Bungling and NOT Bad Luck

Bungling and NOT Bad Luck

The entire Nation mourns the martyrdom of seven valiant soldiers who died fighting with utmost courage and fortitude. They ended up paying with their lives, NOT BECAUSE OF “THEIR BAD LUCK,” but for lapses and self-serving egotism right up the hierarchy. The HM-NSA duo, driven by hubris and turf considerations, (mis)applied distantly-located NSG, rather than utilizing battle-hardened troops right next door, which as per extant SOPs are always earmarked and undertake frequent rehearsals.

 Will those responsible for this national embarrassment be held accountable? Oh No!  In the prevailing culture of scant public morality that is too much to ask. It’s true, heads did roll in the aftermath of 26/11, but they did not leave on their own volition; they were forced out kicking and screaming. Will that happen this time? Not likely.

Were it not for the tragic loss of valuable lives, one could have dubbed the overall response at the top echelons, bumbling and comical. The irony of Rajnath Singh and even the FM, Jaitley waxing eloquent on the airbase attack, with Parrikkar and Sushma Swaraj almost silent, despite the military and diplomatic implications being their domain, is not lost to observers at home and abroad. There are several troubling questions and signs, which have been extensively highlighted. The nefarious politician-smuggler-police nexus in Punjab has rendered the border porous. ISI is exploiting the growing disaffection among veterans and serving soldiers on a host of issues such as pay, pensions, working conditions, and the plight of Veer Naris and disabled soldiers. Soldiers are being increasingly deployed for sundry tasks (now reportedly for cleaning up the Ganges) for which the Civil Administration is well-equipped. This is at the expense of their training and well-earned respite after field area deployments.

Everyone knows where the problems lie, and what the solutions are. There is no dearth of expert committee reports. For instance, the Subrahmanyam and the Naresh Chandra committees among others had made very sound recommendations on the National Security apparatus, and the entire gamut of issues relating to multiagency coordination of intelligence and operations. But again the bureaucracy succeeded in stalling them, and let their parochial interests triumph over National Security. What’s the point of wasting so much time, effort and expense on such committees if they are ultimately to be consigned to cold storage.

It is time for the Nation to say, “Enough is enough.” Let this terror strike be a wake-up call. It is high time the PM shows firmness and resolve to bring some tangible coherence in policies and actions at the top. He has expended a lot of political capital on his overture to Nawaz Sharif, which this terror attack has eroded substantially. He can retrieve it somewhat by being visibly decisive and strong in putting the house in order, and not appear to be dithering as his predecessor.

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Pathankot Attack – Some Troubling Questions

Pathankot Attack – Some Troubling Questions

Even as I write this, the operation to neutralize Pakistani terrorists and to sanitize Pathankot Airbase is still on, although ironically the Home Minister had announced its “success” over 12 hours back. His singing the all-too-familiar paeans to the “brave jawans” and promising a “muh tor jawab,” were not-so-subtle, self-laudatory signals to the Nation that a catastrophe had been averted under his watch, since both the PM and RM were away. In distant Bengaluru, the PM too briefly acknowledged their valour and then resumed extolling the virtues of Yoga.  However, the RM was silent, perhaps self-effacingly, despite most forces involved being his responsibility.

Do I sound cynical and angry? You bet; I am. To any soldier, serving or retired loss of lives cuts too close. It is personal. Why? Because all of us have seen at very close quarters what it really means for the grieving family and to the unit. Perfunctory lip-service by Netas on such occasions actually infuriates, rather than provide solace. Because, by now we all know how little the soldiers’ sacrifices and hardships mean to the Netas and Babus alike. Haven’t we all seen how the DESW actually torments the NOK and ESM, rather than work for their welfare? Is there a more glaring spectacle for the Nation’s conscience to behold, than the Govt ignoring the ESM’s protest at Jantar Mantar for the past 200 days? (Continued…..  For the complete post, click the link below to my Blog).   

