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THE SHARK AND THE GOLDFISH

When India became independent, the overriding feeling amongst our leaders was that the Indian Army was a remnant of our colonial past, and best forgotten. Since “Ahimsa” was to be the nation’s guiding principle, the army was really not required. The police would be sufficient to handle minor disturbances. For nine weeks, that was the over-riding emotion. Then, Pakistan attacked. The 1947-48 war was the longest post-Independence war we have fought.

Between 1948 and 1962, even when war clouds loomed in the horizon, we were the proverbial ostrich. After the humiliation of 1962, realisation dawned that war and strife wanted us, even if we didn’t want them. Pakistan again attacked us in 1965. Wars and insurgencies came and went. An insurgency morphed into militancy and is now full-blown terrorism. Nothing has changed. Everything has changed.

This entire image of India as a nation not seeking war and taking pride in not having an expeditionary army is true. We have never gone looking for war. But wars have often come looking for us. I don’t have to tell fellow Indians that we live in a very rough neighbourhood. And yet, the sheer necessity of a strong military escapes us. Platitudes cannot replace weapons. But the real issue is vastly different.

Our thinking is strategically stunted.

Think of national security as a horse with four legs. All four legs must be strong, for us to gallop. Economy, diplomacy, intelligence and armed forces are the power profile of any nation. Except that in our case, we are one leg short.

I am not an economist and I don’t understand money too well, but I am told that independent institutions say we are the fastest growing economy in the world. People also say that we are doing very well diplomatically. I don’t know. These are not my areas of expertise. What I state is hearsay. About intelligence, I know even lesser than what I know about the economy or diplomacy. And anyway my “spook” friends sip coffee and talk about football. They don’t talk shop…ever.

Our fourth leg is broken. I deeply apologise for being blunt and making this transactional, but a nation gets the army it pays for, and payment is not about money alone. It is many things. Money is just one part of it.

Bravery alone does not win wars. An MQ9 Reaper stationed in Afghanistan can receive an input from a US Air Force desert base in Arizona, USA. It can hover at 50,000 feet above sea level for 36 hours and can put a AGM-114 Hellfire missile inside a 2×2 window, whenever the operator in Arizona so desires. Sounds like science fiction? Well, this technology is more than a decade old.

China is developing/stealing this technology, and since the Chinese focus only on work and don’t have to bother with red tape and babus, they are going to clone this weapons system and get it operational this year.

This is less than 1% of what is happening in our neighbourhood. If I were to mention just 10% of what China is doing, it would take several pages to simply state facts.

We, who often claim a permanent seat at the United Nation Security Council, have not been able to give our soldier a decent rifle. Was I talking about MQ9 Reaper? I am sorry…I do get ahead of myself, sometimes.

The issue is not so much with the budget. We are a growing economy and as we grow, so will the budget. The issue is that the things that can be done with minimal expenditure are not being done. Many reasons…envy, jealousy, rivalry…name it and its at play. We don’t need the Chinese and Pakistanis to harm us. We are doing a fantastic job of it ourselves.

Lets play a little game. Go to www.mod.gov.in and then click on Menu. In the drop down menu, click on Who’s Who. Finally, click on Department of Defence. Study the list carefully. Then click on Department of Defence Production. Then click on Department of Ex Servicemen Welfare. Finally, click on Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO).

Once you have gone through the names on all lists, you would have understood the problem. More than 95% of the people, who are actually in-charge of India’s defence and national security at the Defence Ministry’s policymaking level, have not spent a day in uniform. Ditto for the DRDO list in which names are not mentioned.

The people who make policies don’t know the people they make them for.

The production people don’t involve the end user.

The people who look after ex-servicemen welfare have no clue about veterans.

The DRDO designs with little end-user input, giving us eggs like Tejas and INSAS.

These are the people who give orders to the Army, Navy and Air Force without having served a day in either service. And their orders are followed in letter and spirit. India is a democracy and civilian supremacy cannot be questioned. It must not be questioned. But would you agree to undergo a bypass surgery, by a person who is not a cardiac surgeon? And if your answer is NO, then why don’t you, the people of India, protest when the security of YOUR nation is entrusted to people who don’t have the expertise to do that?

The Defence Minister must be someone elected by the people, and of that, there can be no doubt. Power in a democracy flows from the people. Many people have been clamouring for a military man to be made Defence Minister. While politics will decide that, the problem is clearly elsewhere. It is in the lists you read earlier. You can make a former general the Defence Minister of India but unless structural changes are made in that list, nothing will help.

The four legs of India’s national security work in silos. In any nation, the military forms an integral part of diplomacy because it is the military that is a nation’s final insurance against diplomatic failure. If you want to be derogatory, you can call this gunboat diplomacy. But it mostly works, mind you.

Posting a middle level officer as a Defence Attaché to an Embassy or High Commission is simply not enough. When the Prime Minister of India sits down to negotiate with another nation’s leader, both heads of state must know that somewhere in the background lurk INS Vikramaditya and INS Arihant. Subtlety is the key, but 1.2 million soldiers is a compelling argument.

For too long we have shunned projection of hard power. There has been the odd success like Operation Cactus in Maldives in 1988 when Brig. Farouk Bulsara entered Maldives with 1600 Indian Army paratroopers. The enemy was spooked witless. Then there have been gigantic foreign policy failures like Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka. In Op Pawan, the army was consulted only when it became difficult for the political dispensation to distinguish soldier from cannon fodder.

The economist and the diplomat alone are not enough to catapult a nation to superpower status. Somewhere in the background, a soldier underwrites all the ebbs and flows. We may like to look at the world through the prism of justice and morality, but there is nothing just and moral about the way the world does business. The United States Marines are humorously referred to as the last hundred yards of US foreign policy. It’s both funny and true.

Lets not shy away from projection of hard power. China did not withdraw from Dokalam because India gave the world Yoga and Kamasutra. They withdrew because we were strategically and tactically far stronger in that particular area. They are building a road in general area Dokalam, but it’s not the same place that we defended. The army Chief said that if we can defend Siachen for more than three decades, we could defend Dokalam indefinitely. He was just stating the obvious. Anyone who has been posted to Dokalam will tell you this. This is hard power projection.

