They are a singular breed, unmatched in bravery and patriotism. Far away from their families who await their return in remote villages and towns, they stand guard for India in fortified trenches and sandy reaches in the searing heat and freezing rain. They remain vigilant in sub-zero temperatures on remote glacial heights, where icy winds laden with teeth of snow tear at their clothes without mercy. They patrol treacherous ravines and deep gullies where the wild grass grows along trails strewn with rocks and shale; at dawn and dusk and in the darkness of night. They fall to bullets of terrorists who infiltrate India’s borders, trained by an implacable enemy. They are captured and beheaded and their bodies returned in a mockery of justice by the very murderers who tortured them. They are wounded fighting separatists and militants in Kashmir and the Northeast. They quell riots and rescue thousands when floods inundate large parts of the country. They have fought and sacrificed lives in India’s many wars since Independence. They are the Indian Army.
Then there is another breed, which lives in highly protected enclaves with their homes and persons guarded by men in uniform—men in white who command the men in olive green. They are willing to sacrifice soldiers for an elusive place in history; the Holy Grail that eludes all Indian Prime Ministers—peace with Pakistan. When Pakistani soldiers crossed the LoC and killed five Indian soldiers last week, India’s political establishment swung into damage control to save Pakistan’s face. The Army communiqué that said Pak soldiers were responsible was met with alarm and the government chose to lie to Parliament. The defence minister stated that the killers were terrorists dressed as Pak soldiers, which he changed later under pressure. Sources within the defence establishment told of an attempted cover-up: the PMO, Ministry of External Affairs and National Security Adviser amended the original Army report in order to prevent jeopardising Indo-Pak peace talks. Both the PMO and MEA denied this until they were blue in the face, but the damage was done.
A new elected Pak Prime Minister reigns in Islamabad—one Manmohan Singh thinks would help him swing a detente. Peace with Pakistan is a chimera because destroying India is Pakistan’s raison d’être. A recent intelligence report revealed the duplicity of Sharif’s two-track India policy; the Pak government has given ISI clearance to escalate terror operations in Kashmir to bring it back on the international radar. The Pakistanis would infiltrate battle-scarred Taliban into Kashmir to wage war against the Indian State. What Sharif has asked for is plausible deniability in return. Manmohan’s naiveté is only rivalled by his ambition to go down in history as the man who solved the Indo-Pak problem. He came up in history as India’s economic messiah. The man is not a statesman but an economist. He would be well advised to fix the Indian economy than crawling in the perfidious quicksand of cross-border diplomacy. There is no place for a dove in a thorny garden of hawks.
Since Independence, the Congress party, which has ruled for most of sixty-six years, has led the systematic destruction of India’s premier institutions. As corruption, criminality and illiteracy rise in politics, the Indian Civil Services and the police are reduced to helpless sycophancy. The last institution left intact is the Indian Army. Let it not be tampered with. They guard not just our borders but also an entire way of life. They protect our liberty and our flawed democracy with blood spilt on borders and the tears of widows. Anyone who messes with it are questioning the fundamentals of patriotism; the only true emotion that still binds this corruption-scarred nation. Three days before Independence Day, it should be realised that more important than Manmohan’s uncertain place in history are the lost obituaries of our unsung soldiers. They are written in words of a nation’s blood.