Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’
Every year, young officers pass out of Indian Military academy with Chetwood Motto “The safety honour and welfare of the country comes first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time”.
With this DNA inscribed firmly, the young officers of the Indian army fought the Kargil war and added a glorious chapter in the military history of the nation. Indeed, it was a unique war fought at such an altitude, hostile terrain conditions and well-trenched enemy. Our young officers and soldiers led the assault and captured them with steel and blood. Many of them made the supreme sacrifice to safeguard their motherland. Their one liners, “Ye dil maange more” to “I will observe you from stars” is still fresh in the minds of every Indian.
One of the war heroes had famously said – “Either I will come back after hoisting the tricolour or I will come back wrapped in it, but I will be back for sure” and some of them did come back home in eternal slumber–wrapped in tricolour. The nation stood tall with the gallantry and sacrifice of these young men. The leadership at all levels from armed forces to parliament underwent the true acid test and emerged.
Armed forces have a tradition of leading from the front and lead by example. Right from the military leadership of the fighting section till highest echelons led the campaign in a very spectacular and inspirational way. The Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited the forward bases amidst war and boosted the morale of the army. The country stood united behind its armed forces forgetting the ideological and political differences.
In 1999, the then Government of Uttar Pradesh assigned me the role of Nodal Minister, and I was tasked to coordinate and organise the last rites of all the martyrs with full state honours. It was for the first time that the last rites of all the martyrs were organised with full state honour and the tradition continues till date. It was Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s firm belief that the heroes of the nation should be welcomed with full state honour on their final journey. This galvanised the entire nation into a single and united entity across the parties and social strata. But it was a moment of utmost pain and pride for me. I felt the grief of the veer naris, children, mothers, sisters, and fathers who gave up their young boys for this nation without expecting anything in return.
After two decades, today, almost at the same time in Galwan valley, our brave hearts again rose to the occasion and gave a befitting reply to the adversary. The country is full of pride for their gallant action. Our Prime Minister’s visit to the Leh and border areas is a clear indication and firm message that the unquestioned leader of 130 crore people is there to assure that the entire nation stands in unison behind the army.
It is so heartening to see that when the entire nation celebrates Diwali at home with their families, our Prime Minister is there at our borders celebrating it with our soldiers in frontier areas. During the last six years, he has done it without failing and made the brave soldiers of armed forces as his family. This is our leadership that is willing to walk the talk.
Under the visionary leadership of our Prime Minister, the defence modernisation and operational preparedness is at new levels. The Armed forces and their demands have been a key focus area of the government. There is no delay or denial in fulfilling the demands of our armed forces. The Prime minister put his entire political capital at stake amidst the misinformed and malicious political propaganda of some parties but did not let the armed forces be down with his commitment to add Rafale to their arsenal.
On this Kargil day, I can see parallels between the committed leadership this country had in 1999 and what it is having now. In the changing global order, India is rising as a major power and defence forces are the most significant element of comprehensive national power (CNP). “India that is Bharat” is no more a country pleading for mercy, ceasefire and requesting foreign aids to fight a war. Under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi, we are the force to reckon with in the new world order and global firepower index. We are advocates of peace, prosperity and mutual coexistence, no doubt, but not at the cost of our sovereignty.
The union government stands committed to take bold decisions in the national interest. We must remember that while we take any decision that our flag does not fly because the wind moves it, it flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it.
My salute to the heroes of the nation! Today let’s celebrate our heroes who stand behind us so that we can smile.
—(The author is Minister of Human Resource Development, Government of India)