Except for raising some glaring inconsistencies, I will not cover any operational aspects for obvious reasons. Those would certainly be examined and analyzed in depth by the units and formations concerned once the dust settles down. Nonetheless, the following points will seem odd even to any casual observer:

  •    If indeed there was an intelligence alert, how did heavily armed terrorists sneak in through the same route of ingress as in the recent Dina Nagar attack?
  •         How did they manage to sneak in, when this sector is supposed to be closely monitored, given that it is a known route of drug smugglers?
  •         To what extent the politician-police-drug smuggler nexus leave this sector vulnerable to their ingress?
  •        How was the SSP travelling in an expensive SUV reportedly with a jeweller, without his usual escort paraphernalia, in a remote area in the dead of night?
  •        The terrorists reportedly homed on to the drain, which was a known vulnerable point, to enter the Airbase. Why was it not under greater surveillance, given that there was already an intelligence alert?

I want to focus more upon the apparent ad-hocism in the Govt’s policy towards Pakistan and the terrorism that emanates from it. This on-now and off-now policy is quite perplexing, especially to the soldiers at the fore-front of this fight. Politicians on both sides of the political divide are squarely to blame. Their rhetoric, whether as the Ruling party or Opposition, is utterly irresponsible.

So, if Sushma Swaraj whilst in Opposition taunts that Jawans should bring 10 heads for every soldier decapitated, as the EAM she has to sing a different tune when the PM decides to launch his charm offensive.  Likewise, Sharm-el-Sheik was an inexcusable blunder by Manmohan Singh, but PM Modi’s sudden detour to Lahore and that too within just weeks of thundering that “terrorism and talks can’t go together” is supposed to be an “innovative out-of-the-box” diplomatic coup.

Politicians’ pre-election rhetoric is even more irresponsible. Whether it were the Lok Sabha polls or the recent elections in Bihar, there were outrageous statements by Netas, which were very polarizing and inflammatory and caused immense harm to our social fabric. The biggest problem with rhetoric is that while it is easy to scale up, it is very difficult to tone it down, and it invariably leaves permanent scars.

Most strategic experts and even the general populace agree that problems between India and Pakistan cannot be resolved through war and ultimately those have to be resolved through talks. It is also well appreciated that elements in Pakistan would go all out to sabotage any reconciliation, and that contingency has to be factored into the talks process. But, any astute strategist would also assert that talks should not be from a position of weakness. Furthermore, any terrorist strike should not bring the talks process back to Square One, and that there should be a Plan B. But, does the NDA Govt have a Plan B? Its track record of flip-flops and alternately blowing hot and cold does not indicate so.  

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Let us Restore Civility to Our Public Discourse

Let us Restore Civility to Our Public Discourse

Why has our Public Discourse become so intemperate, offensive, and abusive? TV debates have been reduced to slanging bouts, wherein even s0-called mature adults try to outshout others and unabashedly hurl insults at them. Shockingly, even women are no exception and many of them frequently resort to heckling to drown out opponents’ voices. Hardly anyone can endure, for instance, the daily tamasha that Arnab Goswami presides over. His verbosity, pretentious rants, and self-laudatory boasts can leave any sane person infuriated. I often wonder, what is Vineet Jain’s compulsion to retain him, despite his antics. Regrettably, even other channels are catching the same bug, and rational, level-headed discussions are becoming a rarity.

Social media interactions fare even worse. One cannot but cringe at the extent of abuse and insults hurled at each other, when people run out of logical counter-arguments. Either one must have a foolish sense of bravado or the hide of a rhino to venture into the filthy quagmire of the current public discourse. No wonder most people desist from joining any discussion, whether on social media or even in personal interactions – such is the prevailing level of intolerance.

