Dr. Simrit Kahlon
India looks upon October as a very auspicious month; the festival of Dusshera falls in this month and so does the very significant Muslim festival of Eid. Both festivals epitomise the victory of all that is just and righteous. Dusshera has a military significance since it denotes the victory of the righteous Lord Ram Chandra over Ravana the haughty king of Lanka
This month also holds great significance so far as the modern military history of the nation is concerned. Significant events in this month have paved the way for nation building. Netaji Subash Chandra Bose laid the foundation of the Indian National Army (INA) also known as the Azad Hind Fauj on October, 21, 1943 at Singapore; the Indo-Pakistan War of 1947 was declared on October, 27, 1947 and China declared an unjust war against India on October, 20, 1962.
We are now running into the sixth decade since the Chinese aggression. The intervening years have witnessed many transgressions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). In recent times, Chinese aggression along the LAC has evoked a strong military response by India. The Chinese leadership has been exposed as hegemonic, intolerant and unwilling to resolve issues through diplomacy and dialogue. China’s image is receiving a severe beating in the international arena for its misadventures along the LAC. It has also resulted in creation of alliances like QUAD and AUKUS that are specially designed to contain hegemonic manoeuvres by the Chinese in the Indo-Pacific region.
Territorial integrity of the nation has been preserved by her soldiers along the LAC with the sacrifice of their lives, no foreign power can be allowed to dishonour this sacrifice, especially so, when the Indian soldier is ever ready to make the sacrifice whenever called upon to do so. It is this historical message that needs to be given to the citizens of India and the world at large. The policy of the NDA Government of not allowing China to get away with illegal transgressions along the LAC is both righteous and justified.
Indo-China War, 1962
The INA, being one among the significant factors that compelled the British to leave India is the pride of the country. It is the INA and not the British army that is the ancestral legacy of the Indian Army. It would be befitting for the Indian Army to draw inspiration from the brave patriots of the INA; it should provide the ideological foundation for the Indian soldier. Netaji Subash Chandra Bose should be looked upon more as a hero than Field Marshal William Joseph Slim, the British general in charge of the Burma campaign.
A lot can be done in this regard. One can reasonably state that the Indian military history studies do not include a study of the INA in detail, it would not be known to many Indian soldiers that on the midnight of October, 22, 1943, the Azad Hind government declared war on Britain and America and inducted a volunteer force of about 56,000 patriotic Indians of all castes and creeds to fight for the cause of national independence.
It is such historical facts that should become a part of the curriculum of military training and military history in India. A museum could be created in one of the iconic training centre’s of the army like the Indian Military Academy or the College of Combat.
The Indo-Pakistan War of 1947-48, is the third major event in Indian military history that took place in the month of October. Creditably, the Indian Army has designated the day that the war was declared as Infantry Day. The occasion is marked with wreath laying, lectures and other commemorative events.
It is befitting that the Indian Armed Forces now have their own war memorial in New Delhi where wreath laying ceremonies are held on all historical occasions including the Infantry Day. Earlier this was done at India Gate which is a memorial of the British era holding the names of only those Indian soldiers who fought for the British as a part of the British Indian army. It is an ugly reminder of the exploitation of the Indian soldier by the British; it does not merit any importance in free India .
If we wish to inspire our future generations towards the noble pursuit of soldiering then we need to get our history and our priorities right. This is one area in which we must draw lessons from our previous masters, the British. Such was their level of motivation and indoctrination that even after sixty years of independence we are not ready to come out of the shadow of their teachings and culture. The British army has moved on but we stand where they left us.
We need to look at things in an objective and contemporary manner. We should be more concerned about our military achievements in the post-independence era than in the colonial times. To our own soldiers, both living and dead, we need to bestow all possible honour and dignity. By caring for them and looking after their families the Nation can send out a clear message that each and every soldier, especially those who sacrifice their lives, holds a special place in the national consciousness. Mere words are not enough, they have to be translated into appropriate historical records and deeds that give the right message. This respect for the Indian soldier should begin from the Indian Armed Forces and emanate upwards to the Government and the people. It is only by creation of a culture of this nature that national security can be assured.
(Dr. Simrit Kahlon is an academician and columnist)