This is the post excerpt.
This is the post excerpt.
When did it exactly start? No one knows. But it can be said with a degree of certainty that in the early nineties when the Pakistanis decided that JKLF or Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, a “pro-azaadi” terror outfit in Kashmir, should cease to exist, it was the beginning of Islamic Jihad in the Kashmir valley.
JKLF wanted Jammu & Kashmir to be ‘free’ from India. Pakistan applauded it. But JKLF also wanted Jammu & Kashmir to be free from Pakistan. Suddenly, JKLF leaders started getting killed.
Look at the names of the terror outfits operating in Kashmir today. You have Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Al-Badr, Dukhtaran-e-Millat, Hizb-ul Mujahedeen, Harkat-ul Jehad al Islami and many others. Do you see a single name with Kashmir in it? These are all Arabic names. And all along Pakistan has maintained that Kashmir “freedom movement” is an “indigenous” struggle for freedom from Indian “oppression”.
Islam does not recognize nation states. The overriding belief is that of the “Ummah”, the global Islamic brotherhood, that all Muslims irrespective of the country they inhabit, are brothers bound by a common faith. The nation is incidental. Faith is supreme.
From the Pakistani perspective, ‘azaadi’ for Kashmir would be the legitimate cover. That would help lend credibility in the eyes of the west. But the soul, deep inside, would always be violent Islamic Jihad.
When a Pakistani head of state goes to the United Nations, the speech is always about the ‘freedom struggle’ in Kashmir. Recently, Burhan Wani has been dragged out of his grave to bear witness to India’s blatant violation of all things fundamentally human. But go on the streets of Srinagar and you see something very different. During violent stage-managed protests, there are no Kashmiri flags being waved. Incidentally, Kashmir is the only Indian state with its own flag, constitution and penal code. It has more ‘azaadi’ than all the other Indian states combined. What you see is a sea of ISIS flags with a black background and Quranic inscriptions. And, you see the flags of the chief sponsor, Pakistan.
Where is the Kashmiri flag?
The truth is that the first Kashmiri who waves the Kashmiri flag will be floating in the Jhelum, face down. That is what happened to the JKLF.
Increasingly, what you hear from the loudspeakers in mosques after Friday prayers is a script, which is more Arabic in spirit, than Kashmiri. The sermons discuss what is happening in Syria, Palestine, Myanmar and Yemen. There is an incessant one-way flow of disinformation, which thrives on those two factors so popular in the world of political Islam – victimhood and conspiracy.
Tarek Fateh and I were panelists on a discussion at a TV studio and the show went on air, the voice in the background informing viewers about how a Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist Bahadur Ali had been charge sheeted by the NIA. The terrorist’s confessional statement was played. For a few seconds, Bahadur Ali’s face was still, and then he started speaking. The terrorist, who had come into Kashmir to “kill as many Hindus as I could”, started confessing in chaste Punjabi, the lingua franca of much of Pakistan.
Almost all infiltrating terrorists caught by security forces in Kashmir speak mostly Punjabi. Some speak Pashto. A terrorist speaking in Kashmiri is yet to be our guest.
We have killed Sudanese, Lebanese and Afghan terrorists in Kashmir. This is a multi-national Islamic terror franchise.
These terrorists have scant knowledge of the Kashmir ‘dispute’ or the local ebbs and flows. This is important because what else could be the motivation of a young man who hails from rural Pakistan, to infiltrate into India? He enters India with the certain knowledge that he will come face to face with the Indian Army, and the encounter will be entirely brief and one-sided.
These young men trained and equipped by Lashkar and Jaish, come not to ‘free’ Kashmir. They come to die for the supposed glory of Islam. This is amongst the two large-scale scams perpetrated by the Pakistan Army, the other being real estate.
Pakistan knows that if the Kashmir issue becomes pan-Islamic, it will automatically be internationalized. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), that sub-optimal and geriatric body of 57 Muslim states, most of them tin pot dictatorships and sundry kingdoms, will need little persuasion to raise the Kashmir bogey at every turn of the road. They cannot give freedom and democracy to their own people. The least they can do is give opium. And what better opium than religion? Karl Marx was right.
When was the last time you heard a Kashmiri politician on TV discussing anything else apart from the “Kashmir issue”? When was the last time roads, education, health and electricity were important to the Kashmiri politician?
Kashmir will continue to burn because the local leaders and their sponsors in Pakistan want it to burn. A burning Kashmir means money, fame and instant celebrity hood. It is a cash cow. If a burning Kashmir means personal profit, the last thing they would want is Kashmir to be peaceful. I know it’s cruel. But it’s also logical.
Kashmir ticks all the boxes – money, religion, fame and leadership. Peace? Who wants peace in a state where blood is profit?
Winters in India always bring the sad news of people dying in ‘cold waves’ in UP, MP and Rajasthan. But no one dies of a cold wave in Jammu & Kashmir, the coldest state in India. Farmers commit suicide in Maharashtra because of their inability to pay back loans and famine. But in spite of frequent “shutter-downs” and ‘hartals’ in Kashmir, almost a weekly feature when business is totally shut down, no one commits suicide.
Where is all this money coming from? It is not just simply our central government giving funds to Kashmir. The central government gives funds to every state.
Today, there are more men with skullcaps in Kashmir, than ever before. Girls riding scooters have been threatened with acid attacks. Say “Khuda Hafiz” in downtown Srinagar, and you stand to be ticked off. The correct greeting, we are told, is “Allah Hafiz”. Khuda is secular. Allah is the God of the Ummah.
Fading memory takes me back to Lucknow, where as a child I met an old Muslim man who said to me “Al-hamdu lillahi rabbil ‘alamin”. All praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds. Allah is the “rabb” of all the worlds. He is not “rabbil’ Muslimin”, or “rabb” of the Muslims alone.
The word Allah predates Islam. Before Islam was revealed, the pagans who inhabited Mecca worshipped Allah. The word “Allah” was carried forward after Archangel Gabriel revealed the Quran to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
The word Allah itself is not a Muslim word. It is a secular word, which simply means God in Arabic. It was co-opted by the Muslim clergy later to mean God of the Muslims alone. It was co-opted by force.
They are now doing the same with Kashmir.
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
#MajorGauravArya #IndianArmy #Kashmir #adgpi
Some soldier with a funny bone at 102 Infantry Brigade (Base Camp) will tell you that Siachen means ‘Rose Garden’. Its true. Maybe its funny, in a self-deprecating sort of way. Most soldiers crack jokes, which only they can understand.
It’s been a violent year, both emotionally and physically. Never was the Indian Army attacked by those that they loved. Except for this year. We won the wars fought on the Line of Control and across. We lost those fought inside our country, because those who attacked us were our countrymen.
When I was in the army my Commanding Officer told me that we must never fear death. He told us that dying for the nation was a unique honor, which was accorded to a lucky few. He told us that when we went home wrapped in the tricolor, the nation would weep. And, he told us that they would remember our names forever. We would become immortal.
