Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Army – The ‘Wrongs’ we thought were ‘Right’

Lt Gen Randhir Kumar Mehta, PVSM, AVSM, YSM, VSM (Retd)
Commenting on Karan Kharb’s article ‘The Army – What’s gone Wrong’, Lt Gen Randhir Kumar Mehta, PVSM, AVSM, YSM, VSM (Retd) has offered some more vital inputs that merit serious review sooner than later. The General, a military leader with an enviable career record of illustrious service in field and peace, has led from the front and inspired many through personal examples.  His comments:-

I received your recent article on the IA from Turning Point. You have made very telling points, which I agree with. May I put down some landmark occurrences which to me require a full examination to set right the wrongs in the med term :-
1.      The first cadre up gradation in 75/76. The second cadre review has further exacerbated leadership and inefficiencies at all levels of command and staff.
2.      The introduction of authorised (free) rations to officers resulted in a cultural change with barter, exercising choices, ladies dealing directly with Q personnel, drop in mess standards.
3.      With grant of Lt rank on commissioning ,removal of retention test, PartA and C exam, Part Band D being made easy, reduction in years for grant of substantive ranks, first selection rank being Col, re-employing Brigs (a flag rank) ,Col(TS) : we have taken away the challenges and in turn a sense of achievement from an officer.
4.      Honours and awards are a dime a dozen. Ironically, even AWWA is awarding citations.
5.      Money and the man. AWWA , grants which are large amounts and not correctly spent are terrible temptations involving the rank and file and civilians. We have to clip AWWA.
6.      Fudging is a way of life rather than an exception.
7.      You have covered ACR trends, there is similarly a trend in  inflated course gradings.
8.      Our approach to welfare issues needs a close examination vis a vis Operations, Training , Administration etc;.
9.      We started overplaying the issue of national war memorial, Order of precedence, comparisons with PMF, Police services etc; and drew wrong conclusions. Have the others ever compared themselves with us?
10.   Coming to retired personnel, I do feel our behaviour in institutes, clubs, canteens, ECHS and Service housing societies, ESM also requires to be as is expected.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Will they wait for a Tsunami to wake them up?

The Army - What’s gone wrong?

