HUMOUR: THE MOST TRUSTED ALLY OF SOLDIERS!

There can be little dispute about the fact that the single most faithful ally of a soldier, besides off course his weapon, happens to be his sense of humour.  Just as his gun seldom deserts him during his most trying moments that are aplenty during his soldiering lifespan, so does his sense of humour rarely ever betrays him. Little wonder that over the ages, ‘humour in uniform’ has come to be regarded as a genre in itself.

Humour in the army may range from plain slapstick variety at the one end of the spectrum, as the one generally depicted in bollywood movies (showing a burly balding major sa’ab almost benignly indulging in acts of buffoonery) to qualitatively much refined and often-philosophical levels. But the underlying innocence and rustic simplicity with which it is delivered, or rather consummated, makes it abundantly infectious to evoke a tickle inside even the perpetually ‘dukhi atma’ (gloomiest of soul).  The happy paradox is that military sense of humour keeps getting sharpened as the ‘going gets tough’! 

A few samples that instantly come to mind and are interestingly worth sharing have been randomly lifted from real life incidents that occurred in the midst of some otherwise very serious moments that one could encounter.

Sample1

Having received marching orders, a Garhwali paltan (battalion) was preparing itself for induction into erstwhile East Pakistan during liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. As is customary the battalion one morning before joining battle, was mustered by the adjutant for the Commanding officer’s inspection and ‘pep talk’. The Commanding officer, a stern colonel, walked up to the podium and as he commenced his ‘motivational discourse’, he noticed a distracting flutter within the rank and file. Annoyed he ordered the adjutant to find out the reason for such undesired commotion. The adjutant in a hushed tone informed him that the restlessness was due to a beehive getting disturbed right behind where the CO was standing and a swarm of agitated bees were menacingly approaching towards him to probably settle scores. Against the advice of the adjutant to take cover, the commanding officer thundered to the battalion that he, the present commanding officer of the illustrious battle honour embellished paltan was not some “nappy wrapped pipsqueak” who could be scared by a “bunch of bloody bullying bees”. The result was inevitable. Before he could complete the sentence, the swarm was all over him and he had to be evacuated to the medical aid post all swollen, well before commencement of battle! Needless to mention, the battalion still acquitted itself commendably during the war with the bee bitten commanding officer leading from the front all through.   

Sample2

A gentleman cadet still in his teens, yet to come to terms with the hardships of military training that he was being subjected to, would constantly write to his mother lamenting about the pain and agony of arduous route marches and the harsh musketry and bayonet fighting lessons. Getting used to such repeated remorse coming her way, it came as a pleasant surprise, when one day she received a letter from her son disclosing, that he was currently on the top of the world having been temporarily shifted to a separate section of the academy where he had some of the finest luxuries that a cadet could ever dream of: A soft bed, hot meals served on the bed itself and a radio, all to himself. At the bottom of the letter was inscribed, “PS. Ma, I am not alone here, I have jaundice, to give me company”!

Sample3

During a hot summer military exercise in Rajasthan, I got bitten by a wild dog or perhaps a jackal and as a result had to take the anti-rabies course at Suratgarh military hospital. One day after treatment I returned to my jeep and my driver, lovable Muthusamy promptly served a chilled glass of water with plenty of crushed ice. Indebted, I thanked him for his concern and ingenuity to have managed iced water in the midst of blistering desert heat. He took my compliment rather nonchalantly and said that he had simply picked up some fresh ice from the morgue, where plenty had just arrived covering a couple of corpses that had come for autopsy!

Sample4

Once as a regiment survey officer, I was tasked to map an unmapped portion of Pokhran in the Thar Desert. Mapping the area meant establishing of theodolite astro-observation stations on sand dunes for triangulation. While I was busy taking ‘sun-shots’ my handlebar mustachioed Commanding Officer, a true replica of the old swagger stick wielding Sandhurst(ian) Englishman, visited my station to see the progress of mapping. Reaching the top of the dune on foot, his throat had turned dry & he requested for a glass of water. My smart and resourceful surveyor, Havildar Sunderappan promptly ran down the dune and brought a glass of refreshing orange squash, much to the delight and appreciation of the ‘ole man’, although he expressed that he would have preferred simple plain water. In due course while we were discussing the mechanics of triangulation, we had Sunderappan again offer us a glass each of orange squash that we happily consumed, thanking him for his hospitality in the midst of a directly overhead blistering noon desert sun. The CO left happy with the progress.

