Hussainiwala – A Village on Indo-Pak Border

During our visit to India to attend the Golden Jubilee celebrations of raising of our regiment – 75 Medium Regiment (Basantar River) – we watched the Retreat Ceremony at Hussainiwala Border Post.

Railway line connecting Peshawar to Mumbai was built in 1885, passing through Hussianiwala.  During the Pre-Partition days, Punjab Mail connected the cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Ferozepur, Lahore and Peshawar. In those days, most British troops and businessmen would arrive at Mumbai and make their way to their destinations in the North-West Frontier Province by train. The train track from Ferozepur to Hussainiwala was an engineering fete, with Qaiser-e-Hind bridge, which stood over several round pillars (all of them intact even today, as depicted in the image above).

When Pakistan was carved out of British India, the border was drawn along the Sutlej River in Punjab and it passed through Hussainiwala Village.  Now, Sutlej River has changed its course over the years, running further East in Indian territory.  This made Hussainiwala an enclave into Pakistan, with the Sutlej River behind it.

Hussainiwala is named after a Muslim Peer (Saint), Hussaini Baba, whose shrine is located at the entrance to the Border Post.  This small hamlet came into prominence on the evening of 23 March 1931 when British soldiers tried to cremate the bodies of three young Indian freedom fighters – Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Raj Guru – who were hanged at the Lahore Central Jail.  The hanging, scheduled for 24 March was rescheduled a day earlier as the British feared a revolt in Lahore as the situation had become very tense.  They  secretly transported their bodies to Hussainiwala and while cremating them on the banks of the Sutlej, the locals got wind of it.  They assembled near the cremation site.  Fearing repercussions, British soldiers fled the scene, leaving behind the dead bodies which was cremated by the villagers.  This site today is a memorial – aptly called ‘Prerana Sthal‘ (Motivation Site).

Later Bhagat Singh’s mother, Vidyawati, and freedom fighter BK Dutt were cremated at this site as per their wishes. The cremation site is called ‘Shaheedi Sthal’ (Martyyrs’ Place).   This is where Indians from all over the country make an annual pilgrimage to honour the martyrs on March 23 as they observe ‘Shaheedi Diwas’ (Martyrs’ Day).

(Defences on the Indian side on Bund (wall) with a bunker as inset)

This enclave has witnessed three bloody battles between India and Pakistan,  with the very first one fought on 18 March 1956.  At that time, heavy floods had damaged Bela Bund and Sulaimanki Headworks at Hussainiwala and as the Indian engineers were repairing the damage, Pakistan Army launched an unprovoked attack at 9 PM.  4 JAK RIF was guarding the bund, and they fought  gallantly causing heavy causalities on the enemy.  This resulted in a hasty withdrawal by the attackers.

During partition of British India in 1947,  Hussainiwala, an enclave of 12 villages went to Pakistan. The railway line no more had trains running through Hussainiwala.  The railway station at Hussainiwala as it exists today is depicted in the image above.  Now Punjab Mail connects Mumbai to Ferozepur via Delhi.  Pakistan destroyed  Qaisere- Hind Bridge leaving behind the round pillars across the river. The Shaheedi Sthal was in a dilapidated state without any maintenance. In 1961, Jawaharlal Nehru, then Prime Minister, brokered an exchange deal and Hussainiwala came to India while Sulaimanki Headworks –  from where three major canals which supply irrigation water to a large area in Pakistan  Punjab originate –  went to Pakistan. India immediately restored Shaheedi Sthal to its due dignity and reverence.

During Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, 2 Maratha Light Infantry (Kali Panchwin) was deployed to defend Hussainiwala. The battalion fought valiantly to thwart a  frontal attack resulting in two enemy tanks destroyed and two captured, with several enemy killed. The Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Nolan was killed in enemy artillery shelling. The unit ensured that the Samadhi of Bhagat Singh was not desecrated by Pakistan Army. The battalion was visited by then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, Defence Minister YB Chavan, Congress Party President  K Kamraj, the Chief of Army Staff and other senior officers. Kali Panchwin was awarded the battle honour ‘Hussainiwala’ for its role in the 1965 War. The citizens of Firozpur, in honour of the Battalion’s contribution in defending the Bridge and Firozpur town, presented a silver replica of the Hussaniwala Bridge.