                                                                                   Karan Kharb                      

The Indian Army, besides being the world’s third largest, enjoys a unique status of professional excellence.  There is no other army in the world that is as battle hardened as the Indian Army that has fought and won in as treacherous terrain and climate as the world’s highest glacial battlefield. Only the Indian troops are shifted across operational theatres as diverse as the sultry forests of the North East, torrid sands of Thar desert, reed infested riverine borderline of Punjab, mountainous J&K and the entire expanse of icy Himalayas from Siachin in north Kashmir to Along in eastern Arunachal Pradesh. Besides the LoC/LAC on both fronts – Pakistan and China respectively – being incessantly active, the Indian Army has been fighting terrorists and insurgents to keep the country together.
Also, the Army’s role in relief operations during natural calamities or other emergencies has been universally lauded all through.  All this speaks very high of our officers and men at action level.     
Sadly, however, the Indian Army has been in the news for wrong reasons in the recent past. The Chinese Army brazenly intruded 19 km deep into the Indian territory, pitched tents and stayed on for days under the nose of the Indian Army even as the world watched us doing no more than complaining as we did in the post Mumbai 26/11 terror strike by Pakistan.  Again, the Chinese Army dared to cross into Arunachal Pradesh and physically wrestled and pushed the Indian troops out of their positions on ground. On the western front too, a repeatedly beaten Pakistan Army dared to intrude, behead and kill Indian troops in two different actions. These incidents have shamed us as a Nation.
With the veneer so damaged, the inner decay showed up damaging the high credentials of India’s military might. Chiefs of Army/Navy/Air Force have been reported/indicted for their unseemly role in scams. A growing number of major generals/lt generals have been found involved in scams and other acts of unspeakable misdemeanour. The rising number and frequency of such cases can no longer be brushed aside as ‘odd aberrations.’  As if that was not humiliating enough, there has been a spurt in unsavoury incidents involving officers and men at unit levels. In the profession of arms, leaders lead by personal example to inspire and motivate subordinates. The wrong examples have truly but horribly inspired subordinates – at least so it seems. Each incident raises painful questions. What has gone wrong with the Army that was so adored by public for its high traditions of discipline, chivalry, sacrifice and selfless devotion to the Nation?   Here are some answers and more questions.
The Officer Shortage
The net shortage of officers in the Army is said to be about 12000 at present. Surprisingly, all the shortage is at the ‘teeth’ level – the units required to fight and perform. There is no shortage at any Headquarters (from Brigade to Army Headquarters) or Establishments reputed for risk-free career advancing ‘graded’ tenures in peace locations.  Infantry units – the ubiquitous performing arm of the Indian Army – are managing with 8-10 officers posted against an authorised scale of 21, which obviously means that the workload on officers is more than twice their legitimate share. As a contrast, the higher headquarters not only have their full scale posted but also commandeer and ‘attach’ officers from the already over-stretched units. One should not be surprised if the number of such ‘attached’ officers at the Army Headquarters is over a hundred today.    
Quick-fix Solutions
Conscious of these crucial deficiencies but unable to convince the Government on crucial military needs, the authorities have devised a quick-fix solution to ‘solve’ the problem of ‘officer shortage’   post young officers on cross-attachment from the Services like ASC, AOC and so on to the infantry units deployed in field. Resultantly, it is common in units to find raw, untrained and unqualified lieutenants/captains officiating as Company Commanders. Often, more than one company/squadron are placed under command of a youngster even before he is mature and qualified enough to lead a platoon effectively in action.
Grooming Institutions demolished
Not too long ago in this very Army, we had systems to groom young officers under the care of seasoned field officers who would assign responsibilities, guide and educate youngsters to occupy their positions in due course. The luxury of having two officers – a company commander and his company officer – is no longer available to the commanding officers of today. The institution of Senior Subaltern also stands demolished. The youngster these days steps directly into the boots of his boss and flounders like an excited toddler in his father’s shoes flaunting his large acquisition. Who would refute the imminent fall in such a situation?
Officer-men Inter-action gone haywire
Overburdened officers always under pressure to meet deadlines in onerous tasking find little time to train, play or entertain with troops on a regular basis. Such a routine distances officers from the men. Being more educated, aware and conscious of his privileges, the modern jawan is quick to find/create alternative channels in such circumstances to seek remedies to his problems directly from the Commanding Officer who, in most cases, readily obliges – often ignoring/overruling recommendations of the subordinate commanders thereby proving the sub-unit commanders ineffective and unnecessary in the eyes of JCOs and men in the unit. Unwittingly, this practice has evolved into a dangerous trend – hunger for cheap popularity – even as objectivity and sincerity is diminishing in today’s Army.  Crisis to crisis they move on, compromise and accomplish somehow.   
Need to bridge the Cultural Divide
Unlike the Army of yester years, our jawans and their wives are all educated today, most of them having graduate and post-graduate degrees. Call it ‘ego’ if you must, but the modern jawan is imbued with a strong sense of ‘self-respect’.  Of course, he is entitled to preserve this core value of his character – a facet that will only make him a better inspired, motivated and committed soldier willing to be led by superior competence. Times have changed and altered societal equations and individual perceptions. No self-respecting soldier would volunteer for menial work in someone else’s home in today’s environments. It is nice that the Army is already taking steps to remedy this ticklish problem by replacing combatants with non-combatant sahayaks.
Another issue is the disparity in the entitlement of rations. There is no plausible logic to have any variation in this regard especially when officers and men come from the same stock of society and have similar eating habits.  
Also, there is a need for deeper introspection by officers to review their outlook and be more approachable in off-parade/office hours shedding their officious aura. Officers wives can help a great deal by readjusting their equations with the equally or more educated wives of other ranks. Any harm if the ‘Mem Sahib’ tag is replaced with ‘Madam’, ‘Didi’ or ‘Mrs…….’?      
‘Play-safe’ Attitude and Careerism
Most seniors would not like it; yet I feel this should be Point Number One because this flows straight from the top. Watch any cluster of senior officers at a party, seminar, meeting or even in travel and you will find them discussing nothing other than ACRs, postings, citation for awards, nomination for NDC, HC or their next best obsession – golf, cock-tails, single-malts, sponsored jaunts and sojourns and so on. Serious issues dampen their spirits. Even when they happen to touch upon something serious, they cautiously punctuate their revelation by the cliché clause, “Don’t quote me, but let me tell you……..”.  
Two of the most serious problems faced by the Military Secretary’s Branch at the Army Headquarters are inflated ACRs and representations against supersessions and postings, the former being the cause of the latter. Going by the prevalent ACR grading trend, it would appear that  the Army never had a more competent lot of so many officers in the top bracket of ‘above average’ and outstanding officers. In the same breath, however, every senior officer also whines, “Army no longer attracts the top cream of the Indian youth.” It is not because the ACR initiating/reviewing officers (IOs/ROs) are more generous.  In the days of moral degradation, guilt drives the senior to timidly submit to the aspirations of his junior because the latter is either privy to or a direct source/conduit of his senior’s exploits. Sadly, greed and ambitions are the bane of all that is wrong with the Army today.  
Transparency enhances Credibility
In times of see-though communication technology, it is neither feasible nor desirable to hide every military routine under the cover of ‘military security’.  Tons of military knowledge and information guarded by the Indian Army as ‘classified’ – secret and confidential – is openly and freely available on the Internet today. Spreading awareness among the masses about military capabilities, limitations and requirements will only buttress the Army’s case and force the reluctant Netas and Babus, who callously ignore serious issues despite judicial directions from the Armed Forces Tribunal and the Supreme Court, to sit up and take note.
Within the Army, there is a need to make all selection boards fully transparent allowing officers free access to their personal records, master data sheets and proceedings of the board. All information about postings and promotions should also be instantly posted on the MS Branch Intra-Net Website. Notings and recommendations on complaints and representations will be eventually brought within the purview of RTI. Therefore, there is a need to review the traditional military idea of defining and keeping ‘secrets’.   
The unsavoury incidents of officer-jawan duels are not ‘odd cases of indiscipline’; they are ripples on the surface warning us of a bigger storm building up somewhere deeper. It would be, therefore, fallacious to assume that the problem would be solved through a case-to-case approach like standard procedures of Courts of Inquiry and courts martial.  The need of the hour is an overhaul of officers’ traditional mind-set so as to adapt themselves to a realistic modern environment that cannot be wished away.  Only the last cynical will wait for a Tsunami to wake him up.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Keran Intrusion