In the evening after day’s work while closing the station I casually enquired from Sunderappan, why instead of water he had repeatedly offered orange squash to the CO, he very innocently smiled and said, Sir we had run out of water, so I took some from a nearby drying water hole puddle next to the dune and mixed a lavish portion of orange squash to hide the dirt & stench. I went aghast and threw up my hands when he showed me the water hole with a bovine carcass rotting in the puddle. My first reaction was to kill him, but considering his innocent ingenuity, I just landed a punch in his gut. At dinner that evening, I fearfully narrated this faux pas to the CO, expecting a severe reprimand. But, the seasoned soldier simply laughed it off saying, we surely were made of sterner stuff, than to die of rotten water. Give Sunderappan a peg of rum for his ‘obedience’!             

Who says life in uniform is tough, dull and dreary!    

My ‘Accidental’ Tryst with Books

IT MAY not be an overstatement that a huge constituency from amongst my generation grew up on the belief that there were hardly any academic ‘antecedents’ needed to join the profession of arms. In fact most of us felt that an entry into the army meant a final hasta la vista to books. And this misleading myth, to a great extent, was perhaps even fostered by the fact that all one needed as a precondition to join the army as an officer was, to qualify in a very elementary high school standard general knowledge written exam conducted by the UPSC, followed by a more ‘field oriented’ Services Selection Board (SSB) and finally of course a stringent medical test- Bingo, that was it!

So, when I took the plunge and got selected (still in my teens), my adolescent happiness came not from the fact that my search for an honorable job had come to an end well before it had even started for all my other college mates, but from my self assumed notion that hereafter I would be eternally spared from the undesired crucifix of ‘books’.

At the military academy, therefore, while a great deal of time got rightly consumed in improving our physical endurance, things on the academic front remained well under wraps. There was precious little in the form of classroom activity other than occasional lessons in military history, military law with special emphasis on ‘phonetics’, aimed to improve our english diction since we still had ‘Sandhurst surrogates’ ruling the roost in the Indian army! Since that was the envisioned scholastic benchmark at the Academy, an air of ‘superiority’ soon afflicted me. Armed with a Senior Cambridge ‘O’ Level, I started lavishing myself with a feeling that I was perhaps over educated for the job!

On the other hand, the rough and tumble of basic military training, we were told, called for a specially designed curriculum intended to harden and prepare battle worthy men out of (us) sissy ‘mama’s baby’ college goers. Well, that perhaps suited us all, since most of us were rebel college runaways, anyway! To that extent there were no grudges in jumping off trees a la Tarzan wannabes, frequently damaging the drill square tarmac through incessant thumping of our hobnailed boots. Or, for that matter we found nothing abnormal in most willingly twisting our jawbones to awkward limits in order to appear ‘ruthless’ during those close quarter battle (CQB) training and bayonet fighting practice sessions, which demanded mercilessly ripping apart harmless cotton filled gunny bag mannequins representing the ‘enemy’ soldier. LOL!

I was perhaps unaware that my nimble feet on the marathon track and a natural ability to float in air over the wooden vaulting horse had caught the fancy of a pedigreed Sandhurst gunner Colonel KTM Pillai, our Chief Instructor. So, when I got commissioned, he saw to it that I too became a gunner. Lamentably, it is at this juncture that my myth about ‘good riddance’ to studies came crashing down.