My CO was a simple soldier. He had fought wars and shed blood. For him, dishonorable conduct was unthinkable. He would often admonish us and say “This conduct in unbecoming of an officer of the Indian Army”. To him, life was simple. You defended your country and its people, and if you were martyred, there would a stone with your name at the Kumaon Regimental Center at Ranikhet. That was all that we aspired to. A stone with our name at Ranikhet.
When the situation seemed hopeless, he would simply say “Yeh Major Shaitan Singh aur Major Somnath Sharma ki Regiment hai”. These words were enough. 17 Kumaon would pick itself up, bleeding and bruised, and launch itself again into battle. It was always about “Izzat”. Honour of the nation, the regiment and our forefathers who had been martyred before us in countless wars and insurgencies.
Rezang La. Badgam. Walong. Bhaduria. Names, which ordinary Indians had never heard of, were temples around which our lives ceaselessly revolved. After all, what was life without honor?
2016 has been a different year. Movie actors say that the soldier signed up to die. Politicians want proof that we hit terror camps across the border. The expert, that Lutyens Delhi breed, so adapt at passing judgment wants to know how the army ‘allowed’ itself to be attacked at Uri, Nagrota and Pathankot. Opportunists, who never once so much as looked in the direction of a soldier, have shed crocodile tears over an unfortunate suicide. Bureaucrats have an opinion on the appointment of the army Chief. This year, the Indian Army has been constantly in the news for all the wrong reasons, and none of it for its own doing.
I want the experts, politicians, bureaucrats, TV anchors and sundry actors to know that what they say in public damages morale of the soldier. It denudes and degrades the soldier’s will to fight. It shatters his self-esteem. It dishonors him. A soldier without honor is not a soldier. It is a dead body.
I am an unknown soldier. I have fought for over a hundred years, killing and dying. In unmarked graves across Europe and in the fetid and humid jungles of Burma, you will find my memories. In desolate, wind swept mountain passes and in the bone-bleaching furnace of the Thar, you will discover that I could not be defeated. Across the salty seas and terror-infested landscapes, I was mostly the hunter and sometimes the smell of the dead body on the third day.
Why do I do what I do? I don’t know how to explain. In this mad world of smartphones and Twitter, undefined relationships and loneliness, I inhabit a world that smells of cordite and warm blood. It’s a different world. It’s a world in which people will die because you ask them to, sometimes for the flag, sometimes for the anthem, and often for the fallen heroes of battles fought eons ago.
If you honor me, I will be grateful. If you don’t, I will still fight. If you give me nothing, I will fight with my bare hands. Major Shaitan Singh lives.
That is all that I aspire to; a stone with my name at Ranikhet.
Happy New Year, India.
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment
#MajorGauravArya #IndianArmy #adgpi
General Sam Manekshaw paced up and down his office, his furrowed brow almost touching the center of his forehead. His lean frame was ramrod straight, his gait long and striding, typical of infantrymen who spend their lifetime walking over harsh terrain. He knew that his army was plunging headlong into war. It was only a matter of time.
It had all started a year back in 1970, when Pakistan refused to accept its own election results. The Awami League had won 167 out of 169 seats in East Pakistan, making it the largest party in the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament). Its leader Sheikh Mujibur Rehman staked his claim to form the government. The claim was made, as per procedure, in the presence of the President of Pakistan, General Yahya Khan. Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto refused to give up power to a Bengali.
Tempers in East Pakistan were frayed. On 1 March 1971, Yahya Khan refused to convene the National Assembly. Local Bengalis ran amok, killing Bihari settlers, who were loyal to West Pakistan. In Chittagong alone, 300 Biharis were murdered. The Government of Pakistan used these killings to justify deployment of the Pakistan Army, which was, and remains to date, an overwhelmingly Punjabi and Pashtun army.
Things were spiraling out of control and to get a grip on the situation, the Pakistan Army launched Operation Searchlight on 21 March. The aim of the operation was simple – locate, engage and eliminate all “troublemakers”.
The Indian Cabinet wasn’t making things any easier for the Indian Army. With hundreds of thousands of East Pakistani refugees streaming into India every month, the strain on India’s fledgling economy was beginning to show. Tempers were frayed and Indira Gandhi demanded immediate action.
It was in April 1971 that Gen. Sam Manekshaw; Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army told Prime Minister Indira Gandhi that it was tactically not feasible to attack. The monsoons would arrive anytime now and that would make movement extremely tough. The Indian Army was not immediately ready for a task of such magnitude. It would need time. And when it was ready, they would deliver. If this were not acceptable to the Prime Minister, the General would be pleased to resign.
Indira Gandhi refused to accept Manekshaw’s resignation. She gave him a free hand to choose the time and place of the attack.
What was it that the Prime Minister exactly wanted, Manekshaw asked?
Indira Gandhi said that she wanted Pakistan cut into half and a new country called Bangladesh created. Manekshaw said that he would deliver Bangladesh, but how he did it was up to him.
Gen. Manekshaw was affectionately called Sam Bahadur by the Gurkha troops he had spent a lifetime commanding. A Parsee who had served with Gurkhas; well, Mrs. Gandhi had one headstrong general to deal with. There are stories of conversations between Sam Manekshaw and Indira Gandhi, most of them hilarious. They shared tremendous mutual respect.
Across the border in Pakistan, the government and the army were building up war hysteria. In Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad it was common to see cars with “CRUSH INDIA” stickers. And Pakistan Radio started playing patriotic songs of Madam Noor Jehan. Whenever Pakistan Radio plays patriotic songs of Madam Noor Jehan, it means either of the two; war or coup.
The generals at GHQ Rawalpindi were worried. Something had to be done to arrest East Pakistan’s slide into chaos. It never occurred to them to talk to the Bengalis. They did what they had always done. They sent a general to do a politicians job. And then they committed an even more grievous mistake; they sent General Tikka Khan, the Butcher of Baluchistan.
On the night intervening 25-26 March 1971, Tikka Khan declared war on the sleeping and hapless Bengali population of East Pakistan. He let loose a reign of terror. Kill-and-dump operations, mass rapes by Pakistan Army soldiers, bayoneting of pregnant women, disappearances and torture chambers were tools of Tikka Khan’s trade.
The Butcher of Baluchistan became The Butcher of Bengal.
On 26 March 1971, Major Zia-ur Rehman, an influential Bengali major in the Pakistan Army declared Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan. He did so on behalf on Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. On 27 March 1971, Indira Gandhi declared India’s support for the freedom movement of Bangladesh.
On 17 April 1971, the Bangladesh Government in Exile made a Proclamation of Independence at Village Baidyanathtola of District Meherpur (East Pakistan). A provisional government was set up under Tajuddin Ahmad. As word spread, Pakistan Army’s atrocities went into overdrive. There was no time or energy to bury all the dead separately. So, the Pakistan Army got Bengali labor to start digging mass graves.
More than 10 million East Pakistanis had come into India and were housed in refugee camps in Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Bihar and Meghalaya. These camps were home to intelligent youth who were motivated by Bengali nationalism. They became breeding grounds of rabid discontent against Pakistan and its army.
These refugee camps has interesting visitors; Indian Bengali speaking civilians who would talk for hours on end to these youth, always watching and evaluating. These Indians would speak about armed struggle and Bengali nationalism.