During the 1971 War, it was 15 PUNJAB defending Hussainiwala enclave and the Memorial.  On 03 December, Pakistan Army launched a heavy attack.  The valiant Punjabis withstood the attack gallantly despite suffering heavy casualties until withdrawing on 04 December night.

Did the three freedom fighters, who laid down their lives for Indian independence in their wildest dreams ever visualise that post independence, there would be a partition on religious lines and it would all end up in three bloody wars at the very same site their ‘Samadhi’ stood?

Wind Can Blow Either Way

(With Santosh the evening I  hung my boots in July 2004)

Great experiences make military life marvelous – even for the family members of soldiers. It lasts a long time, much after we hang our boots and even after we migrate to another continent.

Marina migrated to Canada in March 2002 and I took over command of the Regiment in June 2002. For someone who served his entire regimental life in a Medium Regiment operating Bofors guns to suddenly land in a Surveillance Regiment equipped with radars, drones and survey gadgets – it was an altogether different experience. I had to learn everything from scratch and had to familiarise with the officers and soldiers.

The regiment was an excellent outfit.  I set off with training on various surveillance equipment, starting with radars.  I had to convert from a Medium Gunner to a Surveillance Gunner. The officers and soldiers helped me a lot to imbibe both the art and the science of surveillance, many a times explaining the procedures and drills repeatedly.  I read all the operator and training manuals of all  equipment and in two weeks time, I was proficient enough to handle them.

In the meantime, I spent extra hours with the soldiers to familiarise with them, their backgrounds, their families, their training needs, administration and documentation.  On realising that there were gaps in soldiers’ documentation, I set out to automate the same with the assistance from a few soldiers.  We captured basic data on computers and developed an easy to handle software.  This resulted in all  officers having all data of soldiers on their computers and also we could effectively plan their training, promotion, pay & allowances, leave, etc.

My Radio Operator Santosh Kodag (a Maratha) took charge of the household, but was surprised that my family had not come along.  Commanding Officer living alone in a fabulous peace station like Devlali – Santosh realised something was wrong.

Devlali is one of the most relaxed military stations near Nasik city – about 150 km from Mumbai.  It has a colonial charm and is clean with fresh air and lots of greenery and open spaces.  The climate is fabulous all through the year.  The schools in the area are well known for their educational standard.  The Cantonment offers all recreational facilities like horse riding, swimming, squash, tennis, golf, club, etc – all that goes with a good military station.  The School of Artillery is located here where all Gunner officers are trained.  Hence, it is always abuzz with Young Officers and also newly married young couples.

A week after landing in Devlali and when Santosh felt that I was well settled, one evening, handing over a glass of whisky to me said “I know your wife is away in Canada and your children are in Kerala. Why don’t you get the children here?”

“Our daughter is in Grade 4 and our son in LKG. I will not get adequate time to take care of them. My mother is taking care of them well in Kerala” I replied.

To this Santhosh said “Why don’t you get your mother and your kids here. I will take care of everything. I know your mother is pretty old. You do not have to worry.”

I thought for a while and then called up my mother about my plans to shift her and children to Devlali. She said “I was also thinking about it. My duty is to take care of the children and it would always be better that you are around.”

I booked the tickets for my mother and children to travel to Devlali and Santosh went to Kottayam, Kerala to accompany them.

Santosh now took over everything – handing over the medication pills to my mother and also taking her for her regular medical  appointments with the Military Hospital – getting our son Nikhil ready for school (Nidhi was independent by then)- serving breakfast for all, packing up lunch boxes, etc.

After two years, I relinquished command and also hung up my boots and migrated to Canada.

Now Santosh is married with two kids, serving in the regiment as a Havildar (Sergeant). Every year when we visit India, we send a parcel of gifts for him, his wife and children.

This February we are traveling to India to attend the Golden Jubilee celebrations of my parent unit – the Medium Regiment. The Surveillance Regiment has already deputed Havildar Santosh to receive us and accompany us to the Medium Regiment.