Our national power profile is skewed. The Indian Armed Forces must have their say, as subject matter experts. They must be involved in policy at the highest levels. Administrators are generalists. We need specialists advising the Defence Minister and the Prime Minister. The Chief of Defence Staff position is years away, if at all. The low hanging fruit is immediate restructuring of the Defence Ministry.

Percentage of GDP committed to the budget is one way of looking at defence preparedness. India has other equally important priorities. Education, health, infrastructure and human resource development are as critical as defence. But everything is not about budget allocations. How smartly we spend that money is up to us. For that, we need soldiers to lead policy making. And that does not cost money.

When we have our policy imperatives sorted, we will start acting the part of an emerging super-power. It is then that the people of India will see global projection of hard power, and not just tableaus of missiles on Republic Day. Parades are an important part of military culture, but there is far more to the armed forces than shiny uniforms and marching to a drumbeat.

A shark is a predator of the deep seas. It is in the nature of sharks to hunt and kill. For too long, the armed forces have been sharks masquerading as goldfish. It goes against the DNA of soldiering. One day India will find its rightful place in the comity of nations, and the soldier will be an important part of that journey.

To our East and West we have two nuclear powers, and both have waged war on us. We are swimming in very dangerous waters. India must choose whom it wants defending its flanks, in these murky waters.

In the dark depths of the ocean, a shark is the final argument.

 

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment (Bhaduria)

#IndianArmy

# #ADGPI #MajorGauravArya #TheSharkAndTheGoldfish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FOURTH COLOUR

It was the summer of 1994 and my Unit, 17 Kumaon was stationed in Suratgarh, Rajasthan. Just as summer was peaking, the local transformer went out one fine night, with a bang. Fourteen days of hell followed, before they managed to restore the transformer. I remember that in those fourteen days, we would often go to the Officers Mess of 10 Sikh Light Infantry. They had a generator and were fantastic hosts. Other youngsters of my Unit were obsessed with football. They would watch the game with the concentration of a sniper stalking his prey. I, on the other hand, had no interest in football. I still don’t. For me, a sport was all about riding horses and showjumping. When I was commissioned into the infantry, I understood that from now onwards, I was the horse.

Well, I digress.

On one such sojourn to the 10 Sikh Li mess, I ventured a little further and heard the children of an officer speaking in fluent Punjabi. In the army no one thinks twice about these things and they don’t matter. But outside, it can create a controversy. Well, the officer was a Malyalee. And his children were speaking Punjabi inside the unit Gurudwara. They had come for the langar, as all kids do. Spiritual enlightenment was still decades away, if at all.

We had adventures in the blazing deserts of Rajasthan. Mahajan Field Firing Range, a few hours from Bikaner, was our happy hunting grounds. Field exercises were no fun but when the sun went down, the desert would come alive. Snakes and scorpions found their way into our boots. Yes, we had adventures. Staring at Fort Abbas in Pakistan was how evenings were spent. There were no TV sets there.

Shortly, the Unit moved to Gurdaspur. Punjab, glorious Punjab, with its green fields and hospitality was a stark contrast to the large nothingness of Mahajan. Soon, we settled down.

New to the station, 17 Kumaon was itching to celebrate but the one major Kumaoni festival, Dussehra, was still months away. My Paltan is a pure Kumaoni battalion with 100% Hindu troops from the Kumaon region. Officers, as is true for the entire army, are from all over India. Had it been Dussehra, 17 Kumaon would have been decked up like a bride. There would have been “kaal ratri” on the eve of the big day, a “Mandir Parade” on the following morning, followed by the ritual sacrifice, and then the “shastra pooja”. The famous Kumaoni “choliya dance” would have followed. Finally before we all went home, we would have the feast…the massive “bara khana” with the mustard-spiked Kumaoni “raita” as the centerpiece. One spoon of that raita would have your scalp tingling like you had a thousand ants crawling on your skull.

But as I said, Dussehra was still months away.

So, Colonel Lincoln Lewis Andrews, YSM (Yudh Sewa Medal), Commanding Officer of 17 Kumaon decreed that we would celebrate Janmashtami with equal fervor. We would show the Brigade HQs what 17 Kumaon was…our spirit, our traditions and our hospitality.

Officers were invited from the Brigade. The Brigade Commander was tied up elsewhere and sent his regrets, but never mind…everyone present would know that the “bhullas” were second to none. “Bhulla” means younger brother in Kumaoni and that is how troops are addressed in my Unit.

The Unit Mandir was spruced up and on the big day, we assembled at 2330 hrs (11:30 pm) at the Mandir. Col Andrews led the Mandir parade, and with the “arti thali” being passed around, the Mandir was soon reverberating with bhajans. Col Andrews was a boxer, and he sang like one. I was sitting right behind him and had to bear the brunt of his musical talent. But he was the CO and I was then a young Lieutenant. I kept my peace. Another reason I kept my peace was that Capt. RK Anuj, Adjutant of 17 Kumaon, was sitting next to me. He was also my senior subaltern. I had very valid reasons not to air my precious opinion.

17 Kumaon was caught up in the fervor of Janmashtami, and was led from the front by its CO. Whenever the bhajan reached a crescendo, Col Andrews would repeat the lines “Brij mein aayo mere Nand Lala” along with everyone. Suddenly, at 2359 hrs, one minute to midnight, everyone stopped singing.

The Unit Panditji gave a sharp command, “Mandir Parade saavdhan baith”. 17 Kumaon turned into a thousand statues.

Turning to the CO, he saluted and said, “Ram Ram Sahab. Sri Krishna ke janam ki anumati chahta hoon, Shrimaan”. Pandit Ji was asking permission from the CO to allow the birth of Lord Krishna. No one batted an eyelid. This was the Indian Army, after all. Traditions were everything. Izzat. Wafadari. Dastoor.

“Ram Ram, Pandit Ji. Anumati hai”, said the good Colonel, beaming.

A silent signal was given. Far away, half a kilo of plastic explosive went off. The cradle of Lord Krishna was slowly lowered from the ceiling. The hall exploded with bhajans.

It was at 0003 hrs, three minutes past midnight that the Mandir phone rang loudly.  The CO was asked to come on the phone. Well, the Brigade Commander basically said that he was back. He had heard so much about the Kumaoni Janmashtami. Would it be possible for him to attend the celebrations?

