INDIAN ARMED FORCES: IN SERVICE TO THE NATION BY MAJ GEN AK CHATURVEDI, AVSM, VSM (RETD)

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“Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it, it flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it.”

Armed Forces in India, through the ages, had a tradition of being fully committed to ensure the territorial integrity of India and safeguard Indian civilisation. In recent times it has also become the last instrument of the Indian Nation to exercise its will. No wonder in any task, be that related to security against external aggression or against internal threats or to tackle natural/ man-made calamities, Indian Armed Forces have always been at the forefront. Here it may also be worth making a mention that Indian Armed Forces have also been a leading contributor to  the UN Peace Keeping missions and also extending the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) to neighbours, as and when ordered.Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Navy (IN) have also done a number of missions to evacuate Indian citizens trapped in the overseas conflict zones besides taking up missions to disaster affected areas/ societies/ people and extend the humanitarian assistance to affected people.

What makes Indian Armed Forces so special? Why Indian Armed Forces are referred as the most effective organisation? And Why Indians respect Armed forces so much?  These questions are being attempted to be addressed in this article.

Although in detail these aspects are being addressed subsequently in the article but, in short, some of the aspects that distinguish Indian Armed Forces are as follows:-

  • The demonstrated parameters which define Indian Armed Forces and these are: sincerity and dedication of the rank and file to the Nation.
  • Seamlessly integrated organisation; wherein officer-men relationship is such that the orders are generally legal and as such never Questioned by the subordinates.
  • Everyone who wears uniform considers ‘India first’ always and in every situation.

The introduction and the set of questions which were raised in the above para confirm that the Armed Forces are an essential part of the governance system in India. However, the question that needs to be examined as to what makes it different from the other elements of governance. Here it needs to be appreciated that for any system to be effective, all subsystems of the governance system need to in total synchronization with each other with a control system that is capable to anticipate likely errors which might creep in over a period of time and initiate the remedial action well before the problem becomes intractable. To enhance the effectiveness of the system there is a need to develop a training infrastructure for the training of the users to achieve the man-machine combine’s optimum efficiency. Likewise, there is a need to put in place a  system of timely repair and maintenance so that parts and subsystems get rejuvenated well in time.

Profile of an Indian Army Soldier/ Naval Rating / Air Warrior

Following aspects, which contribute to the professionalism and dedication of the Indian Armed Forces and its commitment to the ‘Nation’:-

  • A highly dedicated, physically fit soldier whose commitment is total to the safety and security of the nation. He is trained to be disciplined to listen to the instructions of his superior and who is well trained to undertake tasks assigned to him willingly. In this connection, it is significant to note that at the time of his attestation in the army he takes an oath which as follows:-

“I, ……………………………………… do swear in the name in the name of GOD that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as stipulated by the law established and that I will, as in duty bound, honesty and faithfully serve in the regular Army of the union of India and go wherever ordered by land, sea or air, and that I will observe and obey all commands of the President of the Union of India and the commands of any officer set over me even to the peril of my life”.

Nothing could be more binding to the nation for a person and needless to add that it goes without saying that an honourable man after having taken an oath on the religious book of his faith is unlikely to violate the oath.

Officer-Men Relationship

This unique relationship is defined by the following concepts-

  • Loyalty- In Armed Forces it is from the leader to his men. A professionally competent military leader is considered loyal to his men if he ensures that the training of his men in done in such a manner that they neither loose their life or limb. Also, he takes care of the hygiene factors of his men (ROTI, KAPDA and MAKAN), to ensure a happy and well-knit team, whose members do not look over their shoulders for support.
  • Discipline-While officers to men relationship is defined by the loyalty they are expected to have towards their men, the men-to-officer relationship is defined by ‘Discipline’. In this relationship men implicitly follow the instructions of their commanders without any thought for their safety. This relationship emanates from the loyalty of officers to men and gradually develops into a comradery which is based on ‘Naam- Namak aur Nishan’.
  • Principle of Follow Me- One of the important principles that the Indian Army follows is that the officers work on the principle of ‘Follow Me. This means that officers especially young and junior officers lead from the front. Such a practice inspires men to put in their best.
  • Credo of Indian Army– It was given by the then Commander in Chief of the British Indian Army, Field Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode as part of his speech during the formal inauguration of the Indian Military Academy in 1932. This credo which is the motto of every officer of the Indian Army is imbibed by every officer and that binds him with his men in an unshakeable bond of camaraderie. The credo is as follows:-

“The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time”.

