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MIRROR IMAGE

Whenever there is disillusionment with corruption, inefficiency or general chaos, a few bright bulbs write to me with that eternal blueberry, “Why can’t the Indian Army take over? We need martial law in India”. I have been hearing this ever since I left the army in 1999.

This is only said out of a sense of deep frustration. There are hardly any takers for a national level PT fall-in at 0545 hrs.

I will try and explain “why” as simply as I can.

For starters, it is treason. The Parliament represents the will of the people. To overthrow a democratically elected government, however bad, is not the job of the army. The army defends the nation and the people. It serves the nation. A situation where the nation serves the army is not only unimaginable but also reprehensible. This has never, ever been discussed in the army. Not formally, not informally, not over a few drinks. I repeat this is treason.

On the night intervening 14th and 15th August 1947, the British Indian Army was divided into the Indian Army and the Pakistan Army. At that moment, both armies were exactly the same in ethos, values, weapons, training, equipment and culture. There was absolutely no difference.

The trajectories that both these armies took post partition, is worthy of deep contemplation. It is said that while India has an army, the Pakistan Army has a country. That is what happens when you involve armies in politics. India becomes Pakistan.

The Members of Parliament are there in Parliament because we, the voters, put them there. Sometimes, if the Parliament looks like a circus to you, do remember that modern democracy is not very old. The earliest luminaries thrown up by this system were Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill. The system is still ‘work in progress’ in India. It has its faults but it is still the best system that there is.

The Indian Army is trained to fight. It is not trained to govern and rule. The motto of the Officers Training Academy is “Serve With Honour”. That is the army’s raison d’etre; to serve. In this service there is honour, glory and integrity. Remember, only those who serve India can die for India.

When we decide to vote on the basis of caste, religion and/or by accepting cash and gifts, we lose the moral right to object to corruption and inefficiency. If we want a clean system, let us first stop having double standards of our own. For some time initially, truth and integrity will hurt. It will be like injecting an alien chemical into the body. The body will react violently. But soon it will get used to it.

Yes, the Indian Army does fantastic work. It is great at fighting and winning wars, killing terrorists, defending India and helping civil authorities in times of natural calamities. It is also great at pulling out toddlers from bore wells, building railway bridges, controlling riots and cleaning lakes. But I beseech you; don’t applaud the army when it pulls out toddlers from bore wells, cleans lakes and builds railway bridges. Rather, step up and ask the system as to why is it that the Indian Army that has to step in for everything in this country. Is the system so rotten? Using the army to clean lakes is like cutting vegetables with a Katana. It defies all logic simply because it plays havoc with India’s finest institution.

Soldiers don’t have too many special skills outside of war fighting. But what they bring to the table is integrity, hard work and monk like commitment. That’s what gets the job done and that’s all that is needed. There is no secret sauce.

I could have given you many other practical reasons why the Indian Army will never take over. I could have said that this only happens in small countries, and that India is too large for the army to take over. I could have spoken about international pressure, governance structures, logistics and a thousand such things. I did not. You need to see this through the eyes of the soldier. To him, the Constitution is sacred. We have all, without exception, sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution of India. And soldiers do not defile what they consider sacred. No decent human being does.

As citizens, we must hold institutions accountable. That is the essence of democracy. Stop thinking that to question is simply your right. It is far more than that. It is your duty. Do your duty and everything will work like it is supposed to. Then there will be no need to call the Indian Army when a lake in Bangalore is dirty.

This is one war that the Indian Army will not fight for us. This is one war we must fight on our own. And our first attack must be on our own apathy.

The generals in South Block would approve.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment

#MajorGauravArya #MirrorImage #adgpi

HOME

When I left the Indian Army in 1999, all I had earned, after a near-death fall, was a serious breathing problem. Nothing else. At least that is what the world told me. I had no higher qualification like an MBA, no prospects, no knowledge of the outside world and no idea what I was doing out on the road. I had no family member in the corporate sector. I found out the hard way.

