Nepal On The Precipice Between India & Nepal

President Xi Jinping when he took over the reins of China in 2013, he promised three things: –

1.   End poverty by 2020.

2.   To make China tech superpower.

3.   To put China to the centre-stage of the world, with the Belt and Road       Initiative.

President Xi Jinping has proven to be the most powerful leader of China since Mao Zedong. He has gone about achieving his goals with great zeal with his poker face expression. His friends or foes cannot make out what he is thinking and what will be his next move. He has met world leaders and his antagonists at home with the same inscrutability.   

It is still unclear whether the world was unleashed with coronavirus intentionally or Xi Jinping took advantage of an unintended leak. Throughout the coronavirus crisis, Beijing has been taking a much harder line than usual in the international stage, which has surprised many foreign policy analysts. China’s approach to the world was never ironclad. Many factors determine a country’s diplomatic strategy, from its history, culture, and geography to the nature of its regime and its relative global power. If any of these factors are seen changing, so will the diplomacy of the country.

One thing is clear that China follows its own style of communism and does not like “democracy”. It has demonstrated to the world by withdrawing the semi-autonomous status of Hong Kong that it can go to any length to preserve its brand of communism a.k.a. Mao brand. It has no comradeship with the Lenin or Marxist having picked up a fight with its neighbours with those ideologies. Communist ideology followed by China is different from Russia.

In my opinion, China’s boldness for the diplomatic and military offensive post corona pandemic can be attributed on two counts viz world’s preoccupation with the coronavirus management and abdication of world leadership by the US like from UN and WHO etc. They have been scouting for this opportunity ever since Trump’s presidency who advocated the “America First” policy.

History is a witness that Nepal has gone on war with Tibet twice. And in the first war, the Qing empire which always thought Tibet as part of the empire came to intervene and defeated Nepal army. The Qing army reached up to Nuwakot in Nepal. A peace treaty was signed, and the Qing army withdrew and considered Nepal as its vassal. One of the clauses of the treaty was to pay a tribute to the Imperial court in China every five years. And ever since that China has eyes over Nepal. In fact, after the occupation of Tibet by China in 1951, China stated that “Tibet is China’s palm and Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Ladakh and the North East Frontier Agency of Assam are five fingers. Now that the palm has been restored to China, the fingers should go with it. [[i]]

Therefore, it does not surprise me when I read news from the newspapers published from Nepal that Chinese have constructed nine more barracks in an area which Nepalese official, Dattaraj Hamal, Assistant Chief District officer, observed when he visited the area and found additional infrastructures. And now, mother of all surprises comes in a news item that the missing pillar number 11 has been found by the Chief District officer of Humla, Mr Chiranjibi Giri, within 48 hours of reported encroachment, buried under snow and rubble. The pillar which was lost for more than a decade was dug out to satisfy the Chinese claim that the area was theirs (China), as claimed by the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu with series of media briefings. Please note that it was Assistant Chief District officer who found out and reported additional infrastructure built in the area. It was denied by his superior, Chief District Officer. The denial had to look legitimate!

I leave it to the readers to infer the veracity of the report of finding pillar number 11 in such haste. Such political faux pas by the Nepal government can be summed up in the following lines: –

An article by Monalisa Adhikari in The Indian Journal of Asian Affairs, titled Between the Dragon and the Elephant: Nepal’s Neutrality Conundrum   described the foreign policy of Nepal thus. [[ii]]

Capitalization on Sino – Indian rivalry has defined the strength of Nepali foreign policy so far. Neutralizing India and China uneasily and addressing their interests and insecurities simultaneously has been Nepal’s foreign policy design is likely to foster two contrasting consequences: either it can serve as a bridge to India and China or Nepal will be a proxy battlefield between caught in the crossroads of vaulting regional ambitions of India and China in South Asia. The consequence it realises will be reliant on Nepal’s impetus for sound foreign policy. To ensure long term security of the three countries and of South Asia. Nepali foreign policy needs to elevate to bridge the contending concerns of China and India.