Enabling Environment for all Stake Holders

Certain values are inculcated in the Army personnel which help him to think ‘Service’ before ‘Self’. Some of the aspects which help a jawan/officer transform into a responsible, effective and dedicated member of the armed forces with a view to remaining committed to the safety, security, integrity and well-being of the country are as follows:- 

  • Training– to discharge his assigned task with commitment and desired skills.
  • Espirit-de-Corps The spirit of comradeship and brotherhood of the brave, regardless of caste, creed or religion. The motto is, “One for all and all for one”!
  • Spirit of Selfless SacrificeThe tradition is never to question, but to do or die for the three “Ns”; Naam, i.e. name-honour- of the unit/Army/Nation, ‘Namak‘(salt) i.e. loyalty to the Nation, and ‘Nishan‘, i.e. the insignia or flag of his unit/regiment/Army/Nation which the soldiers hold afloat willingly.
  • Fearlessness in combat and in the face of the enemy even when fighting against great odds or even when facing sure death.
  • Non-discrimination The Indian Army does not discriminate on account of caste, creed or religion. A soldier is a soldier first and anything else later. He prays under a common roof. It is this unique character, which makes him bind in a team despite such diversities.
  • Fairness and Honesty The spirit of honesty and fair play. He fights for a just cause that extends even to the enemy (prisoner or wounded).
  • Discipline and Integrity Discipline and integrity impart the feeling of patriotism, honesty and courage under all circumstances, however strong the provocation may be or otherwise.
  • Fidelity, Honour and CourageHe is a man on whose shoulders lies the honour and integrity of his nation. He knows that he is the last line of defence and he cannot fail the Nation.
  • Death to Dishonour A close bond among soldiers helps them to choose death to dishonour. The concept of ‘IZZAT’ (HONOUR) in the clan/unit enables them to shun the fear of death; to be called a coward in the peer group is worse than death.
  • Forthrightness A soldier has to be forthright because in his word the men he leads are going to lay down their lives without questioning why.
  • Building Capacity and Capability to Leverage technology– if a soldier is required to prepare for the battlefields of tomorrow, continuous upgradation of technology to execute war, as also acquire intelligence and ensure timely logistic build-up are the tasks which are essential and are part of higher leadership to prepare the rank and file of the Army for the future battlefields. For example, the recent stand-off with China has centre staged the need to survive at a high altitude and yet remain effective. Similarly, the years of insurgency in J&K have flagged the need for better intelligence acquisition and small-team operations. In fact, capability to remain effective in a ‘Grey Zone is the need of the hour. Future battlefields will have signatures of cyber and space-based attacks. This calls for the Indian Army to become battle ready to defeat/ use Drone technology, Artificial Intelligence, extensive use of missiles, and Use/ denial of communication among many other technologies. This calls for the need of certain organisational changes and training methods.

Source of Inspiration for a Soldier

“Kadam Kadam Badhaye Jaa Khushi Ke Geet Gaye Jaa
Yeh Zindagi Hain Kaaum Ki Tu Kaaum Pe Lutaye Jaa !
Tu Sher Hind Aage Badh, Marne Se Tu kabhi  Na Darr
Udake Dushmano Ka Sur, Jo De Watan Badhaye Ja” !!