Unarguably, politicians and their recklessly polarizing electoral politics lie at the root of this malaise. While the steady decline has been evident for several years, the 2-3 years preceding the landmark 2014 Lok Sabha poll virtually marked its nadir. The troll brigades, initially deployed by the ultra-right and later countered by other parties, vitiated the atmosphere irreparably. While their condemnation of various acts of omission and commission by UPA 2 was politically legitimate, the spate of communally-surcharged articles, posts, and commentaries were irresponsible and reprehensible.

The gullible public was sought to be enlightened about the ‘Grand Design’ of Islam to tilt the demographic balance in India and elsewhere by citing dubious, purportedly academic studies. Likewise, a plethora of posts sought to educate us about the Muslim ancestry of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty; even going to the extent of asserting that Sanjay Gandhi was not fathered by Feroze Gandhi. Not to be outdone, the rival troll brigade played up the Gujarat riots, and the consequent visa denial by USA and other western nations to embarrass the BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate, Modi.

Even some top politicians on both sides of the political divide, who should have been more circumspect and statesmen-like, set highly reproachable examples. Thus, while Sonia Gandhi was repeatedly called derogatory names such as ‘Italian waitress’, Modi was called ‘maut ka saudager’. It is unlikely that such rhetoric actually influenced people to change their voting preferences. What those deplorable statements did instead was to polarize people, and drag public discourse to the very depths of indecent, hurtful, and damaging acrimony.

Our penchant for pronouncing instant subjective judgments on any topic, without due deliberation, also inhibits sensible and balanced discussion. We tend to paint everything in either black or white, whereas in the real world there are only varying shades of grey. For instance, depending upon one’s political persuasion Modi is sought to be projected either as the long-awaited messiah, or the devil incarnate. The truth obviously lies in between. It is fashionable these days to blame Nehru for everything that afflicts India. True, he did make mistakes as regards J&K and China, but he also laid the foundation of truly democratic institutions, and a strong industrial base in sectors where private sector was unwilling or unable to invest. Several Pakistani academics and professionals have publicly lamented that Jinnah did not survive long enough and they did not have the type of leadership that Nehru provided in the early years after Independence.

Likewise, while Indira Gandhi is rightly blameworthy for the Emergency and Op Blue Star, she did provide astute and strong leadership leading to the creation of Bangladesh. No less a person than Vajpayee paid her tributes in Parliament by likening her to Goddess Durga. So why can’t we discuss each issue objectively and dispassionately, rather than viewing them through tinted glasses and rush to judgment?

Honest and balanced debates are the very essence of a democratic polity and a truly free society. That ideal stands marred today by the prevailing shrill, acrimonious, polarizing, and abusive discourse. Most people are reluctant to voice their opinions candidly for fear of being trolled and abused on social media. We need to wrest that space back and restore its dignity.

This blog is a small step in that direction. I therefore encourage you to freely contribute to discussions on this forum, and to even initiate discussions on any topic of national, societal or military interest that you deem fit. You can rest assured that all honest opinions will be welcome and published. At the same time as the Moderator I will ensure that contributors are not exposed to offensive tirades and polemical content is filtered out.

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Happy New Year

I wish all my readers, friends, and family A VERY HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR. May you all enjoy the best of health, happiness, love, success, and fulfillment with your loved ones all through 2018.

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Operation Jantar Mantar

The Paperback version of my book, ‘Operation Jantar Mantar’, is now also available along with its eBook version at Amazon.in. (Double-click the link below). 

Amazon.in/Jantar Mantar

Synopsis

Approved Final CoverA small group of retired military officers from the Indian Armed Forces come together to contribute to the ongoing struggle of Veterans for honour and justice. It is virtually a rollercoaster ride for them as they respond to a series of sudden and unexpected developments. By re-strategizing and nimbly executing course-corrections, they bounce back after each challenging situation right up to a dramatic climax.

The book is entirely a work of fiction, and should not be extrapolated therefore to the events, or to actual persons connected with the agitation of veterans at Jantar Mantar.

