From a Services Career

The National Defence Academy – Current Standard …

Posted on January 5, 2018. Filed under: From a Services Career |

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Next India China Conflict …

Posted on December 13, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career |

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Veterans be Proud …

Posted on November 28, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Regimental |

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1962 War – Rezang La …

Posted on November 26, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities |

Remember Rezang La – By Mohan Guruswamy

One of the bitter ironies of life is that greatest acts of heroism and valor mostly happen when the odds are hopeless and death and defeat inevitable. Throughout history nations have always glorified such episodes in their ballads and poems, by honoring the heroes and commemorating the event.

It is the common perception of these few and far in between episodes in a people’s history that forge a sense of nationhood. Why else would we celebrate the deaths of a Prithviraj Chauhan or a Tipu Sultan? Or a Porus or a Shivaji who battled great armies with little more than a handful of brave comrades and immense courage? Of course we rejoice in the triumphs of an Ashoka or Chandragupta or even an Akbar but that is about greatness and not heroism.

Even if it is true that the end of history is at hand, we can be sure that the annals of heroism will never cease being written. However endless these may be, the heroic stand of C Company of the 13 Kumaon at Rezang La in 18 November 1962 will always be among the more glorious chapters.

The monument that stands at Chushul asks: “How can a man die better/ Than facing fearful odds/ For the ashes of his fathers/ And the temples of his gods.” C Company was fighting for neither ashes nor temples, for they were none at Chushul. The loss of Chushul would not even have had much bearing on the ultimate defence of Ladakh. But in those dark days of 1962 Chushul became a matter of national honor.

Chushul is only 15 miles from the border as the crow flies and even then had an all weather landing strip. It was the pivotal point of our frontier posts in this sector as it was astride the second route into Tibet from Leh about 120 miles further west. The road built after 1962 rises to nearly 17000 feet crossing the Ladakh range at the desolate and wind blown Chang La pass, steeply descends into Tangtse and then goes on to Chushul.

Between the Chang La and Tangtse the road takes the traveler though the most beautiful scenery with matching beautiful wildlife. Golden marmots dart in and out of their holes and in the distance you can sometimes spot a snow leopard warily keeping a watch on mankind.

Chushul itself is at 14230 feet and is a small village in a narrow sandy valley about 25 miles long and 4 miles wide, flanked by mountains that rise to over 19000 feet. At the northern end touches the Pangong Tso, a deep saltwater lake nearly a hundred miles long and that makes for one of natures most glorious sights. Also near Chushul is a gap in the mountains called the Spanggur Gap that leads to another beautiful lake, the Spanggur Tso that like the Pangong extends well into Chinese territory.

The Chinese had built a road from Rudok in Tibet right up to the Spanggur Gap capable of carrying tanks. In the first phase of their assault on Ladakh in October 1962, the Chinese had overrun many of our major border posts on the line between Daulat Beg Oldi near the Karakorum Pass to Demchok astride the Indus on the border with Tibet. Chushul was the solitary Indian position east of the Ladakh range. Geography favored the Chinese and they were able to make a major concentration of men and material for an attack on Chushul.

Till September 1962, the defence of all of Ladakh was vested with 114 Brigade commanded by Brig. TN Raina (later General and COAS). It consisted of just two infantry battalions, the 1/8 Gorkha Rifles and 5 Jat. Initially, only the Gorkhas were deployed in the Chushul sector and when the gravity of the Chinese threat began to be realized 13 Kumaon, which was at Baramula in the Kashmir Valley, was sent in to reinforce 114 Brigade.

In the first week of October the 3 Himalayan (later Mountain) Division was formed for the overall defence of Ladakh and the Chushul sector was entirely left to 114 Brigade. On 26 October, 114 Brigade set up its headquarters at Chushul and braced for the inevitable Chinese attack.

The newly arrived 13 Kumaon began deploying on October 24 in the lull that followed the first phase of the Chinese attack. The forward defenses of Chushul were on a series of hill features given evocative names like Gurung Hill, Gun Hill and Mugger Hill, but C Company of 13 Kumaon got Rezang La which was about 19 miles south of Chushul.

Rezang La as the name suggests is a pass and is on the southeastern approach to Chushul valley. The feature was 3000 yards long and 2000 yards wide at and average height of 16000 feet. Digging defensive positions and building shelters was hard going for the men were still not acclimatized and cold wintry winds life even more hard. At this altitude it took hours to bring a kettle to boil for tea and whatever fruit and vegetables that came were frozen hard. Let alone potatoes even oranges acquired weapon grade hardness.