Those were heady days. The youth who believed in violent struggle became part of the Mukti Bahini. Unknown to them, the soft-spoken Bengali Indian visitors were watching every move. Initially, the young men did not know who the Indians were. They would later find out that these men were field operatives of an innocuously named Indian organization called the Research and Analysis Wing.
Much before the Indian Army entered Pakistan to cleave it into half, RAW had already launched covert operations on East Pakistan’s soil.
The Mukti Bahini comprised of Bengalis who had deserted from the Pakistan Army, elements of the paramilitary forces, police and civilians. It was a guerrilla outfit that attacked, harassed and cut of lines of communication and supply of the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan.
The monsoons were upon the subcontinent. Manekshaw worked like a man possessed, getting manpower, material and equipment in place. He travelled to various formations personally supervising preparations for war. The pace was feverish.
Pakistan was watching closely. On 23 November 1971, Pakistan blinked. President Gen. Yahya Khan declared a state of emergency and asked his people to prepare for war with India.
On the eve of 3 December 1971 at about 5:40 pm, Pakistan Air Force launched Operation Changez Khan. 50 fighter jets were used to target 11 locations across North Western India, including Agra. That evening Prime Minister Indira Gandhi addressed the nation. She said that Pakistan had attacked without provocation and retaliation was only to be expected.
India was now officially at war with Pakistan. That very night, the Indian Air Force responded by launching Operation Cactus Lily. It started aggressive operations inside Pakistani territory. In the morning, the IAF moved into top gear.
While the Indian Air Force was flying sorties day and night into Pakistan, the RAW operatives inside Pakistan were getting the Bengali maintenance technicians of the Pakistan Air Force to defect. The IAF flew over 4000 sorties between 3rd and 16th December 1971 in West Pakistan. The PAF could not keep up. The number of sorties flown by PAF decreased day by day. There was simply very little staff to maintain the aircrafts. RAW had delivered.
General Sam Manekshaw was now ready. He had planned every move and counter move in the minutest detail. He had all the men, material and training that he wanted for a successful operation against the enemy. He gave the orders.
The Indian Army invaded Pakistan.
Simultaneously, the Indian Navy launched Operation Trident. On the night of 4th and 5th December, it attacked the Karachi harbor using missile boats. Pakistani destroyer PNS Khyber and minesweeper PNS Muhafiz were sunk, and PNS Shah Jahan was irreparably damaged.
The Indian Navy did not lose momentum. On the night of 8th and 9th December, they launched Operation Python. The entire fuel reserves of the Pakistan Navy at Karachi were blown up. Indian Navy also sank 3 merchant ships off Karachi Harbor.
In the Eastern Theater, the Indian Navy deployed its aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. Vikrant launched air strikes deep inside East Pakistan. It also enforced a naval blockade of East Pakistan, rendering the enemy navy ineffective. Pakistan sent its submarine PNS Ghazi to attack Indian ships, but it sank under unexplained and mysterious circumstances off the coast of Vishakhapatnam.
On 9 December the Indian Navy suffered its biggest loss when Pakistani Navy submarine PNS Hangor sank Indian Navy’s frigate INS Khukri. 18 Officers and 176 sailors embraced martyrdom. While the ship was burning and sinking and evacuation was underway, Navy Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla who was commanding INS Khukri gave his own lifejacket to a junior officer, asking him to escape.
There is a tradition in the Indian Navy that the Captain does not abandon his ship, come what may. Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla, in the highest traditions of the Indian Navy, sank with his burning ship. He was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, for courage beyond the call of duty.
By 12-13 December 1971, much of Pakistan’s Navy was on paper. And its Air Force was on ground.
The Indian Air Force flew 1978 sorties in the East and about 4000 sorties in West Pakistan.
The Pakistan Army attacked at various locations on the Western front. The Indian Army responded and pushed deep inside Pakistan, capturing some 15,000 square kilometers of territory in Sindh and Pakistani Punjab. The Government of India later returned this captured territory to Pakistan, after the war.
In the Eastern sector, the Indian Army’s successes were stunning. Rather than replicate the “set piece” movements of 1965, the 1971 war was one that was reminiscent of the German ‘Blitzkrieg’ attacks. Nine Infantry Divisions were employed in a three-pronged attack, supported by armor, artillery and close air support. The Indian Army did not stop until it had entered Dhaka.
Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora employed classic fast moving Blitzkrieg techniques, choosing weak enemy defenses and bypassing held positions. The pace of attack was blistering. While Lt. Gen. Aurora was attacking, the Indian Air Force wiped out the remaining fighter aircraft, achieving absolute air superiority. The Dhaka airfield was no longer an operational airfield. It was just a plot of land.
So ferocious was the assault by Lt. Gen. Aurora, and such was the masterful planning by General Sam Manekshaw, that in less than two weeks, Pakistan was brought to its knees.
On 16 December, Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora and Lt. Gen. AAK Niazi, Commander of Pakistani forces in East Pakistan met at the Ramna Race Course Ground in Dhaka. AAK Niazi formally signed the Instrument of Surrender at 4:31 pm. 92,000 Pakistani soldiers, policemen and paramilitary staff including civilians surrendered to the Indian Army. Bangladesh was created.
Pakistan’s landmass and population was reduced to half. Its international reputation was reduced to zero. Pakistan’s humiliation was complete.
Sam Manekshaw was a legend. If anyone was responsible for the complete victory of the Indian Army in 1971, it was he. There are stories about Sam Manekshaw, but none more humorous than this.
Before partition of India, Manekshaw and Yahya Khan (President of Pakistan during 1971 war) were friends and on the staff of Field Marshall Sir Claude Auchinleck. Sam Manekshaw owned a red James motorcycle, which Yahya had an eye on. He offered to buy the motorcycle for Rs. 1000. Manekshaw agreed to sell the motorcycle. Partition happened and Yahya took the motorcycle to Pakistan, never paying the thousand rupees he owned to Sam Manekshaw.
After the Instrument of Surrender was signed on 16 December 1971, Gen. Sam Manekshaw was heard saying, “Yahya never paid me the Rs. 1,000 for my motorbike, but now he has paid with half his country.”
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
#MajorGauravArya #IndianArmy #adgpi
Disclaimer: There was a lot more to the 1971 war than what I have written here. The US, USSR, China, Jordan etc were actively involved. Richard Nixon and Harry Kissinger did their best to support Pakistan. USSR supported India throughout. Sam Manekshaw deliberately attacked Pakistan in December 1971, when all the passes on the Chinese border were closed. Indian Army’s mountains divisions faced China, at top alert. China backed off, refusing to help its best friend, Pakistan. But all this is too vast and needs another article. Maybe, at a later date.
On 14th and 15th August 1947, two nations were created. And two armies were carved out of the British Indian Army. On the day of creation, both armies were twins in every way. The commands, language, training, indoctrination, weaponry, ideology and ethos were carbon copies of the other.
