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A Soldiers Army Life -A FAREWELL LETTER

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Active member
: courtesy to PATTARS GROUP

Mon, September 6, 2010 8:23:57 AM</SPAN>
R Padmanabhan <[email protected]>
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--- On Sun, 5/9/10, nkbalan col <[email protected]> wrote:

Hi All,
Here is an article written from the heart of a soldier. I wish that each of our citizens and more so men in positions of power - whether politicians, bureaucrats , mediamughals and other opinion leaders ( hell of a phrase ! ) - get to read this. And, more importantly, act proactively for the sake of our nation.

My Army Life 1977-2006

Posted on August 29, 2010 by gopalkarunakaran
I Love the Indian Army – but I must leave Now!
I stumbled into the Indian Army in the late seventies. The School which admitted us mid-session, when we returned from Singapore, where my father had a brief teaching stint at the Singapore University, was The Army Public School, Dhaula Kuan. With teenage sons of Army officers as friends, it was natural to apply to join the National Defence Academy. A friend filled my form and even paid the application fee. I wasn’t serious at all of pursuing a career in the military – much like Hrithik Roshan in Lakshya. I saw a movie with my friends, after each of the four NDA entrance papers, and argued with my father when he questioned me on my lack of commitment to the exam.
Surprisingly, I qualified on the Service Selection Board standing 19th in the Army all India merit list. I then chose to join the National Defence Academy, as a career was assured at such an early age.
Astonishingly, within a few days of joining the NDA, at pristine Khadakwasala, I began my life long affection and admiration for the Indian Army. The NDA was awesome and I took to it as if the place was always meant for me. It was, and probably still is, a remarkable institution where everything works like clockwork, and boys transform into enthusiastic, self confident young men with fire in their belly and an idealistic vision to contribute meaningfully to the security challenges that India would face in the future.
Three years later at the Indian Military Academy in Dehra Dun, I learnt that toughness and fitness was not just about well developed physical abilities, but also as much about mental strength, and that the IMA motto of ‘Service before Self’ was not some Gandhian mumbo-jumbo, but the very edifice of life in uniform as an officer.
The many years in my Infantry battalion were even more memorable. Not a day was spent as “work”. Every day was enjoyable with a huge family of 800 men; the love, respect and camaraderie was astonishing especially in this day and age. A life of great honesty of purpose; lived simply and with great pride, respect and honour.
I had a tour of duty in Kashmir in every rank I have held. As a Lieutenant in Baramulla before the militancy, as a Captain in the Siachen Glacier at 20,000 feet, as a Major and company commander in Kupwara fighting terrorists, and as Lt Col as second-in-command of my unit in Badgam in a counter insurgency deployment on the outskirts of the Srinagar airport. Finally as a Colonel and Battalion commander, I had three different innings in the Kashmir Valley, first as part of the offensive plans during OP PARAKRAM in 2001, then fighting militants in Anantnag during the 2002 Amarnath Yatra and during the state elections, and finally on the Line of Control in high altitude in the majestic Gurez Valley.
Interspersed between these challenging times was an opportunity to serve with the United Nations in Iraq-Kuwait as a Military Observer where I saw closely officers from 34 different nations from around the globe and learnt from them about their militaries and the relationship between the State and the soldier in other countries.
I also had instructional assignments at the Indian Military Academy, Dehra Dun and at the Infantry School teaching young infantry officers. I then had an enriching year at the Army War College at Mhow during the Higher Command course in 2004-5, learning the art of higher command in the military and traveling to every corner of the country, expanding knowledge, visiting not just our various military headquarters, but also the citadels of economic power of our nation.
After the one year sabbatical at Mhow, I moved, in Apr 2005 to a dream job, to the seat of power of the Army in Delhi – the Army Headquarters with an office in South Block and an appointment in the personnel Branch of the Army dealing with postings and promotions of officers of our Army.
After three years at Delhi, a Brigadiers rank was round the corner in mid 2008. The sixth Pay commission too was promising salaries to meet with the aspirations of soldiers and government officials who had been made to feel like poor cousins to their corporate friends in the galloping India of the 21st century.
Inspite of such a bright future, I felt I must I leave the Indian Army.
The three years in the nation’s capital left me with a strange emptiness which refused to go away. All the years, I felt that the many years I spent away from my immediate family, in remote corners of India, were for a cause which was noble and worthwhile. I always felt huge pride for my soldiers and brother officers. I felt there is a grateful nation behind all of us stationed so far away, battling the vagaries of weather and the uncertainty of life.