The author served in the Indian Army for 31 years, and took voluntary retirement in 1997 in the rBack Coverank of Brigadier General. He completed his PhD in Strategy and International Management in 2001 from the University of Texas at Dallas. Since then he has taught at the University of Texas at Dallas, Oakland University in Michigan, and Old Dominion University in Norfolk.

9781481771696_COVER.indd

 

My memoir, ‘He Opens another Door’ was published in 2013.

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Current Geopolitical Environment

world_pol495

The 21st Century geopolitical landscape is characterized by the Complex Interdependence framework, wherein geopolitical, economic, and national security dimensions are more intertwined than ever before in history.

The inordinate increase in terrorist strikes worldwide, and the establishment of anIslamic Caliphate that is envisaged to transcend national boundaries, threaten the extant world order. Likewise, the increasing socio-economic divide and unrest within countries, along with religious polarization in countries that have sizeable Muslim populations, also have international ramifications in today’s interconnected world. Hence, the canvas of topics discussed on this blog will be wide, notwithstanding its India-centric focus. This blog seeks to promote candid and meaningful exchange of views, but without getting unduly polemical or offensive, which unfortunately characterizes most public discourse these days.

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Election-year Madness and the Soldier

Election-year Madness and the Soldier

 Willy-nilly I have got sucked into the current election-year madness, where reasoned debate has given way to insults, innuendos, and dogmatic drivel. Even though writing this blog is a major distraction from work on my forthcoming book, “India at Sixty Seven – At Sixes and Sevens,” nonetheless, this also provides me an opportunity to gather differing viewpoints, which would be invaluable for my book.

Let me start with the customary DISCLAIMER. I have NO political affiliations; have NEVER voted during my 31-year service in the Indian Army (postal ballots never reached me), and still CANNOT vote since now I live in USA. Hence, I have absolutely NO BIAS either for or against any political outfit. Through a series of short articles on this site, I will attempt to analyze the dilemmas facing the electorate, and heartily welcome your candid views.

I start with the sense of bewilderment ESM and serving soldiers are feeling in the current Election-year madness. We, the ESM, have been angry due to denial of OROP and the steady diminution in our status. Coupled with mishandling of sensitive issues (ex-COAS and CNS), numerous scams (Adarsh, Augusta, Tatra etc), and criminal delays in modernization, UPA 2 quite justifiably is the target of our ire. However, cunning MOD bureaucrats are the real culprits, whose wily schemes against the military have succeeded all along due to the indifference of the entire political class – UPA, NDA et al. So, while anti-UPA sentiment is the ‘flavor of the day’, we must carefully evaluate if the alternatives are any better for us – the soldiers.

Having served in the Army for 31 years, this issue is obviously closest to my heart. My dissertation during the Long Defense Management Course was “The Impact of the Internal Security Environment on our Armed Forces.”  Based on a broad overview of the prevailing internal environment at that time, I had formulated a conceptual model that comprehensively encapsulated all constituents of internal security and then analyzed how those affected soldiers. The dissertation was written in 1990-91, and the traumatic events of Babri Masjid, Bombay bomb blasts, and the communal riots they caused had NOT occurred until then. It is no consolation to me that much of my analysis was sadly proved prophetic by those events. For no fault of mine, the College of Defense Management awarded me the “Best Dissertation Award.”