The Indian Army remains a professional army, true to its roots. It believed in, and continuous to believe in, civilian supremacy. It has never tried to unsettle the democratic dispensation or called for the military to have more than a just say in affairs of national security. Though it is absolutely nationalistic, its DNA has remained, ethically; exactly the way the British left it – professional, apolitical and secular.
The Pakistan Army took a different trajectory. After the death of Jinnah, it realized that Pakistan had no ideological depth. It filled a political vacuum left by unscrupulous politicians and landlords, and a supine bureaucracy. Somewhere along the way, the Pakistan Army cut its umbilical cord with the British Indian Army and took on the moral DNA of its exploitative predecessor, the East India Company.
It craved Arabian roots, abhorring its actual sub-continental identity. A Pakistani would take (and still takes) great pains to point out that his ancestors were Arabic, Central Asian, Turks or Persian. It got what it craved for; the mindset of medieval tribal Arabia and the greed of the East India Company.
It shunned its original motto “Unity, Faith, Discipline” and adopted the Wahhabi “Iman, Taqwa Jihad fi-Sabilillah”; Faith, Piety and Holy War in the Path of Allah. Jihad is the cornerstone of Pakistan Army’s philosophy. Jihad is not just a war with India fought for a specific purpose or time. It is a mindset, which exhorts eternal conflict, placing holy war at the epicenter of Pakistan’s relationship with India. This was perhaps the greatest gift of General Zia-ul Haq to Pakistan.
Pakistan was the need of angry Muslim landed gentry, which looked at itself as a natural heir to the Mughal Empire. Democracy would ensure that the numerically superior Hindu would be in a position of power. The landowner and the commoner would both have one vote. The “sons of rulers” would be equal to their servants. A democratic India was simply not acceptable. United India would need to be partitioned.
And so Pakistan was created on 14 August 1947, and with all its insecurities and complexes, became a nation state, midwifed by British cunning and the primeval Wadera instinct for survival. It was sustained on a steady diet of eternal conflict. When your entire identity is “we who are not India”, there is no space for anything else on the table.
This eternal conflict needed Pakistan to become a security state. Its heroes would have to be warriors. There was no room in the Pakistani mind-space for the ideals of Gandhi, Mandela or Martin Luther King Jr. A ‘warrior nation’ would have to be ruthless because Jihad was not for the faint hearted. They would need ideals like Ghauri, Ghaznavi, Aurangzeb and Babur.
And this freshly minted Jihadi army would need a lion’s share of an impoverished nation’s resources, year on year. The officer class would have to be seen to be elite, with appearances to match. All this required massive funds. The Pakistan nation could go with a road and a meal less, but the army would never lack for anything. After all, there was the Hindu enemy to contend with. “Cunning, emaciated and black” though he may have been, in the words of Gen. Ayub Khan, he was still numerous. The teeming multitude of idol worshippers to the East posed a real danger to the existence of Pakistan, the ‘Qila’ or fortress of Islam.
Somewhere along the way, the good generals of GHQ Rawalpindi realized that living off the fat of the land was not enough. They wanted more. It was not enough simply to steal. The theft would have to be institutionalized. The people of Pakistan would have to be grateful that they were being robbed.
In 1954, the Fauji Foundation was created as a charitable trust. The overt aim of this organization was to be a ‘welfare trust for veterans and their families’. The covert aim was personal enrichment of the Pakistan Army’s officer class.
Daylight robbery was clothed in a garb of patriotism. And a grateful nation swallowed it hook, line and sinker.
According to verified foreign sources, the Fauji Foundation today is worth a little more than USD 20 billion. “The Pakistani military’s “welfare foundations” run thousands of businesses worth tens of billions of dollars, ranging from street-corner petrol pumps to sprawling industrial plants” says Ayesha Siddiqa, the author of Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy.
Click on the website of Fauji Foundation www.fauji.org.pk and what you will see is a complex web of companies run by serving and retired officers of the Pakistan Army. They tell a story of a business conglomerate that exploits everything from poultry, petroleum, energy, manpower, security, cement, gas, cereal, fertilizer and stock trading. That is just a part of the story. Read the Al Jazeera article on the Fauji Foundation and you will realize what the inside story is.
The actual play here is real estate; over a million acres of it, owned or indirectly controlled by the army. Every year the Pakistan Army appropriates hundreds of acres of real estate through Defence Housing Societies spread over the breadth of Pakistan. Land is taken from local development authorities at basement rates. Local by-laws are brazenly flouted; routes of highways changed, land used tweaked for enhanced mixed-use development, FAR (floor area ratio) increased and power stations inaugurated and voila, you have prime real estate created out of thin air.
Its not just fallow land that is purloined at gunpoint. Thousands of acres of Pakistan Railway land have been forcibly occupied by the nation’s army. The Railways did try once to take back the land. A strong letter was sent to GHQ Rawalpindi demanding that the land be handed over to the “actual owners” immediately. The letter demanded a meeting so that the handing over of the land could be done expeditiously. Legend has it that the army’s response was to send a truck full of soldiers and an army Major in an SUV for the ‘meeting’ with the Railways. After 30 minutes, the Railways officials had a change of heart. They decided that it was in the national interest that the Pakistan Army keeps the land. That was the last that anyone heard of the matter.
Pakistanis sometimes fail to understand that national security is paramount. But when the Pakistan Army explains the concept, rationality dawns.
The Fauji Foundation trades on the Karachi Stock Exchange through Foundation Edge (www.fsedge.com). Foundation Edge ‘plays’ the stock market. It’s a mutually beneficial scam. If you invest in Fauji Foundation, your investment is profitable. Lets say you have investments in Fauji Fertilizer. The distributor of your closest competitor may get calls from the tax officials; his goods may be seized at the state border, his electricity connection cut for no obvious reason and his employees harassed. The Pakistan Army virtually guarantees that if you invest in it, you can’t go wrong.
When a Fauji Foundation company applies for a government contract, it is a brave Prime Minister who will question the tender. Questions are not asked because the Fauji Foundation is the mother ship of retirement funds; a veritable Croesus, a bottomless pit of pelf. And the Pakistan Army protects it.
Officers of the Pakistan Army are guaranteed that when they leave the army, they will receive land and a well paying job way beyond petty considerations of relevant education, experience and merit.
As I have said before, the Pakistan Army is Teflon coated. Pervez Musharraf is considered by many in Pakistan to be relatively clean. He is not named in any scam or kickback expose. And yet, Musharraf is worth hundreds of million of dollars. The story by Geo TV is self-explanatory.
The Foundation runs over 50 companies (and thousands of businesses) and is involved in almost every kind of trade, from oil refineries to petrol pumps. No business house in Pakistan has that kind EBITDA. And no one certainly, by extension, has that kind of cash flow.
The Foundation is one of the few reasons why Pakistan will avoid a conventional war with India. Because of it, life is good and the winds are favorable. Generals find post retirement work at fantastic salaries and perks, and the incentives are just too good to believe; all paid for by the people of Pakistan who buy products and services offered by the Foundation, and at prices decided by the Foundation. The Foundation’s revenue leaks when the good Generals of Rawalpindi decide that it should. Pockets are lined and generals are happy.