The first shock came at Artillery School in Devlali, Maharashtra located on the western ghat foot hills of Sahyadri Ranges, where instead of being handed a howitzer as expected, we were given a ‘slide rule’ (a poor man’s calculator). During our very first discourse at the young officers’ basic gunnery course, the instructor ‘bombarded’ us with a barrage of questions relating to, (never heard earlier by an arts grad), the Remainder and Pythagoras theorems, which we were told formed the spine of conventional gunnery.

I soon realized that my imaginary honeymoon with freedom from books was over for good. And, that from now on life would mercilessly grind me beneath a heap of books- the contents of which, shall remain ‘Greek’ to me until eternity.

All of a sudden there was core mathematics, calculus, trigonometry, ballistics and dynamics supposedly clubbed as ‘Applied Mechanics’, to study. To add fuel to fire, by the time I forged an uneasy rapprochement with physics, lessons on ammunition started, which called for heavier doses of chemistry. Soon I was mindlessly mugging up complex chemical formulae pertaining to equally vague nitrogen compounds- nitrocellulose, nitroglycerine and trinitrotoluene, all the while cursing myself for having wasted my time in school reading all those silly soliloquies from Shakespeare and Shaw! I can never forget the day when, thoroughly confused, I mustered courage to walk up to my mathematics instructor to enquire about the frequently referred ‘sine theta’. Perhaps torn between exasperation and despair, he threw his hands up in the air, advising me to consult some goddamned dictionary! My waterloo had begun. The next quarter century was books, books and more books!

Today, five decades after my first rendezvous with the army, I am still trying to unravel what greyed ‘escapists’ like me before time. Was it exposure to the ‘field and fighting’? Or, was it our accidental ‘Tryst with Books’!

Alimony: The Price of Biting the Forbidden Fruit!

In those sedentary and gloomy times of pandemic, when physical contact & socialising had come to a complete standstill, we gradually shifted to and found solace in virtual interaction. Over time our dependence on technology increased manifold to break the boredom through frequent face-times, group-chats & zoom lives, which brought some semblance of sanity and ‘jumbish‘ (movement) to our sterile existence, if not for the whole body at least we all exercised the facial muscles LOL (ing) away mirthfully, sharing and listening to each others’ tragicomic ‘aap-beetis’ (escapades).

On one such gossipy virtual rendezvous the discussion uncannily steered its way into the pitfalls of breakup, better known in our ‘puritan’ society as divorce. Chauvinist that we are, regaling in unison and enjoying harmless cheap thrills in highlighting woman power (read begum power), we kept lamenting pitifully over how poor men become voluntary losers while the winner (read woman) takes it all in a breakup! Yeh woh forbidden fruit hai jisko khaya toh pachtaya aur na khaya toh bhi pachtaya! (Forbidden fruit that can bite you back whether or not you bite it)

Ab jab baat nikli hai to let it go ‘dur talak’. Guftugu ke darmiyan zikr aya Melinda apa ke breakup ka (Now that the cat was out of the bag the discussion drifted to sister Melinda Gates’ breakup). Someone interjected, Oh boy, with this decision, poor brother Billy (Gates) has literally gone ‘microsoft’ financially. His sulk certainly not unfounded, the scare of alimony looms large. Aur is bimari ki koi vaccine bhi nahiñ hai! (There is no antidote to this disease).

I butted in with my own two penny anecdote ‘Alimony’, which goes like this:-

Place: Northern Iraq/ Year 2008

I was handling Oil & Gas upstream security for an Oil Exploration major, a little North of Baghdad, along Kirkuk/ Mosul to be precise, once a den of Saddam Hussein. The least that one could say of the environment was that it was a hot blistering furnace and very hostile for expats. Just three summers ago Saddam and his gestapo ‘Chemical Alis’ were running amok here. Yet, the lure of hydrocarbons (black gold) was overwhelmingly beckoning for expatriates of all shapes and sizes to stick their neck out. Me included.

Among the many firangi (expatriate) technicians working on our two operational oil rigs imported from Texas, was a pedigreed blue eyed Irishman, let’s call him Uncle Tom, a septuagenarian specialist mud engineer and a master at his job. He had taken an instant liking for a blue eyed Indian called ‘me’, probably because of my feline eyes and love for Shakespearean soliloquies interspersed with my bizarre sense of humor. He would often accompany me whenever I was out on the tracks checking my security control points.