Three-fold Aim of Nawaz Sharif

Col Rajinder Singh Kachhwaha (Retd)

Since 23 September 2013, Indian soldiers have been battling incursion by so called militants in the KERAN Sector of KUPWARA district of North Kashmir. All sort of claims are being made to say that some 30-40 militants backed by Pakistan's army had infiltrated and 12 -15 had been killed, though bodies have not been recovered. 

Some news papers reports now say that the militant strength might be around 100 and their supply lines were intact, even 14 days after counter offensive by Indian army. The scene of action is around an abandoned Shalobatho village near the LC. the area seems to be FIVE SQUARE KMs. I know the terrain backwards. But wait. 

Is the Indian army hiding something as it did during Kargil-99 incident? Strange, present chief, General BIKRAM SINGH, then, was posted as a Colonel in the DGMO branch of army HQ and he daily briefed Indian media along with his mentor, General JJ Singh. Is history repeating itself after 14 years?

I had served for Three years in the KERAN Sector during Kargil operations in 1999. I was deputy commander of KERAN Sector, located at Pharkiyan gali---- I know the terrain Fully and no one can fool me. It is a fact that the terrain is difficult but not so difficult that it can disallow the might of the Indian army to ferret out some 30-40 militants. There is something more to it. 

In the early 90s, in the same sector, Pakistan army had occupied GURJARTUR FORWARD ( called Ramazan by Pakistan) post across the LC in a similar manner. Somehow this was never reported. Similar thing had happened in the MAHCHAL sector, adjoining KERAN Sector and there is no secret about Point 5230 in Gurej sector. You see Pakistan army has been deliberately nibbling at some tactically advantageous positions along the LC in North Kashmir, when ever Nawaz Sharief has come back as PM.  

You will ask me why? My answer is very simple. Nawaz, being a clever business man, has realized that Pakistan to grow economically has to be at peace with India. This was not possible till solution to Kashmir is found. He looks for an advantageous solution to Kashmir within its present realities rather than emotional strains of 1947. In so doing, he has further concluded that only solution to Kashmir problem was to accept the LC with modifications as IB..  

It is this principle which made him invite Indian PM, Mr. ATAL Bihari Vajpayee in 1999 for peace talks, while he asked his army to get into an advantageous position along the LC to be able to negotiate better, when settlement talks begin. It is a different matter that, then Pakistan COAS , General PERVEZ Musharref outsmarted him and went beyond his permission, which led to Kargil-99.  

I have a lurking feeling that Nawaz Sharief plays a double game in such peace talks initiatives. I feel that he wanted his army to be sorted out, then as well as now. Therefore, he might have sounded to Atal Bihari Vajpaee, who along with his then Generals had exuded confidence that there was No intelligence failure. General HM Khanna, then Northern Army commander, had boasted that he would throw out the intruders in 48 hours. Alas! he realized later that he was not only fooling himself but the entire nation.  