The Pakistan Army has never won a war against India also because the East India Company was essentially a trading company. The army was an extension of its trading arm; something of a support structure. The main aim of the Company was trade. The Pakistan Army is fast catching up.
Jihadis are a cheaper option. They are ideological warriors, not professional soldiers. Their death is of no consequence. But when soldiers and officers of the Pakistan Army die in a war against India, it shakes the structure on which the Pakistan Army rests. By extension, it shakes the Fauji Foundation because war cannot end without vertical escalation. And vertical escalation always means massive economic damage.
It will be interesting to see how the Fauji Foundation benefits from the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. It will use influence, coercion, bribe and chicanery to get a foothold into the USD 46 billion dollars cake. The CPEC is Chinese daylight robbery, and the Fauji Foundation will want to ‘wet it’s beak’ in the accepted Sicilian tradition.
If there is money to be made, The Foundation will find a way. It always does.
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
In the last 48 hours, the Indian Army has lost 7 brave hearts at Nagrota. It is with deep grief, immense helplessness and cold anger that I tell you today; we will lose many more, unless we realize that our response to Pakistan is woefully short of effective, and altogether wrong. We are applying Band-Aid, where chemotherapy is urgently needed. We are solving the wrong problem.
I write every week on this. And at least 3-4 times a week I go on National TV and share this anger and helplessness with my countrymen. For my sins, innumerable though they may be, I am called a warmonger. Time and again, I am told that I have a fascination for human blood. And, some of them who are a little kinder say that I am afraid of peace.
So I shrug my shoulders and go into this dark corner where it is a little quieter and the demons, a little benign.
The next day my phone rings again and the voice from the studio says, “Sir, can you join us at 6 pm, 7:30 pm, 9 pm? There has been another attack”.
The same cacophony, the same helplessness.
I have diplomats, spokespersons of political parties and an odd journalist as co-panelists. Lights, camera, action…let the games begin. So timid are we, that we can’t even be aggressive in speech, let alone in action. Words are spoken with emphasis on that great Indian virtue, “maturity”. Turning the other cheek is a sign of graciousness.
“Let us talk to Pakistan. After all we were the same country 69 years back”, a former diplomat says. He actually wants to say that the life of a soldier is cheap.
The next day I get a call from an army friend giving me an address. We have to go and pay respects to a fallen brother officer. We reach Delhi Cantt, and climb up to this small apartment on the first floor. It is neat, freshly whitewashed not more than a week back. The young widow is sitting in a corner. The two children look bewildered; they have never seen so many people in their house. Their mother just stares at the wall, still in shock, unable to talk. Army wives huddle in a corner. “She must cry. Let her vent”, they say. They know what they are saying. They have been through this many times. They take the young widow to a room and hug her. They speak to her in soft tones, never leaving her alone for a second. They are very gentle, very kind. Suddenly, there is a guttural scream of immense pain, of a shattered heart and a broken home. Loud wailing sounds of grief rush out from the room. It is like a physical force.
There is nothing to say. I ask my friend to come down stairs. He lights up a cigarette; anything to distract him from the grief unfolding upstairs. I stare at a lizard on the wall. There is something I am trying to remember. What is it? Aah yes. “Let us talk to Pakistan. After all we were the same country 69 years back”, I remember the talk-show diplomat; polished, suave with a clipped South Delhi accent. C’est la vie.
Was there a security breach in Nagrota? Yes, there was. Is the security at the army base to blame? Yes, it is. Having got that out of the way let me address a few questions that have been floating in the social media since the last two nights.
Many armchair warriors have been quick to blame the army, with a caveat “I respect the army and the martyrs but someone must pay for these lapses. There must be accountability”. There is an almost dismissive anger; the type a CEO would cower the head of sales with, for not having met targets. Well, counter insurgency under a nuclear overhang is a bit more complicated than selling toothpaste.
The Pathankot Air Force base was attacked on 2 January 2016. The Government of India took serious note of the terror attack and formed a high-powered committee under the leadership of Lt. Gen. (Retd) Philip Campose.
It comprised of representatives of all the three services and also a representative of the Indian Army’s Military Operations branch. The committee visited multiple locations of the Army, Navy and Air Force across India. In May 2016 the committee submitted a detailed report addressing the lacuna in security across military installations. The report was called “The Lt. Gen. Philip Campose Committee Report”, and was submitted to the Ministry of Defence.
The report is gathering dust on the table of some faceless bureaucrat in the Raksha Mantralaya. At least that is my presumption, because it has not been acted upon yet.
The report deals with multiple facets of security of installations and amongst other things, biometric security, raising of walls, fences, e-fences, CCTV cameras, movement triggered cameras, QRTs (quick reaction teams), equipment for soldiers, laser walls, Night Vision Devices, watch towers and a slew of other measures like movement protocol, threat perception management, SOPs, training, periodic audit etc. It is an exhaustive report, and perhaps the most comprehensive audit of security of defence installations in India. And what I have written here, as part of the report is not even a third of what the report recommends. I do not have access to the report, since it is designated “SECRET”, for obvious reasons. Certain parts were discussed with the media.
Lt. Gen. (Retd) Philip Campose was Vice Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army. It’s a pretty rarified space and only the best of the best get that far. A soldier and thinker par excellence, Lt. Gen. Campose put his heart and soul into that report. He has also identified critical shortages in inventory and weaponry. That report must be adopted in letter and spirit, if we want to sincerely pay homage to our martyrs. And it must be adopted immediately.
Apart from security of military bases, it is important to understand that we are also facing critical equipment and ammunition shortage, which has a direct bearing on the security of our installations.
It is important to have aircraft carriers, fighter jets and artillery guns. It is also equally important to give the infantry soldier the best equipment money can buy. Understand this; you can have space age weaponry but in the end, it is the infantryman who will wade ankle deep in blood, much of it his own. It is the infantryman who will cross the Line of Control, who will walk through minefields and who will charge into enemy machine gun fire.
This is the truth of war. You cannot win without the infantry. Period. We need bulletproof jackets, proper helmets and better assault rifles, amongst other things.
The government has fast-tracked procurement of defence equipment but equipping a modern army is a continuous exercise. The last three decades have been a sledgehammer blow to the armed forces. It was yesterday, 30 November 2016 that we signed a deal for the purchase 145 medium artillery guns much needed on the China border. We should have signed this deal two decades back. There are hundreds of such war stores that have not been procured for the past two decades due to government apathy and bureaucratic incompetence.
We can prepare for a conventional war but the Pakistan Army has neither the funds, nor the willingness to engage in a conventional war. Apart from the fact that they have lost every war that they fought with India, the Pakistan Army’s generals are in a cushy space. They live lives that the Nawabs of Awadh would have been envious of. Why rock the boat? Terrorism is a cheap alternative. The Pakistan Army does not suffer, investment is low, there is plausible deniability and life goes on as usual. Perfect, isn’t it?
What is the solution to our terror problem and how can we stop Pakistan sponsored terrorists from launching attacks on Indian soil? The answer lies in what Ajit Doval has been advocating all these years, and towards which we have now been moving – offensive defence. Questions thrown up by asymmetrical warfare cannot be answered by a conventional mindset.