Best Dissertation Award - May 1991But more pertinent to the point at issue is the fact that our Armed Forces are a microcosm of the entire country, and reflect India’s wonderful diversity. We have a glorious tradition of GENUINE secularism within the Forces, regardless of whatever is happening elsewhere in the

country.  Inside our bunkers, tanks, and gun pits, we are all comrades-in-arms, who automatically depend upon each other in the thick of battle, without even a second thought about the other person’s religion or caste. Such is the military ethos! While sailors and airmen have always been better educated, now even the Army Jawans have good educational background. Besides, internet and media connectivity makes them much more aware, and they cannot remain insulated from the wily caste and communal politics of the politicians.  I cannot help recall with sadness the insightful words of Nani Palkhivala in a film I had scripted and anchored for the Army in 1991-92, titled “Pause to Ponder – Ethics, Values, and the Soldier” for which I had interviewed JRD Tata and Palkhivala among others. He had said, “It is not a question of ‘If’; it is a question of only ‘When’ the Armed Forces would be affected by the prevailing malaise; they can’t remain insulated.” We cannot absolve ourselves by saying that we caught this bug from the political class – we have to remain alert ourselves.

Religion, which is a tremendous source of solace and comfort, can also be inflammatory when used as a political weapon. In a democracy, it is our right to canvass support for any party or candidate. I have no problem if someone extols a party’s development record or another’s list of scams etc. But I feel anguished and indeed alarmed if Hindutva supporters BRAZENLY keep posting EVERY DAY NUMEROUS POSTS vilifying Muslims or other minorities. Their claim, that they are merely “forwarding” posts of others, is patently dishonest. These are NOT just INNOCUOUS FORWARDS!!! Those are part of dangerous propaganda.

India has about 180 million Muslims, more than Pakistan, Bangladesh or any Muslim country other than Indonesia. If tiny Muslim-majority countries can breed hundreds of terrorists the world over, it is a tribute to India’s secularism and plurality, and to the vast majority of liberal-minded and humane Hindus who have not allowed themselves to be inflamed by Hindutva rhetoric, or else India would have become the largest breeding ground of Islamic terrorism. Unfortunately, some of my friends, even ex-servicemen, label this tolerance of Hindus as “APOLOGISTS” or “PACIFISTS” and even “TYPICAL HINDU COWARDICE,” to mask their own chauvinistic stance. This is truly a dangerous ideology – especially for the Armed Forces. Let me elaborate how this is not just an imaginary fear.

We all are painfully aware of the tragic events in the aftermath of Op Bluestar and Indira Gandhi assassination. Even though no right-minded Sikh ever justified the killing of Hindus by Khalistani extremists, nor did any Hindu condone the massacre of Sikhs during Nov 1984, it did leave unspoken scars on India’s psyche. It is a tribute to the sagacity of Army leadership at that time that resisted attempts to abolish one-class regiments. I had the proud privilege to take over a pure Sikh Regiment in Faridkot in 1987, which those days was badly affected by extremism. It was NOT my parent regiment, and I was posted to it because I had trained on the Bofors weapon system in Sweden and this regiment was earmarked to receive these guns and move to Sikkim due to the Sumdorong Chu flap with the Chinese. I can emphatically state that this regiment performed exceptionally well in that high-altitude sector and earned high laurels. Yet, due to the post-1984 environment, subtle hints were dropped that when Army Commander Lt Gen KS Brar’s chopper lands at the helipad within my regiment location, the perimeter guard could be from another unit. Obviously, I went ballistic and the idea was dropped immediately. On the due day, the Army Cdr went round my regiment and was profuse in his praise, but I and my officers felt very hurt by the higher HQ’s ‘suggestion’. The point I am making is that it is the solemn responsibility of all soldiers, not just those currently in service, but also of all of us – the ESM, TO NOT SAY OR WRITE ANYTHING THAT MILITATES AGAINST THE MILITARY’S SECULAR ETHOS, regardless of our political persuasions.

RELIGION, THOUGH VERY PERSONAL, IS ALSO A TOUCHY ISSUE. LET US KEEP IT IN OUR HEARTS AND IN OUR HEARTHS, OR ELSE THE ELECTION SEASON MADNESS MIGHT AFFECT THE SOLDIER.

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Hello Friends

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The website, in its most elementary form, is now functional. However, it is still ‘work in progress’ as I try to incorporate more tools and features. Advice and suggestions from all my tech-savvy friends is most welcome.

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