Any country which has the control of the sea can be a force to reckon with. Nations with strong navy have ruled the world far beyond their shores. Now China wants to do the same. China seeks to have free access to the sea in the west through Pakistan and is developing Gwadar port to reach the Arabian sea and to the Indian ocean. It has eyes to reach the Bay of Bengal through Nepal and Myanmar. It wants a free passage through the Malacca straits and therefore in the name of soft loan given to Sri Lanka has now taken over the Sri Lankan port, Hambantota in Dec 2018 when govt of Sri Lanka could not pay back the loan. It is asking Pakistan to begin repayment of loan which Pakistan is unable to do. And therefore, Gwadar port will meet the same fate as Hambantota of Sri Lanka. In the pretext of supplying oil and natural gas to Myanmar, it is laying pipelines for the same with an ulterior motive to reach the sea. It is courting Bangladesh for the same purpose. It has proposed to Bangladesh to develop Teesta river which will bring it to the doorstep of India and few km from Nepal border in the south-east. And therefore, Nepal is important for China.   

China’s People’s Liberation Army is not invincible. It tried to invade Vietnam in Feb 1979. But Vietnam fiercely resisted, counterattacked and ultimately PLA withdrew. Both claimed victory though. China did not come to aid and support Nepal in Anglo — Nepal war (1814 – 16) despite the signed treaty wherein one of the clauses mentioned,  “The Qing will help Nepal defend against any external aggregation.”. [[iii] ] 

It is high time that the leaders of Nepal understood the chimera that China is. It must revisit the three goals that President Xi Jinping enunciated in 2013 and keep in mind while formulating its own policy.

Foreign policy is not prepared in isolation within the enclosed chambers of bureaucrats and political leaders. National military leadership must be involved. After all, it is the military which must deal with the external aggression which will always be a fall out of foreign policy. Therefore, political leaders of Nepal of all hues and colour must sit together to formulate a long term foreign policy keeping in mind two giant neighbours — one who has revanchism as its intent and an expansionist world view and another with whom there has been a cultural, traditional and religious tie for centuries.

Col Shiv Om Rana, Ph D

**********************************************************************************


[i] Rowland, John., A History of Sino-Indian Relations: Co-existence. (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company, 1967), 144.

[ii] Adhikari, Monalisa., Indian Journal of Asian Affairs, Vol. 25. No. ½ (June – December 2012)

[iii] Sino – Nepal War, Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-Nepalese_War#Aftermath, accessed on 25 Sep 2020.

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Know Your Legendary Veteran

​*Know Your Veterans* 

What a splendid story of grit and determination.  Legendary! 

Cavalry – Airforce – ASSAM Regiment 

(Received in a WhatsApp group)

It is the story of the Second Commanding Officer of 4 ASSAM,          Lt Col Gurbax Singh penned by his son Brig Manmohan Singh Dhanoa.

Thanks to the efforts of Col Manish Agarwal, Veteran Anchor of 4 ASSAM 

LT COL GURBAX SINGH

​​​​27 Aug 1918 – 30 Dec 2010

Born on 27 Aug 1918 in a middle class Farming / Army family in a small Punjab Village Ropalheri (Tehsil Kharar), Lt Col Gurbax Singh was the youngest of his three siblings (one sister & two brothers). His parents were very hardworking and God fearing people. His Father S Kartar Singh had served with Patiala State Forces and with Maharaja Bhupinder Singh. His mother Smt Bachan Kaur was a very religious, kind, generous but a strong lady.

Those were times when few children went to school, Lt Col Gurbax Singh, motivated by his parents, did his Matriculation from Khalsa High School, Kharar in 1932. He used to walk 10 Kms (one way) for his school from the Village. By now his elder two brothers were already serving with Royal Deccan Horse Regiment (RDH) and the Regt was then in Poona. He was a bright & hardworking student. With a desire to study further, he was sent to Poona to his brother. He took admission in ‘Deccan College’ in Apr 1932. Unfortunately, he could not cope up with the high standard of education (as compared to what he studied in Punjab) and left the college to get enrolled in RDH. There he was found under weight and was rejected. During this time RDH moved out from Poona to Quetta and he was left alone, but, did not wanted to go back to the village. To support himself he took a small temporary job in ‘Hadapsar Paper Mill and Ordnance Depot Kirkee’ on daily wages of Re 1. He used his spare time to learn typing & short hand. Since this was a temporary job he was advised by his seniors to look for a permanent job, which he got in ‘3 Coy Indian Hospital Corps’ as a clerk & storekeeper on 30 Oct 1934, with a salary of Rs 14 + Rs 22 as DA per month. Here he excelled in his training. With an aim to become an officer, he passed his ‘English First Class’ and ‘Indian Army Special Cert’, both mandatory for entry into IMA. Seeing his performance, he was recommended by his CO, Lt Col R Foot and up the chain by the Army Cdr, Maj Gen S Pope for IMA. Being from a Service Corp AMC, he was now attached with 5/14th Punjab Regt as a Bye Cadet for Combatant Military Training. Lt Col Bonam Carter, the CO of the unit took very keen interest in his training. But to his bad luck, his entry to IMA was rejected by Army HQ on technical grounds that the Medical Corps personnel are not permitted for Trg at IMA for Regular Commission & that there was no precedence on this. He was very disappointed and sought transfer for RDH to make himself eligible for entry to IMA. Comdt RDH (Lt Col FBR Tinley) was happy to take him as his elder two brothers were now Jemadars (JCO’s) in the Regt.

