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A Soldier’s (Hurt) Response to Narendra Modi #NaMo #NOMOre



Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd)

: Traders have more risk-taking capacity than soldiers. This is verbatim what appeared in the TOP STORIES tape on NDTV 24/7 TV channel at 2055 hrs (8:55PM) on 27 February 2014.

This comment of Mr.Narendra Modi as he woos traders in his election campaign, coming on the heels of the fire accident in INS Sindhuratna that has claimed the lives of two officers and hospitalization of seven sailors, is not merely in bad taste, but shows that he is woefully unaware of what soldiers do. It shows that he holds the service of soldiers in low esteem. It is well to correct Mr.Modi’s impression with regard to his statement.

It is true that traders may take risks, but these are financial risks, and the reason for taking such risks is expected profit or business advancement. There is nothing wrong with that, but when a trader takes a risk and wins, he makes personal gain; if he loses, he only loses money. Most often, the trader risks borrowed money, not his own. But most importantly, risk-taking by traders is purely voluntary. If he does not take a risk, he continues to make his business profits.

When a soldier takes a risk, he risks his life or limb, and the reason for taking risk is usually because he is ordered to perform a risky task in the course of his duties, which directly concern the defence of India’s sovereignty and integrity. In other words, the soldier takes risk for the people of his country, including traders and yes, including Mr.Narendra Modi himself. If a soldier refuses to perform his duty which often entails personal, bodily risk, he is liable for severe disciplinary action. Does Mr.Narendra Modi imagine that the 1999 Kargil operations were won by soldiers who took no risk more than a trader who plays the stock market? Did the two officers killed in INS Sindhuratna not take more risk than the traders whose votes Mr.Narendra Modi seeks?

This statement of Mr.Narendra Modi can demoralize the rank and file of our soldiers and young officers, who are the actual risk-takers. Mr.Narendra Modi needs to publicly apologize to the Indian soldier for having made that statement, even if made out of ignorance. Considering Mr.Narendra Modi’s opinion regarding soldiers, one can only wonder what priority he will give to soldiers and soldiers’ problems if he comes to political power in the general elections.

In an admirable act of moral courage, Admiral D.K.Joshi took moral responsibility for the accidents. Would Mr.Narendra Modi have the moral courage to apologize for his statement or will he cravenly deny having made that statement, or claim to have been misquoted, like politicians are apt to do? Only time will tell. But the world needs to know what Mr.Narendra Modi thinks of the Indian soldier, whom he compares unfavourably with traders.

Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd)

475, 7th Main Road

Vijayanagar 1st Stage



E-mail:<[email protected]>


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Comments (2)

  1. A soldier has right to respond. But what a learned person is trying to achieve except each and every thing to help propagate and be a willingly cog, a part of the longest running, multi-pronged vilification campaign. Not get get down to seriously discuss, dispassionately the related issues. A soldier is naturally inclined and psychologically expected to and trained to sacrifice his life for defense of his country. But he is not alone and part of huge system, created for well defined ultimate defense objectives. Now look at a small lowly trader in any big, middle, small town of a village situated in hinterland of India, or for that matter any where in the world. He or she is alone, has little resources along with remote possibility of high reward but certainly very high risks. A trader may be good, bad or dishonest, like every one else in a different segment of profession or occupation. The fact is that soldiers are duly respected but do they have the monopoly of being judged and placed at highest possible pedestal with deep scorn for others, including traders? I have many close relatives and dear friends in all branches of defense forces, and personally know what is being implied and discussed and used for sheer political, ideological purpose, to aid a fault line promoting vilification.campaign.


    Lt-Gen Harwant Singh ( Retd)

    Many defence analysts are of the view that had the Kashmir war not started in 1947, in less than a decade the Indian army would have been reduced to a constabulary. When the subject of modernization of the army was raised with Nehru, it is believed that he responded by saying that, if need be, the army should be prepared to fight with ‘lathies..’

    Kashmir operations not withstanding, the plan to systematically and persistently downgrade the military was put into operation and by 1962 much had been achieved. The political class had come to believe that they had ascended an era of peace, free of international power politics, strategic power play and the role of military power to protect national interests had become minimal. It was a utopian world where reason and dialogue were believed to be the ultimate tools for the resolution of clash of interests and conflict situations. Though the Chinese did give a severe jolt and tried to shake our leadership out of their world of make belief, it succeeded only partially, because when 1965 came we found ourselves, militarily inferior to Pakistan in many key areas.

    There was a pathological dislike of the Indian military by the congress party which came to power at the centre on attaining independence. Herein rests the answer to the military’s down-gradation in so systematic and persistent a manner soon after independence! The Bureaucracy exploited this bias of the congress to the hilt and added to it the fear and the possibility of a military take over as had occurred in some of the neighbhouring countries. It also managed to restructure the higher defence set-up to the nation’s overall strategic disadvantage.

    Gen O P Malhotra as Chief of Defence Staff, in a note to the RM in 1981 raised the issue of down grading of service officers in the warrant of precedence (which bears on pay etc as well ) and that these down-gradations coincided with the termination of every war ( 1948,62,65, and 71. ) and this had seriously effected the morale of armed forces. A committee of three secretaries periodically revise the warrant of precedence, which is rubber stamped by the supreme commander of the armed forces, who is not known to have even once raised a query on this regular assault on the officers of his forces.