I was a newly minted veteran. Apparently, all I was good for was a security job, and if I was good, really good, somewhere along the way, I could hope to become an Administration Manager. So, I decided that this was what I wanted to become in my civilian life, an Admin Manager.

There were many like me who didn’t know any better. They too struggled. The civilian environment was scary. My Unit 17 Kumaon is what faujis would call a “Dastoori Paltan”. We are an OG unit in the most traditional translation possible. And we are 100% pure Kumaoni, which means that while officers can be from any part of the country, the troops must be from Kumaon.

Apart from the hard grind of military training and tactics, how to eat, dress and converse was an important part of my upbringing in the Paltan. We were taught to open doors, pull chairs and be extremely courteous when in the presence of ladies. To use foul language within a mile of a lady was unthinkable. My first Commanding Officer Col. K Pathak laid a lot of emphasis on what the army calls “An officer and a gentleman”. My immediate seniors, Lt. RK Anuj (now Colonel) and Capt. Vijay Singh Yadav (now Brigadier) drilled this into me. They burned it into my heart, soul and subconscious. That’s what 17 Kumaon was. That was what I became.

Apparently, I was a bit of a ‘curiosity’ in the earlier companies that I worked in. Slowly, as time passed, I learned to say 5 pm in place of 1700 hrs. “Straight ahead” was far more acceptable than “your 12’o Clock”. I stopped standing when female employees entered the room. I tried my best to become a ‘civilian’, to merge into the surroundings. For sometime, I managed to hoodwink some people. It was a daily chore.

I remember being part of a project in Wipro, Gurgaon in 2007 in which we created a laboratory for Lockheed Martin. This was on the fourth floor of our building. They wanted to sell F-16 fighter jets to IAF. They even put in 2 flight simulators there. I remember meeting the Lockheed Martin engineers and executives. Most of them were from US Air Force or US Marines Corps Aviation. Those days I used to wonder when India would have a private defence industry where soldiers would be part of senior management, doing what we were experts in, rather than security and administration. Maybe that day is not far.

Civilians think that we are experts in Security, Administration and HR. In reality, the Indian Army does not have an HR department, security is radically different from what you see in corporates, and administration is, well, merged into the system. We know as much about hardcore HR as you know about counter-terror operations in Kashmir.

Actually, what we have is attitude. We are willing to learn, ground up. A soldier can do anything. There will be a day when we will have private manufacturers in India making anti-aircraft missiles, fighter jets, automatic rifles, tanks, ammunition, missiles and a plethora of equipment for domestic consumption and export. That is the day, when soldiers will be CEOs and on the board of these companies. That is the day when we will sit down with business plans, and not just battle plans. We still do, but that is far from the smell of cordite.

We were not made for taking corrective measures on ‘employee satisfaction’. We were made to operate weapons of war. For us, Make In India is not just about national self-sufficiency. It is also about finding our true calling.

Between leaving the army and joining the media, there was a gap of 17 years (1999-2017), which I spent in the corporate sector. I was the CEO of a limited company and then, President of an MNC. There was money and the obligatory corner office, but I was a salt-water shark in sweet water. I spoke corporate jargon. Balance sheets, cash flows and EBIDTA were my tools of trade. In spite of all the trappings of what one calls ‘success’, there was a great discomfort within me.

When in 2017, Arnab called me with the proposal to be part of a TV series revolving around soldiers; it was like a parachute opening after an eternity of free fall.

I am now Consulting Editor – Strategic Affairs for Republic TV. Patriot takes me to the length and breadth of the country. I meet soldiers every week. This is what gives me happiness. This is what I was made for. So, I travel to military cantonments and installations around India. I sit with soldiers and talk. They share their stories with me because I am one of them. That bond is unbreakable, renewed each week in a new place with a new group of soldiers.

As I drive into an Army camp in Kashmir, a young Major smiles and shakes my hand.

“Welcome home, Sir”, he says.

Home. That word has certain warmth to it, certain belongingness. Home is love. Home is comfort. Home is safety.

“Where do you stay?” the young Major asks me.

“C/o 56 APO”, I tell him.