Is it the same boast this time, too, when present 15 Corps commander claimed that there were only 30-40 militants, while 12 -15 had been killed. What a laughable excuse he gave that to save own casualties his troops were going slow! Generals engaged in battle do not talk of caution, unless they were faking. How come you have taken 14 days to sanitize the 5 sq KM area with everything at your disposal. Learned military minds would not buy this argument. Certainly, I won't because I had choked LNVR(Lower Neelam valley road---- life line for Pak troops in Northern Areas) of the Pakistan during Kargil-99. 

It is no doubt that Pakistan army has launched a well planned operation, when 20 Kumaon and 3/3 GR were handing taking over. the operation had typical Nawaz Sharief signature for nibbling at the LC. Therefore, though he makes noise for peace, whenever he becomes PM , while at the same time asks his army to straighten the LC TO PAKISTAN's ADVANTAGE 

His offer must have been so tempting that MMS , as AB VAJPAYEE before him, could not say NO to his proposal. I wonder if USA has a hand in it---- with a temptation for nomination of Noble peace Prize.  

Readers should know that KERAN sector dominates NEELAM VALLEY ROAD of POK, which was the life line of NORTHERN AREAS OF Pakistan. However in early 90s , Indian army guns went silent and Pakistan constructed a shunt of 22 KMs outside the range of Small arms fire of Indian troops thus made an alternative route--- this was a Tactical blunder by Indian army and its Generals, then. (Remember GUJRAL DOCTRINE was in operation at that time, with the central theme of LOVE THY NEIGHBOR------- Well! This is emotional baggage of all refugees, whether it was IK GUJRAL, KULDEEP NAYYAR---- Journalist, MM SINGH or even LK ADVANI------they all want to live in their past)  

A village ATHMUQAM, along the banks of Neelam river ( Kishanganga in Indian context) opposite KERAN Village is the launching pad for the terrorists. The shunt of 22 KMs takes off from here and joins the old Neelam Valley road at DUDHNIYAL, just short of RATTU CANTONEMENT of Pakistan army, which feeds Gultari and forces opposite KARGIL. It is this shunt which is now under threat from enhanced weapon ranges of Indian Army. If it can be choked, NORTHERN AREAS of Pakistan can be effectively isolated because the only other route is a circuitous route from an inaccessible terrain in the winters.

This intrusion by Pakistan in KERAN sector is to safeguard its lifeline to Northern areas, which can be easily cut off, as and when Indian army desires----- with this Gilgit, Hunza, Baltistan and Dardistan of NORTHERN AREAS become untenable. Therefore,I personally feel, this KERAN intrusion by Pakistan, under the garb of Militants is to give life to Nawaz Sharief proposal to get into better position before he begins talks for peace with Indian leaders. May be the intrusion is by mix of militants and regular soldiers. This might be Nawaz SHARIEF's way of diverting militants and Taliban from Pakistan and let them be engaged with India. He achieves his triple aim:---

    (a) Get militants and Taliban off his back

    (b) Clip the wings of his army by getting it humiliated by Indian army.

    (c) And most importantly get into an advantageous position to negotiate with India along the LC. Thus find a peaceful solution by asking India to act like a big brother and be magnanimous.

I am of the opinion, Indian Army and its GENERALS should tell the truth to the nation, rather than banking on the lies of politicians. Indian army will lose credibility if continues to mask the truth with white lies.

The author, a military veteran, is an accomplished soldier with rich operational experience in J&K.  

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Of Military and Nation!

The Tragedy of the Indian Army

Nitin Gokhale

[In the mad race to boost circulation and viewer ratings, the media may have, in one go, started the process of demolishing one of the last institutions that has stood rock solid in defence of idea that is India.]

In my three decades of reporting on the Indian military, I have never felt more uneasy about the military-media interface as I have in the past three months.

This is not because the media has been accused of being sensationalist or because many unsavoury truths about internal rivalry and groupism in the military brass have created bad blood in the top hierarchy.

My unease stems from the damage that the events of the past few months have inflicted on the average Indian soldier.

For at least a quarter of a century now, we have been lamenting the steadily diminishing status of the ordinary Indian soldier in society; that soldiering is no longer respected as a noble profession in our rural areas; that the jawan struggles to get his due from a civil administration increasingly contemptuous and apathetic towards him; that he continues to get paid poorly and treated unfairly by a society solely driven by materialism.