Col Andrews was a war hero, with a Yudh Sewa Medal in Operation Pawan, Sri Lanka. The LTTE had feared him. But the Brigade Commander’s visit was a bit too much. But what could he do? Lord Krishna had “already been born”.

“You are welcome, Sir”, said Col LL Andrews, his throat obviously dry. There was nothing else to say.

A few minutes later, the Unit Panditji again said, “Mandir parade saavdhan baith”. Marching up to the Brigade Commander, he saluted and smartly said again, “Ram, Ram Sahab. Sri Krishna ke janam ki anumati chahta hoon, Shrimaan”.

This time it was the Brigade Commander who gave permission for the birth of Lord Krishna. The same distant explosion. The same cradle lowered gently.

There was much bonhomie and the “suji ka halwa” prasad was consumed in vast quantities. 17 Kumaon sang bhajans to its heart’s content. Subedar Gopal Singh Soin, the soul of our Mandir functions, raised his right fist and shouted “Kalika Mata ki Jai”. A thousand throats roared the Kumaoni battle cry.

Col. Andrews folded his hands, closed his eyes and whispered “Jai Ram Sarv Shaktiman”. The Mandir Parade was over.

As we stepped outside the Mandir and wore our shoes, I could see Col Andrews chatting with the Brigade Commander. He was beaming with pride.

It was on that day that I learned a valuable lesson. If you are an officer in the Indian Army, the religion you were born into is secondary. The religion of the troops you command is your religion. You live and pray with your men. And when the time comes, you die with them.

When a Hindu officer of the Grenadiers Regiment refuses a cold glass of lemonade on a hot day, because he is fasting for Ramzan, you know you are in the Indian Army. And when all the other officers from different regiments keep down their lemonade glasses in a show of solidarity, it sets you thinking. Who are these men? What are they made of?

I recently tweeted pictures of an Iftar function organized by the army in Kashmir. Trolls reacted the way they mostly do. The Indian Army was accused of minority appeasement, pandering to Muslims, feeding traitors and becoming “sickular”. I was almost made to feel as if the Indian Army was standing for local elections and Muslim votes were critical for electoral victory. I mostly don’t react to trolls when they fire at me. But this was different. If you don’t speak about the Indian Army with the utmost respect, expect a response from me. No attack will go unanswered.

Much as many people may hate it, the truth is that the Indian Army is both secular and liberal. Yes, the same army that has killed thousands of terrorists, defeated and dismembered Pakistan, stared down China and continues to sacrifice lives everyday in the line of duty. Fret as you may, this is carved in stone and defended by 1.2 million men and women with automatic weapons. It is not going to change.

Now, about the Iftar in Kashmir. Every Kashmiri Muslim is not a terrorist or a stone pelter. I go to Kashmir frequently. I do claim to have a little sense of what is going on there. There are many who oppose us. There are many who stand with us. And those who stand with us put their lives in peril to do so. They must be defended, whatever the cost. More importantly, they must be respected.

I am all for throwing stone pelters in jail. I am against ceasefire. I would love to see the Hurriyat leadership in prison till the day the sun rises from the North. I celebrate the killing of every terrorist. I am the strongest possible votary for vertical escalation on the Line of Control.

But the fact remains that Kashmir is a war on terror, not a war on the people. Our morality often exacts a price. So be it. We don’t worship Lord Rama because he was a powerful king. He is God because he is “Maryada Purushottam”. He is the most ideal of men. On the first page of the 2018 Indian Army coffee table book, there is full-page painting of Lord Rama. His morality is our compass. This is “dharma”. This is duty.

The Indian Army is not just a powerful army. It is also a moral army.

Politicians and the media have mangled secularism and liberalism beyond belief. Many Indians believe these ideologies to be architects of India’s impending doom. Nothing is further from the truth. Secularism is simply the separation of religion and the state. Liberalism is simply the ability to accept opinions and behavior different from ours. That’s all. In my book, there is no other definition. Our books, should we choose to look carefully, are exactly the same.

The Indian Army is all about what we value most in our life – honour, brotherhood, integrity, loyalty, faith, courage and morality. It is the defender of all that is right. The truth cannot always be defended with a pen, a banner and a candlelight march. Sometimes, it needs a soldier with a gun.

Ask anyone and they will tell you that our national flag has three colors. But it actually has a fourth color, invisible to the eye…look from the deepest recesses of our collective morality and there it is.

The fourth color in our flag is Olive Green.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment

#TheFourthColor #IndianArmy #MajorGauravArya #adgpi

THE NOTHING STATE

In 1947, Pakistan attacked us in Kashmir, took away our land, and we did nothing. In 1962, China attacked us. Nothing. In 1965, Pakistan attacked us again. Nothing. 1993 bomb blasts. Nothing. 1999 Kargil. Nothing. 26/11 Mumbai. Nothing. Parliament attacks. Nothing. Punjab insurgency. Nothing. Kashmir terrorism. Nothing. LoC violations. Nothing. Numerous major and minor terror incidents across India. Nothing. Attacks on military installations. Nothing.

We have become the “nothing” state.

In that warm, viscous fluid deep inside the womb of inaction, we find solace and comfort. It’s the perfect world, shielded from the guttural screams of the dying and the silence of the dead. Peace is a punch line.

Speak about an armed response, and you are labeled a warmonger.

After the battle of Chamkaur Sahib in 1705, Guru Gobind Singh Ji wrote a letter to Emperor Aurangzeb. The letter was called “Zafarnama”. It bears reading for its sheer sophistication and clarity of thought. Such vision and strength of character is impossible to find. Of the 111 Persian verses, the closest to my heart is verse number 22.

Chu kar az hama heelt-e-dar guzasht

Halal ast burden ba shamsheer dast.

All modes of redressing a wrong having failed

Raising of the sword is pious and just.

What is India’s threshold? When will we say, “Thus far, and no further”? How many body bags are too many?

Centuries ago, Guru Gobind Singh Ji gave us a template to follow, and we ignored it. This has been amongst this nation’s greatest misfortunes. Zafarnama is not just a letter written by a warrior-saint to a cruel, megalomaniac emperor. It actually sketches the outline of what must be India’s foreign policy.

