The Kargil War memorial at Drass is the centre of attraction. 537 names of Martyrs are inscribed there. They were the brave hearts who “gave their today for our tomorrow”. The Indian nation is proud of them. The Kargil Kalash is the centrepiece of the memorial and the temple architecture around lends a spiritually dignified look. The memory of our martyrs is sanctified by floral and emotional tributes of loved ones who come from far and near. Tears well up their eyes, roll down cheeks and mingle with the dust where soldiers lived, fought for and made the supreme sacrifice. They are gone forever but their presence can be felt by their loved ones who find solace and spiritual peace by just gazing at the war memorial and the Kargil Kalash. The living and the dead have an emotional bond of love that is etched in the hearts, never to be erased.
Drass, located at the exit of the formidable Zojila pass as one travels from Srinagar to Leh-Ladakh, is the second coldest inhabited place in the world. The shelling of Pakistan artillery had converted Drass into a ghost town in 1999. The Indian Army restored Peace and it is a tourist town now. Siachen hotel is a landmark and it never closed its doors to journalists even at the peak of artillery duels. Along with the memory of martyrs the stories of Drass have become a part of history. Tashi Namgyal, the shepherd who first discovered Pakistan soldiers of the Northern Light Infantry in black clothes, is mentioned in every war related story. The savagery and cruelty of Pakistan in mutilating the body, gouging out eyes and cutting private parts of Capt Saurabh Kalia, a patrol leader arouse hatred for Pakistan Army commanders including General Pervez Musharraf, villain of the piece. The bravery of Capt Vikram Batra, JAK Rif and Lt Manoj Pande, 11 GR gladdens hearts of compatriots and applies balm to the emotional wounds. Celebrations to mark the Tenth anniversary of Indian victory over Pakistan brought both sorrow and solace to loved ones who came all the way from Nagaland, the North-East, the Punjab, Rajasthan , Jammu and Kashmir
and what have you to commemorate the war heroes who fought and fell but immortalised their saga of gallantry and sacrifice made above the call of duty. Many a touching and moving scene was witnessed and the Media made it a part of folklore to be narrated to children generation after generation so that India has a living string of brave hearts for ever.
NATION IS PROUD OF MEDIA
In 1999 the Media, especially the electronic media, brought battles to bedrooms in every nook and corner of the country. The Media helped Indians unite for a national cause against their arch-enemy – Pakistan. Every Indian, child and adult, did something or the other to promote war efforts. School children, both boys and girls, heard and felt proud of chivalry of Vikram Batra when he said “yeh dil mange more” and went into attack on enemy bunkers time and again. He was unwell and yet he volunteered to kill some more bandits from across the border. How many did he kill is just anybody’s guess. The number exceeded the guess. Lt Manoj Pande, ex-student of Sainik School, Lucknow did not ask for respite or evacuation despite serious wounds until the objective, Khalubar peak was captured and our Tricolour unfurled. On hearing saga of chivalry every child wanted to join the Armed forces and become a Batra or a Pande. What a pleasant surprise it was to see in person, face to face in Drass, some young officers of both the sexes who in their student days were inspired by the heroes of Kargil War and succeeded in their mission of earning the right of wearing army uniform. Indeed it was a national and everlasting gain beyond the immediate gains of beating back bandits from Pakistan. The Indian Media can rightfully claim a share of gains beyond Kargil in winning over the youth to the uniformed services.