He laughs, realisation dawning upon him. We walk towards the small room that will be my home for the next 7 days. We sip tea and talk about the army. What else is there to talk about? He marvels at my vintage. The very fact that we used to fire a 106 mm RCL from a Jonga cracks him up. Another young Major, a company commander, walks in to say hello. We talk about how the army was during my time. Soon others join in. Its snowing outside but the room is warm. There is brotherhood here.

I am in the Indian Army. I have come back home.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment

#MajorGauravArya #Home #adgpi

Disclaimer: When I left the army, resettlement opportunities were few. Things are different now. Officers do resettlement courses in IIM and other institutions of repute. The old image of a fauji as a security officer is no longer the norm. We are in marketing, sales, wealth management, banking and manufacturing. We are TV anchors, actors, businessmen, politicians, bureaucrats and policemen. One day when private weapons manufacturing picks up in India, many of us would have found our true calling once more. That’s because while we can do anything, we are essentially soldiers.

 

 

 

 

 

THE OTHER WAR

For years, media has been telling us that there are 150-200 terrorists in Kashmir. Every year the security forces kill 150-200 terrorists. Next year, again we have a similar number joining ranks; the throughput in the system remains the same.

We are killing terrorists, not terrorism.

I recently spent time with the Commanding Officer of 19 Rashtriya Rifles, in South Kashmir. He is that typical breed of young infantry COs of the Indian Army; aggressive, decisive and wise beyond their years. He said something to me that will stay with me for a long time.

“I am responsible not just to the men under my command, but also to their families. Death of even one of my men is simply not acceptable to me, but I understand that defending the nation comes at a cost. So, I drive my men and myself to train in the freezing cold, day in and day out, without respite, for those 5 seconds of reckoning. When they come face to face with the enemies of the nation, they must win. In this game, there is no silver medal; its either gold, or death”.

As I travel through the breadth of South Kashmir, the hotbed of separatism and terror, I encounter a recurring sight; young Kashmiri men walking with their heads bowed, staring at a smartphone. Are they any different form young men around the world? Not really, except the content that most of them consume. Call it pure, unadulterated poison.

The Kashmir Valley is being radicalised at a furious pace. There are more than five hundred madrasas in Anantnag alone, unmonitored and free to decide what they will teach to the impressionable young. Thousands of such madrasas dot the landscape across Kashmir. In many such schools of religious learning, the teachers are no longer Kashmiris. They are from Deoband and they owe fealty to Jamaat-i-Islami. In these madrasas, the glory of Jihad is taught to children as young as five years old.

Smartphones in Kashmir have content that is shocking, and we have no strategy to counter it. If we say we do, we are lying. WhatsApp groups are used not just to gather stone pelters at the site of an encounter, but also to warn terrorists of movement of security forces. There are young men always close by, walking and watching. If they see an army convoy leaving the gates of an army camp, the message is broadcast immediately – number of vehicles, direction of movement and estimated number of troops.

Fake Twitter handles and Facebook pages are created by the thousands, backed by Pakistan’s ISI. Blogs, Vlogs, music, videos, and literature…it is an entire industry set up to poison the Kashmiri mind, and it is high-volume, high-quality, professional content. ISPR (Inter Services Public Relations), the PR wing of the Pakistani Armed Forces is the mother of this e-Jihad. And the poisonous content they create lands up on the smartphone of the young of Kashmir. Mass scale brainwashing is happening right under our noses.

When I was posted in Jammu & Kashmir, encounters with foreign terrorists were common. Afghans, Sudanese and Pakistanis were some nationalities that came to India to seek heaven. They raped Kashmiri women, killed with impunity and roamed the streets with abandon. The Indian Army responded by setting up anti-infiltration grids. Over a period of time, the deluge of foreign terrorists became a trickle. An odd Pakistani still manages to sneak in, but the majority of terrorists in Kashmir are locals.

Pakistan has ensured that it no longer need export terror to India. Pakistan radicalizes the young of Kashmir in the name of jihad. These young men join the ranks of terror organizations. Just so that they don’t have second thoughts, their pictures are taken with weapons and circulated on social media. Once security forces get these pictures, these men are marked. Once they die in an encounter with security forces, huge funerals are organized. These funerals are actually recruitment rallies. Terror has been outsourced to the victim of terror.