We have been killing terrorists since 1989, and it has not helped. It has changed nothing because the people we target are foot soldiers of Jihad. They are expendable. You can kill thousands more and they will just keep coming.
If you want to be safe, you have to target the fountainhead of terror, the Pakistan Army. And unless you do that, these attacks will not stop. You can have the best security systems in the world and someone will find a way to compromise them. American bases in Afghanistan are regularly attacked. US bases in Iraq were attacked, too. And before you quote Israel’s example of security seriousness, let me tell you that Israel has not fought a war with another nuclear weapons state or another highly professional army. Its enemies have always been tier two forces. Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq; name your foe. They wont last two days against the Indian Army.
The fountainhead of terror is the Pakistan Army. It is the officer corps that we must target. We do not need to use our army. Pakistan is actually an armory that looks like a nation and is floating in weapons. It is full of young men who know no other trade apart from killing. Most of them have no specific ideology. Dollars are good enough.
Pakistan Army’s V Corps (5 Corps) is stationed in Karachi. It has approximately 60,000 men, including officers. Karachi is the most violent city in Asia and it is amongst the “most armed” cities in the world. It has a violent mixture of Mohajirs, Pashtuns, Sindhis, Baloch and Kashmiris. It is an urban melting pot of armed and violent militia. It is also the commercial capital of Pakistan. Perfect.
Target killers can be had for hire in Karachi. What we must do is route money via offshore accounts. These killers will then target Pakistani Army officers in Karachi, specifically officers of 5 Corps. They will be targeted in market places and malls, outside restaurants and in roadside cafes. As we keep wiring money, Pakistan Army will keep losing officers.
Once the Karachi plan is successful, it can be rolled out in Quetta and Lahore. Peshawar will follow.
These Pakistani killers will not target infrastructure or civilians. They will not target innocents. They will simply locate, engage and eliminate any Pakistani Army, Navy or Air Force officer who steps out of the cantonment area. If the officer is moving with bodyguards, a sniper must take him out. An unseen enemy is far more terrifying than a known quantity.
I repeat – ZERO targeting of civilians, non-combatants and innocents. These are not terror strikes. These are “surgical” targeted killings of Pakistan defence forces’ officers.
India just bought 36 Rafale fighter jets at a total cost of USD 8.7 billion. We need these jets, but we may never use them in combat. Now imagine if we had bought just 35 jets, and put away the funds for one fighter jet into the program that I have mentioned above.
The Pakistan Army is an officer led army. The loss of an officer has a horrendous impact on morale. Once morale is shattered, nothing can compensate. That is what the Pakistan Army is doing to us. And that is what we must do to them.
Allow me to put it simply; should we make up our minds, we have the capacity to cause ten times more damage to Pakistan that they are causing us. In the end, asymmetrical warfare is also a function of money.
Our annual defence budget is about USD 40 billion. Just 1% of that can seriously denude Pakistan Army’s will to fight. It can shatter morale. And that is worth the entire fleet of F-16s that Pakistan is so proud of.
For too long we have been fighting on our own soil. It is now time to take war to the streets of Pakistan.
It is not enough that Pakistan bleeds. It must start hemorrhaging. And that must happen today.
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
All warfare is based on deception – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
The Middle Kingdom has many achievements to its name, paper and gunpowder the most well known. It has been able to project an image of being inscrutable, tough, opaque and absolutely unwilling to entertain a contrary narrative. All this is true, but also true is the fact that the Chinese are more accepting of dictatorial tendencies. This faceless and gigantic mass of humanity has very little tradition of argument or balance, and absolutely no tradition of freethinking. Brilliant, hardworking and disciplined they are; consensual they are not.
China severely restricts opinion, and any opinion contrary to what the politburo deems appropriate, may find you in ‘correctional facilities’, where you will be ‘gently educated’ about how you must think. Many people do not return home after a few sessions of this ‘gentle education’.
China has the largest standing army in the world. It has the second largest economy. It is the most populous nation on earth and is a nuclear power, which occupies a pride of place on the United Nations Security Council. It has all the prerequisites of a global superpower.
And yet, China is afraid of social media.
This is why Twitter, Google, YouTube, WhatsApp and Facebook are banned in China. The Chinese government gives you alternatives, all in Chinese, and all under heavy surveillance by the China’s infamous Ministry of State Security (MSS), their premier intelligence agency.
And that begs the question; what is it about the Chinese political structure that is so shaky?
Democracy, as a workable solution, is far from perfect. But warts and all, it is still the best system of governance the world has ever seen. India took a serious leap of faith when it adopted democracy after independence. Our founding fathers showed tremendous vision. Democracy had very little going for it in the 1940s. While America was great and Britain was a superpower, democracy had thrown up luminaries like Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler. Churchill wanted to keep India under subjugation. Hitler had similar views about the entire world.
China, on the other hand, chose the path of Mao Tse Tung. There is an apocryphal story about farmers complaining to Mao about sparrows eating grain and damaging the harvest. Mao decreed that all sparrows be killed. So, all sparrows were killed. But sparrows also eat insects that damage crops. This damaged the local ecosystem and was one of the leading reasons for massive crop failure.
In 1957, Chairman Mao launched the Great Leap Forward, a program to catapult China into the league of developed nations through rapid industrialization and collectivization. 20 to 45 million people died due to famine and other forms of artificially inflicted violence.
Hitler was responsible for as many deaths, both civilian and military; he is globally reviled, and rightly so. An argument can be made that while Hitler was pure and distilled evil; he was responsible for deaths of foreigners in a global war, apart from deaths of Jews, gypsies and other Nazi-proclaimed so-called “undesirables” within Germany. While there is no accurate figure available, Hitler is held responsible for approximately 35 million deaths.
Josef Stalin, through his purges and executions, imprisonment in gulags and forced labor was responsible for approximately 45 million deaths.
Lets look at how their nations remember them.
The Germans are ashamed of their past and abhor the very name of Hitler. The Russians have turned capitalist and Stalin is a somewhat uncomfortable reminder of their bloody past. The Chinese worship Chairman Mao.
China’s methods have changed, not the mindset. Mao caused millions to die because he wanted to rapidly industrialize China. Millions more are being severely compromised, as China races frantically to grab global pole position. China has changed the entire demography of Tibet, with regular and systematic injection of Han Chinese into the plateau. Han males marry Tibetan females. The child is loyal to China, the Chinese being famously patriarchal.
The Uighur cant pray or fast during Ramzan. Maulvis are made to dance to Chinese music during the holy days. Women wearing hijab are cautioned. Chinese authorities even have a problem with the Uighur fascination with curd. I will let that pass; I simply don’t know how to address the issue of national security being threatened by Chinese Muslims eating curd.
If curd threatens China, did Twitter ever stand a chance?
All of us have seen automobile advertisements in India, with companies claiming a particular mileage, often with the caveat “under test conditions”. This simply means that given perfect conditions, the mileage will be x. But that’s not how automobiles behave in the real world, do they? That’s China for you – always performing “under test conditions”. Every thing is government controlled, including “market forces”.
