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1965 war victory: Golden celebrations get back veterans

  By Vijay Darda | 07-09-2015

The calculations of territorial gains or losses apart the 1965 Indo-Pak war was decisive event in the history of independent India. Pakistan had chosen a particularly vulnerable moment to launch an attack. There was the humiliation of the 1962 debacle against China, and the loss of the first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in May 1964. Pakistan’s president Ayub Khan fed on a diet of perceptions about the weakness of the Hindus to fight decided to seek a military solution to the Kashmir conflict. He also presumed that his Operation Gibraltar would get support from the local Kashmiris and their uprising would help him capture Srinagar. His confidence was also bolstered by his presumption that the Chinese would also make common cause in inflicting another defeat on India. Above all he had an assurance that the Pakistani army machine fitted with modern Patton tanks and armed with Sabre jets would clearly establish its supremacy.

But within 22 days under the leadership of the diminutive power house of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, the Indian military machine got into action and literally had the Pakistanis running for cover, and the fall of Lahore was within a striking distance. The Pakistanis did not believe that India could open war on another front and give it a whiplash beating. The Chinese did flex their muscles but then they did not risk any intervention by either the Americans or the Russians who had made it clear that they would not remain bystanders in the event of the ambit of the conflict getting expanded. On all fronts – military, domestic and diplomatic – India acquitted with a level glory that gave it a permanent psychological advantage over Pakistan. These are modern times and annexing territories by war or force belongs to a bygone era. There had to be a settlement, and the forces had to withdraw back. So, it was just idle mathematics to calculate the area won or lost. The more important thing was that whereas Shastri became a hero (even after his unfortunate death at Tashkent soon after the summit), Ayub had to lose power. This simple equation declared the winners and losers in that 1965 war.

However, the real winner of that battle was the India soldier who fought with the valour and courage of his superior morale and demolished the myth that superior machines can win wars. When Gnats engaged the Sabres in dogfights, and established air supremacy in the skies, it was the power of the pilots. Similarly, when 97 Pakistani tanks were slaughtered in the battle of tanks at Khemkaran it was the superior Indian force that made the difference.

All this happened exactly 50 years ago, but the saga of bravery and military competence is as fresh as if it happened today. There have been other war victories as well, the 1971 win and the 1999 Kargil triumph, but the taste of the 1965 victory always remains fresh and sweet. It was the first decisive military triumph in the history of independent India. It created a national confidence, and Prime Minister Shastri’s slogan “jai jawan, jai kisan” still reverberates with the same force.

So, it is with a deep tinge of sorrow that we looked at the developments in the context of the one rank, one pension (OROP) issue raised by the veterans. Some of the big names from that war had been forced to boycott these golden jubilee celebrations. But now the Modi sarkar has been able to resolve their key demand that was pending for 42 years, and has vowed to work for the satisfaction of the veterans.

At the outset, it has accepted that these veterans should be treated with a deep sense of respect. It has been recognised that they are not just another bunch of employees agitating for some wage negotiations. They are people who have voluntarily opted for the service of an army tasked with the mammoth responsibility of protecting the unity, integrity and security of the country, knowing full well that they may not come alive out of any unforeseen situation. This is not just an act of individual sacrifice, but a collective deed on the part of the entire family. It is this sentiment that has been honoured above all else.

The satisfactory resolution of this dispute has a direct co-relation with the morale of the young lad in uniform who is manning the border post 24×7. The government is conscious of the fact that we cannot afford to play with this morale. There can be no denying the administrative or financial complexities in implementing OROP. But then above all this is a question of honour and promise. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi made this promise to the veterans and has lived up to its core by putting a date from which it would be implemented and has personally erased all doubts that has cropped up subsequent to the government’s announcement. The veterans on hunger strike have called off their fast, while their relay strike and agitation will continue till the pending issues are resolved.

Ultimately, this is a question related to the security of the nation. The security of the nation is non-negotiable, and dealing the issue with a sense of responsibility the government has not let issues like constraints of resources or the status of the economy enter the zone of consideration. In so far as the question of financial resources is concerned, the nation has a huge budgetary outlay of Rs 2,47,000 crores for the defence sector this year, and we can surely find the additional Rs 8,000 crores to Rs 10,000 crores that would be needed to cover the annual cost of OROP.

This extra expenditure would also help in overcoming the feeling that as compared to the babus of the government, the soldiers are getting a second class treatment in the long run. In the short run the agitating veterans would get the opportunity to participate in the 1965 Golden jubilee celebrations, and recall their deeds of valour with a deeper sense of satisfaction.

Before I conclude…

The drought situation in Marathwada and other parts of the state is gaining alarming proportions. The monsoon deficit is obvious now and given that veterans are saying that this could be the toughest crisis in the last 50 years the state government has to rise to the occasion. All sections of the society must pool in their resources to mitigate the sufferings of the people. We are already suffering from the complex after-effects of the agrarian crisis in the state. The drought poses a much bigger challenge, and this has to be beaten back collectively.

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1965 war victory: Golden celebrations get back veterans


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