A nation state must have the capability and the intent to punish its enemies. We have the capability. Where is the intent? Remember, there is no respect without fear.

The lessons from Russia are instructive, though extreme. It is part truth and part urban legend. They say that a Middle Eastern terrorist group had once kidnapped a Russian official. The Russians found out where the terrorist leader’s family lived. Next day, the terrorist leader received a small box. When he opened the box, he found his fathers severed hand in it. The Russian official was released promptly, simply because the message was clear; if desired action was not taken immediately, more body parts of the old man would follow.

I don’t particularly like the way Russians do business. But then, I don’t like the way Indians do business either. They are too harsh. We are too soft. They are all action. We are all talk.

One day, this national obsession with excessive debate and discussion that we wear like a badge of honour, a nod to our democratic legacy, will sink us. We must realize that consensus and discussion are not an alternative to resolute action. Both are required in equal measure.

As a nation, we must swiftly find a balance between what we are and what we seek to be. If we are a peace-loving nation, following the great traditions of Gandhi and Buddha, let us stop claiming eligibility for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council. A seat at that table is not for the weak, or the peaceful.

The Big Five of the UNSC are the biggest human rights violators in the history of this planet. From slavery to colonialism, from pogroms of its own people to artificially induced famines, which killed tens of millions, these nations have done it all. You would argue that, that is in the past. You would be right. And wrong.

Since the end of World War II, USA has never been at peace. UK keeps toeing the US line, like an obedient parrot. China is expanding its military footprints globally. Russia is bombing Syria, and setting up ground forces including fast moving armour, to counter NATO in Europe.

Actually, not much has changed…except the methodology. Not for a moment am I saying that we emulate the wrongs of these nations. But let our morality not be an excuse for inaction. That is all I ask.

Soft power is good to have and its effects are far reaching. It can do what hard power cannot. But the inverse is also true. While it is true that Bollywood has taken China by storm, along with Yoga; it is also true that no military commander worth his salt would recommend releasing Dangal at Dokalam, at the height of an Indo-China face-off.

We are a nation that has become too dependent on soft power.

Wars are hell. Wars are avoidable. But if we must go to war, there is no point in being tentative about it. That’s the surest way to lose.

Whether it is terrorism in Kashmir, insurgency in the North East, Naxalism in the Red Corridor or incursions along the Line of Actual Control we have always come across as a nation that is weak and unsure. If we are slapped, we make turning the other cheek a show of great maturity. Its almost like it’s a virtue. “India is an old civilization and can be expected to behave maturely”, says the world. Its actually saying, “The Indians will keep discussing the matter till it fizzles out”.

Take a step back and think about it for a minute. Forget about the legal complications and what the world will say.

Lets say India does the following:

  1. Imprisons all Kashmiri separatists in jails outside Kashmir.
  2. Incinerates completely a Pakistan Army Brigade Headquarters across the Line of Control.
  3. Throws stone pelters in jail for 5 years, all outside Kashmir. All stone pelters interrupting Security Forces operations to be jailed for 15 years. Build new jails, if the need so arises.
  4. Declares President’s Rule in J&K.
  5. Abrogates Article 370 and 35A.
  6. Withdraws its High Commissioner from Pakistan, leaving behind minuscule junior-level staff.
  7. Warns Canada and UK that if they actively allow anti-India activities from their soil, they should not expect “business as usual” with India.
  8. Carries out selective targeting of “persons of interest” inside Pakistan, and globally. The message should be simple…you cannot target India and hope to live in peace.
  9. Gives CRPF “special powers” and a timeline to wipe out Naxalism in the Red Corridor.
  10. Withdraws MFN status from Pakistan and bans all trade with that country.

What will happen if we do this? Let me tell you:

  1. The world will erupt in an uproar because they are not used to such actions from India. Our ambassadors will be summoned and strong statements given by all. Beyond that, nothing will happen.
  2. Pakistan Army will go back to doing what it does best – making cereals and selling fertilizer.
  3. China will make a statement, to which we should not respond.
  4. Pakistan will say that it is a nuclear weapons state. That statement accounts for nothing. It says that even during a cricket match.
  5. Our soldiers will stop dying needlessly.

I am not asking our nation to do anything that is extraordinary by global standards. Pakistan Army attacked us in Kargil in 1999. We were a nuclear weapons state. Did that stop Pakistan? Did the world do anything? The world did nothing because the world ALWAYS does nothing…unless its own interests are at stake.

It is time to take a hard line. I am NOT talking about being militaristic. I do not intend to play the warmonger. But I have said it before and I will say it again. A nation does not live on its knees. Enough is enough.

Because of my views, I have been called a rabid hawk. If peace means allowing our soldiers to die, then that peace is not acceptable to me, because that is peace without honour.

I am not a hawk. I am just a dove with very big claws.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

17 Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment

Indian Army

#MajorGauravArya #TheNothingState #IndianArmy #adgpi

NEXT YEAR IN KASHMIR

Many Indians believe that military force is the solution to the Kashmir issue. Many Indians believe that dialogue is the only way forward. Both are right. Both are wrong. Kashmir is a little more complicated than that, and the fault lies with us. We have mismanaged Kashmir for 70 years, and for the past 30 years, we have surpassed ourselves in creativity.

Whenever a population is subjected to genocide and massive violence, there is mass exodus. Syrians, Kashmiri Pandits and Rohingya Muslims have been forced to leave their homeland because the alternative was death, or worse.

In 622 AD, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) migrated from Mecca to Yathrib. Islam is a revealed religion, revealed to the Prophet through archangel Gabriel. Before Islam was revealed, Arabia was living in darkness and ignorance. The message that the Prophet carried was so radical that it upset the social order of those times. The Prophet spoke about social justice and equality. He said that in the presence of Allah, kings and beggars were equal. The tribe of Qureysh, the dominant tribe to which the Prophet himself belonged, turned upon him. He was the target of assassination, and the first Muslims were in the gravest danger. For the safety of his followers and the fledgling faith, the Prophet undertook the Hijera, or migration.

Exodus always has a trigger, a raison d’être so undeniable and powerful that a people must leave their homeland, where the ashes and bones of their ancestors are interred.