In the meantime WW II broke out and he got an opportunity to apply for Emergency Commission – but – his Sqn Cdr in RDH (Maj JA Wardle) did not forward his application and told him that “the RDH cannot be treated as a stepping stone for success elsewhere”. During the period he did Horse Riding training at 2 IACTC, Lucknow. Years passed and his Sqn Cdr Maj CR Hill, who was very sympathetic to him, recommended his name for Trg as a JCO cadet to Comdt Lt Col WB Perse, who promptly agreed. On 15 Apr 1942, he was sent to 47 CAV which was at Poona for six months for this Trg. From there he did his ‘Armament’ and ‘D&M’ courses at Ahmednagar – both courses he got QI grading. During this period a Camouflage School was being established at Kirkee for which there was a need for an English speaking JCO instructor. He was posted there and taught aspects of camouflage especially with reference to enemy aircrafts. 

He again applied for Emergency Commission but the application was rejected. God had his own way to help – the Comdt of the Camouflage School (an IAF Offr) was very impressed by his knowledge, sincerity & dedication. When he came to know of his struggle to become an officer, recommended him for Emergency commission into Air force. He was sent to SSB Jabalpur where he was the only candidate selected for Flight Cadet, out of a batch of 40. Flight Cadet Gurbax Singh joined IAF on 03 Aug 1944 at the ‘Parsee Orphanage Poona’ for trg. He was declared the 2nd best cadet and the Nawab of Pataudi (Hony Air Commodore) was the Chief Guest at the POP. Later he was sent to Jabalpur Air Base for flight training on Corner Aircrafts. From there he was posted to Ambala as an Acting Pilot Officer where he trained on Harvard T-6 and later flew Hurricanes. He had done near 80 hrs of flying, when bad luck struck again.

Like they say, ‘God puts some people through more rigorous tests in life’ – he started having medical issues while flying above 20,000 ft. He was to be medically boarded out – but – was given an option to revert back to the Indian Army. With a never say die approach, he opted to be reverted back to the Army. By now his name and story had spread and the Senior Officers were sympathetic towards him. A Brig (British Offr) at Saharanpur interviewed him and approved him for Short Service Commission into the Army. He was sent to OTS Bangalore on 07 Feb 1946 for training (from an officer in IAF and now back to Army as a cadet – what luck). At OTS he was the oldest cadet with the next 10 yrs younger to him. He writes that he was treated with lot of respect by all the staff at OTS and even took a few classes for them. 

Finally he was commissioned into The ASSAM REGT on 13 Oct 1946 and reported to the Regt Centre at Shillong. He was the First person in and around his village to have got commissioned as an Officer in the Indian Army and there was lot of jubilation with sweets being distributed.

​​​​​

From the Regt Centre he was sent for Junior Leaders Course at MHOW and on his return was appointed as the QM and promoted to Capt in Jun 1947. The country faced its biggest challenge of Partition and a lot of British and Muslim Offr’s left for Britain & Pakistan. In Jul 1948 he was granted permanent commission. Always eager to perform, he then took on himself the challenge of passing the entrance exam for Defence Services Staff College, for which he had only one chance to appear. While he was attending the JC Course (JC-6), the staff college results were declared and true to his belief he had passed (surprisingly his own DS at the JC Course could not make it). He attended DSSC-4 when Gen Lentaigne was the Comdt and it was the first Joint Service Course (Aug 1950 – Jun 1951). After the course he was posted to HQ Pathankot Base as Staff Capt Q. Finally on 06 Feb 1954 he was posted to 3 ASSAM Bn which was at Muzafarpur and later moved to Ferozepur.