More than the thin air and cold the location of Rezang La had a more serious drawback. It was “crested” to Indian artillery because of an intervening feature, which meant that had make do without the protective comfort of the big guns. Both sides prepared feverishly, mostly within sight of each other, for the next Chinese attack. That attack came on that cold Sunday that was 18 November.

Most Kumaon battalions are mixed formations made up of hill men from the Kumaon Hills, Ahirs from Haryana and Brahmins from the northern plains. 13 Kumaon was the Kumaon Regiment’s only all Ahir battalion. The Ahirs who are concentrated in the Gurgaon/Mewat region of Haryana are hardy cattlemen and farmers. When the order to move to Chushul came, its CO, Lt.Col. HS Dhingra was in hospital but he cajoled the doctors into letting him go with his men.

Maj. Shaitan Singh who was a Rajput from Jodhpur commanded C Company of 13 Kumaon. C Company’s three platoons were numbered 7,8 and 9 and had .303 rifles with about 600 rounds per head, and between them six LMG’s, and a handful of 2 inch mortars. The Chinese infantry had 7.62 mm self loading rifles; MMG’s and LMG’s; 120 mm, 81 mm and 60 mm mortars; 132 mm rockets; and 75 mm and 57 mm recoilless guns to bust bunkers. They were much more numerous and began swarming up the gullies to assault Rezang La at 4 am even as a light snow was falling.

The Ahirs waited till the Chinese came into range and opened up with everything they had. The gullies were soon full of dead and wounded Chinese. Having failed in a frontal attack the Chinese let loose a murderous shelling. Under the cover of this intense shelling the Chinese infantry came again in swarms. C Company, now severely depleted, let them have it once again.

Position after position fell fighting till the last man. C Company had 3 JCO’s and 124 other ranks with Maj. Shaitan Singh. When the smoke and din of battle cleared, only 14 survived, nine of them severely wounded. 13 Kumaon regrouped and 114 Brigade held on to Chushul. But the battalion war diary records that they were now “less our C Company.”

The Chinese announced a unilateral cease-fire on 21 November but little more than what the survivors had brought back was known about C Company. In January 1963 a shepherd wandered on to Rezang La. It was as if the last moment of battle had turned into a tableau. The freezing cold had frozen the dead in their battle positions and the snow had laid a shroud over the battlefield.

Arrangements were then made to recover our dead under International Red Cross supervision. Brig Raina led the Indian party, which recorded the scene for posterity with cine and still cameras. This tableau told their countrymen what actually happened that Sunday morning. Every man had died a hero.

Maj. Shaitan Singh was conferred the Param Vir Chakra. Eight more received the Vir Chakra while four others the Sena Medal. 13 Kumaon received the battle honor “Rezang La” that it wears so proudly.

Few events in the annals of heroism can match this. C Company gave its all to defend Chushul, a small Ladakhi village, which for one brief moment in our history came to symbolize our national honor.

At Thermopylae on 18 September 480 BC, 1200 Greeks led by King Leonides of Sparta died fighting the Persian King Xerxes’ mighty bodyguard called the Anusya or Companions. But Leonides was fighting for a great prize.

In July 481 BC the Oracle of Delphi told him that in the next war with Persia either the King will die or Sparta would be destroyed. Leonides thus died to save Sparta. But C Company willingly sacrificed itself to save a little village and that makes its sacrifice all the more glorious. That is why we must never forget Rezang La.



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Non Functional Up Grade – Clever Ploy or Cause of Admin Inefficiency …

Posted on November 18, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Indian Thought |

By Meenakashi Lekhi

Imagine a batch of students appearing for their tenth standard exam and the rule is set that whatever marks the topper gets, the rest of the class would get the same marks, on condition that they wait for two years. Sounds crazy? Well, that is exactly how the Indian bureaucracy rewards itself through something called Non Functional Upgrade (NFU), which has become a bone of contention between the civilian group A officers and officers of the armed forces, who have been denied the same by the civilian bureaucracy.

So what is Non Functional Upgrade?

As per a circular issued by the department of personnel and training, Government of India, ‘Whenever an Indian Administrative Services Officer of the State of Joint Cadre is posted at the Centre to a particular grade carrying a specific grade pay in Pay band 3 or Pay band 4, the officers belonging to batches of Organised Group A Services that are senior by two years or more and have not so far been promoted to that particular grade would be granted the same grade on nonfunctional basis from the date of posting of the Indian Administrative Service Officers in that particular grade at the Centre.