These are the lines from the famous composition by Vanshidhar Shukla. This composition was adopted by the Indian National Army of Neta Ji Subhash Chandra Bose as the Regimental marching Tune. Now it has been adopted by the Indian Army as their marching tune. Not only it is a patriotic composition to fill the listener’s heart with a fervour for the nation but it epitomises the values the Indian Army stands for. These lines underline some of the great values which make the Indian Army unique. If we deconstruct them, they will be as under:-

  • Never stagnate, keep moving ahead against all odds.
  • Be positive in all circumstances and try to find ways and means to overcome resistance.
  • The life of a soldier belongs to the Nation and therefore always remain prepared to shed it in service to the nation, as and when the time comes.
  • A soldier has to be lion-hearted and never to get deterred by adversities.
  • Be a role model for every citizen with his conduct to fill them with a sense of great pride.

There are two more inputs,which give a peep into the psychological make-up of an Indian Army soldier-

  • Ahymn (SHABAD) by the 10th Guru of Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh who in his famous hymn of the 17th century had said-

“Dēh Shivā bar mōhe hai shubh karamana tē kabahūm̐ na ṭarōm̐,

na ḍarōm̐ ari saun jaba jāi larōn nisacai kari apnijeeīt karōm̐!
aru sikh haum̐ āpanē hī man kau iha lālac haum̐ guna tau ucharōm̐,
jaba āva kī audha nidāna banai ati hī rana mai taba jūjha marōm̐”!!

The words of this hymn is a prayer to God by a Sikh, who is also a soldier to grant him the following:-

  • That he remains committed to doing only good deeds.
  • That he remains fearless when he faces the enemy and makes up his mind to go for only victory.
  • That when the end of my life comes, he dies on the battlefield, defending his cause.
  • The slogan of the Indian Army to which it remains committed and it is as follows:-
  • DESH KI IZZAT!
  • PARIVAR KI IZZAT!!
  • APNI IZZAT!!!

No wonder that with the building of this kind of profile a jawan/ Officer of Indian Army becomes what a poet had described as follows:-

“Hind ka Jawan ek lakh ke saman hai, aandhiyon se bijlion se aur bavandaron se yeh bana, Aag aur angar ke samundaron se yeh ban

…..

Yeh chala ki jaljalon ka ek kafila chala, shakti shaurya jai vijay ka ek Silsila chala!

Desh ki kaman se chala amogh baan hai”!!

Indian Army Through Ages

From the ancient times of Chturangini Sena (Chariots, Elephants, Horse Cavalry and Infantry), the Indian Army has travelled a long way and now is ready to deal with the enemy in space, cyberspace, air, maritime domain, deserts, mountains, build up area and insurgency affected areas. All these calls for specialized training, proficiency in the use of highly sophisticated equipment and above all a high level of motivation to remain committed to discharging his duty fearlessly and an aggressive spirit to always win.

Indian Army Pre-independence– It has been accepted that from the Battle of Plassey in 1757onwards, Indian troops played an important role in the campaigns of the British East India Company and other foreign traders (French East India Company also known as Compagnie Française des Indes Orientales), initially, and later in service to the British Crown. During the Battle of Ghazni, in 1839, it was Indian soldiers who helped the British Army to storm the fort of Ghazni. Battle of Saragarhi in 1897 during the Tirah campaign, in which 21 Sikh soldiers of the 36 Sikh Regiment of the Bengal Infantry fought till ‘last man last round is still rated one of the fiercest of battles and an apt example of the bravery and commitment of the Indian troops. Similarly during the Boxer War in China, and later during the consolidation of the British empire within India, British Indian Army played an important role. Towards the success of Allied forces in general and Great Britain in particular, British Indian Army played an important role during World War-I and II. The India Gate at New Delhi bears the testimony of the valour of Indian soldiers during World War-I in which almost 70,000 troops laid down their lives in line to discharge their duty. The story during World War -II was no different. Almost 87000 men of the British Indian Army laid their life in line to discharge their military duty. A total of 4000 decorations and 18 Victoria Cross or George Cross bear testimony to their valour. Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief, India from 1943 till 1947 asserted that the British “couldn’t have come through both World War-I and II, if they hadn’t had the Indian Army”.One may question eulogising these actions, as they were for a foreign power but the fact remains that the valour and courage displayed during these operations were by Indian soldiers and for the Indian Army they continue to remain a source of inspiration as each of these soldiers had discharged their Soldier’s DHARMA with sincerity, dedication and commitment.