    In response to Gen OP Malhotra’s objection, the committee of secretaries recorded, “military officers were placed unduly high in the old warrant of precedence, presumably as it was considered essential for officers of army of occupation to be given special status and authority.” While it appeared to be an independent perception of a few babus, the political class, either had a similar view or were indifferent to bureaucratic machinations. Of all the people of this world, we Indians, who have been under the heels of armies of occupation for more than two thousand years, should know what such armies are like. To call Indian army of the 20th century (1900 to1947) an army of occupation was blasphemous.

    Congress resolution of 1942 stated “The present Indian Army is an off-shoot of the British Army and has been maintained to mainly hold India in subjugation. It has been completely segregated from the general population.” These were the very years in which the British used police and not the army to ruthlessly crush the ‘Quit India movement’ and that Lala Lajpat Rai fell to police ‘lathies’ and not an army bullet. Yet the Congress heaped this ignominy on the military.

    From end 1939, the Indian army was out of India and nearer home involved in a desperate fight to keep the Japanese at bay. The congress leadership in 1942 had no experience of state craft or state power and could only accuse, agitate and was scared to name the police and found army a distant and easy target.

    Segregation of military from the local population was nothing new. It was an essential requirement for maintaining discipline and professionalism. Even within Indian forts, the soldiers quarters were segregated from the rest. The concept of ‘Chawanies’ ( cantonments ) in India was first introduced by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Residences and offices of senior civil servants too were located in British cantonments established well away from civil population.

    Gen Malhotra pointed out that on the other hand, this committee of babus while expounding the theory of ‘army of occupation ” failed to realize that a high place was accorded to the civil servants in the colonial bureaucracy, because they were the trusted paladins of the imperial power.. It was the British P.M, Lloyd George, who referred to the ICS as the steel frame of the British to control India. It was the civil services and the police who were the instruments of oppression and were the willing and enthusiastic tools employed to crush the nationalist upsurge, fervour and the freedom movement. Recall that incident in Lahore where the police arrested a ‘Tongawala’ whose only crime was that he urged his lazy horse to move faster: at Hitler’s speed. (chal Hitler di chaley). Police and civil services were more loyal than the king.

    The Indian Army held NW frontier for a hundred years and prevented those wild tribes from across the Hindu Kush Mountains from making periodic forays into the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Later it fought a savage war in the jungles of Burma and finally stemmed, at Imphal and Kohima, the Japanese assault on India. The Japanese army was barbaric in the extreme and our people in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and POWs, had a taste of its brutality.

    It is the mutinies in the Army and Navy which threw a clear signal to the British that it was time to leave. So it is highly malicious for anyone to term Indian Army as army of occupation. Consider this. The Indian government, in the first 50 years of independence, has deployed the Indian army to quell riots, maintain order etc 10 times more than the British did in their last 50 years of their rule in India. So much for the poor governance we have had all these years. A soldier is under oath and fealty to the constitution/ government of the day. There can be no grounds for him to break his oath. That is why the INA troops, and those of the Navy and Army who mutinied, could not be taken back into service after independence.

    However, the suspicion injected deep into the political mind of a military take over lingers. Moreover the political class continues to be in the grip of the bureaucracy or as Nirad C Chaudhury puts it so succinctly, “the political leadership is helplessly flapping its wings against the bars of the cage in which the bureaucracy has placed it.”

    This down gradation of the military officers was even taken into armed forces headquarters, where a civilian officer in the appointment of Director equated with a Lt-Col / Col, was suddenly equated with a brigadier. This completely distorted the working equations at armed forces headquarters and had adverse impact on the working at Sercive Headquarters. Gen Rodriques, as Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee lodged a strong protest with the RM, against this chicanery of the bureaucracy, but the protests fell on deaf ears and political class appeared helpless against continued assault on the military.

    Since the down-gradation of the military is continuing to this day: 6th CPC being the latest manifestation of this six decade old policy, presumably the Indian military is still being perceived as an army of occupation. Military service has become so unattractive that few want to join it and those inside want to quit. 15 of the brightest colonels of the army have declined to sign up for the Higher Command Course, which is an essential stepping stone for promotions to higher ranks. In the last two years over 2000 officers have sought release from service, which includes brigs and generals. Is there similar leakage of talent in the civil services!

    Indian army has been in, ‘no war no peace,’ state since independence. Wars apart, army has lost 569 officers and over 9000 JCOs and other ranks in counter insurgency operation during the last ten years. While there is little value for human life in India, the value of soldier’s life count for nothing in this country. Therefore, one wonders whose army it is anyway and who will soldier for India!

    We have the ambition to be a world economic power, but the vision and will of a third world country when it comes to creating strategic capabilities. Given the geo-strategic environments of the region and India’s unwillingness to rise to meet the emerging challenges, the picture is getting fairly grim by the day. To complete that picture one may add the factor of de-motivation of country’s armed forces.

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