WILL PAKISTAN PLAY PRANKS
Why is Pakistan so fond of hitting below the belt? It is because they do not possess courage or capability of hitting above the belt. War is a game of gentlemen. If one is not a gentleman one will not play the war game as per rules. In that case a”stab in the back” becomes a state policy. Pakistan has been doing that all along. However, to let the world know that they do not play foul, Pakistan takes recourse to spinning yarns and telling lies. Compulsive liars they are and must never ever be trusted – that is the line of thinking among those who know history and can read evil men’s minds. Pandavas failed to read Kaurava’s mind and paid for it dearly. Who wants to be a Pandav of today? Not the youth of India. Let us take a look at the peace proposals of the Vajpayee govt to Pakistan. Didn’t Musharraf answer peace in Lahore with war in Kargil? He sent into Kargil officers of Pakistan Army and said that they were freedom fighters. Now he admits facts but it is toolittle and too late.When the Indian Prime Minister was still in Lahore, the buzz of war preparations could be heard in Skardu, the central fort of erstwhile Gilgit Agency of Maharaja of Kashmir, for launching Pakistan officers and troops into Drass, Kargil, Batalik and Mushkoh valley. Despite warnings of the past, if any Indian leader is still planning peace with Pakistan, I am afraid he will be writing his last will and testament. One wonders why some peaceniks wish to commit Harakiri. If someone is bent upon doing so, let him make arrangements for his own funeral.
Rudyard Kipling wrote: East is East, West is West; the twain shall never meet. I have no inclination to comment on that but with an apology to the poet, I shall say “India is India, Pakistan is Pakistan; the twain shall never meet. I have no intention of undermining the efforts of pro-peace with Pakistan elements this side of Ravi, but I may venture to write with a sense of responsibility of a septuagenarian that what the peaceniks are doing is an exercise in futility. Peace and friendship should have two partners equally keen to make friends. If one side is keen on friendship and the other is either lukewarm or hostile by word and deed, the ship of peace will be on the rocks like a non-consummated marriage. The top echelon of both civil and military in Pakistan have a mindset that is India hater and India baiter. Pakistan had launched as many as four attacks on India since 1947 and was badly beaten in all four. So, they have an axe to grind. Some one or the other in Pakistan wants to avenge something or the other and place India at the receiving end. They always fail because their attempts to bring India to her knees have been at best Quixotic. And how silly on their part that they continue charging at the windmill! Let the Spaniards rejoice that their Don Quixote has found a permanent residence in a country called Pakistan.
When the Islamic terrorists were prevailing on the Pakistan establishment to grant one concession or the other and the govt did not muster courage to say No, Americans toyed with the idea of having a tight control on the nukes there. General Mirza Aslam Beg, the then Army Chief was asked what would he do if the Americans take away all the nukes, the General said with aplomb “I shall bomb India with a nuke before surrendering them to America.”It certainly shows the hate-India mindset of Pakistan’s top brass. The Peace Proposals may now be thrown to the wind, if you like. I hope someone is listening in the MEA in the South Block so that the Prime Minister is spared the trouble of travelling to his home village in Pakistan for a back-slapping get-together.
A CRY FOR MODERNISATION
Thinking beyond Kargil, modernisation of our Armed Forces is the crying need of the hour. Admittedly, the much maligned Bofors guns won the war for us in Kargil. Of course, it is Man behind the gun who matters more than the gun. In India’s case both have to be modernised. The Bofors howitzers ( gun is a misnomer) are 22 years old and outdated. Spares are rarely available. Man behind the gun has to undergo new training in tactics and his personal weapon, rifles, has to be new with a lot of fire power and easy on assault. Bunker busters are needed too so that precious lives of trained soldiers are not squandered in busting bunkers. Well, the list is long. Let us proceed step by step and buy or make at home world class weapon system and equipment so that another misadventure by Pakistan costs her dearly.
Strategically speaking, a unified command of the three services is urgently needed. However, vested interests stall the process before it begins. An officer in the rank of a Field Marshal or an equivalent rank to head the CDS may be appropriate but the mythical ghost of a military coup sends shivers down the spine of those who matter. Thus the proposal of a Combined Defence staff and its Chief is back to square one. The snake and ladder game between the services and the bureaucrats is a never ending one and the political head just is an onlooker from the outskirts. He comes and goes – that is the political scenario with which Services are not concerned. What about the nuke in India? Who controls the Command? Who will say: Push the button and fire the Nuke? Not the Army, nor the Navy nor the Air Force. The three Chiefs of Staffs are not even on the periphery of the decision making process. What happens if there is an Emergency? God alone knows, not the services. Let us pray: God is in His heaven and all is well with the world. Aum Shantih Shantih Shantih.
Authored by Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM