NEED OF THE HOUR IS MILITARY RULE
OF INDIAN AGGRESSIVE
WITH AN APOLOGY TO ASHOKA
By Wing Commander VM Mayadev
This year has ushered in a study in contrasts, on one side we are celebrating the golden jubilee of the Indo Pak war that saw us redeem national pride that lay in tatters after the Chinese debacle and on the other side veterans who made that victory possible are on hunger strike as promises made on their long standing demand are being indefinitely delayed. I therefore ,feel compelled to share my thoughts on the subject.
The 1965 Indo Pak conflict was a milestone in my life. I went into battle as a young fighter pilot, a little green behind the ears, was lucky to survive by the skin of my teeth, ejected over enemy territory and was a POW for over four months. Fortunately this experience toughened me and I returned with greater maturity and understanding of human nature that stood me in good stead over the years. When I have to make a difficult decision in face of danger I have an inner voice that says “hey you could have been history in September 1965 if you survived that this is nothing.” That makes facing most adverse circumstances with the courage of my convictions a breeze.
I remember euphoria in the Country after returning from the POW camp. There was a charged atmosphere all around and the National pride so badly dented after the 1962 debacle was restored in no small measure. Then came 1971 when unprecedented military achievements were attained. I was part of the IAF that established absolute air superiority over battle zone and made the enemy surrender with over 90,000 able bodied soldiers to our Army. This clear military victory could have been leveraged to our advantage to resolve political issues but wasn’t.
So failure of inept political leadership on this score was interpreted to mean that perhaps armed conflicts fail to solve problems and are futile. This was readily lapped up due to our psyche with non violence ingrained in our culture. This led to the degrading of our armed forces over the last few decades of peace and appears to have reached a nadir. This could eventually threaten our independence and security and is a matter of concern. Let us not forget that in the past one thousand years we have been invaded, looted and enslaved for over seven hundred years.
I attempted to analyze phenomena that prevented a vast population of able bodied and intelligent humans from preserving their independence, self pride and prosperity that goes with it and to caution against a repeat in times to come.
We worship mythical Gods and Goddesses who destroyed demons to ensure safety of their followers. Our epics Ramayana and Mahabharata appreciated use of force when applied to keep evil at bay. Therefore non violence appears to have been acquired later.
In fourth century BC Alexander the great came from Europe to India conquering all that lay en route. His advance was stopped by Porus who lost the battle but inflicted enough casualties on Alexander’s army to make it abandon its advance and return home. Alexander returned after leaving a Macedonian Seleucid Empire and Seleucus Nicator to guard it. Chandragupt Maurya defeated Seleucus Nicator and not only regained lost territories but also annexed ones extending to Afghanistan and Baluchistan from him.
Here was an example of application of counter violence against an invader to regain territory, pride and independence. Unfortunately this was not to continue.
Chandragupta’s grandson, Ashoka the Great assumed leadership of the empire and took it to even greater heights by conquering Kalinga that had remained undefeated till then. Both the armies were well trained and determined so the battle was a bloody one. As a result of the death and destruction witnessed in this war Emperor Ashoka had a change of heart and perhaps for the first time in our glorious history the non violence bug bit a great ruler who was carried away to the extent of making it a state policy. The inevitable happened soon enough and The Empire established and nurtured by his grandfather, father and taken to great heights by him got wiped off because he turned his sons to preachers instead of rulers. With due apologies to the Emperor, I tend to believe that seeds of our downfall to slavery were sown there.
While singing praises of Emperor Ashoka for embracing non violence we ignore the bitter truth that pursuit of non violence led to the loss of his empire. For inexplicable reasons our history and education system glorified Ashoka’s non violence and ignored or even worse, hid the fact that his empire collapsed in no time due to it. Our system also glorifies the non violent struggle for freedom without rationally explaining how under such anti violence leaders we had the most violent partition in 1947and created permanent enmity in our neighborhood, I mention this to highlight that pursuit of non violence does not ensure peaceful coexistence now as it did not in times of Ashoka the Great.
An example in recent history highlights how non violence in the garb of magnanimity put paid on our independence. Prithviraj Chauhan defeated invader Muhamed Ghauri in the first Battle of Torain in 1191. Ghauri was captured but was let off after he begged for mercy. Before long the same Ghauri regrouped and returned to avenge. He resorted to deceit by attacking before sunrise and defeated Prithviraj, who was taken to Gazni, blinded with hot iron rods and executed. Ghauri also decimated Rajput defenses and for the first time invaders settled down to enslave us through Sultanate of Delhi.
Could it be that the seed sown by Emperor Ashoka the Great finally sprouted and started our enslavement lasting for centuries.
I can visualize the sheepish expression on Prithviraj’s face when Sanyogita (his queen) met him up there and said “Suno jee agar aap ne Ghauri ko paheli bar khatam kar diya hota to na aapki itni beijjati hoti na muzhe johar karna padta”.
Ghauri’s Sultanate was taken over by the Moghuls who stayed on and ruled us till they merged and imbibed our culture of tolerance, and predictably lost the fighting spirit that enabled them to conquer and rule us in the first place and eventually became irrelevant as rulers when seaborne explorers landed on our shores as traders. Perhaps they found the lack of pride in self defense and self rule so rampant that they almost effortlessly enslaved and ruled us for another two centuries, an alternative far better and profitable than trading.
First reactions to armed conflict on attaining Sovereign Nation Statehood unmistakably displayed the non violence streak that runs in our blood.
State of Kashmir was attacked and would have been usurped by force but for its accession to The Indian Union. After accession our forces rushed in and saved the situation. However, our political leadership saw the conflict to throw invaders out of Kashmir as a “brother killing brother” situation and ordered cessation of hostilities. We did not use force against the one who resorted to force against us to begin with. Needless to say our forces were well placed to move all the way to Pakistani border to ensure that a thorny issue would have been nipped in the bud and no one would have been any wiser.
Misplaced confidence in others to sort out our problems and guard our interest has kept the Kashmir issue festering for decades and put unbearable burden in terms of life and resources on us in formative stages of nation building while peaceful coexistence has been as elusive as ever.
Thank heavens this was not repeated in Hyderabad and the Army was given a free hand to eliminate the Razakar Movement and absorb the Nizam state into the Indian Union. What a strategic nightmare it would have been to our security if we had three hostile patches literarily to the right, left and centre of us. Here timely application of force ensured lasting peace.
The itch was far from cured and we were swayed by non violence in the garb of Pach Sheel and Sino Indian brotherhood that ended disastrously as the Himalayan Blunder.
I was fortunate to have had a firsthand experience of the circumstances leading to the blunder and an awakening that ensued. I joined NDA in January 1958 and went through rigorous training to take on the onerous task ahead. While the likes of VK Krishna Menon (with blessings from the highest level)were busy turning ordinance factories to produce coffee makers and soft generals like Kaul to military leaders, fully convinced, that there were to be no wars and leadership of a non aligned and of course non violent world was for India to ask and bask in.
I distinctly remember an occasion during my NDA days when VK Krishna Menon was on podium to give a lecture with the iconic General Thimayya and Maj Gen Habibulla on stage. These were then the Defense Minister, COAS and Commandant NDA respectively. On commencement of lectures, lights used to be turned off and most of us used to doze off after a hard day of “ragda” unless of course the lecturer was interesting enough; no such luck with VKKM who droned on and on so much that even General Thimayya dozed off on stage. With a visibly embarrassed Maj Gen Habibulla sheepishly trying to wake him up. Krishna Menon finally finished his long discourse which made little sense to us who found the situation on the illuminated stage more amusing than his talk.