Obviously, Marina has been busy shopping for gifts for Santosh and his family. Marina has met Santosh only twice – when we traveled to India – and she has been ever thankful to him for taking care of the children in her absence.

I recently asked Nikhil as to whether he remembered anything of Devlali days and he said “The only person I remember is Santosh Bhaiyya – the poor guy, I gave him a difficult time – especially when he tried to feed me and get me ready for school.”

Wind can blow either way in the Indian Army. A soldier can soothe the pains of his Commanding Officer too.



Training Young Officers to be Leaders

Field Marshal  Helmuth von Moltke the Elder of Prussia, who considered himself a disciple of Clausewitz, was posted to command a cadet school in Frankfurt  called Kadettenschule.  He is credited as the father of the modern concept of war games, which he adapted from regular chess.

Moltke was known for his dependence on decentralised style of command in the army termed ‘Auftragstaktik’.   In this concept, the junior officers were required to take crucial decisions and that necessitated a drastic change in officer training.   He was of the opinion that in the war front, rapidly changing scenarios will surely make a senior commander’s decision obsolete in no time.  Here, the subordinates have to take independent decisions  as the situation evolved.  It may sometimes result in defiance of orders, without impeding discipline.

Moltke ensured that ragging was stamped out in Kadettenschule  and he stressed on the cadets achieving self-confidence and independent thinking.  He had a promotion policy in place where he rewarded  junior cadets excelling with promotions where they could overtake their seniors.  The instructors were specially selected and trained to motivate and train the cadets and with their exemplary conduct could wipe out ragging.  This resulted in cadets turning into officers who were decisive.

The need for ‘ragging’ in cadets’ training is to break the cadet’s ‘individuality’ and make him ‘fall in line’.   This has in fact resulted in inability of junior commanders at various levels to act as the situation demanded, based on their judgements.  What we need to do at our Academies is to encourage youngsters to speak up against cheating, stealing, etc; but the toughening aspects, including group ragadas (punishments) strengthen one mentally and physically.  What we need to do is to adapt and reinvent to empower the cadets with better all round knowledge.

While commanding the Regiment, our young adjutant came to me to say that there is a paper to be written about the training aspects of our radar operators (Operator Fire Control [OFC]) in view of induction of modern surveillance and gun locating radars. He added that it would be better that I wrote it as I had the best written expression in the regiment.

We then had a brief discussion wherein I brought out that every officer of the Indian Army is in fact capable of writing a good paper and if he was incapable, he would not be sitting in front of me. All officers have been through Services Selection Board (SSB) interview and there they wrote nine stories based on pictures projected (Thematic Appreciation Test [TAT]) and the tenth slide shown was a blank and still wrote a story. Then there were 100 words shown at an interval of 30 seconds (Word Association Test [WAT]) and a sentence was written. In case the candidate’s literary capability and imagination was not pretty good, he would have never qualified the SSB. Now, after the training at the academies, at the regiments and at various courses of instruction, here they are, scared of producing a simple paper, based on their routine tasks.

Army courses conducted at various schools only teach a standard baseline aspect.  In most cases, there is hardly any real soldier involved, which means only the science of warfare and military leadership is taught, but never the art.  The courses are structured around ‘What to think’ than ‘How to think’.  All training must be to create critically thinking junior commanders  with ability to think and execute plans well ‘outside the box’.  Promoting adventure activities to be taken up by young officers in their fields of interest, unsupervised and un-assessed, duly supported by the army, will surely develop self-confidence and independence of judgment among junior leaders.

Here is a story- purely a figment of imagination – I told our officers to analyse various levels of training-  regarding planning  a raid by a section to capture two hidden militants – each officer to work out their individual solutions.  The first group is of 10 young officers, fresh out of the academy, then 10 Junior Command (JC) Course qualified officers – Captains with about six to nine years of service, followed by 10 Staff College qualified officers  – Majors with 10 to 12 years of service. The 10 young officers will come out with about eight solutions, but the staff would not be complete, out of which seven will work and one may fail. Ten JC officers will come out with five solutions, the staff work may not be all that good, of which three will work, one may work and one likely to fail. The 10 Staff college officers will all come out with one or two solutions, complete with all staff work,  and the likelihood of success, you can guess. That is what the structured training (with pinks) has resulted into.

