In 1996, as VCOAS I used to be questioned on want of celebrating 25 years of 1971 victory as it could have upset Pakistan: Gen Malik

Bhartesh Singh Thakur
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20  

Experts warned political leadership against bringing communal or ethnic divisions while also cautioning senior officers in military to be alive and sensitive towards such issues during a session on ‘Pluralism, the Armed Forces-and the Question of Who is an Indian’ at Military Literature Festival on Sunday.   

Moderator of the session, Lt Gen NS Brar (retd) said that pluralism as against polarisation “is an increasing contentious issue worldwide”.

“No country in the world is as diverse as India. The Indian politics couldn’t and possibly cannot be diverse from exploiting this diversity. But the military in a democracy has apolitical ethos and aspire for professionalism. It appears contradictory but it is not.” 

General VP Malik (retd), who led India to Kargil victory, said, “As an organisation, the armed forces are proud of achieving and maintaining unity in pluralism and diversity.”

While commenting on vote bank politics, he said social engineering was being emphasised more than regional or national development and it should be corrected either through courts or Election Commission.  

There should be greater emphasis on celebrating national events than religious ones, he said.

Citing an anecdote, Gen Malik said in 1996 when he was Vice Chief of Army Staff, they were not getting permission to celebrate silver jubilee of 1971 Indo-Pak war till the last moment.

“During a meeting in cabinet secretary’s office, the first question I was asked, ‘why do you want to celebrate it? Where is the need? It will upset Pakistan’. Such was the thinking of the government of that time,” he said, and added that it was the greatest military victories in centuries. 

“There have been a number of attempts to bring reservation in the Army. Not just during my time but earlier too. All political leaders need to guard against it. When an organisation is working well, why it should be politicised,” he said. 

Supporting him, Lt Gen Brar said when we had representation from all states based on their recruitable male population, what was the need of reservation in the military.   

Adding a word of caution for politicians promoting division, Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Badal said, “We have studied in principles of science that if you boil water at 100 degree Celsius, it will turn into steam. The statecraft is also like science. If you do A, B and C, the country will progress and if you do X, Y and Z, the country will go down. You need peace to progress.” 

On military ethos, Maj Gen AP Singh (retd) said that in military the drill of ‘Sarv Dharam Sthals’ gets a solider to celebrate each other’s religious functions. He added that a person could be a staunch follower of his religion before joining the military but after imbibing ethos of his “paltan” such differences become light.  

Col Shantanu Pande, who is serving in the Army, said, “When a soldier from Jat regiment stands at the Siachen Glacier, his community, village and entire country is standing behind him.” He added, “We (military) are not a melting pot. We don’t try to fuse. We retain flavour.” 

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