There has never, in history, been an exodus of Kashmiri Muslims from the Valley. Sure, many left the Valley, and continue to do so, to seek a better life in other states of India, but there has been no mass migration. Because there was no genocide. There was no state-sponsored massive violence inflicted upon Kashmiri Muslims. Yes, there have been human rights violations. Yes, Kashmiris have lived through terrible times. Yes, many of their complaints against the Indian state are genuine and legitimate.

Radicalization in Kashmir is not a new phenomenon. It started in the Valley in the same decade that it started in Pakistan, under General Zia ul Haq. For Kashmir to find mass resonance in Pakistan, the “freedom movement” would have to have an Islamic signature tune. Zia’s Islam was an exclusive and harsh faith, which had no resemblance to the gentle strand of Sufi Islam, which has all but died in Kashmir. Zia held non-Muslims to be “kafirs” and hence, “wajib-ul-qatl” or who’s killing was justified. And those whose killing was justified in Kashmir were Kashmiri Pandits, the land’s original inhabitants. Kashmiri Pandits were successful, organized and influential. Status quo could not be permitted.

Kashmiri Pandits migrated from the Valley because they were subjected to genocide, ethnic cleansing and rape. Their shops were burned down and they were gunned down in the streets. They were given three choices – raliv, galiv ya chaliv. Convert, die or escape. Those who wanted to go were told to leave their womenfolk behind. 19 January 1990 has been forever burned into the collective consciousness of the Kashmiri Pandits.

It was a brilliant tactical move by Pakistan. The Kashmiri Muslim had nothing in common with the Pakistani Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtun or Baloch. Except Islam. Zia and his ISI chief Lt Gen Hamid Gul truly believed that it was Islam and its mujahideen that had humbled the mighty USSR. This was only partially true. But Zia and Gul believed with the fervor of those who had found faith. If Islam’s warriors could break the USSR, India would be a cakewalk. During the decade, Pakistan launched Operation Topac, and in 1989 Kashmir exploded in our face.

Thousands of terrorists infiltrated into the Valley from Pakistan. They walked openly on the streets carrying Kalashnikovs. They killed, raped and executed with impunity. Every week there would be a rumor that Kashmir was about to fall, and that a very public uprising was around the corner. Those days, the Indian Army was mostly along the Line of Control. The situation was so bad that something had to be done immediately, or we would lose Kashmir.

Pakistan waited with bated breath. It was only a matter a time before the mujahideen raised the Pakistani flag all over the valley, they believed. The Kashmiri Pandits had been forced to flee and saner elements in Kashmir had been murdered. Yes, it was only a matter of time.

Then, the Indian Army did what it always does. It drew upon its vast reservoir of experience in counter insurgency operation in the North East and tabled a solution in front of the central government. The clearly rattled government couldn’t approve quickly enough.

In 1990, Kashmir saw another kind of soldier, very unlike Indian Army soldiers seen earlier. He had long hair and often sported a beard. He carried an AK 47. He was differently dressed, and he operated in small teams. He hunted all day and night, never seeming to stop. To the terrorist, he was the devil incarnate…the hunter of men and gatherer of souls. He showed no mercy because he had none to offer.

This soldier was from a force called Rashtriya Rifles. And the terror he evoked was overwhelming.

I have met surrendered terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir who have been living normal lives for over a decade, doing petty businesses or jobs. But they tell me in private that even today, when they see a Rashtriya Rifles patrol pass by, they have a very strong urge to urinate.

But Kashmir is changing. Like the Rubik’s cube in the hands of an amateur, it becomes more complex with every twist and turn. The splatter of color in a Rubik’s cube is a sign of failure. Success is monochrome.

Radicalization of Kashmir was Pakistan’s idea, aided and abetted by India’s lack of imagination and unwillingness to act. Lets start with…well, a few issues.

India does not seem to have a coherent Kashmir policy. Well, if a policy is a written guideline, debated threadbare and thought through, which the state follows with at least some degree of consistency, then yes…I am right. We do not have a Kashmir policy. We are like the willow tree; we bend when the wind is fearsome. We accommodate. It is our weakness that the Chairman of the Hurriyat Conference believes that he is more powerful than the Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir. I remember the time when Hurriyat men would derisively call the CM “Mayor of Srinagar”.

The most pressing issue that we are dealing with in Kashmir is mass radicalization of the population. This radicalization is a part of the Wahhabi/ Islamic State terror franchise. The impossible has happened. Security forces in Kashmir killed Mohammad Toufeeq, a resident of Telangana, a few days ago. He was a radicalized over social media and wanted to fight for the “glory of Islam” along with his brothers. This is exactly what Pakistan wanted all along. And we are still having debates on whether ISIS is present in Kashmir or not.

To counter this intense radicalization, we must understand that creating new Rashtriya Rifles battalions is not a solution. An idea can only be countered by an idea. This idea has two parts.

Part one is to create a narrative around Kashmir – past, present and future. This narrative must be aggressively pushed in social and mainstream media.

  1. Educate people on the truth of the UN Resolutions on Kashmir. Very few people in Kashmir (and Pakistan) have read the resolutions but everyone swears by them. This must be done through short videos in Kashmiri, WhatsApp messaging and Facebook posts. Keep telling this truth.
  2. Active counter to all bogus human-rights stories in the local Kashmiri media. This must be in Kashmiri, not Hindi or English. The local media is largely compromised, singing the Hurriyat tune. We must start local FM stations, community radio stations and local TV channels to counter them, running programs that tell the truth. Run a TV channel from inside Badami Bagh Cantt. Run community radio stations across North and South Kashmir, from Army, CRPF and BSF camps. DD Kashmir is incomprehensible.
  3. Constantly and consistently expose the lifestyles of Hurriyat leaders, other separatists and their relatives, especially those settled abroad.
  4. Let Kashmiris know what these so-called “azaadi ke deewane” do when they visit New Delhi, especially in a certain bungalow in Greater Kailash Part 2, and in a five star hotel in Gurgaon, which is bang on NH.
  5. Tell Kashmiris the truth about Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Also share with them stories written by Pakistanis about how Kashmiri freedom fighters in PoK are beaten to death by ISI and how entire families are “disappeared”. Tell them about the reputation of Pakistan in the Islamic world, its bankruptcy and its scant disregard of its own Constitution and elected leaders. There are Pakistani citizens in Dubai and London who have been tortured and then expelled from Pakistan by ISI for simply asking questions. Arrange for meetings between them and Kashmiri youth.
  6. Expose, with proof, the fake human rights racket that is flourishing in Kashmir and in certain parts of New Delhi. Takes names. Give addresses. Share bank account details, including photos of boarding passes of flights to Dubai and further to Islamabad.
  7. When Kashmir was forcibly partitioned after the 1947-48 war, the language spoken on both sides of the ceasefire line (LoC) was Kashmiri, at least in the Valley area. Now, the main language of PoK is Punjabi and Punjabis form the largest ethnic group. Where have all the Kashmiris of PoK gone? This must be part of the narrative.