A friend asked me to suggest methodology to make the training at Staff College creative. I suggested that for one exercise, provide just a map with minimum guidelines on force levels and resources. Let the students mark the International Boundary, deploy troops including the enemy, assume additional resources, etc and come out with a complete package. Run one exercise found suitable for a group. Idea was well received and was presented to the faculty and for the most unthinkable reason, it was thrown out. One senior officer asked only one question – “How will we assess the students?” It appears that the essence of all Army courses is to assess and not to teach or learn.

Coming to the physical training, the current one is archaic.  All  cadets  want to put in their best in physical training and want to pass all the tests as early as possible.  No two cadets are alike and some will lag behind.  The aim of the instructors must be to motivate them and not belittle or humiliate them, especially in front of their peers and they will surely achieve the desired results in most cases.

Modern sports medicine has developed much beyond and the nation has adequate trained doctors in this field. In the Academies, it tends to be an overdose of unscientific physical training.  The Army Physical Training Corps (APTC) has to get more Sports Medicine trained Doctors. The Physical Training Officer at the Academies got to be Sports Medicine trained.

Cadets’ training at the Academies and Officers’ training in the Army, both in the Regiments and during various courses need to be scientifically analysed, mainly to impart application oriented education, develop decisiveness and remove ‘over standardisation’.

Projecting Hard Military Power the Soft Way in the Indian Context

As per the US Department of Defense (2013) Dictionary of Military Terms, Power Projection is a term used to refer to the capacity of a state to apply all or some of its elements of national power – political, economic, informational, or military – to rapidly and effectively deploy and sustain forces in and from dispersed locations to respond to crises, to contribute to deterrence, and to enhance regional stability.

Projection of Hard Military Power paid dividends up to the end of old War era.  With the breakup of USSR and change in the world order, even the US military was not successful in projecting Hard Military Power as was seen in Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.

Soft Power Projection can be defined as ability of a state to project its influence other than through military combat into an area that may serve as an effective diplomatic lever, influencing the decision-making process and acting as a potential deterrent on other states’ behavior.  Deployment of various countries’ militaries during the humanitarian response to the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami is one of the best examples.

Hard Power facilitates India’s use of military, economic and political means to influence other States; Soft Power has, through our cultural or ideological means, the ability to indirectly influence the behaviour of other States. ‘Soft Power’ also enables us to distinguish the subtle effects of our culture, values, societal ideas, developmental assistance programs and other forms of influence on the behaviour of other States, from the more direct coercive measures such as, military action or economic incentives or sanctions. A potent form of soft power is ‘intellectual power’, which entails ‘the knowledge and insight of the populace and their leaders’. The strength of India’s soft power has been the power of assimilation. India’s unique ability to embrace different cultures and the philosophy of tolerance and peaceful co-existence continues to be a source of strength for our Nation and a shining example to the world community. Smart Power would be our evaluative ability to combine Hard and Soft Power resources into effective strategies.

The Indian Armed Forces have been in the lead in projecting the nation’s Hard Power the soft way.  The political leadership, bureaucracy and media have not played up these achievements many a times, resulting in the soft power projection not achieving its full potential.

Humanitarian Aid.           Indian Armed Forces have an enviable track record in providing humanitarian aid whenever needed, within the country and also in the neighbouring countries, especially in the aftermath of a natural disaster.  In many cases, the armed forces moved its troops and resources, without awaiting a formal request from the civil administration or from the higher headquarters.

In the aftermath of the Tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean countries including India, the Indian Armed Forces provided assistance to Sri Lanka and Maldives and was able to reach out to Indonesia as well.  India provided humanitarian aid in the aftermath of earthquake that devastated Pakistan Occuppied Kashmir in 2005 providing relief materials of medicines, blankets, and food packets.  When a severe-cyclonic storm, Nargis, struck Myanmar in 2008, the Indian Air Force and Navy transported more than 100 tonnes of relief material.  The 2015 Nepal saw the Indian Army and Air Force commence relief operations on the first day itself, which was scaled up in the subsequent days.

Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations.              The Indian Air Force has come out with flying colours in the evacuation of Indian citizens and people from other countries from a third country when they were endangered by war or civil unrest (Operation Rahat in April 2015, Yemen).  During the evacuation operations during the Yemen crisis of 2015, the Indian Air Force took a lead in rescuing Indian citizens as well as foreigners trapped in Yemen, evacuating more than 550 foreigners from 32 countries, including a dozen Americans and three Pakistanis.

The 1990 airlift of Indians from Kuwait post Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait by Air India, the national carrier, with support of the Indian Air Force finds a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people evacuated by a civil airliner.  They evacuated 175,000 people.  This stands out as a prime example of the nation’s Hard Power, projected the soft way in a foreign land. The Indian Armed Forces repeated this act in Iraq (2003), Lebanon (2006) which included Sri Lankan and Nepalese nationals, Libya (2011), Nepal (after the 2015 earthquake- Indian and foreign nationals) and South Sudan (2016).

United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping.  A state that wants to project itself in the international arena as a major power needs to have strong presence in UN Peacekeeping efforts.  Indian Armed Forces have had a fair share in the UN’s commitments and always accredited themselves with their great deeds. India is the largest cumulative troop contributor, having provided almost 200,000 troops in nearly 50 of the 71 UN peacekeeping missions over the past six decades.  India, with its demand for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC), has to prove to the world through its Peacekeeping that our demand is fully justified.  Such actions will surely ensure that India projects its hard military power the soft way, resulting in the nation having a greater say in international decision-making process.

Securing Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC).   For India, a peninsular state with a coastline of about 7500 km and with Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Islands, it is imperative to have a powerful navy.  The Indian Navy is a three-dimensional force, capable of operating above, on and underwater, ensuring the safety and security of the Eastern sea board and its assets and India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).  The oceans in Indian Navy’s area of influence has witnessed an increase in maritime terrorism and piracy coupled with illegal narcotic trade, unregulated fishing, dumping of pollutants and natural disasters.  Also, there must have been many SOS calls made by the ships and fishing boats.

In order to project hard naval power the soft way, the Indian Navy along with the Coast Guard should possess sufficient resources to mount round-the-clock, all-year-around maritime surveillance in the SLOC. Indian Navy has been an active part of the anti-piracy ops in the Gulf of Aden and in the Arabian Sea.  There are quite a few  success stories of interceptions by the Indian Navy, but they have not received adequate global publicity.  The Navy and the Coast Guard  got to be well equipped to respond to the distress calls of ships and got to pursue cases of illegal and unregulated fishing.  They got to be vigilant enough to prevent illegal dumping of pollutants in the oceans around us.

Developmental Activities.            The Indian Military has proved time and again that it can take up any task that cannot be executed by their civilian counterparts.  Run-up to the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010, it took seven years for a company to build a Foot Over Bridge (FOB) near the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which then collapsed. The Indian Army, which was called in to salvage Delhi’s pride executed the same job in four days flat and at a fraction of the original cost.  In the aftermath of the tragedy where 23 people were killed in a stampede on a bridge at Mumbai’s Elphinstone railway station, the government has turned to the army for a new bridge.  This will help in projecting the Hard Power of the Indian Military in a soft way.

Parades and Pageants.  The Republic Day Parade at Delhi is the best example for projecting the nation’s Hard Power the soft way.  It is the culmination of synergy between all the departments of Indian Government and is telecast worldwide as a great show.  There is a need to encourage military formations in other cities and towns to facilitate the general public to view such parades/ pageants and also telecast them for wider viewership.

Military Facilities.             Most American airports have ‘Military Lounges’ and the signage for the same is placed everywhere in the airport.  The airlines board the serving soldiers even prior to the Business class passengers.  This surely projects the power of the American Military, especially to the travellers from other countries.  Many Indian railway stations have ‘Movement Control Office (MCO)’ for the military with a lounge, but is not signaged so.  Leave alone foreign travellers, even the Indian travellers are unaware of such facilities.  By doing so, it is sure to project the Hard Power.