Here is a list of the top 20 Chinese companies, by revenue https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_Chinese_companies. You will note that the majority of the companies are state owned. In the Chinese context it means that business is guaranteed by the state. And, the real business of the state is business.
Lifan, Loncin, Zongshen, Jialing and Qingqi – these are the top motorcycle brands in China, each valued at a billion dollars, or less. And you, my dear friend, have in all probability, never heard of any of them. Not unless you are an importer of Chinese motorcycles or motorcycle parts.
The point I am trying to make is that the entire story about the Chinese economic miracle is very real, but it is also synthetically manufactured, much like a top athlete whose competitors are chosen by a common coach. The winner is decided before the race starts.
What made China a global financial powerhouse? The 3 W’s – wisdom, will and the whip – formed the superhighway on which China’s car is zooming, albeit a bit slowly now; the wisdom of the government, the will of the Communist party and whip of the state when the citizens did not fall in line.
There are many pillars that uphold the Chinese edifice. However, the two most critical are the export-oriented economy and suppression of free will. Both are joined at the hip and cannot exist without the other.
As of now, an India-China war is an absolute improbability. If, God forbid, we do go to war (and there are no reasons why we should), we can make it extremely expensive for China to wage war, but we cannot defeat China. Neither can China defeat us. It will be a terribly expensive stalemate for both sides.
Boycotting Chinese goods is more of a moral message that hardly translates into dollars of any level of inconvenience.
If we are to tame the dragon, we must hit the dragon where it hurts.
One, we must realize that even the high internal consumption within China is not unrelated to its earnings from export. China is an export-driven economy. It invents or creates nothing new. Think of it as a massive photocopying shop. Nothing is original.
If India makes infrastructure development and creation of a manufacturing ecosystem a national priority, China will bleed. If India works very closely with Vietnam, Indonesia, Taiwan, Japan, Cambodia and Philippines, and builds a very close “special relationship”, China will start hemorrhaging. The day we together achieve even half the manufacturing scale of China at local costs, their story will be more or less over.
The Chinese economy is beginning to slow down. For the past two decades, it was (still is) the engine of global growth, but it left bitterness in its wake. And when Donald Trump takes issue with China about jobs and trade balance, he is not factually incorrect. The world has a problem with China, but has no alternative. Yet.
We can be that alternative, or at least lead it. India, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Philippines are in a straight line. Taiwan is up North from Philippines. This is a manufacturing belt. Together, it is a powerhouse. Many of these countries have serious problems with China. Japan is a technology powerhouse and a one time manufacturing hub. It still is in many ways globally relevant. The differences between Japanese and Chinese products are many but one feature stands out. Japanese products are global brands. The top motorcycle manufacturers in Japan are – Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda and Kawasaki. And you, dear reader, have heard of all these brands.
The need of the hour is a TG7 (Trade Group 7) comprising of all these countries, coming together to form an alternative to China. We must share funding, technology and have mutually inclusive tax regimes. Let us have better flight connectivity, priority berths at ports and infrastructure sharing. Let us have funding a low interest rates and a land bank available to kick start manufacturing. And call charges, which are rock bottom. Are all these things easy? No. Not by a long shot. But this is what must be done. It is doable.
This is war by other means.
China’s real Achilles foot is free will. Any expression of free will is treated as an attack on the sovereignty of China. It is not just Uighur who are oppressed. The Han Chinese is a little better off. Many of you will remember the massacre at Tiananmen Square in 1989. The Chinese government did not take very kindly to its citizens, especially students, demanding democracy, economic reform and end to political corruption. All that the Chinese people were asking was for them to be able to choose their own leaders and overthrow corrupt ones out; something that we take for granted in India.
The Communist Party of China rolled out battle tanks on the streets of Beijing. Between a few hundred and a thousand protesters were killed and thousands were hunted down and imprisoned. The family members of pro-democracy protestors were systematically persecuted. The revolt spread to 400 cities and towns across China before it was brutally stamped out.
There are periodic protests in Hong Kong even today. Very recently, a few elected legislators of Hong Kong refused to take an oath of loyalty to China and instead floated banners, which proclaimed, “Hong Kong is not China”.
This is what India must take advantage of, this Chinese discomfort with democracy. Give a few thousand Indian sim cards to Chinese people on the Indo-China border, sim cards that allow access to Twitter and Facebook on Indian telecom networks. Let the Chinese folks discuss whatever it is that Chinese folks discuss when they are allowed to. That will scare China more than a mountain division. China is an ideological state. Only an idea can beat an idea.
Why have we forgotten the Dalai Lama, the original pinprick in China’s side? The Dalai Lama has a very influential fan following across the world. From opinion makers to Hollywood, from the US State Department to the EU Parliament, his is a respected voice. India must facilitate his travel and exposure at an international level. Let him tell stories of violence and genocide in Tibet.
Money is respected and that is exactly why no one points out that China is not a democracy, and has a terrible human rights record. If the world can single out Pakistan, North Korea and Cuba, why should China answer to different standards? But it does. Unfortunate though it may be, we must understand that it is temporary.
You may say, “China will be upset”. Well, China will always be upset with someone or the other about something or the other. Its intentions are hegemonic. It covets Arunachal Pradesh. It covets trade routes and the South China Sea. It covets what Japan already has. In short, China wants to expand geography. For that it needs influence and military power, which needs money, which in turn needs trade. And China’s growth hinges mainly upon its ability to contract manufacture at basement rates.
In a population of 1.5 billion people, in a fast growing hard-core capitalist (and in theory communist) nation, there is bound to be unequal growth and disquiet. Democracy is that valve that allows people to let off steam, so that the pressure cooker does not explode. China has no democracy and the pressure cooker is heating up. Economic superstardom has ensured that the people are kept quiet; the economic miracle is visible and the moral aspirations of the people have been suppressed. But for how long?
To question is human. And Baidu, China’s answer to Google, will not answer. If you are in China, try to search for “Tiananmen Square” using Baidu. Let me make it simpler for you. Go to Baidu and type “democracy in China” and press ENTER. Some experiences are instructive.
When TG7 offers the world an alternate to China’s manufacturing Goliath, the dollar fuelled submission to, and acceptance of, absence of democracy in China will start coming apart at the seams.
The earlier acceptance amongst the Chinese of the communist party’s totalitarian ways was due to ideology and fear. After Tiananmen Square, it is money and fear. Fear alone is not enough to keep men in line. Dollars are a better argument. And together, they are unbeatable. But they are unbeatable only till the time both are holding up.
TG7 will shift the center of gravity. It will gently nudge the world towards an alternative narrative. And it will nudge China towards an era when fear was the only glue holding the Middle Kingdom together; an era when Chairman Mao was ordering the killing of sparrows.
That is when the world will realize that the dragon was always a mythical creature.
And then the dragon will exist only in folklore.
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
The annals of the Indian Army are replete with stories of bravery and uncommon valor. And then there are stories of courage so overwhelming that it is almost impossible for the human soul to even comprehend that such men walked the face of this very earth.
On a freezing and unforgiving November night, 123 Indian soldiers – frostbitten, weary, hungry and heavily outnumbered – defied the might of the rampaging Chinese Army.