Part two is to rapidly de-radicalize the Kashmiri youth. The following steps can be taken. This is by no means a comprehensive list. It is merely a starting point.

  1. Arrange for live debates between Kashmiri Imams/ Maulvis with Deobandi Imams. Let them know that in Islam, Jihad must be sanctioned by a state that is truly Islamic. If not, that so-called Jihad is treachery. Similarly, quote Islamic scripture to discredit Pakistan’s role in Kashmir.
  2. Send a group of Kashmiri youth to Deoband to study Islam. I have spoken to Deobandi Islamic scholars and at least three of them have told me that this so-called Kashmiri “Jihad” is a scam and anti-Islamic.
  3. The world is divided to Dar-ul-Harb (house of war) and Dar-ul-Aman (house of peace). If a Muslim can follow his religion freely, without pressure, that land is Dar-ul-Aman. India is an example. If a Muslim cannot follow Islam freely and is subjected to torture and oppression due to his religion, that land is Dar-ul Harb. China is an example. This must be explained. Pakistan, a self-professed Islamic Republic, looks the other way when Chinese Uighur Muslims are targets of state terror and killing. Pakistan does not speak for them, because it accepts money from China.
  4. Kashmiris must ask why Pakistan supports China, a country in which Muslims may not pray or keep fast during Ramzan, where beards are forbidden and Maulvis are forced to dance to retro-Chinese rock music. Offer namaz openly and you are sent to re-education camps.
  5. Start an IPL team for J&K. It will be a masterstroke, trust me. The truth is that Kashmiris are crazily talented. And they have the wrong heroes. Each town must have at least a dozen cricket clubs. Let them compete for lavish prizes. Get the teams touring all over India, playing with state level teams.
  6. Arrest and file cases against Maulvis and Imams who preach violence. The courts must punish them and the sentences must be minimum 15 years of jail outside J&K. There may be temporary unrest and some stone pelting. Understandable and acceptable. Once you have put a few dozen of these rancid Maulvis in jail, the message will go out clearly to everyone.
  7. Ban funeral of terrorists. There is no need to hand over dead bodies of terrorists to their families. No bodies, no funeral gatherings and no Kashmiri politicians to play vulture politics.
  8. Puncture this fake narrative of perceived victimhood. Healthy and gainfully employed Kashmiris have been made to believe that they are victims. This leads to greater acceptance of radical messaging.

Operation Sadhbhavna is bearing dividends, but it must be expanded through the civil administration. I suspect that Indian Army does Op Sadhbhavna in Kashmir for the same reason it builds bridges in Mumbai and pulls out little children from bore wells across India; no other department or agency can plan and execute with the speed, efficiency and transparency of the Indian Army. This is the truth. And this is also the reason why there is no incentive for others to pull their own weight. The army is happy to help and it is the army’s duty to help. But the Indian Army is a sword, not a spade or a shovel.

The Indian Army entered Kashmir because the local administration had failed. For normalcy to return, locals must have faith in the local administration and police. For that, urgent structural reforms are a must. J&K Police is a highly effective force, but poorly paid. Their officers are brave and regularly display commendable leadership. They live in the shadow of danger, but they are amongst the most shabbily treated. This must be the first thing to change. Finally, law and order is a state subject and the J&K Police can only step up if we support it. Housing, proper pay, pensions, social recognition, medical and life insurance, decent uniforms, training, documentation and morale building are immediate requirements. Policemen must know that in the event they are martyred, their families will be taken care of. They must believe that the color of a martyr’s uniform is irrelevant. They must believe that they are not expendable.

Finally, we must have a robust and time bound plan in place to bring back Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley. Without them, Kashmir would be like a body without a soul. It is hypocritical for people of the Valley to seek justice, when they would deny the same justice to the Pandits. To do so would be “munaafqat”, expressly forbidden in Islam. I am against Pandits living in fortified camps, which are just better jails. The perpetrators must be punished, not the victims.

The exodus of the Jews took place 2500 years ago. For two and a half millennia, Jews would gather every Yom Kippur in whichever corner of the world they were, raise a toast and take a vow “Next year in Jerusalem”.

No one should suffer like the Jews did. And Kashmir will never be paradise without the Kashmiri Pandits.

With all humility, I raise my glass in a toast, “Next year in Kashmir”.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment

Indian Army

#MajorGauravArya #NextYearInKashmir #IndianArmy #adgpi

OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER

To,

Sri. Narendra Modi

Prime Minster, Republic of India

7, Lok Kalyan Marg

New Delhi

 

 

Respected Pradhan Mantri ji,

 

As I write these lines, I am fully aware that you may never read them. Also, I have nothing new to say. You have the nation’s intelligence services at your beck and call. The Director Intelligence Bureau briefs you every day. The Secretary R&AW awaits your command. The NSA is on speed dial. A phone call with the three Service Chiefs along with ISRO, and you have access to the kind of information daily, that all the news channels of India combined, will not have in a lifetime.

At the snap of your fingers, India can launch a nuclear strike from the unknown depths of the oceans. Or, you can send flowers of peace to an adversary. What you do is your decision. But as an American author once said about India’s missile program… Agni does not mean Chrysanthemum. It means fire. Dr. Kalam knew exactly what he was building.

So, what can a former junior army officer tell you that you don’t already know? Absolutely nothing. But it is this very insignificance of mine that makes this letter different. I see dark clouds above and difficult times ahead. I seek your intervention.