Now, following a spate of reports based on half-truths and outright lies, motivated by God alone knows what, we may have done the ultimate disservice to the Indian soldier: Planted the seed of suspicion about his loyalty in the minds of ordinary Indians.

The ultimate disservice to the Indian soldier

While I will defend the right of every media person to report what he or she thinks is right, I am afraid none of us has thought through the consequences of the effect it will have on the psyche of the Indian soldier and, more importantly, the way ordinary Indians will view the Indian Army.

In the mad race to boost our circulation and viewer ratings, we may have, in one go, started the process of demolishing one of the last institutions that has stood rock solid in defence of the idea that is India.

For the first time in my now reasonably long career in journalism, I feel like hiding from my friends in the military.

I feel we have not paused to think about the long-term damage we have wrought upon the profession of soldiering.

While all dramatis personae are equally culpable in the current controversy, we in the media certainly have a greater responsibility not to add fuel to the fire.

The Army is India’s Brahma Astra

I say this because from disaster relief in floods, tsunamis and earthquakes, to rescuing an infant Prince from a deep tube well and from quelling rioters in communal strife to being the last resort in internal counter-insurgency operations, the Indian Army has been omnipresent.

It is, what I call, India’s Brahma Astra (the ultimate weapon).

The Indian Army’s versatility, adaptability, selfless attitude and resourcefulness has allowed it to be what it is today: Nation Builders.

Viewed in the context of India’s immediate and extended neighbourhood, the Indian Army’s stellar role stands out in stark contrast to its counterparts in other countries.

Remember, the Indian and Pakistani armies originated from the same source, the British army. Yet, six decades since they parted ways, there couldn’t be a bigger dissimilarity in the way the two have evolved.

As they say, India has an army while the Pakistani army has a nation!

More importantly, despite India’s increasing dependence on its army to pull its chestnuts out of fire time and again, the Indian Army has scrupulously remained apolitical.

A systematic assault on the Indian Army

The Indian Army’s contribution in nurturing and strengthening democracy with all its faults can never be underestimated.

It has put down fissiparous and secessionist forces within India at great cost to itself over the last 60-odd years. It has protected India from within and without.

The Indian Army also has a unique distinction of helping create a nation (Bangladesh) in the neighbourhood and then quietly walking away to let the people take charge.

In contrast, the Pakistani army has never really allowed democracy to flourish in its country. Instead, it has created a military-industrial complex that has spread its tentacles in every aspect of governance.

Even today, the Pakistani army does not let go of any opportunity to undercut democracy; it nurtures and treats jihadi elements as its strategic asset against India and the United States.

Even in other smaller nations around India — Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh, for instance — the armed forces have had to intervene and run the affairs of those countries at some point.

The Indian Army has also withstood systematic assaults on its status from politicians and bureaucrats who are forever looking for ways to downgrade the military’s status.

While the principle of civilian supremacy over the armed forces is well entrenched and understood in India, what is incomprehensible is the constant chipping away at the military’s standing.

The Army, the Civilian and the Politician

The nation as a whole, and indeed the people at large, have the highest regard and affinity for the men in uniform for the yeoman service they render in every conceivable situation.

However, most mandarins at the ministry of defence and some politicians do not have the same opinion and are repeatedly trying to run down the military without realising the immense damage they cause to the only available bulwark we have against any attempt to balkanise India.

Now, unfortunately, even we in the media seem to have joined this ill-informed and devious bunch of opportunists.

As a former chief of the army staff, General S Padmanabhan, says in his book, 'A General Speaks', ‘Even after Independence, India’s political leaders found it convenient to keep the Army, Navy and the Air Force out of the policy-making bodies. The service HQs were left at the level that the British left them — that of being attached offices of the ministry of defence. Even at the level of defence minister and service chiefs, exchanges on major matters of defence policy were few and far in between.’

Another former army chief, General Shankar Roy Choudhury, has observed: ‘It is essential in the national interest that the armed forces are upgraded and updated on an on-going basis, something which governments have been traditionally loath to acknowledge and undertake, the Indian government perhaps more so than others in this respect.’

We must back the nation’s strongest Asset

Historically, it is to the credit of the Indian Army that it has fulfilled its role as an organ of the State; it has functioned effectively in every type of role, in spite of the general lack of a supportive government environment by way of adequate finances, resources, equipment, personnel policies, or higher political direction.

A nation’s military provides what is called a hard-edged back-up to its international standing.

