Much has been said about the surgical strikes that the Indian forces carried out across the border. Everyone had an opinion and wished to voice it. The Pakistani government and politicians, the Indian politicians, the media on both sides of the border etc. While it was an extremely interesting experience following the various debates on social media, WhatsApp groups and television, I wished to hear the opinion of one very important person- an army man. While retired officers had appeared on different debates and voiced their opinions, I didn’t know what someone currently working in the army felt. The following is are excerpts from 2 conversations between an army officer and me. While the first one happened a few days after the URI attack, the second one was after the surgical strikes.
A Colorful Riot: What do you feel is the stand of the current government? Is cross border action in PoK a possibility? (Similar to the one carried out in Myanmar last year.)
Army Officer: Frankly, after joining the army I have stopped caring about what the government’s stand is. Once you enter the organisation, you don’t really care about these things. The CO’s (Commanding Officer’s) stand and our personal belief in a situation is what counts. We follow orders, not politics. When a 7.62 goes past your ear, you don’t really think about what Modi is going to say.
ACR: Yes, but doesn’t the CO need to consult the PM for covert cross border action? Even if it’s as a response to this attack?
AO: See, when things have to happen they happen. Information is provided on a need to know basis. So at the end of the day, we do what our CO tells us to do. We aren’t bothered about what any XYZ politician wants or about how a citizen of the country hates Pakistan and wants us to go to war for his sake. Rest assured, whenever we respond to attacks, it’s because a calculated decision has been made and not because we want to please someone or help boost someone’s ego.
AO: Thanks! I’m not sure yet, if going public about it was a good idea.
ACR: Don’t you think that it relays India’s stand to the international audience. “We have had enough”? They haven’t disclosed any specifics. Also, the people of our country have also been making a lot of noise?
AO: Maybe. As far as the people of the country go- there have always been crazy people who get emotional and don’t think rationally. War mongers or pseudo liberals, we have both. We always will.
ACR: But we have rationales as well?
AO: Yes we do. But you need to understand something. People have a short span of attention. After the Myanmar strikes, they were extremely patriotic. Similarly, for the next 2-3 months, they will be extremely passionate about this topic. After that, they’ll either start criticizing us (the army) again or forget about us. I’m not complaining. That’s just how people are.
ACR: There are some people who are asking for proof as Pakistan has denied the strikes.
AO: F*ck Pakistan. We don’t give a shit about the people making noises or the politicians. The people (who are supporting us or are questioning us) will forget about this in a couple of months and the politicians have their own agendas. The government decided to go public with it and I am indifferent about that. But for the remaining people who are questioning the strikes- be it the Pakistanis, Indian population or politicians- You can believe whatever the hell you want. Happy? Go ahead and judge us all you want. We don’t care.
A soldier works extremely hard and puts his life at great risk for the country. He understands it’s his profession and doesn’t ask the population of the country to shower him with accolades. Having said that, it goes without saying that questioning the authenticity of their work and disrespecting them is uncalled for. The Indian army believes in honour and respect. It has displayed these qualities time and again during wars as well as peace. One of the beautiful aspects of democracy is that people get to voice their opinions and exercise their right to question concerned authorities. But:
“Once you choose a side, if you’re not loyal to that side, then who the hell are you?”
While I do not support the chest thumping by some of the politicians of the ruling party, I do support the government’s move to promulgate the surgical strikes. Internationally, it was understood that India will not hesitate to take military action against terrorism. While a war would be a terrible idea for our country, the surgical strikes were important not just for India’s security, but also for the morale of our soldiers.
Edited by Mrinaal Datt
Read more about her here.