This scheme was introduced by the United Progressive Alliance government in 2008 and was extended to 49 organised Group A central services for time bound pay promotions of every officer till the higher administrative grade (thus ensuring ‘one rank, one pay’ for most), irrespective of capability, performance or vacancy.

Therefore, in a country where every prime minister, chief minister, MP, MLA or municipal councillor has to face the electorate every five years, where every student has to compete and work hard for each mark he scores in board exams or competitive exams and where every company chief’s performance is evaluated in three months, our bureaucracy is exempted from such scrutiny.

Performance and vacancy be damned, they would get time bound promotions. While barely 1 to 2 per cent of Army officers get to reach the apex scale of lieutenant general and upward, an IAS, IPS or IFS officer is guaranteed to reach the rank of director general of police.

Today, India has a ridiculous situation where every state police force has innumerable director generals and additional director generals, one each for prison, CID, home guard, training and so on, and yet the constabulary and subordinate officers face stagnation in terms of promotion because no one thinks of them.

How has such a top-heavy structure helped India’s administration? Has any feasibility study ever been done on it? Is there any precedence of such Non Functional Upgrade anywhere in the world?

Today, the armed forces and the central armed police forces cannot be blamed for asking for similar benefits because the UPA rocked the apple cart and created major fissures in the civil-military relationship. If NFU is good then it should be given to all, including the armed forces and employees in Group B and C categories. It cannot be exclusively for the babus.

How would an officer, who has won a Param Vir Chakra, feel when he sees an IPS or IAS officer being promoted just because he appeared for an exam and qualified in it? Doesn’t an army or central police officer face a much bigger challenge of dodging the enemies’ bullets?

Wouldn’t it be demotivating for the officers in the armed forces to be stagnating in one position while the civilian officers enjoy promotions?<

In a resource-scarce nation, where the priority of the state should be to spend every penny on the people and cut out wasteful administrative expenditures, NFU should be scrapped.

Merit alone should be the criterion for promotion. The feudal system of exclusive benefits has to end.





Vijay Sitaram</stro

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Maj Gaurav Arya addresses the British Parliament …

Posted on November 9, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Pakistan, Personalities |

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An Army Wife …

Posted on October 31, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career |

I am an Army wife and I relish every second of it — the good, the bad and the occasionally ugly. For some reason, I feel incredibly proud of being a military spouse even though I wasn’t the one who had to get through an extremely tough entrance test, go to the Academy and train to be a soldier. But my association with someone who did do all of that — my husband — gives me a lot of pride and pleasure.

Maybe it’s because of what they say — Army wives are the silent ranks, standing by their husbands and holding fort while they are away on duty. That’s a pretty important job. And yes, it’s a full-time job to be an Army wife. We are constantly moving, we belong to every place the Army takes us, we are experts at packing years up in black painted boxes, we stay away from our husbands for years at a stretch, our love for saris is well known, we are rumoured to party like rock-stars and we deal with everything in between.

Our civilian friends have a lot of things to say to us: “You are so strong!” and “How do you do it?” being the most popular ones. I also get “But what about your career? ” a lot from concerned friends and random acquaintances who worry about my having a big degree and not slogging my ass off at a corporate to show for it. The fact that I am a published author, and am still working full-time isn’t satisfactory to them. “But you studied so much!” they sigh. To all this I say eh, can’t please everyone.

“Army wives are the silent ranks, standing by their husbands and holding fort while they are away on duty. That’s a pretty important job. ”

But here, I have five crucial aspects of an Army wife’s life that outsiders may not know. Sure, you’ve heard it all. But do you really know how we deal with it? Do you want to know? Well, here you go:

1.Duty calls – and How!!!

This one is obvious. This is the husband’s profession, and the job requirement is such that the duty calls are, and will always be, over and above everything else. For us spouses, the Army is the first wife who demands a lot of attention and gets it each time. Add to it the dangerous job description and the inability to plan a holiday or even a family function, because duty can call literally anytime. Pretty daunting, right? But we wives learn on the go. We learn to respect our husband’s profession, the challenges it comes with and the demands it makes. And though we may sometime crib about not getting enough time with the husband, most of us are pretty damn proud of his profession. I am!

2.Separations will test your mettle

As a result you will either get tired of living like a single mom every two years or so, or you will realise that distance really does make the heart grow fonder. Seriously, our civilian friends will never understand how tough it is to pack your life in 22 boxes every two years and move to SF (Separate Family) — a term that I assume all Army wives hate as much as they fear the words ambush attack. I’d like to say this to all our civilian friends — separation is never easy. We never get used to it. We miss our husbands incredibly, but life has to go on and we don’t think there is any point in discussing it to no end. We do not need sympathy. Be friendly, don’t give us your pity — we don’t need it.

