Recently Maj Gen Eustace D’Souza passed away in his ripe old age. I would like to recall my association with him mostly by way of the internet in my research on military and the environment which I began in 2000. In one way he was my guru in then field. In Delhi at the USI of India I had begun my research on environmental security. The military and environment was an apt topic to begin with. The year was 2000. It was then that I was guided to get in touch with General D’Souza, the pioneer in the field. I met him briefly at USI and as the internet had just entered our lives, I exchanged many e-mails with him. He introduced me by the internet to Mrs Eirween Harbottle the widow of Brigadier Michael Harbottle, a UN peacekeeper par excellence, who had authored a monograph What is Proper Soldiering: A Study on New Perspectives for the Future Use of the Armed Forces in the 1990s (written in 1991). The monograph was motivated by Gen D’Souza’s famous work “Swords into Plowshares”.
A copy of that monograph was sent by her to me from the UK. Besides giving a copy to USI library I quoted the work in my first book Environmental Security; External and Internal Dimensions and Response (2003). The work of Indian Army’s Ecological Task Forces (ETF) was included in Brig Harbottle’s monograph and it was no other than Gen D’Souza who was doing this military diplomacy and scholarship to make the world know about it. At the then Camberley Staff College the monograph was prescribed text on various non-traditional security issues which Gen D’Souza had give evidence by examples of Indian Army’s practices. In my book I included an Appendix A titled “Some Ex-servicemen who have Contributed to, or Continue to Serve, the Cause of Environmental Security”.
General D’Souza earlier had confirmed my question by mentioning that Gandhi should feature in the list due to his field ambulance background in South Africa. Accordingly in the Appendix after Mahatma Gandhi and Anna Hazare I listed Maj Gen Eustance D’Souza to mention his active participation by way of lectures, articles and talks across India and the world on role of the Indian military in environmental stewardship. I recall him telling me that “ only two militaries do ecological work with their elbows and knees – the Indian army and the Vietnamese.” General D’Souza’s introduction to Mrs Eirween Harbottle opened a new vista for me. She introduced me to Findhorn Foundation working on ecological restoration in Scotland set up after World War II under the leadership of Sqn Ldr Peter Caddy, to the Schumacher society which epitomizes the Gandhian economics so important today as “small is beautiful”, to Johan Galtung’s world of peace studies, and to Aubrey Meyer – a professional violinist also working on climate change from the Global Common Institute.
One thing that needs to be further progressed (suggested by Gen D’Souza to me in 2001) was the pollution in the Himalayas. He also shared information, which though may never come out on how Major Jack Dias, an eminent mountaineer, died of leukemia due to radiation that he absorbed in the joint US venture to the Nanda Devi mastiff in 1962. General D’Souza also gave inputs to me on exaggerated accounts of felling of trees by the army and was certain that it did not happen when he was commanding 19 Infantry Division for three years in the 1970s. The last time I got an inquiry about him was in December 2011 from author and Professor Richard Tucker, Adjunct Professor, School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, USA. I checked from Lt Gen Satish Nambiar (retd), and was happy to know from him that General D’Souza was well (but quite old) in Mumbai. I communicated his email to Professor Tucker who in parts replied:
“Yesterday I succeeded in obtaining a copy of your 2003 book. I must report how enthusiastic I am to see its contents. In tandem with your more recent book, it covers exactly the range of issues that I have been looking for, and it portrays what I see as the Indian military’s outstanding record of environmental management. I have seen this in the concerns of senior officers whom I’ve known in Delhi and Himachal over the past thirty years. I have also recently located a 1995 article by Gen. D’Souza, outlining his work with WWF, CSE and BNHS. I wonder whether he is still with us; do you know?”
This was the great soldier of the Martha Light Infantry, rather , he is also the founding father of the military and environmental security discourse that is becoming a routine topic of even doctoral dissertation in universities across the globe. I thus call him the first “General and a Great Captain of environmental security of independent India”. The author, Col PK Gautam (Retd) is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) , New Delhi