This entire environment ensures that there is always a steady stream of terrorists in Kashmir, home grown and able to melt into their surroundings. This also gives Pakistan plausible deniability. They can hence rightfully claim that the “freedom struggle” in Kashmir is indigenous.

As I said, the throughput in the system remains the same. Checkmate.

Information Warfare (IW) must be recognised as a weapon of war. It is. Yet, it is not. IW is a halfhearted push, even in the army. We don’t seem to realise that the enemy is in the mind, not on the ground. Killing terrorists will not solve the problem. Getting all mushy with the locals will not solve the problem, either.

Social media is the cause of the majority of problems we are facing in Kashmir. We should have been able to counter it long back. We didn’t. Here is a roadmap that will tell anyone in position of authority and willing to listen, how this can be done.

What is urgently required is a fully secure building in NCR Delhi, staffed by army officers at the top echelons. Lets call this building, the BLUE BOX. The top ‘management’ of this Blue Box must be wafer thin. The rest of the team, thousands of them, will be civilians, with the mean age not exceeding 25 years. We need content writers, videographers, special effects experts, video editors, hackers, social media experts, research scholars, experts in Islamic theology, linguists, songwriters and musicians, all under the same roof. In that building, we need a recording studio, server rooms, IT hardware, software, high speed Internet and all equipment related to content creation and social media. We need Kashmiri Muslim men and women working for us. Yes, there are thousands of them who put their lives on the line each day to tell India’s story. We must mobilise them.

All these professionals should be paid well, and made to sign NDAs. Thousands of Twitter handles, Facebook profiles, Instagram accounts, blogs, Vlogs, websites and WhatsApp groups need to be created, a veritable firestorm of pro-India content.

There must be action at multiple levels. Creation of content to counter malicious propaganda, creation of content to push our own narrative and ‘managing’ local Kashmiri media are the three immediate challenges.

IW must percolate down to the Rashtriya Rifles Sector level. It is important for the Sector Commanders to have their own IW team of professionals (civilians included), which is directly plugged into IW of Victor Force and Kilo Force. These must, in turn, be plugged into the IW cells of XV Corps, Northern Command and ADGPI. It is also essential to post a qualified IW officer at the RR battalion level. He may not generate IW content directly, but most information will pass through him. Information Warfare is both top down and bottom up. A simple top down approach can be detrimental because when it comes to social media use, both information and content are mostly generated at the ground level.

The need of the hour is to go on a massive media and social media offensive. It is important to flood Kashmir with a counter narrative.

RR Battalion and Sector Commanders must have the independence to deal with local and national media. The reasons are valid. It is not difficult to imagine a Tamil journalist living and reporting from New Delhi, or a Bengali reporting from Gujarat. The only limiting factor is language. Kashmir’s story is different. You have to be a Kashmiri to be able to stay in and report from the Valley. I am sure there is the possibility of a rare exception, but I am not aware of any. Indian journalists from outside the Kashmir Valley are just too afraid of being harmed or even killed, if they live and report from Srinagar. That fear is not without reason. Here, I speak about the national media, both print and electronic.

The local Kashmiri media is another kettle of fish. Hiding behind the façade of freedom of expression, it deals in rumours, insinuation and lies. While Indian media is known to be a little elastic with the truth, local Kashmiri media often behaves like the propaganda wing of the Hurriyat. I wouldn’t be surprised if individual reporters are on Pakistan’s payroll. Look at it from the ISI’s perspective. It makes perfect sense.

Private Kashmiri TV channels are an urgent requirement. DD Kashir is a dead duck. Private FM Channels should become a part of Kashmiri life. Both audio and video content must be beamed live across the Valley. Much of it must be web-based. Newspapers in Kashmiri and Urdu should be launched that tell our story. Distribute them free of cost, if we must. And all this should be plugged in to the Blue Box.

We simply have to find a way to communicate with Kashmiris through TV, print, radio, web and social media. There is no other road.