I remember in SIACHEN, in 1988, just before we started our deployment on the main Glacier, the shy 17 year old soldier, no more than a kid, who met me, then the Adjutant, and requested me to be posted to the transport platoon after this tenure, as he was very fond of motor vehicles. Four days later, he was violently taken ill at KUMAR our Headquarters at 16000 feet. We tended to him the whole night, as the helicopter could come to rescue him away only in the morning. Sadly, the High Altitude Pulmonary Odema which afflicted him was faster. He was dead before the copter arrived at the crack of dawn. It was a sad loss so soon after our induction on to the Glacier, but we took it on our chin as the accepted dangers of a soldier’s life. We shed not a tear, and proceeded to do our duty for the next six months, battling the odds and the enemy, in incredibly difficult conditions.
I recall when a soldier, who had slipped and fallen towards the enemy side was rescued at Bana top, at 20,000 feet by a brave and courageous officer who went across single handedly at grave risk to his life, to get him back. The soldier spent four hours exposed to temperatures of below minus 40 degrees C, (later both his arms were amputated). When I met him in the hospital a month later he said he knew that his company commander would come to rescue him. It taught me a lesson in trust, faith, camaraderie and leadership which I shall never forget for the rest of my life.
I also recall the young soldier who bravely jumped into a building, unrelentingly chasing three dreaded terrorists who had hidden there. We were on the outskirts of Srinagar airfield and fighting a fierce gun battle through the cold winter night in Dec 2000. He killed two of them but in the process was hit by a bullet through the head. He died in my arms. What was even more poignant was the gesture by his father when we honoured him on our battalions Raising day, the following year. In an age where money means everything, the old man broken by his young son’s loss, refused the money we as a unit of 800 had collected as a gesture of our sympathy and concern. He said he had no need for the money and the unit could put it to better use by honouring his brave son in any appropriate way.
What I observed over these three years at Delhi, unfortunately have been a sad revelation of the nature of the relationship between the Indian soldier, the State and the people of India. Like RK Laxmans common man, I have observed silently the ignorance and apathy of the establishment towards all issues military.
As our expectations from our cricket team, we expect the very best from our military in critical moments of our history, like the 71 War or the Kargil conflict.
If we were to build our home, we shall obviously get the best builders and architects we can afford, if our mother was taken ill, we would look for the very best hospital and doctor that we can afford. The critical question is; do we do enough as a nation to ensure that we have the best military India can afford?
Are we as a nation doing enough to ensure that we have the best men and systems in place to guard our sovereignty and security interests? Do we do enough to recruit and retain the brightest men and do we have the structures in place to meet the security challenges within and across our borders in the coming years?
For a start, the inability to put in place an integrated Chief of Defence Staff is the foremost of our weaknesses and is symptomatic of the apathy and ignorance of military matters in modern India. It is often dismissed as a peripheral issue, one that can wait till the services themselves resolve it. The hard truth is that without true integration of the Army, the Air Force and the Navy, a modern military will be grossly inept and incapable of prosecuting a modern day war. To use the cricketing analogy a bit further, the Kargil war was T 20 cricket and can hide a few fatal flaws, but a full scale war will be like a Test match, only synergy; balance, close integration and team spirit will ensure success.
You cannot blame the Defence Secretary or the civilian staff in the Ministry of Defence for the lack of awareness of these issues – very often the Defence Secretary would not have a days experience in the ministry till he joins as the head of the Ministry of Defence. He may have arrived from the commerce, railways or whichever ministry, the senior most bureaucrat is available at that time. The Defence Minister too often has no experience on defence matters till he becomes the Defence Minister. It is like appointing a CEO in a telecom company who had spent all his life in the cement industry!
We cannot quite expect them to understand the vital need for integration of the Services. As a comparison to our system, the United States has a long tradition of appointing secretaries of Defence and Presidents who have spent years soldiering or they choose from retired Generals with vision and an impeccable record of service for these assignments. In fact, even in India it would be inconceivable for the Foreign Secretary to be appointed from amongst the bureaucrats in say the coal ministry, so this assumption that the defence ministry can be managed by amateurs is an insult and an affront to the security needs of India.
To cite another example, we have no clearly enunciated and documented national counter-terrorism policy. In a nation where the threat of terrorism looms larger with every passing day, it is a matter of shame that we haven’t formulated one yet. With the best minds in the Army, with years of experience in counter terrorism retiring every year, it is a pity we have failed to capitalize on their experience and set out a clearly laid out document. The alarming growth of the Maoists in the Red Corridor, will test the ability of the Indian state to respond to this challenge in the coming years. Policing being a State subject and internal threats being the concerns of the Home Ministry, there is an urgent need to look at counter terrorism holistically outside the confines of individual perceptions of States and various ministries. We must radically alter the narrow confines of each ministry when we define the policy for internal threats. There is apparently a visible lack of statesmanship and professionalism on any macro issue concerning national security.