Scene 1

One day while driving along a dirt track we went past a half burnt Mazda sedan, probably (sorry surely) blown up by an IED. Tom looked at me and very concernedly remarked, Colonel you have a tough job at hand, providing security in this perennially insecure geography. It’s not easy to earn money in this part of the world. Affirmative, I replied under the comfort of my 9mm Glock strapped to my waist and almost casually asked him, what had brought him to this ever hostile sandbox, sticking his neck out to IED blasts, holdups and frequent shootouts, when at his age he should have been playing golf in the cool confines of Dublin and enjoying single malt every evening! He looked at me, smiled and remarked nonchalantly, Alimony Colonel alimony! We parted ways six years ago and I am still earning to pay the alimony. Not comprehending the seriousness of his predicament, I laughed off mentioning, Oh, so Sir, you are paying the price of having bitten the forbidden fruit!

Cut to Scene 2

Two years later, still shuttling in and out of two of Forbes’ most dangerous geographies of the world, Iraq and Yemen, I thought of taking a holiday in UK. Since this trip was self-financed, I started scouting for cheap accommodation in central London, which is not easy to come by. The choice, to seek advice and guidance fell upon Uncle Tom, which was instantly forthcoming. Much to my relief, the moment I remarked, came his reply, where’s the problem dear? I have an apartment on Piccadilly Street. You can stay there for as long as you want. The shocker however came in the next sentence when he said, “By London standards it is big enough with two ensuite bedrooms, one occupied by my girlfriend fiancée Vallerie, a young skydiver and the other is all yours”. I stood there dumbfounded not knowing how to react, quietly whispering to myself (in hindi, of course) “wah chacha wah, hum to ek forbidden apple samajh rahe thé, aap toh pura bageecha nigalné ki tayyari kiye baethe haiñ. Lagé raho munna bhai, saari umr alimony kamaate raho, jai ho”!! (Vow uncle, I thought you just had a single bite of the forbidden apple, but you Sir, have planned to gulp down the entire orchard. Carry on Cleo, keep earning alimony for life, godspeed!!)

P.S. They say many a pauper roams the London Street for having bitten the forbidden…..!