Massive infusion of funds is needed in the education system in Kashmir. Madrasas funded by Jamaat-i-Islami must be shut down and replaced with schools with a sensible, modern curriculum. Lets not get all touchy feely about this. The cost of our ‘liberal’ outlook is borne by soldiers.

This madness, which pervades Kashmir, is a mental illness. This madness will not go away, unless we attack its foundation. The foundation is in the mind.

We have been a careless nation. We have allowed this madness to spread in Kashmir, madness seemingly without end. But end, it must. The Blue Box is no longer a luxury. It is a question of survival.

Ministries and departments cannot run the Blue Box. It cannot be run by intelligence agencies. They simply don’t have the capability or the understanding. Teenagers and young adults, mavericks who don’t follow the rules, must run the Blue Box. And the army must supervise this operation.

It is time to call in the Indian Army once more. The only difference will be that this time, the laptop will replace the AK 47. It calls for a mindset change, a revolution in the army’s way of thinking. But history is witness that there is no student more willing than the Indian Army. Why involve the army, some would ask. Well, the Indian Army is the only institution that has men on ground and can get the job done. No excuses, no stories, no delays.

The Blue Box is what the Indian Army urgently needs in Kashmir. It has enough weapons, bulletproof jackets and helmets. There is no dearth of such equipment. But you cannot kill an idea, however poisonous, with an AK 47. Only an idea can kill an idea.

If we create the Blue Box, over time the throughput in the system will cease to exist. And Pakistan will face it biggest defeat since 1971.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment

Indian Army

#TheOtherWar #adgpi #MajorGauravArya

BLOOD AND FREEDOM

Thousands of INA soldiers died fighting and many perished in death camps. By marching to certain death, they forever sanctified Netaji’s call to war “Give me blood and I shall give you freedom”.

There is a certain romance to what Bose did. A man rages against injustice and leads an army of volunteers against one of the greatest empires on earth.

There were many who were responsible for India’s freedom, but Bose was amongst the movement’s brightest stars. And history bears witness that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was a man of his word.

 

We gave him blood. He gave us freedom.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

READ HERE 👇

https://www.republicworld.com/personality/the-major-speaks/blood-and-freedom-read-major-gaurav-aryas-take-on-the-telegraphs-uk-article-slandering-netaji-subhas-chandra-bose

THE LIFE OF A SOLDIER

The love that the Indian soldier has for his nation is one sided, unreciprocated and forever doomed. Most people give something. No one gives everything. No one…except that man in Olive Green.

Has the nation failed the soldier? I have no hesitation in speaking the truth, bitter though it may be. When we deny the soldier his rights, we deny him his honour. And a soldier without honour is just a dead body.

He is vilified, while the powers that be, sit in judgment. He is accused of human rights violation by people who have spent not a day in uniform…by people who don’t understand what it mean to live your life under a hail of gunpowder.

This is my talk at the REPUBLIC SUMMIT 2018, today. Do watch.

Jai Hind

Major Gaurav Arya (Retd)

17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment

Indian Army

👇

MONOCHROME

My thoughts are without colour. My memories are monochrome. And those are from the deepest recesses of my mind…the idea of the Indian Army, black and white. Much like the institution itself. There are hardly any greys.

It was June of 1994 and I was with a medium machine gun (MMG) detachment, sitting on a sand dune in the middle of Mahajan Field Firing Ranges. A small ground sheet propped up by four wobbly sticks provided us cover from temperatures that were hovering at 50 degrees centigrade. Subedar Amokh Singh, one NCO and one jawan of 10 Sikh Light Infantry manned the MMG det. I don’t remember why I was there. I am from 17 Kumaon. What in God’s name I was doing with a Sikh Li MMG det…I don’t recall. All I remember was Adjutant 17 Kumaon Major DD Baloni telling me to meet Adjutant 10 Sikh Li Capt. Sachin Mallik. Anyway, I had one star on my shoulder. I was entitled to be “lost” and no one could do a fig about it.

