India was never as united as it became during Kargil, recalls former Army Chief

Updated: Jan 21, 2018, 11:58 IST | Kusumita Das

Ahead of new TV show, a former Army Chief recalls the most challenging operations in Indian military history

A scene from Battle Ops which premieres on Republic Day
A scene from Battle Ops which premieres on Republic Day

Retired General VP Malik was no more than a 22-year-old jawan when he first hit the warfront during the Sino-Indian war of 1962. It was the first time he had set foot in Ladakh, and acclimatised himself to sub-zero temperatures. With a career graph spanning more than 41 years in the Indian Army, including being Army Chief during the Kargil War, he has seen the men and the battlefield transform over decades. Perfect candidate then for reliving landmark chapters in Indian military history on a new show. Premiering on Discovery, it's titled Battle Ops, and takes an in-depth look at rescue operations through archival footage, dramatic reconstructions and first-hand accounts from veterans.

While the details of planning the operations remain confidential, what will come to the fore are the stories around them, the political context and the lessons learnt. "The idea is not just to recall our military history, but also, to pay homage to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives. There's one thing I've observed over the years. When there is a conflict, the whole country is united. I was Army Chief during the Kargil War and I can tell you that never before and never after had I seen a country so well united. It is only when the conflict is over that there is tendency to focus on the social, economic and political divides, and security issues are promptly forgotten," he says.

VP Malik
VP Malik

Among the operations that feature in the show, is Operation Cactus (1988) when Indian armed forces overthrew rebels who staged coup d'etat in Maldives. "I think it was the fastest operation ever conducted in our history. We got a call from the Maldivian government early morning, by 5.30 in the evening we were in the Air Force plane to Maldives, by 3 am, we had overthrown the rebels," Gen Malik recalls. The series will also feature Operation Black Tornado in which NSG commandos were brought in to flush out terrorists during the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. "The public needs to be made aware of what went wrong — how these jehadis inducted in Mumbai took over prime locations and why was it so hard to eliminate them. We'll be discussing what needs to be corrected."

In the current political climate where "nationalism" and what it entails are freely tossed around, we ask the former veteran, his take on the same. "The nation must come first, and by nation, I mean the people living within this geographic boundary — not individual groups. Therefore, the interest of the country must come first. Whether someone eats beef or not, does not impact national interest or security." He also feels that the administration can do more for the Army. "Both men and machinery have undergone a huge transformation. The soldiers are well-educated, as opposed to the jawans of yore, who had not finished school. But, I feel the administration is not doing enough for the armed forces. I read a report recently that since 2005, we have lost one soldier every third day in encounter insurgency operations. These casualties can be avoided if the government helps the Army be better prepared."

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