My Take on the Lal Singh Chadda (LSC) Controversy

It all started with threats being served to Salman Rushdie over his fictional novel Satanic Verses which had portions denigrating Prophet of Islam. Today 34 years later as a result Salman lies in a hospital with near fatal stab wounds. This aborigine redemption/justice delivery against real or percieved ‘hurting of sentiments’ trend has caught the fancy of others across the world. You hear instances of people blowing up churches, mosques, hospitals, busses & trains, vandalising market places, movie halls public facilities, ironically, by those belonging to the supposedly civilised & rule of law world. And in due course this methodology has become a societal rule rather than an abberant exception. Every now & then one hears threats (mostly politically/ commercially motivated) being sent out to individuals/groups/organisations by individuals/groups/organisations to avenge/ redress some percieved hurting of socioethnic, communal, cultural or religious sentiments. Be it essays, imagery, movie scripts or mere utterances, anything can be played up through mass media by vested groups to hound the originator, with some going to the extent of serving death threats too. Recall what happened to poor Deepika Padukone for essaying the role of Padmavati, besides of course the extent of commercial/ reputational damage meted out to a wonderful celluloid essayist Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Following the same trend now a remake of the oscar winning Forrest Gump, Amir Khan’s LSC has been brought on the mat, under some alleged ‘hurting of miliary sentiments’.
Since I have not watched the film, I will refrain from commenting upon the content, yet, notwithatanding having interacted within army circles as also some genuine cinegoers I am convinced that even if there is a questionable portrayal somewhere it does not merit a viral boycot of someones celluloidal labour. Having served a lifetime in the ‘worshipable’ Indian army let me reiterate that we are amongst those few Institutions across the world who possess the ability to laugh at ourselves. Haven’t we all grown up hearing, laughing and sharing humour in uniform. In fact humour within the army is the biggest stress buster and a tested antidote to isolation, boredom, long stretches of seperation from civilisation & PTSD. I have experienced the most comical side of myself and my comrades in perhaps the most stressful life and death situations. So occasional jokes cracked at us do not get to ‘hurt our sentiments’. Our military ethos & values are too strong to keep us sanitised from occasional comical projections, seeking instant reproach. Our movies are full of stereotyped depiction of actually nonexistant, ballroom dancing, booze & buffonery. Do we get agitated? No we laugh at such dipiction in unison with others. Our sentiments lie in our professionalism and our pledge we take to defend the integrity of our Nation and not in
parochial politically motivated outbursts.
Allow me to share my own experience of three days ago, on the eve of our 75th IDay Anniversary that I decided to celebrate in Himachal Pradesh. Accordingly I got a hotel booking confirmed through Agoda aggregator at Hotel Cozy Nook in Dalhousie. However when we reached the hotel, it dishonoured our confirmed booking. Since I had driven 400 kms with my family & six month old grand child, a heated argument ensued with the hotel desk. The shock came when in the course of argument I disclosed my identity as Col Ahmed a veteran of Indian Army to which one hotel staff member Chirag shockingly called me a ‘Pakistani’ apparently because of my religion, which did enrage me momentarily because I have commanded Dogra troops and hold them in very high esteem, and here was a clear case of hurting the collective sentiments of the Indian Army. However, despite the bruise I forced my anger to subside and ignored him as one of the many slaves of the prevalent politico-religious propaganda. I called up the local police station to lodge a complaint but was met with a response that they were busy in IDay parade rehersals. That much for the prevailing communal indoctrination!
As for me, well I continued my journey shifted to another hotel and very proudly hoisted the tricolor next morning in my hotel balcony alongwith my six month old grand daughter. That sirs is the mettle of Indian Army.
Happy 75th.Jai Hind.

Moment of Truth

Driving across Banihal Pass towards Anantnag in full battle rig, as we first entered the Valley for Op Rakshak in Uri for counter insurgency (COIN) operations , I had this uncanny feeling that my boys were a trifle uneasy due to the eerie silence often broken by sudden eruption of gunfire, so characteristic of insurgency prone regions. A typical ‘lull before the storm’ kind of unsettling feeling!

This twenty first day of May 1991, for me was no different from any other day I had experienced in the past drawing great familiarity from my just gone by field tenure barely six months ago along the super high altitude reaches (18000 feet above sea level) of McMahon line or LAC (Line of actual control), separating the Indian mainland in North Sikkim from Chinese occupied TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region), except that by nightfall BBC was beaming across news of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in some remote Tamil Nadu geography called Sriperumbudur, which kept us glued to our transistors, adding further uneasiness to our unsettled boys. We had instructions to park for the night in an open space near Srinagar airfield, before resuming our journey ahead early next morning.  

We could hardly manage a wink of sleep as we got busy checking and rechecking our weaponry, ammunition and other stores carted to sustain ourselves in this apparent hostile locale, since we were ordered to clear the area before sunrise and proceed to our respective destinations in separate directions.

We experienced our first firefight near the Srinagar airfield & the second enroute to Pattan on our very first day of onward journey post arrival in the Valley, which had kind of baptized us to what lay ahead and also forewarned us of the possible consequences. I must confess that by the time we reached Uri, the fear of unforeseen and the possible loss of a comrade/colleague/ brother had started to bother me like hell. My own fate was something that was of least concern because of the Chetwodean motto so deeply engraved upon our conscience at the Academy.

“The safety and welfare of your Country comes first, always and every time.