On 18 November 1962, Major Shaitan Singh and men of Charlie Company, 13 Kumaon Regiment, forever passed into the mists of legend.
This is a story of unimaginable sacrifice. This is a story of men pitted against impossible odds. This is the story of Indian soldiers who looked death in the eye and did not flinch.
This is the story of the Battle of Rezang La.
In their initial assault on Indian positions in October, the Chinese had overrun border posts from Daulat Beg Oldie to Damchok, along the Karakoram Range. The defence of Chushul was the responsibility of 114 Brigade, which had a battalion less. An Infantry Brigade has 3 battalions. 114 Brigade had just 1/8 Gurkha Rifles and 5 Jat Regiment. When the danger to Chushul was realized, 13 Kumaon was rushed from Baramulla to augment 114 Brigade.
Other companies of 13 Kumaon occupied heights like Gun Hill, Gurung Hill and Mugger Hill. Charlie Company was given Rezang La, a pass 19 km away on the southeastern approach to Chushul. Rezang La was all rock, bitterly cold with bone chilling winds and the troops were not acclimatized to such extreme temperatures. The company was deployed at a height of 16,404 feet above sea level, and the main company position was defended by the 7th, 8th & 9th platoons. The surrounding mountains isolated it from the rest of the battalion.
The biting cold and the howling winds were accompanied by snowfall. Lack of protective winter clothing made the vigil more treacherous. And to add to the already impossible situation, Charlie Company was “crested to artillery”. This meant that there was an intervening feature, which did not allow Charlie Company the cover and protection of Indian Army’s artillery.
Charlie Company was without cover, without support and on its own.
In the very early hours of 18 November, the Chinese Army attacked the 7th and 8th platoon.
At 0500 hrs, Charlie Company opened up with rifles, machine guns and mortars. The retaliation was so ferocious that hundreds of Chinese lay dead. The first wave of the Chinese Army was repulsed.
At 0540 hrs, Charlie Company came under intense artillery and mortar shelling, and under the cover of this fire, about 350 Chinese attacked 9th platoon. The platoon, true to their training, held their fire till the last moment. When the Chinese were a mere 90 meters away, the 9th platoon opened up with all their weapons. Their fire was devastating and hundreds of Chinese dead bodies littered the “nullahs”. The second wave of the Chinese Army was repulsed.
Major Shaitan Singh moved from platoon to platoon, firing at the enemy and encouraging his men. He ignored the grave danger to his life and kept fighting. They say that he fought like a man possessed, completely oblivious to his own safety.
For the Chinese, this horrific rate of casualties was not sustainable. They changed tactics. 9th platoon was brought under withering MMG fire and under the cover of this fire, 400 Chinese attacked 8th platoon from the rear. This attack was stopped at the platoon barbed wire fence. Simultaneously, a heavily armed assault group of 120 Chinese attacked 7th platoon from the rear. The 7th platoon responded with mortars and rifle fire. There were heavy casualties on both the sides.
By now, the strength of 7th and 8th platoon was severely depleted.
When the Chinese again assaulted the 7th platoon, our soldiers rushed out of their post and engaged the Chinese in hand-to-hand combat. The Chinese brought reinforcements.
The entire 7th and 8th platoon of Charlie Company was martyred. There were no survivors. 9th platoon was very severely depleted and out of ammunition. So, the survivors fought the heavily armed Chinese with their bare hands. Naik Ram Singh, a wrestler, killed many Chinese soldiers with his bare hands before he was shot in the head.
Major Shaitan Singh was constantly fighting, moving from platoon to platoon, encouraging his men and leading from the front. During the course of the battle, he was critically injured by MMG fire. While being evacuated, the Chinese started firing at him and the two soldiers who were accompanying him. Not wanting his soldiers to be killed in such a manner, he ordered them to leave him with his weapon and rejoin the fighting.
Charlie Company, 13 Kumaon, repulsed seven attacks by the Chinese before the entire company was martyred in combat.
On 21 November 1962, a unilateral ceasefire was declared between China and India.
When the Indian Army visited the Charlie Company location after the war, Major Shaitan Singh was found holding his weapon. He had died fighting. The nursing assistant was found dead with bandages and a syringe in his hand. The mortar section commander was found dead, holding a mortar round. He kept firing till his position was overrun and he was killed. Out of the thousand mortar rounds that Charlie Company had, all but 7 had been fired.
Out of the 123 soldiers of Charlie Company, 114 were martyred and 6 were captured by the Chinese Army and kept as PoWs. They later miraculously escaped.
For conspicuous bravery and heroism beyond the call of duty, Major Shaitan Singh Bhati was posthumously awarded a grateful nation’s highest gallantry award, the Param Veer Chakra. The company was also awarded 8 Veer Chakras and 4 Sena Medals for exceptional bravery. Charlie Company was later re-designated as “Rezang La Company”.
I am from the Kumaon Regiment and I have studied the battle of Rezang La in detail. After all these years I still wonder what motivated Major Shaitan Singh and the entire Charlie Company to so willingly embrace martyrdom. It is unheard of, in the annals of modern warfare.
I don’t know if Rezang La was strategically important or not, but in those dark days of the winter of 1962, for an army facing reverse after reverse, Rezang La somehow became a matter of national honor. This was where the Indian Army dug in and said “thus far, and no further”. Rezang La was not just about “izzat”. Somewhere along the way, it became “zidd”.
122 Ahirs from Haryana, led by Major Shaitan Singh Bhati of Jodhpur, fought for “Naam, Namak, Nishan” at -30 degrees centigrade. In freezing, inhuman cold, clothed in thin sweaters and jackets, wet canvas shoes, badly equipped and armed with Second World War vintage .303 rifles, they fought against an enemy who was far better equipped and armed.
When they were out of ammunition, they fought with their bayonets. When their bayonets broke, they fought with their bare hands. These young men from Haryana had probably never seen mountains so high. Most saw snow for the first time. But it is also true that the mountains of Ladakh had never seen such grit.
These brave 122 fought against 3000 attacking Chinese and counted over 1300 enemy dead before embracing martyrdom.
Today, a memorial stands at Rezang La, honoring the memory of those heroes. It reads:
How can a man die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his Gods.
To the sacred memory of the Heroes of Rezang La, 114 Martyrs of 13 Kumaon who fought to the Last Man, Last Round, Against Hordes of Chinese on 18 November 1962.
– Built by All Ranks 13th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment.
It was today, 54 years ago, that Major Shaitan Singh Bhati launched Charlie Company into battle. It was today that they became immortal.
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment
Disclaimer: 13 Kumaon and 11 Kumaon are both pure Ahir Battalions. There are other battalions in the Kumaon Regiment that have a mix of Kumaonis, Ahirs and a few other ethnicities. Some other battalions are pure Kumaoni, where the soldiers are from the Kumaon Region. My battalion (17 Kumaon) is a pure Kumaoni Unit with 100% troops from the Kumaon Region. However, in case of all infantry regiments of the Indian Army (including Kumaon), the officers are from all over the country.