Home Coming Videos.   The internet and social media is filled with ‘Home Coming’ videos of American soldiers.  Indian soldiers also do ‘Come Home’, but there are hardly any clips on the internet.  The same can be orchestrated well by incorporating various videographers available in Indian towns and villages and compensating them well for the clips they provide.  Many would even execute the task without charging as most Indians are devout patriots who hold their Defence Forces in high esteem.

Recognition to Soldiers, Martyrs and Veterans.   It’s an irony that India’s capital Delhi  does not have any War Memorial post independence.  India Gate was built by British to commemorate the sacrifices of Indian soldiers in World War I.  In Canada, almost every city and town has war memorials and museums.  During the innings break of baseball games, the two team captains present a signed shirt of their teams to veterans and serving soldiers.  During the cricket matches in India, a similar act will pay rich dividends in projecting Hard Military Power.

Military History
.               India has had a chequered and colourful military history, but the reality is that many Indians are unaware of it, forget about projecting it to the world.  Many European countries celebrate and recognise the service of the Indian soldiers during the World Wars in grand scale, but there is hardly any  such celebrations in India.  This year for the Armed Forces Flag Day (07 December) was observed throughout the country to honour the martyrs, veterans and the men in uniform.  The media came out with clips of the political leadership urging everyone to wear the Flag on the day, but the political leadership did not wear the Flag as seen from various news clips.  In Canada, during the week prior to the Remembrance Day (11 November), almost everyone appearing on the media are seen wearing the Red Poppy.  The English Cricket Team that played a test match at Rajkot (November 9-13) were seen wearing the Red Poppy.  Will the Indian Cricket Team ever do so?

In order to make the Indian youth aware of the great Military History, there is a need to infuse the same into the school curricula.  The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and the state Commissions must include at least 5% questions from Indian Military History in their examinations.  This will ensure that the candidates study India’s Military History in detail, to a certain extent to answer the questions.

If India is to prove that it is a major Military power and also stake its claim for permanent membership in UNSC, there is a lot to be done to project its Military Hard Power.  Doing it the soft way will be cost effective and will also enthuse the nation.


Radicalisation of Indian Veterans

It is an irony that a few veterans – surprisingly many who held senior ranks in the Indian Armed Forces – having radicalised thoughts and many times seen spewing venom on the media.  The malice appears to have spread to officers who held junior ranks and also among soldiers.

There are two types of radicalised Veterans.  The first category is a miniscule – the ones who have been through intense combat and have seen their comrades in arms die or maimed.  They mostly suffer from Post Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD) and there is no care or support for these cases, even from the Military Hospitals.  Why, many in the Armed Forces do not even accept that PTSD exists among serving soldiers who have been through intense combat.  One can very well imagine the plight of the Veterans, especially those below officer rank.  Some of these persons tend to recoil and spend their life mostly in solitude and hardly ever communicate, even with their dear and near.  Some also have taken the spiritual path to fight PTSD.  They tend to carry their emotions within them.

They generally appear well in public and would say nothing to offend anyone. They are always a gentleman on the surface and treats everyone with respect.  In private, they may occasionally make off-handed comments when discussing politics, or society.  One would surely feel disenchanted  to hear someone of such intelligence and valour, someone who everyone respected and cared for immensely, have such a distorted view, and to speak in generalisations about an entire religion or community.

This group cannot be categorised as radical, but may well be called prejudiced.  This could well be attributed to their years of dedicated service in the worst parts of the country, and having to deal with corrupt politicians and bureaucrats on a regular basis.  This would surely take a toll on anyone’s faith in humanity.

Now comes the second group – the most dangerous ones and are in majority – the so called ‘Poodle Fakers’ of the Indian Armed Forces.  They may have been in the battlefronts, but surely have hardly seen intense combat.  They were the arm-chair Generals who pushed their soldiers into combat situations, presuming themselves to be ‘Guderians’, but surely with hardly any practical knowledge of tactics or the real ground situations.