General Thimayya (perhaps recharged after the snooze) then took the mike and we were wide awake and all ears. I still remember his words, pointing to the Defense Minister he thundered, “This man says there will be no war, good luck to him, but if there is any, remember we’ve got to win it.” The inevitable happened soon enough; General Thimayya was eased out making way for compliant generals and rest is history. War that was ruled out by our political leadership in spite of warnings from military experts did come and was far from won.
Between that speech and Chinese debacle I moved through NDA, Air Force Flying College and the Fighter Training Wing and was commissioned in May ‘62. It is to the credit of that part of our professional military leadership, likes of General Thimayya who could snooze while discourses on non violence were order of the day, that in spite of an inept and hostile political leadership kept the forces in reasonable shape and high morale. When trouble broke out on the Chinese front our training was expedited and I was sent to a Toofani squadron at Kalaikonda. I reached just when the adversary unilaterally declared ceasefire and withdrew. Incidentally most of us didn’t thank our stars for ceasefire but were sorry we missed the action. That is what I mean by high morale.
I did not have firsthand knowledge of combat on the ground and the Air Force was not used for some inexplicable reasons. But it was quite clear that those who took on the enemy had high morale, fought against very heavy odds and stood their ground despite lack of equipment, warm clothing etc. till ammunition ran out. Needless to say against an enemy who had clearly defined political objectives and a competent seamless command structure to the last well equipped combatant to achieve their aim.
Between the debacle and 1965 we trained hard and the Air Force absorbed additional strength. I am sure other services did likewise. Political leadership passed on to a down to earth Prime Minister, likes of Krishna Menon went into oblivion. Thankfully non violence went into hibernation. Professional military leadership was reinstated and wanted to redeem lost honour. Consequently we were better prepared to take on Pakistani onslaught in 1965 and turn it into a misadventure.
Then came 1971 and liberation of Bangladesh and a strategically changed geopolitics in our neighborhood. Unfortunately military gains were not translated into political solutions and festering problems continued. Post 71 Euphoria led to relative peace and a little lowered guard while attempting a peaceful negotiated solution. Kargil woke us up with a jolt, But professional armed forces and bold political leadership once again carried the day.
Thereafter we have seen a long period of relative peace which invariably breeds contempt for the Forces that appear to be a waste of resources. Inept political leadership and cunning bureaucracy get worried about a military coup and find safety in embracing each other. Men in uniform are constantly pulled down. Such a situation invariably leads to infestation of the non violence bug which emerges in the form of human rights activists and NGOs who grab every opportunity to tarnish the name of our security forces that are engaged in a difficult and thankless job. Far from being against such NGOs and activist the powers that be either tacitly supports such attempts or are indifferent thereby giving them a sense of legitimacy. Non violence finds opportune time to come out of hibernation.
I tend to believe that such an approach has been the reason for our being plundered, looted and enslaved . History would have undoubtedly repeated itself had we not defended ourselves successfully in 1948, 65, 71 and 1999. The tendency to give the benefit of doubt to anti national forces needs to be curtailed. Sentinels of our national interest at the peril to their lives need encouragement. If there is a doubt, the benefit of it is deserved by them and not by the elements hostile to our national interest.
We have refused to accept that Ashoka’s non violence and Prithviraj’s magnanimity (read glorified non violence) emanated from a position of strength and could last only till their strength did. Luxury of non violence for peaceful coexistence can only be afforded from a position of strength, that is the timeless truth. Military strength alone has enabled us to ensure peace from 1948 through three wars and there is no doubt that peace would last as long as strength does.
Instead of getting support from a well protected Nation our forces have been pushed to an unenviable position where they fight the enemy while in service and fight the Government of India after retiring; either at Jantar Mantar or in the Supreme Court.
I often fear that the hibernating non-violence bug is too deeply entrenched in our blood to keep our military machine strong by keeping our military men proud, happy and well equipped. So help us god, let us remember, he only helps those who help themselves.
LESSON LEARNT :
NEED OF THE HOUR IS MILITARY RULE
OF INDIAN AGGRESSIVE