A Sino-Indian scuffle

Aug 21, 2017
By Sunil Sharan
In the most serene of surroundings, like that lovely Ladakhi lake in 3 Idiots, they pelted stones like mad men. Chinese soldiers head-to-head with Indian jawans. The world saw it. It was a sight to see.
Months of tension finally boiled over. For months, the Global Times and the Red Rag, official propaganda mouthpieces of Xi Jinping, the benevolent-looking Chinese dictator, also known as the last remaining Red-but-not-Red country president, chairman of the Chinese military commission, and head of the Chinese now-no-more communist party, have been blowing hot and hot against India.
Do this, otherwise that. Do that, otherwise this. India’s own strongman has shown remarkable restraint. Let’s talk. Not a bullet has been fired at the border for 40 years. Dialogue is the key to all problems.
Obviously Indian troops have been listening in, and then tuning out the Dil Ki Baat. How long will they stomach the Chinese clarion call to arms unheeded? They are warriors, fighters, killers. If India says just one odious thing, do Rawalpindi and Islamabad stay silent?
Expect the Global Times and the Red Rag to go silent for the foreseeable future. Do they not say that war is diplomacy by other means? What 7 Lok Kalyan Marg and South Block could not achieve, a few on-the-spot junior commanders have done so for India. Viva the great Indian army for bursting the Chinese bubble. Not for nothing did Field Marshal Montgomery of the UK proclaim Indian soldiers the best of the lot in the second world war.
Now what? Will 7 Lok Kalyan Marg and South Block go into a cowering fetal position once again? Gosh, this incident has blown over, let’s keep our fingers crossed that the Chinese don’t start spouting platitudes again.
The Chinese are a bit like Salman Khan: their muscles have grown so fast that they do not know which armpit will burst open when. All around they are surrounded by enemies: Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, India, the US (and the West in general). The Philippines has already capitulated to them.
Xi Jinping has made the world believe that he has little to no control over Kim Jong-un. Only a fool will believe Jinping. Japan is terrified of Kim’s antics, but Japan as you know is Japan. It is never terrified of anything. China went into little Vietnam for a few weeks in the late seventies and came out battered and bruised. Nobody–France, the US, China–ever messes with little Vietnam and gets out alive.
India was supposedly the weak spot surrounding China. The ghost of 1962 stalked the land. But the scuffling, stone-pelting, kicking, hurling, smashing, yes, smashin’ Indian jawans in Ladakh have hopefully finally put that ghost to bed.
But 7 Lok Kalyan Marg will now have to do serious soul-searching for the kalyan of the Indian military, not just for the neta-babu nexus that rules this country.
First things first. The Indian army is not attracting enough officers, and many of the ones who are joining are frankly not up to the mark. An officer fights until the level of colonel. But the emoluments and the facilities offered to this grade of officers is not enough.
The netas and babus will say for crying out loud, see the perks and facilities they get. But proof of the pudding is in the eating. People are not signing up to become officers.
At the level of brigadier and above, an officer begins to enjoy a fairly regal lifestyle. But how many reach that level? In no profession but the military is death a sign of success. Many young officers die before reaching the brigadier rank. Many don’t make the grade. And then they whittle away in retirement.
Which brings me to OROP. Lite OROP? Dark ORP? Whatever OROP? The nation has witnessed a sorry spectacle for 50 years, and continues to do so. The skill set demanded of a military officer is very different from that demanded of civilian administration officials. Anybody who lives in India knows what anarchies our towns and cities are. Anybody who has visited a military cantonment is struck by how picture-perfect everything is. Chalk and cheese then.
When an officer retires or leaves service, he finds himself completely adrift in the sea of anarchy that civilian India is. He has no skills to start a business in this chaotic, unethical land. He comes from a world of ethics. He is reduced to becoming a petty security guard or insurance salesman. That’s why the Pakistani army runs biscuit and soap factories and builds roads and what have you: they promise a cradle-to-grave insurance to their men that allows them to recruit the best and the brightest.
Then there are the constant sad scenes of military widows not getting their dues. An army wife loses her man to militants in J&K, an air force wife loses her partner to a faltering plane, they are lucky if are allowed come on a TV show to wail about their state. Otherwise they are left to run from pillar to post.
My friend is a US army sergeant (havaldar). He says that his family will receive a half a million dollars (that is a clean four crore rupees) if he dies in battle. No questions asked. That’s in addition to the pension his wife would receive. That knowledge gives him a great deal of peace of mind in battle. Can we say the same of our officers and jawans?
America is a very warlike nation. It was built on battle. Americans have lost war after war, but somehow they are still standing. That is because they revere their military. See Trump’s cabinet. All dominated by generals. And Trump reveres them.
We in India need to get away from the grip of the netas and babus and develop a more militaristic mindset. Doesn’t mean we become a dictatorship; just means that our enemies don’t consider us as puny “Baniyas”. We have some of the finest warriors in the world. But we need to treat them as such. This time, the Sino-Indo scuffle remained a kerfuffle.
Next time a soldier might fire a shot. The first world war was let loose by a single shot. Are we prepped up for that shot?
Times of India, August 21, 2017

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