Post retirement, they try to cover up all their shortcomings through their ‘verbal diarrhea’ in the media or with their articles or books in print.  They find everything wrong with the current setup in the Defence Forces and are ever ready with their answers for all the troubles the Defence Forces are going through.  They never realise that they were the ones who laid the foundation for such troubles.

In the present Indian political environment, they have found a place to air their Gyan – the so called nationalists or patriots – who believe that to be patriot one got to believe in the party that has created an image of being the only patriotic one.  They also believe that all the history of the nation were all wrong and only the ones espoused by the current bunch is the most appropriate version of national history.

They appear to have  forgotten all the ethos the Defence Forces taught them while in service.  They claim that the Indian Muslims and Christians can never be nationalists and are only there to convert the poor Hindus.  They never remember the sacrifices and valour of the non-Hindu soldiers who served under their own command.

They tend to paint everyone as non-nationalist in one stroke.  Most of them obviously are faking it to remain relevant in the current religio-political turmoil the nation is going through.  They will never miss an opportunity to cash in by giving their sermons on various television channels, which are ready to pay them for the most grotesque comment they make.  It appears that every evening they wear their suits, armed with some venom spewing statement and await a call from a news channel.

These Veterans employ theatrics – they are ever ready to shed a few crocodile tears – and many viewers believe what they say.  Surely, the viewers do not know the antecedents of the person, but they only know him as a Veteran.

Have you ever seen a General who was a professional soldier ever deliver such Gyan?  Is it time that the Government  come out with some regulations to quieten or soften up such diatribes?


On returning from his orientation programme from the city’s swimming pool, where he works as the Swimming Instructor and Life-Guard, I asked our son Nikhil, “What’s new this time?”  The Swimming Instructors have to undergo an orientation programme prior to commencement of any teaching session –  a ritual once in three months.  They are assessed for their swimming ability and life saving techniques.  The incidents that occurred during the quarter in all the swimming pools are discussed in detail and the correct methodology to deal with them are brought out.  Any changes to the existing protocols of First-Aid, CPR, Child Psychology, etc are also covered during this programme.

“The age old tourniquet is back in” was his reply.

His reply made me dwell back into my memory of the Cadet days at the National Defence Academy (NDA) where the tourniquet and a blade adorned our Field Service (FS) Cap.  The tourniquet was in fact two pencils, four inches long, wound neatly by a shoelace.  The ends of the shoelace were neatly tied on to the two holes on the left side of the FS Cap.  Luckily never heard of anyone untying the knot and using it during the Academy days.

On commissioning as a Second Lieutenant, I still carried the blade and the tourniquet as an integral part of my FS Cap.  The blade was the first to go as the Indian Army found that the blade had a great chance of infecting the wound rather than saving a person from a snake bite.

By the late Eighties, Indian Army recommended doing away with tourniquets.  The tourniquet meant to stop circulation of blood through the limb where a poisonous snake might have bitten was found to be more damaging than allowing the poison to spread across the victim’s body. In case a limb that had a tourniquet applied for hours, with no blood or lymph flow, caused a huge buildup of toxins in the limb.  When the tourniquet was released, all those toxins spread into the victim’s entire body.

There simple tourniquets was employed as an effective means during many wars to stop serious bleeding wounds.  It saved many a lives that would have been lost due to blood loss.  The tourniquet, in case applied over a prolonged period of over two hours, may damage tissues due to a loss of circulation.  This may result in permanent nerve injury, muscle injury, vascular injury, etc.

Periodic loosening of a tourniquet in an attempt to reduce tissue damage may often lead to blood loss and death.  Further, the victim suffers immense pain when a tourniquet is applied and may need heavy dose of pain killers.  For the tourniquets to be effective, the person applying the tourniquets must be well trained and must be aware as to what he is doing, how to do it and why.

In today’s world where the threat of a militant attack, industrial accidents, natural disasters, man-made disasters like stampedes, etc may result in mass civilian causalities with serious limb injuries.  The first responders and medical aid, even if available, may not be sufficient enough to treat all casualties.  Hence there is an urgent need for all responsible citizens to be trained in First-Aid and in use of tourniquets.  A casualty with multiple injuries, including serious bleeding limb injuries may be effectively managed by the immediate application of a tourniquet as a temporary measure to stop bleeding.