“[Y]ou will either get tired of living like a single mom every two years or so, or you will realise that distance really does make the heart grow fonder.”

3. Hierarchy of the wives

Ah, the most controversial topic of all time! Yes, it is true that a few wives wear their husband’s rank as if they’ve earned it themselves. And it is also true that there is a lot of stuff happening that most of the wives don’t see fit for the current century (and hence detest the entire Army Wife Club idea). Personally, I wish we had less of the unnecessary drama and more of productive exercises. I wish we had respect for each other in every situation, and not be rude or condescending with each other.

But what people dn’t know is that the wives form a major support group in the Army. I have made amazing friends in the Army wife circle that I would not trade for anything in the world. Our friendships last for ages, survive several postings and phone-number-changes, and grow stronger with every military milestone of our lives. We bond over our unique trials and tribulations and support each other (who else can understand us better?). And oh, we also bond over etiquette classes (it’s an inside joke for my girls. For those who didn’t get it, read my book) and shopping tips for just about every town or city in India.

4. Constant moving – new home

You’ve heard about it a lot, but you will never understand it until you are an Army wife. It’s mighty tough. And I am not even talking about the packing and unpacking, the broken crockery and crystal, or the part where your husband’s stuff goes to a different station and yours to another. I am talking about the leaving the friends part, the having no career part, the kid’s good education and uninterrupted growing up part.

Then there are small but still important issues like finding a new tailor and changing your phone number every two years. But we Army wives have the obvious things covered, and we learn to deal with the separation and the moving. In fact, I quite enjoy the life of a constant traveller. But leaving behind a life that you struggled to set up is always tough. We look forward to the new location, but we always leave a part of ourselves behind.

5.Our kids are the best

Really, they are amazing. Army kids are strong — stronger than us at times. They are resilient. They are well adjusted, confident and gregarious — even the shy ones. The life skill of taking to a new place, new friends and a new life comes easily to them. Or in proper Army lingo, our kids easily acclimatise to changes. That has to be the highlight here, really, because Army kids are a constant source of inspiration and awe to me. Watch them closely, there’s a lot to learn.

This list can be a hundred points longer, I know, so if you have anything else to add to it, feel free.

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1971 War – Sabuna Drain Battle -Another Version …

Posted on October 17, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Pakistan |

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All about an Officer …

Posted on October 6, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities |

An Article by Col Abhay Gupta.

I was all of 48 yrs when I was superseded in my present rank. At a social-do, I was asked by this pretty girl, “Just 48, and the end of the road for you! What has Army really given you? You’ve never been paid well in the Army. And see what they have done to you now!”

I appraised her top to bottom. I must confess she was a pretty sight. What I told her was this,

“The Army, my dear, is a way of life. It is not about making a living. As far as supersession is concerned, lady, that is the way of army life. You can’t complain just because your personal interest, as you perceive it, has not been looked after.

‘The Army has a wonderful, time-tested and evolved systems.
You don’t fight personal battles for the heck of it. And it is about unselfishness, dear – Service Before Self is our motto. Remember it is a Service (seva).There are no expectations of rewards in Seva, for Seva is considered its own reward.

‘What has Army given me?, you asked. It has given me a glimpse and understanding of dimensions you, in the civil sector, can only wonder and feel over-awed about. Have you any idea of camaraderie? When you see a soldier brave the shower of artillery shrapnel’s to rush to rescue his bleeding colleague wounded in the shelling – then you KNOW the meaning of the word ‘camaraderie.

‘When you are lying in a hospital on a DI List and there are 20 blood donors of your blood-group spending the cold night in the verandah of the hospital, just so that any emergency call for blood to save your life may be attended to, that is camaraderie.

‘Camaraderie implies selfless help and support to someone who is not necessarily a friend. You have to cross Banihal to understand all this. Do you know the holy significance of the word ‘command’?
It is a sacred word.

‘And who can know the meaning of it other than a person in uniform?
Even the CEO of a Fortune 500 company can’t comprehend the significance of this sacred word. When you are in ‘command’ you are God.

‘Can you comprehend what being God can be like? It is not about the authority, it is about responsibility. The authority comes into play after you have rendered your part of the deal of unflinching loyalty displayed towards your subordinates.

‘Now when you signal him – not ask him or tell him or order him – to dash down-crawl – observe – fire, and in the process subject himself to imminent death, he does so without a second thought. This is when you REALIZE what is so sacred about command.

Even before you can move your hand to the door of the gypsy, the driver jumps from his seat and beats you to the door, your door is what command gets you. Such are the rewards of command.

