Intro: Every man in armed and paramilitary forces sacrifices a lot of personal pleasures to serve the nation. To keep going, motivation is crucial for them.
Troops guarding India’s north-west borders are in high spirits. It’s almost as if each officer and jawan stands taller today–happy because he is free to respond squarely to enemy fire, confident that the enemy doesn’t stand a chance and proud that the nation stands beside him. It is all because of one simple message from the government: “Act as suitable”. Short, sweet and crystal clear.
We travelled over 500 km from Jammu to Poonch and back, interacting with the men in uniform for more than a week. As one drives along this stretch, one cannot miss the heavy presence of armed forces along the way. The International Border from Kathua till Chenab is guarded by the Border Security Force (BSF). Further north, the border known as Line of Control (LoC) is under the operational control of the Indian Army. Even as the men, right from jawans to officers, are super cautious while speaking to the media, a sense of buoyancy is palpable.
|There are no daily instructions, nor do we have to ask permissions at every instance. The government this time is very clear. It has told us to ‘act as suitable’ and that is enough for us. —A Senior Army Officer|
The government’s no-nonsense attitude vis-à-vis Pakistan has ensured a very positive frame of mind among the armed forces, be it the Army or the BSF. “There are no daily instructions, nor do we have to ask permissions at every instance. The government this time is very clear. It has told us to ‘act as suitable’ and that is enough for us,” a senior officer told Organiser.
In the last few months, Pakistan has indulged in unprecedented firing and shelling at our borders. Unprovoked firing and ceasefire violations by Pakistan are common occurrence along the LoC. Especially this time of year, just before winters set in, the Pakistan Army usually increases its shenanigans to push in infiltrators because later it becomes almost impossible to cross the snow-covered mountains. What was unusual this time was the heavy fire and shelling in the plains, i.e. the International Border (IB).
Pakistan was perhaps keen to internationalise the Kashmir issue, especially since the people of India had voted a strong NDA Government into power. There are various reasons attributed to the unprecedented aggression. Besides being frustrated over the Kashmir issue, the Pakistan government had also wanted to divert the attention of its people from the internal strife. But the plan clearly backfired.
Firing along the LoC would not have attracted international attention; hence, it chose the International Border for a series of ceasefire violations. Pakistan’s strategy, however, boomeranged as New Delhi was in no mood to get cowed down. If anything, the Narendra Modi government became more determined when Islamabad let loose its firepower across the IB, which unlike the LoC has settled population and agricultural land. Targeting civilian population without reason was seen as a dirty game that could not be tolerated.
We will always do our duty. But when we feel the entire nation is with us, it raises the morale of the men.
—Senior Army officer commanding border
This time round, our forces gave it back with a vengeance, shocking the Pakistanis into silence. Allowed complete freedom to act by the government, the Indian Army and BSF have been firing back heavily from every spot they target. The volume and intensity of India's return fire has been much higher than the somewhat lukewarm response Pakistan had come to expect during the earlier dispensation. With its back to the wall and suffering serious loss of face, Pak army reportedly instructed its television channels to completely black out media coverage of the damage caused on the Pakistani side.
“Where the jawans have to speak, they speak with their finger on the trigger…and they will continue to speak that way,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, in what was perhaps the strongest statement by India’s Prime Minister in recent years. The forces were told not to seek any flag meeting with the other side, thus sending the signal that New Delhi is not willing to dilute or weaken the basic condition of 'no dialogue in the shadow of gun'.
The message is not lost to the men on the ground. In fact, the sequence of events has instilled great confidence. With their ear to the ground, the troops are all very well informed and keenly follow media reports.
“This is how it should be. Why should we take their nonsense? If the enemy asks for it, we should be ready to give it back. After all, we are such a big and strong nation,” a senior Army officer said while discussing the Indian response this time.
“Where the jawans have to speak, they speak with their finger on the trigger…and they will continue to speak that way,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his recent visit to J&K.
Pakistan was particularly ferocious on the day of Eid ul-Zuha this time. This was again unprecedented, as Muslims were celebrating the festival on both sides of the borders. Five civilians, including two women, were killed and at least 34 people injured as Pakistani troops shelled villages in Arnia sub-sector of Jammu district close to the IB on Eid. The civilian death toll was the highest in a single day since 2003. Pakistani troops also fired heavily at forward outposts along the LoC in Poonch.
As a result, the troops were more than prepared to take strong action in case Pakistan tried to spoil Diwali. All along the International Border and the LoC, our forces had prepared heavily to counter any mischief. But this time, Pakistan knew better. Though Pakistan Rangers, perhaps out of habit, did resort to small-arms firing at a few border outposts, there was no major incident. As compared to last few years, Diwali was more peaceful in Poonch this time, a source said. A fact certainly not missed by the men in service.
“Today, when bullets are being fired on the border, it is the enemy that is screaming. Our jawans have responded to the aggression with courage. The enemy has realised that times have changed and their old habits will not be tolerated,” the Prime Minister pointed out aptly.
The earlier government’s policies were not very motivating. In fact, according to sources, the situation was the reverse. There was a subtle clampdown on media reports about the damages suffered on the Indian side due to Pakistani fire. This was not seen as a pro-Army attitude.
Motivation is crucial. Every man in our armed and paramilitary forces sacrifices a lot of personal pleasures to serve the nation. When he is posted on the borders, he knows there is no guarantee of life and well-being. Tough terrain, unpredictable enemy, inclement weather–our troops bear all this and more to maintain the sanctity of our borders.
It is only their patriotic zeal that keeps them going through thick and thin. “We will always do our duty. But when we feel the entire nation is with us, it raises the morale of the men,” said a senior Army officer commanding border posts in the mountains of Kalidhar, Akhnoor.
The fast movement of defence projects has also not gone unnoticed. Although all officers state that they are more than well-equipped in every way, there is certainly a sense of relief that defence preparedness will not be compromised by the present dispensation. Positive statements from senior leaders and media reportage have all added to the enthusiasm and sense of pride across all ranks.
“The morale of our army is high and in any battle the Indian Army would emerge victorious,” Army chief General Dalbir Singh stated recently. We have experienced this first hand!
Abha Khanna Gupta (The writer is a senior journalist and social worker who recently visited Jammu and Kashmir)