No wonder, after the rebellion of the Indian National Army (INA) during the period: 1943-45  and the Royal Indian Navy Mutiny of 1946, Great Britain realised that they could no longer hold on to India.

Indian Armed Forces Post Independence

The most glorious chapter of the Indian Armed forces commenced post-independence. from the Kashmir operations of  1947-49 when, with their unmatched valour, they managed to not only stop Pakistanis disguised as tribal LASHKARS  at the gate of Srinagarbut also managed to get a substantial portion of the J&K freed from the clutches of the invaders. The most brilliant operations during this campaign were first; moving to Kashmir Valley in a lightening operation using air crafts which were hardly meant for such operations; secondly; stemming the advance of Pakistanis disguised as tribal pushing them back and thirdly; clearing the  Invaders from Kargil and thus establishing,  the linkage with Ladakh and finally breaking the seize of Punch. The declaration of Cease Fire was a bit too hasty and probably if operations had been allowed to continue for some more time, India could have got more areas free from the clutches of the invaders and ensured better control of the areas in J&K.

Although, the 1962 war with China was an unmitigated disaster for many reasons but the valour and courage of Indian soldiers will go down in the annals of military history as worthy of emulation. The commitment to uphold the Unit’s IZZAT and commitment to their soldier’s duty is amply clear in the Battle of Rezang La, wherein 114 of 120 soldiers of C Company of 13  Kumaon, including their company commander Maj Shaitan Singh, died defending the post and thus thwarting designs of PLA of China to capture Chushul. Major  General Ian Cardozo has described the action as one of the greatest examples of a soldier’s dedication to his soldier’s dharma. He writes in his book, ‘Paramvir, our Heroes in Battle’, “When Rezang La was later revisited dead jawans were found in the trenches still holding on to their weapons… every single man of this company was found dead in his trench with several bullets or splinter wounds”.Although, some analyst may declare questioning of non-use of the Indian Air Force (IAF) during the operations as being “wiser in the hindsight” but the decision of not using the IAF will continue to haunt many generations in future because it is without any doubt that the non-use of IAF violated the basic principle of the operational art that probability of a defeat can be reduced/ eliminated only when all elements of the combat power of a nation are used in a coordinated operation against aggression. Probably the result would have been different if Indian Air Force (IAF) was used for both offensive and defensive operations. This strategic mistake could not be compensated by the valour of the Indian Army.

After the jolt of 1962, the Indian Army decided to review its priorities and decided to embark on path of rebuilding the Armed Forces with renewed vigour for professionalism and Pakistan were taught a lesson during 1965. It was a campaign which saw some of the greatest actions in daring, audacity and soldiers’ commitment to their soldierly duty. The supreme sacrifice of CQMH Abdul Hameed of 4 GRENADIERS, during the battle of Asal Uttar on 9-10 Sep 1965, in which he destroyed eight tanks and was killed in action while destroying the 9th tank, proved that battles are won with HAUSLA and not by having better weaponry. The 1965 war also saw small GNAT fighter Aircraft defeating much superior Sabre Jets and Star Fighters of Pak Air Force. The Army and Air Force Cooperation during the war, was a display of Inter-Services Cooperation to achieve success in battle. Finally the military leadership as a battle-winning factor came out clearly during the capture of Haji Pir pass, Battle of Dograi, Battle of Chawinda and above all the leadership of Western Army Commander Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh and Air Marshal (Later Marshal of the Air Force) Arjan Singh. Alas! The battle won by Indian troops on the battlefield was lost on the diplomatic table of Tashkent.