Do you know the meaning of ‘being a gentleman’? In the last thirty years in uniform one has witnessed a proliferation of designations in the civil environment.

There have been Executive Officers and there have been Managers – General Mangers, Assistant Managers, and a whole spectrum. Then there are CEOs and Vice Presidents. In the Army we have only ‘Officers’.
Some are General Officers and some just Officers. At the induction level we have Young Officers.

What it means to be an ‘Officer’ is something you can’t comprehend. Hollywood tried to bring about a differentiation, calling the phenomenon, ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’, little knowing that being a gentleman is inherent when you are an Officer. Being a gentleman is his primary nature, not second-nature.

His behaviour is bhadra – i.e. kalyan-kaarak swabhav, guna, aur karma.
The Army imbibes this peculiar quality in us when we are as young as 17 to 20 years only. I’ll explain with an example. An officer once held the door open for a particular lady. She, trying to be smartly polite said, “You don’t have to hold the door open for me, just because I’m a lady.” He replied, “Ma’am, I’m not holding it for you because you are a lady, but because I’m a gentleman.”

We may appear to be ruthless and egoistic, but we are enlightened ones. In the corporate world have you ever come across the word ‘honour’? In uniform we serve only for honour, and never the ‘package’. Naam, Namak, Nishan – are alien words in the corporate world.

You know what it means to serve for honour? When a subordinate, who already has a bad ankle, is told of a mission which entails 12 hours of walk in the most rugged terrain; and when he expresses reservation on account of his current physical condition, is told that if we can’t do it, it will be a smudge on the Regiment – AND THERE IS NO ONE TO REPLACE HIM. He says he’ll do his bit.

That is for honour. The Army has commanders at every level – langar commander, section commander/ detachment commander, platoon commander/troop commander, and up the chain to Brigade Commanders, and General Officers Commanding in Chief.

What is implied by the term ‘commander’? Maybe something most people will never know. To be a commander implies responsibility – complete responsibility. As a commander you are responsible for every aspect of your command – right from his morning cup of tea, his toilet facilities, his professional training, his mental makeup, his family’ well being and his spiritual requirements.

In the Army we first train young boys, and now even young girls, to be an Officer and then to be a Commander.

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Gen Rawat speaks ala Timmy n Sam …

Posted on September 6, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Pakistan, Personalities |

From The Indian Express –

Army chief Gen. Bipin Rawat today said the country should be prepared for a two-front war, insisting China has started “flexing its muscles”, while there seems to be no scope for reconciliation with Pakistan whose military and polity saw an adversary in India.

Referring to the 73-day long Doklam standoff, the Army chief warned that the situation could gradually snowball into a larger conflict on the northern border.

He said there is a possibility that these conflicts could be limited in space and time or can expand into an all out war along the entire frontier, with Pakistan taking advantage of the situation.

“We have to be prepared. In our context, therefore, warfare lies within the realm of reality,” he said, adding the Army’s supremacy among the three services must be maintained to successfully combat external security threats.

The comments by Gen. Rawat came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed on a “forward-looking” approach to Sino-India ties, putting behind the Doklam standoff. The Army Chief said India cannot afford to let its guard down against China.

“As far as northern adversary is concerned, the flexing of muscle has started. The salami slicing, taking over territory in a very gradual manner, testing our limits of threshold is something we have to be wary about and remain prepared for situations emerging which could gradually emerge into conflict,” he said.

In military parlance ‘salami slicing’ denotes divide and conquer process of threats and alliances used to overcome opposition. He was speaking at a seminar organised by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies. The Army chief also talked about China engaging in a psychological warfare by using the media and information technology against India during the Doklam face-off.

The Army chief rejected the notion that credible deterrence could prevent war and pitched for adequate budgetary allocation for the armed forces. Talking about Pakistan, Gen. Rawat said there was no scope for any reconciliation with that country.

“As far as our western adversary is considered, we don’t see any scope of reconciliation, because their military, the polity, and the people in that nation have been made to believe that there is an adversary, India, which is all out to break their nation into pieces,” he said.

Gen. Rawat also wondered how long the country will continue to tolerate the proxy war by Pakistan and when it would conclude that Pakistan has crossed the threshold limit, adding the scope of a possible conflict is difficult to predict.

He said it was for the political masters to take a call on the issue.

Rawat also explained that credible deterrence does not take away the threat of war. “Nuclear weapons are weapons of deterrence. Yes, they are. But to say that they can deter war or they will not allow nations to go to war, in our context that may also not be true,” he said.

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