ON Januray 15, the Army commemorated another Army Day, the fifty ninth. I have deliberately used the word ‘commemorated’’ and not ‘celebrated’, because although it is a day of rejoicing, it is also one of introspection and taking stock. I have also not stated that the nation has been celebrating or commemorating the day, for the truth is that the majority of our political leadership, our bureaucracy, the public and lately even the media, are fairly blasé about what the military does. A great pity, indeed, for when an adverse security situation develops internally or externally, everyone suddenly wakes up with the usual homilies for our ‘brave’ defence forces!
This day was selected as the Army Day, as it was on this day in 1949, that the first Indian General (later Field Marshal) K.M. Cariappa had assumed the prestigious office of the head of the Indian Army. The day is marked by an impressive parade at the army parade ground in Delhi Cantonment, where the reviewing officer is invariably the Chief of Army Staff (COAS).
This day is dedicated to the officers, JCO’s and the jawans of the Indian Army, who have sacrificed their life and limbs for the defence of the nation. The Chief, in his address, indeed did thank them for their steadfastness, sacrifices, courage and loyalty. He also honoured the brave individuals, as well as units which have excelled, by presenting gallantry and distinguished service awards to individuals and unit citations for collective achievements by units.
The parade is followed by a semi- formal ‘At Home’ by the COAS, at his official residence, where political as well as civil and military dignitaries get a chance to mingle with the awardees of the morning. It is always a memorable occasion, where one meets a wide spectrum of people, from the President and the Prime Minister, to leaders of many political parties, to a selection of serving and retired military officers, and of course the decoratees of the morning, proudly displaying their well-earned medals and honours.
Army Day is a day of celebrations, for it is a joyous occasion. Besides commemorating the passage of one more successful year, all ranks of the Army look back with nostalgia on another year of hard work, pride in their achievements and re dedication, added to the long and glorious history of their units, regiments and corps, as well as the Indian Army. All officers and men are also acutely conscious of their individual and collective contributions to the safety and security of the nation.
At a different plane, however, it is a day of stock taking of every facet of the functioning of the army. The main question in everyone’s mind is whether the army is fit in all respects for carrying out its task of ensuring the security of the nation in a professionally robust and befitting manner.
This question covers practically every endeavour of the army, from its manpower to its equipment, as well as important issues like training, leadership, discipline, operational readiness and of course morale. In this technological world of today, it is also important to assess how technologically savvy our personnel are and how well they are able to use the latest technological equipment that is being fielded by the army?
There is also the important aspect of modernisation, which is a continuous process that needs dedicated and sustained infusion of the correct and relevant weaponry, equipment and materials. This is only possible when adequate funds are made available to the army.
Any slackening of the modernisation process results in losing the race vis a vis our adversaries, because once it falters, it is difficult to catch up, both because much larger funds would be needed thereafter, but also because of opportunities lost, which cannot be regained.
Introspection should reveal both strengths and weaknesses. It is a time-tested method for military commanders at varying levels to gauge the proficiency and efficiency of their commands. When General Deepak Kapoor reviewed the Army Day Parade, he would also have been thinking of these fundamental questions – on how his army has fared in the service of the nation in the preceding year, as well as the challenges ahead, for which it must be ready and prepared.
Over the years, our media has lost interest in the events of the Army Day. Although, it still gets covered as a news item, the coverage is sketchy and routine.
The Army Day again has been celebrated in the backdrop of heavy commitments of the Army. The officers and jawans are continuing their fight against the enemies of the nation, both on the borders and within the country, without any thought to their own safety and comfort. They do deserve the gratitude of the nation, but it is my view that it is not forthcoming, in the manner and to the extent that is desirable.
Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi (Retd), PVSM, AVSM, VSM
The writer is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff
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