I remember I was carrying a bottle of water. The water was hot and tasted of chlorine. I had an ANPRC 25 radio set and a pair of binoculars. I was in my combat dress, with a helmet perched jauntily on my head, hot as a frying pan.

Far below, 17 Kumaon had assembled in platoon rods at the FUP. The Forming Up Place is a location where troops assemble and launch their assault on an objective. FUP also has an informal full form, which is a truer explanation than its real full form. However, that full form is not for a family audience. If you have a fauji friend, he will tell you. If your fauji friend happens to be in the infantry, he will tell you gleefully. In the army, the same jokes remain funny even after a thousand retellings.

Soon, we started firing small bursts at the objective. The “Umpire” of the exercise was taking his job seriously. The Brigade Commander was engrossed in what was happening. Out of the blue, a full-blown craving for cold Rooh Afza erupted deep in my heart. I looked around. There were four of us, each with an issue-type water bottle. There was a canvas “chaagal” with perhaps five liters of water; all of it hot and chlorine fuelled.

“Are you okay, sahab? Is there anything you want?” asked Subedar Amokh Singh.

“Rooh Afza”, I blurted out, instantly regretting it. Here we were in the middle of attacking an objective and I wanted Rooh Afza. Shame on me.

I raised my binoculars to get a better look. The platoon rods were moving perfectly. 17 Kumaon is a typical highlander unit. “Dastoori” is the word soldiers would use for us. We have always everything by the book. The exercise was going well. My throat was parched and I delayed sipping water. It was chlorine, anyway.

I turned around and found that Subedar Amokh Singh was not there. Strange. He must have gone to relieve himself.

Ten minutes passed. Fifteen. No Amokh Singh.

“Sat Sri Akal Sahab”, said Subedar Amokh Singh, smilingly. Behind him was a soldier of 10 Sikh Li carrying a glass full of Rooh Afza, which had real ice cubes. All this was happening in the middle of nowhere. It must be the sun, I thought. I had heard of thirsty and disoriented travelers seeing mirages in the desert. Maybe this was one.

“What have you brought, Amokh Singh sahab”? I asked him.

“Sahab, you wanted Rooh Afza. Here it is,” he said.

Apparently the Division Commander’s caravan was nearby and the administration was under Sikh Li. The enterprising Subedar not only got Rooh Afza for me, he had two glasses himself and carried it for his entire MMG det.

I thanked him profusely.

“All those stories about Sikh Li…they are true, aren’t they, sahab?” I asked him.

Stories about the road roller being buried at midnight and the Cheetah helicopter “temporarily disappearing” in the middle of Siachen Glacier…those were not just stories, were they? But Subedar Amokh Singh didn’t confirm or deny anything. He just laughed.

When the Unit got its orders to move to Tibri Cantt in Gurdaspur, we heaved a sigh of relief. Seniors who had been-there, done-that told me that Fazilka was the final frontier. They promised green grass after Fazilka. And so it was. Punjab was magic. Miles and miles of green fields rolled by and we visually devoured the landscape. We were like thirsty men at an oasis.

Nine hours later, we were at Gurdaspur. We were welcomed with tea, pakoras and aloo bondas. There was some red substance, which they insisted, was tomato sauce but I wasn’t convinced. I let it go. Soon, the process of settling down began.

Tibri Cantt is on the outskirts of Gurdaspur town. During those days, there were three STD/PCO booths in one straight line, five hundred meters apart, as soon as you entered the town. Young army officers always went to the furthest booth to make calls. This was strange. It remained strange until the day reliable int sources (whatever that meant) informed the Station Commander that a very beautiful young lady called Harjeet Kaur sometimes manned the last phone booth.

Harjeet Kaur was oblivious to her massive fan following. Young Army officers subjected her to a lot of “Yes Ma’am” and “No Ma’am”. Deferential to a fault, they kept a respectful distance. This one sided admiration was soon cut short. An unwritten message was passed. Soon, all STD calls were made from the first and second booth only.