A strong military — and especially a powerful, well-trained, fully-equipped army — acts as a deterrent against adversaries.

It is therefore essential that the nation’s decision-makers consciously back the army and provide it with the support it needs to meet diverse challenges that exist and are likely to come up in the coming decade.

So far, the Indian Army has fulfilled its role in nation building admirably well.

All of us — ordinary citizens, media persons, politicians, bureaucrats — must continue to back the nation’s strongest asset and further strengthen it, if we desire to see India as a global player in the decades to come.

The Army is vital for India’s survival

Centuries ago, Kautilya, the wily old strategist, told Emperor Chandragupta Maurya why the soldier is important for the kingdom’s survival.

If India has to survive as a nation-state, this advice (reproduced from a piece written by Air Marshal S G Inamdar for the USI Journal) is worth repeating in its entirety here.

As the learned Air Marshal says: ‘It is amazing how clearly those ancients saw the likely fault lines in governance, the intricacies of management of the military by the state functionaries, the nature of the military and the citizenry and the close interplay between them all. It is truly amazing how those observations continue to be so completely relevant today, even after 2,000 years.

‘Here’s what Kautilya told the king of Magadh:

‘The Mauryan soldier does not himself the royal treasuries enrich nor does he the royal granaries fill.

‘He does not himself carry out trade and commerce nor produce scholars, thinkers, litterateurs, artistes, artisans, sculptors, architects, craftsmen, doctors and administrators.

‘He does not himself build roads and ramparts nor dig wells and reservoirs.

‘He does not himself write poetry and plays, paint or sculpt, nor delve in metaphysics, arts and sciences.

‘He does not do any of this directly as he is neither gifted, trained nor mandated to do so.’

‘The tax, tribute and revenue collectors travel far and wide unharmed and return safely;

‘The farmer tills, grows, harvests, stores and markets his produce unafraid of pillage and plunder;

‘The trader, merchant and moneylender function and travel across the length and breadth of the realm unmolested;

‘The savant, sculptor, painter, maestro and master create works of art, literature, philosophy, astronomy and astrology in peace and quietitude;

‘The architect designs and builds his Vaastus without tension;

‘The tutor (acharya), the mentor (guru) and the priest (purohit) teach and preach in tranquillity;

‘The sages (rishis, munis and tapaswis) meditate and undertake penance in wordless silence;

‘The doctor (vaidyaraja) tends to the ill and the infirm well, adds to the pharmacopoeia, discovers new herbs and invents new medical formulations undisturbed;

‘The mason, the bricklayer, the artisan, the weaver, the tailor, the jeweller, the potter, the carpenter, the cobbler, the cowherd (gopaala) and the smith work unhindered;

‘The mother, wife and governess go about their chores and bring up children in harmony and tranquillity;

‘The aged and the disabled are well taken care of, tended to and are able to fade away gracefully and with dignity;

‘The cattle graze freely without being lifted or harmed by miscreants.’

The soldier is the very basis of a nation

He is thus the VERY BASIS and silent, barely visible CORNERSTONE of our fame, culture, physical well being and prosperity; in short, of the entire nation building activity.‘He DOES NOT perform any of these chores himself directly: he ENABLES the rest of us to perform these without let, hindrance or worry (nirbheek and nishchinta).

‘Our military sinews, on the other hand, lend credibility to our pronouncements of adherence to good Dharma, our goodwill, amiability and peaceful intentions towards all our neighbour nations (Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinaha, Sarve Santu Niramayaha…) as also those far away and beyond.

‘These also serve as a powerful deterrent against military misadventure by any one of them against us.’

‘If Pataliputra reposes each night in peaceful comfort, O King, it is so because she is secure in the belief that the distant borders of Magadha are inviolate and the interiors are safe and secure, thanks to the mighty Mauryan army constantly patrolling and standing vigil with naked swords and eyes peeled for action (animish netre) day and night (ratrau-divase) in weather fair and foul, dawn-to-dusk-to-dawn (ashtau prahare) quite unmindful of personal discomfort and hardship, loss of life and limb, separation from the family, all through the year, year after year (warsha nu warshe).

‘While the Magadha citizenry endeavours to make the State prosper and flourish, the Mauryan soldier guarantees that the State continues to EXIST! He is the silent sine qua non of our very being!’

Can we all people in uniform, civil services, politics, media and society at large — imbue this spirit?


Nitin Gokhale is Security and Strategic Affairs Editor, NDTV. This article first appeared in