He was ‘C’ Coy CDR when the Hussainiwala – Bela incident took place with the Pak Rangers in 1955. C Coy was also part of the flood relief in Punjab in Sep-Oct 1955 when Ferozepur town was in severe danger from the flooded Sutlej River. He was awarded COAS Commendation for his devotion during the floods. In Sep 1956 he was posted to 8 ASSAM RIF which was located at Imphal. In 1958 he came back to 3 ASSAM and later in Oct 1961 was posted as DQ 166 INF Bde located at Dalhousie. He was now over-age for Comd of a regular Bn, but seeing his career profile, a special dispensation was given and he took over Comd of 4 ASSAM Bn on 10 Sep 1963 as the 2nd CO after Lt Col T Sailo (later CM Mizoram). The unit was at Hyuliang(NEFA) and he led a very happy team till Jan 1967. Before his retirement on 27 Aug 1968 he served as AQ Jalandar Sub Area.

He felt he was too young to retire so he took re-employment in BSF in Aug 1968, where he was first the Comdt Trg Centre at Hazaribag and later Commanded 53 Bn BSF at Naoshera during the 1971 war. He finally hung his boots in 1973.

It’s important to mention that he was blessed with six Children (two Daughters & four Sons). His vision made him shift his family from his village to Chandigarh for the education of his children. 

He motivated all his sons to join the Army and they all went through NDA (Maj Gen Mohan Singh, Engrs; Late Col Sohan S Dhanoa, RAJ RIF; Col Jagmohan S Dhanoa, Armd Corps; Brig Manmohan S Dhanoa, VSM, 11 GR). One of his daughters got married in the Army (late Brig AS Poonia, VSM, JAK RIF) and the other was married to an architect who later retired as the Chief Architect of Chandigarh (Sarabjit Singh Sandhu). In the centre page of the DSSC Coffee Table book there is a photograph with a title ‘Six Owl’s in one family’ – as all are PSC. Everyone is retired now.

He lost his dear wife on 29 Dec 1993 due to Brain Hemorrhage and finally he departed, peacefully in his sleep, on 30 Dec 2010 leaving a permanent void in the family.

What a journey

In his hand written memoirs he winds up the Good Army life with a statement –I quote “After a day’s hard work you could simply walk into the Officers Mess & shout ‘Koi Hai? – one Whisky please’ and you drown your worries with ‘Ek aur Whisky Maro’.

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Demographic Change: An Ominous Presage

Are we Listening?

Internal security of a nation is considered more important than external security. For an external misadventure by any nation in this age will call for an international outcry and may even have an intervention. Therefore, it is exceedingly difficult to invade any country in the twenty-first century as most of the countries are members of the United Nation Organization.

Notwithstanding, some parts of the country may be occupied by a neighbouring country only with the active connivance and support from the separatist forces within the country. As in the case of Georgia parts of which has been occupied by Russian forces since 2008. Why? because there has been a separatist movement in that part of Georgia ever since USSR was disintegrated in 1992.

I was studying the demographic changes in India, especially in parts of North-Eastern states, West Bengal, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh. I found that there has been a visible change in the behaviour of the population in those states consequent to the change in demography. It was revealed that most of the demographic changes that happened in UP & Bihar, occurred in the districts which were in the international boundary with Nepal like Kishanganj, Araria, Supaul,  Madhubani, Sitamarhi and Motihari in Bihar and Pilibhit, Lakhimpur Kheri, Balrampur and Maharajganj in UP.

It, therefore, aroused my interest to see how the Muslim population of Nepal fared. From the census report of Nepal from their website, I observed that the population of Muslims in Nepal increased from  653055 in the census of 1991 to 971056 in the census of 2001 to 1164255 in the census of 2011 and in terms of numbers, it is projected to increase from 3038696 in the census of 2011 of the five most populated districts by Muslims; namely Banke, Kapilbastu, Parsa, Bara and Rautahat to 4305233 by 2031. (As projected by the Nepal Planning Commission, Central Bureau of Statistics in their website accessed on 14 Jan 2020)

Point of concern

The population distribution of Nepal has been as under for the last seven decades (Comparing only Hindus against Muslims as per Wikipedia accessed on 14 Jan 2020):-

                                                Hindus (%)                  Muslims (%)

            1952/54                       88.87                           2.54

            1961                            87.69                           2.98

            1971                            89.39                           3.04

            1981                            89.50                           2.66

            1991                            86.51                           3.53

            2001                            80.62                           4.20

            2011                            81.34                           4.39

It is reasonable to assume that there will be an increase in the percentage of the Muslim population in the coming decades.

Dr Hammond’s view on Islam. According to a Harvard University study, the Islamisation of a country cannot be stopped once the Muslim population reaches 16 percent of the total population. This what Islam expert, Nikoletta Incza, said on 22 June 2019 on Hungarian public television.