The safety and welfare of your troops comes next. And your own safety 

     comes last, always and every time”

  • Field Marshal Sir William Chetwode

Nonetheless the scare was becoming noticeably contagious leaving me with little option but to do something dramatic soon to overcome this emerging ‘weakness’. My own restlessness got further aggravated because of my solitude. My three young officers Sanjay, Anil and Narendra (name changed) had ‘married up’ (military term for link up) with their respective infantry battalions deployed along the LoC (Line of Control), leaving me alone at the battery position on an isolated ledge in Uri with Jhelum gurgling menacingly down below. My officers would routinely call up on radio every morning and evening to share situation/occurrence reports or when exchange of fire with ‘friends’ sitting across turned nasty, which was commonplace.

Anyway, under such clouded cerebral ecology, one morning before the road opening and area denial patrols were slated to deploy, I gathered my troops for a pep talk and asked them randomly what in their opinion was the biggest fear bothering all of us? And before anyone could reply I myself answered ‘death’ isn’t it? There was a silent affirmation. Almost instantly and unrehersed I unzipped the front of my smok dennison (disruptive paratroopers jacket), opened my shirt buttons and punctured a hole in my vest with a lighted cigarette, (my boys knew well, how heavy a smoker I was, then!) leaving a burnt blackened hole replicating a bullet mark over my heart and announced, mundyoñ (buddys) if this is the maximum that can happen, why must we keep imagining that it is actually happening. Jis din hoga, saala dekha jayega, roz roz uski kaamna kyun karna! (We will catch the bloody bull by its horns, the day it actually happens, why keep anticipating its arrival daily!) This little ‘melodrama’ somehow worked leaving a profound effect not only on my audience, but upon me as well. 

We ended up that day, cheerful and all charged up with a new zeal amidst a hot cup of chai, langar ke chatpate pakoré and halwa, (hot cup of tea and spicy eateries straight from the field kitchen) that Subedar Kewal Krishan, my tough dogri frontrunner had rigged up, instantly rejuvenating all, to live, work, sing, joke, smile, laugh and even cry together to ward off both ‘real’ and ‘imagined’ pain as it came, hereafter. In one stroke we had seized the day! Carpe diem moment it was!

Our moment of truth it became for the rest of our stay inside the conflict zone. 

More than thirty years since that 21st day of summer of ’91, having experienced its sublime meaning helping me work through some of the most dangerous situations and geographies of the world, I am convinced that the human mind is a repository of a whole lot of internalized coping mechanisms to combat ptsd. Be it force majeure, war, near fatal illness ( I went through a triple bypass surgery recently) or pandemic that we face today, all one has to do is to get inside one’s own skin, ride over momentary fears and search for a customized unfailing recipe for survival. Godspeed! 

Epilogue:
A slight alteration to the lyrics of a song written more than six decades ago by Asad Bhopali for a movie ‘Tower House’.

Hona hai jo hona hai
Is baat se darna kya,
Marna hai hamein ek din
Har roz yoon marna kya
Marne se bhi pahle tum
dar dar ke na mar jaana,

Aye mere dil e nadaan, Tu gham (darr) se na ghabrana…

Delay in CDS Appointment



What is holding up the appointment of India’s second CDS? https://www.indiatoday.in/india-today-insight/story/what-is-holding-up-the-appointment-of-india-s-second-cds-1892880-2021-12-27

My views over the responses given by Vice-Admiral Pradeep Kaushiva, former Commandant National Defence College (NDC)  during the course of an interview published in India Today last week over the delays and determinants in the appointment of the second CDS.


At the very outset, I must spell out that I disagree wholly from the respected Admiral. He is just about circumventing a direct answer to perhaps sound politically correct, as it were! The one word answer is ‘pliability’. The political leadership is just looking at one single politically desirable ‘attribute’. And that is ‘yesmanship‘ or unquestioned subservience to politicobureaucratic hierarchy, as was prevailing in 1962 during the painful ‘Himalayan Blunder’. Recall the failed triad comprising Nehru, Bhola Nath Mullick the then IB Director perhaps wearing the cloak of modern day larger than life NSA and the infamous ‘Kaul Boys‘ (Gen BM Kaul & his maverick coterie) that led to the fiasco, which is well documented in the still classified Henderson Brooks Report.

