Dr Sandeep Pandey and Bobby Ramakant, CNS
Photo credit: CNS: citizen-news.org
On June 4, 2015, twenty Indian soldiers of 6 Dogra Regiment got killed by NSCN (Khaplang) insurgent group in Chandel district of Manipur. The Information and Broadcasting Minister of State Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, a retired Colonel from Army whose claim to fame is a shooting silver medal in Olympics, informed citizens through media that this was a message to other countries which might be inimical to India.

The Indian Army entered Maynmar and destroyed two militant camps one facing Manipur and the other Nagaland. The Indian Army's official version about the event says that they engaged with two separate groups of insurgents along the Indo-Myanmar border without breaching it. Myanmar government has clarified that Indian attack on insurgents took place inside the Indian border. NSCN (K) has denied that any of its cadres were killed in the Indian attack.

HT: 26 June 2015
So, what are we to make of it? There is doubt over whether Indian forces entered Myanmar border. There is doubt whether insurgents were killed. The Pakistani senate has passed a resolution condemning India's action and its hegemonic mindset.

If it was not insurgents who were the people who got killed? Was it another fake operation, in which some innocent citizens are made sacrificial lambs, by India security forces just to gain some strategic mileage? Surprisingly, the chest thumping in media stopped as soon as questions were raised on the authenticity of the operation.

If one were to visit any of our neighbouring countries even before that Myanmar operation one would get a feeling that India is viewed as a hegemonic power. These countries do not like much interference of India in their internal matters. A recent example is how Nepal rejected Indian aid and asked Indian media to leave after the earthquake. In fact, India's image in South Asia is similar to that of US globally. It is seen as a bully in spite of all our claims to being a peaceful nation.

Photo credit: CNS: citizen-news.org
Indian government tried to pat its back after the Myanmar operation. But we've to examine the situation under which the June 4 attack on Indian soldiers took place. Armed Forces Special Powers Act is in place in Manipur which has resulted in a number of human rights violations. Thangjam Manorama, then 34 years old, was picked up by paramilitary unit, 17th Assam Rifles, on 11 July 2004. Next morning her body was found in a field after rape and murder. The anger of the people can be gauged from the nude protest by a group of women in front of Kangla Fort, the headquarters of Assam Rifles with placards saying 'Indian Army, Rape Us.' It will probably never occur to Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore that people sometimes consider security forces to be inimical to their interests.

The world will remember Irom Sharmila's legendry fast which is going to complete its 15th year in a few months. Irom is demanding repeal of AFSPA. The insurgent groups, like the one which attacked Indian Army, have local people's sympathies because of the Army excesses. Moreover, there are political ambitions of people which cannot be ignored for too long. Political problems will have to be solved politically. Military solutions tend to aggravate the political problems, both internally as well as externally.

And now Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has made a statement that Army's importance has decreased because the country has not gone to war in the last four to five decades. He immediately clarified that his remarks should not be taken to mean that he supports wars. He said soldiers were facing immense difficulty because in peace time people's respect for army had gone down. He further said that two generations of officers retired without seeing a war. This doesn't mean that army should not command the respect from people that it deserves. He added that a country which fails to protect its army cannot progress.

Even though he clarified on his initial comment but all his clarifications also tend to strengthen the implications of his basic comment and seem to indicate that things have gone wrong because India has not fought a war during the past 40-50 years. It is said that if the US doesn't go to war every few years its biggest industry of armament would be in trouble. If we were to go by Parrikar's arguments India would have to engage in a war every few years to maintain the respect among citizens for its soldiers.

Photo credit: CNS: citizen-news.org
Let us try to analyse Parrikar's comments. Who has let the army down – the common citizens or the ruling elites? Presently, the ex-servicemen are on relay hunger strikes in over 50 cities demanding One Rank One Pension. Who is denying the soldiers their fair due? The former PM Rajiv Gandhi was never absolved of corruption charges in Bofor's deal. BJP President Bangaru Laxman was caught accepting bribe in a fictitious defence deal during a sting operation. During Kargil war BJP led government was alleged to have bought coffins for soldiers at 13 times exaggerated cost. Honest Chiefs like Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat have been shown the door to save the corrupt governments and ministers. On the other hand the common citizens, from whose families most soldiers come, have been willing to sacrifice their lives, sometimes even when there is no need to, when the political leaders take irrational decisions.

The I&B and Defence ministers probably don't realise the dangerous implications of their statements. It is clear warmongering.

A responsible politician would not unnecessarily sacrifice his/her soldiers but would try to prevent a war. If the long standing problems with our neighbours were to be resolved continuous tension with Pakistan or China would end. Politicians should work towards an ultimate solution where no armies are needed and we can do away with our nuclear weapons so that the citizens of all these countries can live in permanent peace. We should try to work towards free borders where passports and visas are not required to travel across.

Our defence budget is staggering Rs. 2,20,000 crores annually. If this money was to be freed up to be used to remove India's poverty our citizens will be able to experience real security in their lives. Manohar Parrikar and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore should work towards this dream rather than force a war on the country for which common citizens will have to pay a heavy price.

Dr Sandeep Pandey and Bobby Ramakant, CNS
24 June 2015
(Dr Sandeep Pandey is a Magsaysay Awardee and noted social-political activist. He is the national Vice President of Socialist Party (India). Bobby Ramakant is a health activist, part of Socialist Party (India) and writes for Citizen News Service - CNS)