As a young 2nd Lt, I owned a Kawasaki Bajaj. I was doing YOs (Young Officers Course) in MHOW in 1994. I remember going on a cold evening to Indore with 2nd Lt Amardeep Singh Bali (now a serving Colonel) to take delivery of the bike. We drove it back to MHOW, Bali more apprehensive than I. He was riding pillion, and with a driver like me, his apprehension was not difficult to fathom. After the YOs course, I soon sold my bike and bought an LML Vespa. This was in 1995.

It was the same time that Tibri Cantt was undergoing what can be best described as withdrawal symptoms due to Harjeet Kaur. The young officers of the brigade requisitioned my new LML Vespa. There was a Raj Rif unit, a Gorkha unit and 17 Kumaon. Seven youngsters of the brigade gathered and called the Gorkha Unit painter who painted the words “HARJEET KAUR” on the fuel tank of my scooter. A bottle of Old Monk was brought. With great solemnity, liquor was liberally sprinkled on the scooter. In the LML Vespa, you have to lift the seat to access the fuel tank. Our collective infatuation was hence both kept a secret and immortalized.

Little did our seniors know that when we said we were taking Harjeet Kaur out for coffee, it simply meant taking my scooter from 17 Kumaon bachelor’s accommodation to the Gorkha Rifles Officers Mess. We would sit in the mess; have coffee and fall back after 2 hours, with no one the wiser. It was a scam and it worked.

Havildar Dharam Singh of 17 Kumaon was the center of our existence. When we went hungry on dinner nights, it was he who kept food for us. He was our Mess Havildar. Dinner Nights are boring, formal affairs. You dress up in 6 Bravos (don’t ask me what that is), there is a layout of the dinner table, which you adhere to, and you are served meals in courses. You keep one eye on your food and another on the “old man”, as the Commanding Officer is affectionately called. The problem with dinner nights is that the food is often bland and the strict formality of forks, knives and spoons take away much of the pleasure of dining.

We had dinner nights at least twice a month. And after dinner, when we bid the Old Man “good evening” and never “good night” (that is again a long story), many of us remained hungry. It was then that Dharam Singh came to our rescue. Platefuls of biryani and dessert were always kept ready. Dharam Singh may have looked like a halwai but to us, he was Superman.

Our Superman was actually given the name Samay Singh at birth, an odd name by any standard. Youngsters of 17 Kumaon had a habit of Anglicizing names, so they started calling him Time Lion behind his back. One fine morning, fed up with what was happening, the CO changed his name. With the powers invested in him by the President of India, the Old Man changed his name to Dharam Singh. This happened much before I was commissioned. I don’t know if Samay Singh was asked or given a choice of names. But it happened.

Old habits are hard to shed. Time Lion became Religious Lion. And so our little world revolved ceaselessly around the altar of the Paltan. Time passed, as time is wont to.

One fine day, we were told that the Unit is moving to Pooh. I had never heard of the place. Apparently it was also called “Sugar Sector”. And 36 Sector. And we had adventures there. Oh yes, we had adventures. But that is for another day.

Some day I will tell you about how we got orders to lay landmines on the Line of Actual Control, to stop a possible Chinese “attack”. Two months later I fell 400 feet into snow. The Kumaoni ‘bhullas’ saved me and then turned the place into a 17 Kumaon “tourist spot”. Everyone who visited was told “Gaurav sahab yahaan pe gire thhe”. This was usually accompanied by much laughter and backslapping. The thought that I had almost died that day seemed to have escaped everyone. In the dark and frigid desert of Shipki La, every laugh was precious.

But as I said…lets leave that for another day.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment

#IndianArmy

#Monochrome #adgpi #17Kumaon #MajorGauravArya

26/11: TEN YEARS LATER

Today in 2008, Pakistan’s ISI launched a diabolical plot to bring Mumbai to its knees. Ten terrorists owing loyalty to the Lashkar-e-Toiba’s chief Hafiz Saeed were sent by boat to cause mayhem in India’s commercial capital.

From 26 November to 29 November, 166 innocent people were butchered and more than 300 were wounded. Iconic landmarks were attacked, chief amongst them Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Taj Hotel, Oberoi & Trident Hotels, Cama Hospital, Nariman House and Leopold Café.