An oblique pointer to India’s concerns on national security and how embedded the military leader is in the psyche of the educated Indian is the representation at various Leadership summits and Conclaves. The ‘who is who’ of India and other countries are invariable present. There will be national political figures, corporate leaders, media barons, and of course movie moughals. So while we have the likes of Aiswarya Rai and Sharukh Khan telling us their take on leadership – the practicing military leader, whether a senior General or the young Major who is an Ashok Chakra winner – shining examples of leadership in its many hues – are conspicuous by their absence.
From our fiercely independent and vibrant media, one would have expected greater maturity in their coverage of security affairs. It is revealing that a study in the USA suggests that the gradual erosion of coverage of international issues by their media networks was possibly a reason for their flawed international security interventions as the American public was not capable or knowledgeable enough to question their leadership. The Indian media must ask itself – do they exhibit enough concern on the larger dimensions of national security and do they have enough knowledge of military affairs to fulfill their role as the watchdogs of the nation? Will the increasing trivialization and localization of news affect our security?
There are many such concerns that we must address as a military, as a society and as a nation. There are individual and collective responsibilities that we must fulfill. Will India and Indians meet the challenge of the future? Time, and the collective will of the nation, will tell.



Dear Anantha,

I am in tears reading the farewell letter. It is an open secret that the political parties all know that a unified defence and an integrated CODS will be a constant threat to the corrupt political set-up. See even Sam Maneckshaw was awarded with Field Marshall just a fortnight before his retirement!

But what has been fated will definitely happen. It may be too late now for India to make any significant change of the fate that awaits it.
Service in military or other wings of defence services must be made compulsory for each Indian male for at least 2 years in one's lifetime - preferably between 20 and 25 years, but definitely before one's marriage.
why should it be only males, pann? let us not be sexist here.

let us have 2 years' compulsory service for EACH AND ALL, no exceptions to the rich, politician familiy, film star family, the beggars and the urchins, the peasant migrants, NRI children.

there are few countries which have the draft, as this compulsory military service is called. in singapore it is called national service (NS), very unfair, for it gives the girls, two years' lead on life over the boys.

the punishment in singapore for avoiding the military service is deprival of the passport. you can never enter singapore again.

in the land of corruption that india is, how can we ensure the rich and the rogues pay their due service? the common man, i figure will comply.
Let us first begin with males.

Avoidance of military service on flimsy and invalid grounds must result in one losing one's right to -

1. Apply for a Ration Card

2. Apply for a PAN Card

3. Apply for a Voter's Id Card (which includes contesting in elections)

4. Apply for a Passport and

5. Entering Government or Public Sector service.
It is realy hurts that few are thinking in this line of asking people to join in Defense service. As a ex Indian navy sailor i feel who ever joins
armed forces will forget everything and be a good citizen of india . Will respect others .
Motivation is made through two ways - incentive for doing something and punishment for not doing it. This is called 'carrot and stick' policy in psychology. In a country like India, this policy works in many situations effectively.