And this is why I say this.

To our East, Xi Jinping has probably been crowned Emperor of China, even if they still call him President. They say that he will rule till he breathes, with all the power of the Party, Politburo and the PLA concentrated in his hands. This simply means a far more aggressive China led by a man who, in real terms, is not accountable to anyone. While we are still figuring out how to respond, China’s encirclement of India is complete. From bases in South China Sea to the 99-year lease of the Hambantota Port, from PLA warships in Gwadar to the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, we are hopelessly surrounded.

To our West, we are dealing with a rouge nuclear-armed army that actually owns a nation of 200 million luckless souls. This army is not accountable to anyone. In 1999, it launched an attack on Kargil, without so much as informing its own Prime Minister. In 1965, it did not deem it necessary to inform its own sister services, the Pakistan Air force and Pakistan Navy that it had launched Operation Gibralter and attacked India in Kashmir. Both the Pakistan Naval and Air Chiefs suspected something was wrong, but their worst fears came true when they heard Madam Noor Jehan singing patriotic songs on radio. That, in Pakistan, usually means war. Or a coup.

Pakistan will supposedly issue, though some say it already has, tens of millions of long-term visas to Chinese nationals to settle in Balochistan for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor projects. According to the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), by 2048 the majority population of Balochistan will be Chinese. Mandarin is already being taught to Pakistani children, not that they were learning anything useful earlier…and the Yuan will soon be legal tender in Pakistan.

Earlier we had China to the East and Pakistan to the West. We now have China to the East and China to the West. The dragon is moving its tail.

Closer home, there is massive radicalization in Kashmir. From the pulpit of mosques to social media accounts, the Valley is turning Wahhabi with a fierceness not seen earlier. ISIS flags are waved at funerals and clashes.

“Is ISIS really present in Kashmir?” a publisher asked me recently.

“Islamic State is an idea, not a car dealership”, I tried to explain. There may or may not be physical manifestations of this vile idea, but to assume it does not exist just because you can’t see it, would be a gross miscalculation.

If terrorists repose faith in an idea, it is real. Lets not look for overt signs. No one is going to put up neon boards in downtown Srinagar. Its in the speech in the mosque, the terrorist raising his index finger on video, the sign of “Tawheed” or oneness of God, the central monotheistic concept in Islam, it is in the flags draped over terrorists bodies in funerals. Seek, and you shall find.

A good part of the battle for mind-space in Kashmir can be won if we have a narrative. Pakistan has a Kashmir narrative. Hurriyat has a Kashmir narrative. Terror organizations have a Kashmir narrative. All of them push their narrative everyday. And India, which has the most powerful Kashmir narrative based on the absolute truth, is reluctant to even tell its side of the story. So, in the absence of our truth, their lies flourish. Kunan Poshpora. 700,000 troops in Kashmir. Genocide. Disappearances. Mass rapes. Unknown graves. Braid chopping. Flying saucers. Its like Sydney Sheldon has started writing in Kashmiri.

It is important that an urgent narrative around Kashmir is created and pushed. There are a lot of fence sitters in Kashmir. They overtly support the terrorists, but privately hate them. Such is the cost of living in Kashmir. We must give these fence sitters a story; a narrative so powerful and true that it blows away everything in its path. This narrative exists. It is structured around the truth of the UN Resolutions of Kashmir, the truth about the Hurriyat, the truth about the lavish lifestyles of those who scream “azaadi”. Shopping malls, private jets, luxury hotel stays, foreign holidays in Spain and Malaysia…while the hapless population is mired in misery, Asiya Andrabi’s son is found in a 5 star resort in Bangkok, posing for photographs with Hulk Hogan. For the separatists, the blood of the Kashmiris is a credit card with no limit. Keep swiping. Keep killing.

Many Kashmiris support the Hurriyat not because of love or respect, but because Kashmiris have a long history of supporting whoever they perceive as the victor. Kashmiris see Hurriyat winning against the Indian state. They don’t care to know or acknowledge that the Hurriyat exists because the Indian Constitution allows space for dissent. Had Hurriyat tried in Pakistan, a minuscule percentage of what it does in Kashmir, Geelani would have disappeared and the Mirwaiz would have been found under some culvert in a very small gunny sack. In Kashmir there is a very fine, almost invisible, line between fear and respect. Some say there is no such line at all. We must understand these nuances.

Geelani and his cohorts are doing a very fine balancing act. They are indispensible to the Pakistanis and have, somehow, convinced the Indian government that they speak for the Kashmiri people. That credibility must be damaged, not just by NIA raids but also in the heart of the Kashmiri people. This is not difficult to do; the Hurriyat’s credibility is based on falsehood. All we need is to be constant and consistent in cracking the mirror, with truth.

India is plagued by many other challenges. The North East is still simmering. The Left Wing Extremism (LWE) areas, or the Red Corridor, are perhaps India’s greatest internal security challenge. This is a long list. The list will remain long because the people responsible for shortening of this list are bureaucrats.

Your greatest initiative to push India to industrial superstardom, “Make In India” is sputtering to a halt. And the people who are spiking it are your own bureaucrats. Not just the elite of the bureaucracy but the middle and lower level functionaries, too. The entire structure is rotten. They derive their power from stopping progress and denial of permission. They have created these rules and laws to buttress their arguments. Sir, if India has to progress, its bureaucracy must be cut to size.

Before asking countries to invest in India, we must take a step back and take the surgeon’s knife to India’s “babudom”. Let a committee for reforms in bureaucracy, be constituted; a group with wide ranging powers. At the very top, we need technocrats. The miracle of the Delhi Metro happened because of E Sridharan. Had there been a senior bureaucrat in charge, the Delhi Metro would have gone the way of the Tejas LCA.

Our issue is not whether we have meritorious people at the top, or not. The issue is that we have wrong people at the top. And they decide sensitive policy, without having a day’s exposure to the practical aspects of the issue. We have a veritable galaxy of “Paper Tigers” running the administration of India.

When we put the right people at the top, magic happens. ISRO is a miracle because, scientists lead it. The day a senior bureaucrat is appointed Chairman of ISRO; you will receive a beautiful presentation on why ISRO can no longer launch satellites.