The finest chapter in the illustrious history of the Indian Armed Forces came in 1971. It was the might of Indian Armed Forces, inter-services cooperation, the political leadership of the then PM, Srimati Indira Gandhi, military leadership of General (later Field Marshal) Manekshaw, Admiral SM Nanda and Air Chief Marshal PC Lal, effective use of psychological warfare and above all the valour, daring, audacity, innovativeness of the rank and file of Indian Armed Forces, helped Indian Armed Forces to clinch the finest victory in the annals of military history. It was also unique that after the victory within months Indian Army moved out of the newly created Bangladesh. Three of the most daring acts during the war were; firstly; the destruction of the Pak Armoured Brigade in the Battle of Longewala (this was a combined operation of the Indian Army and the IAF), secondly; Naval raid of Karachi and thirdly action in the Battle of Basantar wherein the daring of young 2/Lt Arun Khetrapal and dogged determination of Maj (Later Colonel) Hoshiar Singh wrote new chapters in bravery. History was repeated again at the diplomatic table of Shimla when 93 thousand Prisoners of war and a large area captured along the International Border with Pakistan was allowed to let go without getting anything substantial in return.

The saga of bravery, courage and audacity continued during operation Meghdoot (seizing control of the Siachen Glacier in 1984), during Kargil operation (recapturing territory occupied by Pak infiltrators), the surgical strike of 2016 and the air raid at Balakot. Banasinghs, Manoj Pandey and Abhinandans of the successive generations of the Indian Armed Forces are not only bringing glory to the Armed Forces but are also keeping India safe against external threats. The stand-off between India and China since 2020 has once again proved that the Indian Armed Forces are second to none. It was the daring action of the Indian Army to occupy Kailash Ridge, the bloody nose it gave to PLA in Galwan and the coordinated resolute and firm response of the three services that made China for the first time to rethink its strategy against India. Indian Armed Forces in general but Indian Army, in particular, has broken the back of insurgency in J&K, North East and the Indian Navy has done the same to piracy in the high seas in the Western Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.

Not only in the domain of operational excellence, but Indian Armed Forces are also always there in support to the nation-building, disaster management and humanitarian evacuation of Indian diaspora. Be it building of infrastructure for India’s nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998, the building of highest motorable road at an altitude of 19300 feet across Umling La in 2021, be it, first responder, to Cloud Burst in Leh in 2010  or Kerala Floods in 2018 or the latest evacuation from Ukraine in 2022 wherein Indian Air Force did a yeoman service, Indian Armed Forces have done their bit with elan, commitment and professionalism.  Their contribution during the conduct of CWG 2010 or Asian Games 1982 had been lessons in Efficiency and excellence. The Mission Olympic of Indian Armed Forces has helped the country,to build  world class sports infrastructure in India and has given a number of medal winners in the Olympics and Asian Games including so far the only Gold medal in Athletics. 

All this proves a point that Indian Armed Forces continue to move steadily on the path of progress to safeguard Indian Nation across the entire spectrum of threats, continue remaining involved in the nation building and continue making possible the ‘IMPOSSIBLES’ in every task assigned to them.

Author – Maj Gen AK Chaturvedi, AVSM, VSM (Retd)  is a retired Indian Army General Officer who has served in Jammu & Kashmir, NE, Andman Nikobar on various appointments at Command and Army HQs. . He is Vice Chairman of Think Tank, “STRIVE”,  after retirement is pursuing his favorite hobby of writing for newspapers, journals, and think tanks.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation that he belongs to or of the STRIVE.

4 thoughts on “INDIAN ARMED FORCES: IN SERVICE TO THE NATION BY MAJ GEN AK CHATURVEDI, AVSM, VSM (RETD)

  • October 19, 2022 at 7:52 pm
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    An extremely well articulated article, which through detailed research highlights the great role played by the Indian soldier in both war and peace. The General beautifully explains what all goes behind the scenes to make a soldier which has never ever failed.
    A must read article by all

  • October 18, 2022 at 1:11 am
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    Thanks to to both the officers for finding the article worthy of their consideration.

  • October 17, 2022 at 9:02 am
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    Very Positive and Well Researched Article .
    Many Congrats to Gen .
    You must keep Educating the Nation .

  • October 16, 2022 at 9:46 pm
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    1.Very well articulated narrative which shall always serve as a poignant reminder to the serving and the veterans alike.
    2.It will ensure that the spirit of SACRED COVENANT remains as vibrant as ever as the Sacred Covenant is auto-motivating.
    3.Kudos Sir.

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