August 07, 2020
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Knights In Shining Armour

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Knights In Shining Armour
SO finally we've been united in deed and purpose. Even if it's thanks to Pakistan. Not even Sachin Tendulkar gets the kind of consensus the Indian army action in Kargil is getting from the people. We are witnessing an emotional outpouring of nationalistic pride that we couldn't have imagined through most of the terrorism-torn Eighties and Nineties. Even the mildest of doves are outraged at Pakistan's gall in infiltrating Indian territory, grabbing it, and then refusing to leave. Everybody wants them out, even if the price has to be paid in blood, tears and sweat.

One salutary offshoot of the crisis has been the re-emergence of the armed forces in the national consciousness. The indifference towards the army " the last of the institutions with its inner integrity intact " that had been mounting over the last two decades has finally been sloughed off. To court death for a cause outside of oneself is a concept alien to the contemporary mind. To see young men do so, day after day, has rocked a lot of people back on their heels.

Even while being a pacifist and abhorring the prospect of war, one has to admit that the Indian armed forces are truly splendid in their fibre. Anyone would have thought they would have baulked at a war that could so easily end their lives. To the contrary I have discovered over the last few weeks that the army personnel are the ones most raring to go.

I have spoken to senior retired officers and middle-rung serving officers, and undismayed by the casualties they are suffering, they are eager to join battle in an even more purposeful way. In short to set the enemy in its place once and for all. Amazingly, I have met officers who are upset they have been posted to headquarters in Delhi, removing them from the theatre of action. Contrast this with the buck-passing that characterises the rest of the government.

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