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Infantry Day Thoughts:THE GENERAL’S LINE OF LIES, by B.K. Mathur,16 October 2006 Print E-mail


New Delhi, 16 October 2006

Infantry Day Thoughts


By B.K. Mathur

Indian Army’s Infantry has sufficient cause for celebrating its “Day” on 27 October every year.  On this day in 1947, the combat-rich arm saved Srinagar--- and Kashmir--- from the attack of Pakistan-supported tribals. One Infantry Company, about 130 men on foot, bravely defeated the attack by a 700-strong force, equipped with Rifles, LMGs and Mortars, in what is presently remembered as free India’s first battle of Badgaon, Srinagar. The famous Battle set the example of courage and valour seldom equalled in the annals of the Indian Army.  The day is justifiably celebrated with great pomp and show annually by the most battled-hardened fighting arm, known as the “Queen of Battles”.

This year’s celebrations and get-togethers serving and retired infantrymen is of special significance, providing a food for thought. For the first time in 59 years, the Chief of an enemy’s army has claimed to have defeated the Indian Army at Kargil in 1999, which was nothing more than an Infantry operation intended to flush out some enemy soldiers who had sneaked into the Indian territory and constructed “conditioned” bunkers. The claim has been made by Pakistan’s President, General Parvez Musharraf, the Army Chief who planned the Kargil operation, in his just-published memoirs: In the Line of Fire, described by many as In the Line of Lies, in utter frustration following the Pakistan Army’s drubbing whenever it dared attack India, in 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and 1999.

Musharraf’s claim has been described as a “bluff” by some and a “military misadventure” by others.  The latter description has been made significantly, Gen. Ali Kuli Khan Khattak who resigned from the Army in protest against the, then, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s decision to appoint Musharraf as the Army Chief.  Khan has described the Kargil operation as a disaster, flawed in its conception, tactical planning and execution.  He has been quoted as stating that “it (Kargil) was an unprofessional decision…… Kargil would continue to haunt him (Musharraf) for the rest of his life….. Kashmir has damaged the Kashmir cause…. A disaster bigger than the East Pakistan tragedy……”

For India, it was a double triumph in Kargil in 1999---military and diplomatic. Besides the valour and patriotism which the Indian soldier proved for the umpteenth time, the Kargil operation was equally significant for the Government of India.  It scored a diplomatic triumph.  The whole world, including Uncle Sam, recognized in no uncertain terms that Pakistan was an aggressor and was required to withdraw from the Indian territory it had illegally occupied for its strategic advantage for future battles, if it dared to fight against India once more and thrashed. New Delhi showed to the world it was a peace-loving country and will never ever cross the Line of Control (LoC) to gain strategic advantage.

In this connection, it needed to be understood that if India’s aim at Kargil had remained restricted to defeat Pakistan militarily, the correct strategy would have been, as some IAF Commanders had openly viewed, that armament and ammunition stores in Pak occupied-Kashmir could be attacked from the air and the line of communication and supplies to the illegally constructed “conditioned” bunkers snapped. The strategy could have doubtlessly helped the Indian forces complete the operation Vijay much faster than they did.  In doing so, Islamabad and the Pak Army Chief Musharraf could not have complained, because the occupied Kashmir is actually India’s territory and storing of military machines and ammunition at Skardu could have been challenged.

Actually, India’s forces had to fight what may be described as an “unprecedented war”.  They were repeatedly asked by the political leadership not to cross the LoC in any case Opening of two or three other fronts and encircling of the intruders after crossing the LoC would have helped the Indian forces to quicken the completion of the task. This did not happen contrary to established military operation strategy, because New Delhi did not want the Pak infiltration to turn into a full-scale war.  The Kargil operation, remember, was not a war, only an operation to throw out the intruders.  The task was achieved, unprofessionally though.

However, more important than the triumph at Kargil is the performance of India’s soldier, who is recognized all over the world as a great fighter, valiant and courageous from the time he served under the Raj.  This is remembered time and again, especially when the Infantry Day and Regimental “Days” are traditionally celebrated every year. The Infantryman’s courage to fight under different situations, even with inferior machines, weapons and weapon systems, as happened against Pakistan in 1965 and 1971, continues till today.

It is now well known that the Indian Infantryman has been ill-equipped during Kargil and earlier for a mountain battle in sub-zero temperature. Despite this, the Indian soldier has always risen to the task.  His valour has been appreciated during the Second World War by none other than Winston Churchill, who had described him as a great disciplined soldier. This trait was seen in Kargil too, when the Infantryman wor the “unprofessional operation”. A number of “YOs” (young officers) were asked to lead the troops and remove the enemy from unauthorized occupation, sitting comfortably in “conditioned bunkers” at a height.  But they achieved the target which was “very difficult” by any standard.

There are umpteen instances of deeds of valour of the men in all the 27 Infantry Regiments of the Indian Army.  The acts of bravery of the Indian soldiers have been appreciated by British Generals under whom they have fought in various actions.  One of many such observations is what the Governor-General and the Commander-in-Chief of the British Indian Army made way back in 1897, after the “brilliant defence” of the Fort Gulistan and the Post of Sarangarhi by the 26 Sikh.  Such acts of bravery have been “mentioned for special reference” by the British commanders during the First and Second World Wars. Post independence, there are stories galore of Infantrymen who have fought battles with outstanding performance.

Such is the stock of India’s soldiers.  They always rise to the occasion, as re-established in Kargil in 1999.  They need to be duly recognized and remembered especially on 26 Jly every year, described as the “Kargil Day”.  It is our duty to keep them in high morale. Their deeds of valour and service to the nation which they are doing in Kashmir continuously since 1947 needs to be acknowledged.  Kargil martyrs and their sacrifices did the country proud, no matter what the Pakistani General has claimed in his memoirs. ----INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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