The worthy Admiral is being ‘diplomatic’ when he says that the primary QR (qualitative requirement) for selection of CDS would be to have someone capable of giving best professional advice (in war & peace). Well, that stands demolished by each service having a very stiff selection process for three stars & above, where no questions can be raised about the individual professional competence of any of the army commanders & above and their triservice equivalents. Besides, the present higher direction and event management of any ‘imaginary’ war, that is best played and limited only to war rooms, in any case has the overarching NSA taking the last calls… even at the very limited surgical strikes that any military scholar/ professional would term as mere shallow tactical actions within the planning & execution purview of divisional/corps commanders, with the ambitious aim (plus) of achieving strategic benefits, while at the same time providing a politicodiplomatic anaestheic deniability handle to the political bosses to avoid any resultant diplomatic ‘egg on the face’, in the event of a failure, a la America’s Iran Contra fiasco during the cold war period.

There is no denying the need for operational inter service synergy & jointness to achieve any military aim. And for that, the existing ‘one among equals’ four star structure is an unimaginative political hogwash, falling way short in the apex national decision-making hierarchy, both in times of peace and during full scale war, imaginary or otherwise, with the CDS getting relegated to the level of one amongst the umpteen Govt. of India secretaries and not finding a chair in the CCS (Cabinet Committee of Security). One among equals CDS is as good ‘professionally’, as the current rotational Chairship of JCSC (Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee) . Remember, we achieved 100% triservice synergy during the 1971 liberation of Bangladesh without a formal CDS.

I call any future full-scale war as imaginary because the pivot of future military confrontation for conflict resolution between two or more adversaries will lie in very complex multipronged, multidimensional, cross domain engagement matrix, (eg. China’s hybrid warfare or ‘Three warfare philosophy”) with the primary political aim to economically cripple & destroy the opponent(s) without disturbing the global financial & commerce ecosystem, because that will neither be tolerated nor allowed by the global community. We live in times where there are many dimensions to war as an instrument of policy like hybrid warfare, unrestricted warfare, asymmetric warfare, information warfare, politicoeconomic warfare, trade warfare, where alliances may not be formed merely to assist in physical fight but to curtail kinetic mil ambitions of adversaries. QUAD, Five Eyes, AUKUS are a case in point to name a few, besides of course the western caucus in the form of NATO and its role as observed in the current Ukraine war.
So let us not live under any illusions/false pretenses/ pipedreams.

It is a well established maxim that in democracy, military desirability is always subservient to political expediency. Under the current state of affairs the ruling dispensation has more emergent (read desirous) and consummate politico-ideologically seductive 24/7 electoral fetish to handle.

The dismal 2% defense budget (numerically akin to pre ’62 levels), despite perennially hot land borders alongwith Pakistan’s proxy war at play, in addition to the definite instances of PLA nibbling actions in Ladakh & Arunachal Pradesh besides causing geopolitically undesirable regional imbalances in neighboring countries (Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar & Sri Lanka), over and above the persistent demands of safeguarding the vast vulnerable coastlines & offshore assets, are enough of an indication about the political priorities right now.

While undoubtedly the sudden and untimely tragic exit of the first CDS has come as a major setback for the Indian Armed Forces; Under such compelling circumstances it was expected that there would be a seamless placement of the CDS in accordance with a predetermined succession plan without any delay, as any indecision may not be the best of options for the Armed Forces and the Nation, given the steady ‘encirclement’ that Xi Jinping’s PLA is achieving, in concert with nonstop cross border terrorism perpetrated by Pakistan looming large besides the LWE menace baring it’s fangs internally. Yet, why the filling up of such an important position is getting delayed is perhaps best known only to the political masters! Right now it continues to remain a ‘wait and watch’. Political procrastination complementing the clichê, ‘patient dies while the physician sleeps’!

As for the Armed forces? Well, no options there, but to take refuge behind former COAS Gen. VP Malik’s almost resigned refrain made earlier; If the baloon goes up “we shall fight with what we have”! (undoubtedly till the last man last round).