The reason I am writing this is that the tragedy did not end on 29 November. It continues to this day. Yes, we are safer. Manpower and technology has been put in place so that infiltration from land, sea and air becomes extremely difficult to carry out. Cross-border terrorism, for most part, remains confined to sporadic attacks in the Kashmir Valley. We have spent billions of dollars to ensure that Indians are safe. But is there a hundred percent guarantee that the attacks will not happen again? Well, USA has an annual defence budget of over USD 700 billion and yet, nineteen hijackers stunned the world’s only superpower. On 9/11, terrorists killed 2996 people and over 6000 were injured.

An enraged America went to war. While fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia, the US attacked Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 and yet that nation was destroyed and President Saddam Hussain hanged. Iraq is still imploding. In Afghanistan, the Taliban played willing hosts to al-Qaeda and faced the unmitigated rage of the American war machine. Libya and its psychotic dictator Colonel Muammar Gadhafi were brought to their knees. Gadhafi always thought of terrorism as an attractive hobby. The world is better off without Saddam and Gadhafi. Or is it? Vicious and cruel they may have been, they served a purpose. They kept the Pandora’s box closed. They kept radical Islamist outfits at bay. They spoke the language of the terrorists. If someone committed a terrorist act, his family paid. Torture chambers, death squads and kangaroo courts were their weapons. But both Gadhafi and Saddam maintained the peace. When they died, they took peace with them. Their deaths gave rise to the superstardom of al-Qaeda and the birth of ISIS.

Israel has a remarkable track record for a nation surrounded by mortal enemies. It has kept terror largely out of its borders. The Israeli defence establishment is effective for many reasons, the chief being unity of purpose. The Jews know that they are fighting an existential battle and there are many nations who would want nothing better that to “drive the Jews into the sea”. Israel knows all too well that to do it harm, the enemy must have both intent and capability. There is no dearth of intent. What the Israelis do really well is to deny capability to their enemies. Through Mossad, their intelligence wing and Sayeret Matkal, their legendary Special Forces, Israel has proved time and again that it has both intent and capability, something its enemies lack.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the current Prime Minister of Israel, is a former Sayeret Matkal operative. While conscription is mandatory under law, it is interesting to note that many Israeli Prime Ministers are from Special Forces. That nation has a strategic culture. That is why it is safe.

India has great capability but no intent. It has no strategic culture. It has ambitions to sit on the high table of the United Nations Security Council but does not have the iron in its soul that is needed to sit at that high table. We are a nation without fangs and claws, content to soft-peddle and spout homilies about yoga and world peace.

As today drew closer, may people asked me if we are safer than we were on those fateful November days of 2008. My answer is this. Yes, we have put systems and equipment in place. Yes, we have deployed manpower far greater than we had, ten years ago. But what we have not done is punished the perpetrators of 26/11. Hafiz Saeed still lives. He still runs training camps that send terrorists into Kashmir. He still collects funds; all this under the benign gaze of the Pakistan Army, whose prime strategic asset he is.

If we want to prevent another 26/11, being defensive is a small part of the solution. We can put more manpower and equipment on the ground, but they will serve only a limited purpose.

After the 1984 Brighton bombing narrowly failed to kill Margaret Thatcher, the perpetrators of the act, the Provisional IRA said, “Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always”.

This is the distilled essence of a terrorist’s mind.

While we have significantly improved our capabilities, we have not been able to degrade the enemy’s capacity to wage war. We have not been able to look beyond our borders.

There are two kinds of evil men in this world. Some are stopped by court cases, some by a 7.62 mm full metal jacket bullet to the head. Hafiz Saeed clearly belongs to the latter category.

We are wasting our time petitioning the world and the International Court of Justice. We debase ourselves as a nation when we plead with Pakistan to bring Hafiz Saeed to justice.

The time for candlelight marches and petitions is past. If we want justice for the unfortunate 166 who were brutally killed ten years back in Mumbai, we will have to get that justice ourselves. Then the world will respect and fear us. There is no respect without fear.

It is time to unleash the hounds.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment

Indian Army