The month of September saw yet again a divide in Indian polity, this time on the issue of commemorating ‘Parakaram Parv’. Instructions were issued to the states and to the Central Universities to celebrate ‘Parakaram Parv’ to coincide with the day the surgical Strikes were carried out against Pakistan on the night of 28- 29 September 2016. The opposition immediately cried foul, claiming that the government was using the Armed Forces to further its agenda for the upcoming general elections in 2019, which are less than eight months away. Many in the defence fraternity, especially in the veterans community too got caught up in the mudslinging, depending on their particular political preferences. In the brouhaha, some essential considerations seem to be have been given the go by.
While ‘Parakaram Parv’ was ostensibly to celebrate the bravery and valour of the Indian troops, especially the Special Forces, it was in a larger sense, as expounded by the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister, a day to honour and commemorate the sacrifices by the Armed Forces in the CI/CT operations they have undertaken since independence, at great cost. The occasion was also used as an opportunity to showcase military hardware across the country, to enable the civil population to get a closer look at their armed forces, to bring about a sense of confidence in the public and to motivate the youth. All this is certainly to the good.
But what, say the cynics is so great about the surgical strikes? Has not the Army conducted such strikes earlier? And why make it into such a big issue? Here, I would like to state that there was perhaps a larger message in organising the event for the first time on a mega scale. The messaging was to Pakistan and to a lesser extent, to the world community. It was a message to the world that India has finally broken the glass ceiling and will not seek approval of the world body if it has to cross the LOC to punish Pakistan for its transgressions. That position has been made clear and in a sense, seems to have been accepted by the world community too.
The second is a message to Pakistan. India will not be cowed down by nuclear blackmail. Pakistani perfidy will be responded to, and the border will be crossed, if it has to. There are no longer any red lines and in that sense, Indian foreign policy has crossed the Rubicon. That is no mean achievement and signifies political will. It also signifies the strength and capability of the Armed Forces to execute retaliatory measures in the required manner. This is the first step to bring lasting peace to the state of J&K by making costs to the Pakistan military prohibitive.
On another note, while the veterans are vocal about almost all things, I was surprised to see a strange silence on the issue of the gang rape of a young girl in Rewari, in which one army man on leave was involved. The incident received no condemnation form the military authorities, neither did the veterans, as a body, condemn the action of their man in uniform. That is sad and unacceptable. It is all right to say that the law will take its course and that the concerned individual is under arrest by the civil authorities, but the incident still cannot be swept under the carpet. It needs great sensitisation of the rank and file, and a commitment by all to uphold the honour and security of the nation and of their units and regiments, instead of being the viola- tors of such commitment.
Finally, my last editorial evoked some strong reactions from the veterans who see nothing wrong in open criticism of the Chiefs. I maintain my earlier stance that such actions are hurting the image of the Armed Forces more than any- thing else. This has only been exacerbated now by some veterans passing sexist remarks against the Defence Minister. Some of these veterans are in their seventies and eighties, which shows to what depths we have plummeted. Here too, we have crossed the Rubicon.