In most cases there is a need to improvise a tourniquet.  One must use a broad band to provide adequate compression.  A shoelace is a last resort, being thin, may not provide adequate compression.  The tourniquet must be applied just above the injury. onto bare skin to prevent slipping.

The first tourniquet may be applied ‘high and tight’ over clothing until a more considered assessment and reapplication may be considered.  The tourniquet should be tightened until bleeding stops.  Insert something rigid under the tourniquet and next to the knot to keep the tourniquet taught.  In case it is ineffective, the tourniquet should be tightened or re-positioned.  One may even consider applying a second tourniquet above the first if required.  Always write the Time and Date on the tourniquet.

Releasing the tourniquet once the casualty has been stabilised will, theoretically, avoid or limit the complications of prolonged use of a tourniquet.  Release the tourniquet, observing the wound and If bleeding continues, tighten the tourniquet until bleeding stops.

The tourniquet should remain in place if :-

  • The transit time to medical care is less than one hour.
  • The casualty has other life threatening injuries.
  • The casualty has unstable vital signs.

Tourniquets are an effective method of controlling serious bleeding which may not otherwise be controlled by simple measures but only if applied effectively.  The greatest risks of serious complications are due to inappropriate or incorrect application of tourniquets, not the tourniquet itself.

Sgt Dakota Oklesson, senior line medic with Apache Troop, 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment, helps an Indian Army soldier apply a tourniquet during their first day of joint training for Yudh Abhyas 2010 Nov 1 at the Battle Command Training Center and Education Center on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.


Musings in the Mist – A Journey of an Indian Army Brat – from Childhood to an Army Officer

This book is authored by Major Shona George, Regiment of Artillery, Indian Army, a personal friend.  Rather, his father Late Colonel Raju George, again from Artillery and I shared many hours  discussing various subjects ranging from military, history, religion, faith, parenting, philosophy, etc.

The book is fast paced and gripping.  It is a about 160 pages –  short enough hold your interest and cover the essentials, but long enough to get into your mind with a detailed account of what an Indian Army Officer – Sam Kapoor goes through.

The language used is simple, with adequate explanations about other language words and also military terminologies.  The book is as expected, divided into three sections.

The first dealing with Sam’s childhood of growing up in the Military Cantonments – a gypsy life – natured in Assam and nurtured in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Bengal, Rajasthan, Delhi, Nagaland – rather most Provinces of India Union.  The life of a kid maturing to an adult through his teens is well etched. The language and narration keeps up with the innocence of a kid, with all the pranks, comical situations and activities the youngsters indulge in.  This chapter depicts the growth of Sam into a leader, through his various childhood activities.    Turning into adolescence –  a university student in Delhi  – and the hiccups everyone faces, interaction with friends, crushes, infatuations and ultimate love for a girl has been essayed out with its essence intact.  Ultimate dilemma of Sam to choose between his dream of becoming an Army officer like his dad and his love gives a cinematic twist to the narration.

Sam as a newly commissioned Lieutenant serving in Siachen Glacier – the highest and coldest battlefield in the world – forms the second part.  It is real fast paced, fascinating and will surely touch your inner cord.  What goes through Sam’s mind, without any dilution has been well explained, especially what Sam goes through losing the soldiers under his command.  The irony every Army Officer faces while breaking the news of loss of a soldier to his parent, carrying out the last rites  of an officer whom he met briefly, digging out a soldier trapped under an avalanche  – could not have been explained better.  At least I can vouch for it having been through similar situations.

Third part of the book deals with the operations in Kashmir Valley, dealing with terrorists.  Here again the author has done justice bringing out what goes through Sam’s mind as a military leader.  This I am sure is an experience most Officers of the Indian Army in the last three decades would have been through.

This book is a must read for all those who follow the Indian Army, its Officers and Soldiers.  The reader will surely end up with a feeling of patriotism and leave you with a hair-raising and spine-chilling sensation.

A prescription for sure of all those self-claimed Desh-Bhakths.

The book is available on, eBay and Flipkart. The ebook version is available on and the international edition is available on