As the famous military thinker Clausewitz once said, “War is not an independent phenomenon, but continuation of politics by other means”. The decision makers in the government, too, need the support of all sections of society at such critical junctures. They depend on multiple inputs provided to them by various agencies to make correct decisions under extreme situations of ambiguity.
There would be many people providing information or input without themselves being in a position to comprehend the entire gamut of the situation unfolding in Ladakh. Hence, it is only natural that any infirmity and falsehood of inputs should also be dealt with in the manner it deserves. Such acts or commissions of negligence should be taken to task in order to avoid further embarrassment to the government of the day.
People coming up with speculations and assumptions coloured with political leanings must temper their shrill voices and wait until relative peace and tranquility is restored at the LAC. We, who are not in the know of what transpired at Galwan, should contribute by avoiding false narratives.
It is time we wait and watch the emerging geo-political scenario in the region and prepare ourselves for a longer haul this time around. At the same time, it is imperative that the authorities make endeavours to take all political parties on board and Indian citizens into confidence. Having faith in the political leadership and in our armed forces is a must in such periods of uncertainty. Let peace prevail at the LAC without a Himalayan blunder this time.
Lt Gen (Dr) Konsam Himalay Singh (retd) commanded his Battalion during the Kargil War in Turtuk Sector (Ladakh) and in Siachen Glacier. He served as Divisional and Corps Commander in Jammu and Kashmir. Views are personal.