My intention is not to compel someone to join the armed forces out of fear or because of goading by someone else. Those who have high degree of motivation to defend the country's boundaries at all costs, even in adverse weather or high altitudes, will require no advice from others.

But, there must be a beginning made in this direction and others will learn to follow without any resistance and protest. There will be automatic compliance, in due course. It will soon become a part of Indian culture.
the situation of our army in j&k is an awkward unwinnable one.

it is fairly straightforward rules wise to fight for the mother land against an external enemy.

but what if the enemy is your nationals. folks who are supposed to defend the land with you?

the government cannot wage wholesale war and bombing against the citizens of kashmir, if it ever wants to retain that state within the indian union.

similar situation existed in punjab. perhaps even worse. but there even with pakistani & sikh diaspora help, it was put down, because basically the average sikh, whatever hard feelings he had over the delhi massacre, did not care to leave india.

even today, the average sikh believes that the delhi instigators were not punished - tytler, pilot who should be in jail, but hold high positions in the congress party or government.

at this point, difficult to judge how kashmir would go. is it justifiable for the government to 'bribe' this state with money, industries, infrastructure etc only to see all of it becoming pakistani hands in a few years.

or is it ok to have a benign neglect? with the current interference. also it is wise to remember, the main sufferers are kashmiri folks. the conflict essentially has not spilled over its borders.

tough situation for the army. i don't envy those commanders. damned if they do. damned if they don't.
Sri.Kunjuppu said -

at this point, difficult to judge how kashmir would go. is it justifiable for the government to 'bribe' this state with money, industries, [COLOR=#DA7911 ! important][COLOR=#DA7911 ! important]infrastructure[/COLOR][/COLOR]
etc only to see all of it becoming pakistani hands in a few years.

Personally, I think India is wasting resources in Kashmir. India should have let part of Kashmir go, long ago. It is not worth the trouble. When an Indian can't buy real estate in Kashmir and call it part of India is oxymoron. Only In India I see concepts like this (Goa is one more example). By pumping extra resources in the bottomless pit called Kashmir, Govt.Of India deprives the needs of rest of the Indians. Strating from Nehru, India hardly had a visionary at the wheel (Excepting Sastri who didn't last long).


i really feel for the indian soldier in kashmir. he is forced to fight with one hand bound. fighting in residentail areas against an unseen enemy is the worst scenario for a soldier.

victory against such guerilla tactics are hard won and with overwhelming casualities. a political solution should be found soon, for our soldiers' sake, if not for anyone else.

however, any concession in kashmir, would start, i think a snow ball effect - north east, punjab (again) and potential for tamil nadu. all in all, a mess.
for one or two percent people of jk, GOI is spending 10 percent of her GDP..... how to justify.
what ever you do there they will not call jai hindustan(at least jai india). our media also in smoke curtain not showing what exactly happening there. now we are going to restrict defence power or reduce it to a considerable level .
in jk they openly disrespect our national flag and even buring openly on independence day and hoisting pak flag ,non of our media is exposing it. and even no action is being taken on that.
while in other part of india if any one by mistake done something , there will be a big media coverage and govt action on that person.

what a pity condition is ours as an indian.

i really feel for the indian soldier in kashmir. he is forced to fight with one hand bound. fighting in residentail areas against an unseen enemy is the worst scenario for a soldier.

victory against such guerilla tactics are hard won and with overwhelming casualities. a political solution should be found soon, for our soldiers' sake, if not for anyone else.

however, any concession in kashmir, would start, i think a snow ball effect - north east, punjab (again) and potential for tamil nadu. all in all, a mess.
Dear Kunjuppu,

Kashmir was the monumental blunder of Nehru which he bequethed to the nation. It will be very difficult for India to find any "peaceful" solution to the Kashmir problem. As the Malayali says, "itu ennEm koNTE pOkU" (this will go only with me)! (Meaning:This will end only on my death.)
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