It is these very bureaucrats who are killing Make In India, especially in defence manufacturing. May I submit the following process?

Firstly, we must redefine the entire process for selection and purchase of any weapons system. Each item takes decades to order and then decades to reach the soldier. By that time, it is obsolete. Sir, you are aware that two-thirds of all Indian Army equipment is obsolete. Our artillery is 35 years old, simply because we did not order, manufacture or induct a single artillery gun for past 35 years.

Secondly, no one is going to invent any weapons system just for us. All weapons systems that we are importing are being used in some armed force of the world. It should not take more than five years to import even something as sophisticated as a fighter jet. The Air Force knows what it wants. Let them know the budget. They will figure out what they want, test it and then make recommendations to the government. Ditto for other services. But importing is not Make In India, right?

Thirdly, execution is the key. Let us assume that Indian Army wants a new assault rifle. Army knows what it wants, because technical evaluation happens everyday in the Indian Army. It’s not a one-time process for them. Let them shortlist 5 rifles, globally. Let them test all of them simultaneously. Why should rifle trials take a decade? It’s a rifle…just a collection of metal moving parts. In a few months, they should shortlist 3 rifles. Let the negotiations begin. Again, this must be completed in a stipulated time. The selected vendor should be partnered with an Indian company to start manufacturing in India. By the time factory starts production, 15% of rifles can be directly imported. Yes, there has been a greater push for transparency. There should a similar push for speed.

Sir, in the end, they key is not global weapons manufacturers making weapons in India. It is our investment in R&D. We must have an indigenous manufacturing base, which is the result of Indian minds and Indian sweat.

The sooner we shut down our Ordnance Factories, the better it would be for our manufacturing and also the lives of our soldiers. Overpricing and pathetic quality are their hallmarks. In fact, some of their products are so bad that Nepal refuses to take them for free. Yes, Sir. Nepal refused to induct the 5.56 mm INSAS rifle. The rifle is so bad that even if given free, it is too expensive a deal.

India is marching towards global super-power status. But we are like an athlete who runs with an iron ball chained to the feet. Everyone wants the athlete to run faster, but no one is looking at the iron ball. That iron ball is India’s bureaucracy. Unless we hack away at that ball and chain, we will keep dragging out feet. We will keep losing.

The day the top employee and decision maker of every government department is an experienced and qualified subject mater specialist who is duly empowered, things will improve. For you, it’s just a snap of your fingers, but for India it will change everything, just like appointing Sridharan changed the face of Indian urban mobility. We have many Sridharans, impatient to give wings to their dreams of India, but held back by the ball and chain.

Dreams float on an impatient wind

A wind that wants to create a new order

An order of strength and thundering of fire

Dr. APJ Kalam, perhaps India’s greatest ever Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces wrote these lines. It is his dream that we must impatiently pursue, with vigor and renewed resolve.

In Hindi, Agni does not mean Chrysanthemum. It means fire.

The ball and chain must go. Dr. Kalam would approve.

Warm Respects & Regards

Major Gaurav Arya (Retd)

17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment

Indian Army

#OpenLetterToThePrimeMinister #IndianArmy #adgpi #MajorGauravArya

 

SOLDIERATHON

He is a doctor. And a power lifter. And a public speaker. And a Limca Book record holder. But ask officers from the Para Regiment and they remember him as a Special Forces officer. All identities have merged into one. Sometimes I feel that he values the Balidan badge more than his MBBS degree. He never speaks about his days at AFMC, Pune. His batch-mates do. Well, you have to be pretty smart to get into AFMC. You would normally associate a geek with such a career option.

What happens when you go to a doctor complaining of a stomachache? The last thing you expect is for the doctor to prescribe a 5 km sprint with 200 push-ups. Not unless you happen to be in Special Forces. And not unless your doctor happens to be a crazy fitness freak who spent his time in operations in Kashmir, rather than some sterile OPD.

Major (Dr.) Surendra Poonia is remembered in his regiment for many things.

“Sir, what about a marathon?” asked Sunny suddenly. We were sitting down at a coffee shop somewhere in New Delhi after attending a veteran’s function in which both of us were invited.

“Well, what about it?” I asked, going for the third large slice of pizza.

“Soldiers are heroes. There must be something by which we can remember them and something that allows an Indian to be a part of their lives”, Sunny said.

“Great idea”, I said, disinterestedly. To be honest, Sunny’s idea of fun is to run 15 kilometers, swim for an hour and then do weights. While I have lots of friends from SF, two of them are especially close to me. The other guy climbs mountains for recreation. This other friend has climbed Mt. Everest twice. Or it is thrice? Well, both my friends are from the same state and the same regiment. Too much of a coincidence!

I, on the other hand, am a bookworm. Eliot, Shelly, Gorky, Dostoevsky, Milton, Dickens, Homer, Verne, Steinbeck and Masters are my companions. I live in the past.

Soon, coffee and pizzas were gulped down and we, with the warm embrace of soldiers, bid goodbye.

Weeks flew by and I was busy traveling for Patriot. My flight landed at T3 in New Delhi and I switched on my phone. Hundreds of WhatsApp messages streamed in. There was just one message from Sunny.

“Jai Hind, Sir. We will call it Soldierathon”.

Suddenly it hit me. The marathon bug had bit deep. It was a reality.

Sunny and a small team of volunteers have worked like people possessed. Content, permission, website, social media, finances…the never-ending cycle of crafting what they want Soldierathon to be; India’s most different marathon.

Soon, serving soldiers joined in. And celebrities. And the not so famous. The sheer pull of Soldierathon is just too strong.

You don’t have to wear a uniform to be a soldier. It’s an emotion. Some have it, some don’t. Those who turn up for Soldierathon on that day are those who wear that emotion on their sleeve.

I will be at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on 11 March 2018, cheering the runners as I gobble up a few miles myself. I have another responsibility, too. I will have to keep reminding Sunny that he is the creator and organizer of Soldierathon, and not just a participant. He has called a few of his Para SF friends to take part in Soldierathon. Yes, the same guys who run miles and climb mountains for fun. With them, you never know.

See you there, friends. And there is still time…you can register here http://www.soldierathon.com/register/

Jai Hind.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

#Soldierathon #MajorGauravArya #IndianArmy