Incza points out that many countries that are Islamic today were originally Christian, for example, Turkey, Egypt ad Syria.

According to her, the Islamisation of a country is already inevitable, when the proportion of Muslims of the population is about 16 percent. It will take another 100 to 150 years before the Islamisation is complete.

Open, free, democratic societies are particularly vulnerable. Dr Hammond says “when politically correct, tolerant and culturally diverse societies agree to Muslim demands for their religious privileges, some of the other components creep in as well”. He further states that from 5% on, they exercise an ordinate influence in proportion to their percentage of the population. For example, they will push for the introduction of “Halal food” and increase along with threats for failure to comply.

Conclusion

My observation came for the Muslims in Nepal while studying its rise in Indian states. Samuel P Huntington has said that Christianity grows primarily with a conversion. But Islam both by conversion and reproduction. (Clash of Civilization and Remaking of the World; p 65). And having seen the rise in population in some of the Indian states, I would like to add a third dimension to it – and that is by migration.

Nepal having an open border with India which is as porous as a sieve, Indian districts, as mentioned above, having a disproportion of the rise in Muslim population and the recent legislation of the Govt of India to implement National Register of Citizens, it will be reasonable to assume that the movement of illegal immigrants may find ingress into Nepal. In that concern is this write up. My only idea of writing this is to forewarn the authority that is to be vigilant in this regard.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” — Lao Tse, a Chinese philosopher.

“Nature subjects the weak to the strong” —  Seneca.

Col Shiv Om Rana Ph D

26 Aug 2020

New Delhi     

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Give Nepal NEXIT (Nepal Exit): So Be It

It is my firm belief that a newly emerging nation needs a two-party system of governance. It needs a strong leader and an equally strong opposition party to keep a strict check. Or if the country has decided on a multi-party democratic system of governance, then the rule to declare the winner “first past the post’’ should not be adopted. No government should be able to win a big majority on a minority of the vote.

I had therefore suggested way back in 2010, when Nepal was transiting from monarchy to democratic system and after an election a “Constituent Assembly” was formed to draft the new constitution for the country, that Nepal needs to adopt a two-party system of governance. (Please read here & here). People see the benefit of multi-party system to extract benefit for themselves in the event of a hung parliament where independents and smaller parties with few voters tend to benefit in helping to form the government.

I again wrote in 2017 after the first election in Nepal with a new constitution when communist parties came together in an alliance to form the government. (Please read here) I had hoped that the governing alliance being of one ideology (communism) would work together to take Nepal to the path of progress. I did not realise that the factional fight within the communist alliance will take better of the individual groups. The alliance failed the people of Nepal and now there is a tussle between Prime Minister Oli and Pushpa Kumar Dahal, Prachnada: Oli does not want to leave the chair of Prime Minister and the other wants it by any means.

There is a wrong impression in the mind of people that after the Maoist insurgency in Nepal which began in 1996 and ushered into the communist government did not keep the principle of equidistance policy with India and China. In fact, courting China by Nepal began much earlier during the time of King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah who did not like the dominance of Nepali Congress, which he believed was influenced by India. To counterbalance these ties to India, Nepalese monarch sometimes played the so called “China card.”1  

Nepal’s flirtation with China began well before the Maoists communist movement began gathering momentum in Nepal in the nineties while calling to maintain their relations with India and China equidistance. China perceives that large parts of Nepal belongs to them. The relationship during the 1950s was also shaped by the establishment of a Communist government in China in October 1949. After the occupation of Tibet in 1951, China stated that “Tibet is China’s palm and Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Ladakh, and the Northeast Frontier Agency of Assam (present day Arunachal Pradesh) are the five fingers. Now that palm has been restored to China, the fingers should go with it.”2

The first parliamentary elections were held in February 1959, under the rule of king Mahendra. But he soon dissolved the parliament and Nepal’s tryst with democracy crashed. He took full control of the state into his own hands in December 1960. India and Nepal signed an Arms Assistance Agreement in 1965. But the king considered this to be means to tie-up Nepal with India. Therefore, King Mahendra started reducing Nepal’s dependence on India and began to develop closer relations with China.

King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah ascended to throne on 31 Jan 1972 at the age of 27 years old after the death of his father king Mahindra. King Birendra had studied in Eton college in the United Kingdom, University of Tokyo and studied political theory at Harvard university in 1967 – 68 and carried a different world view. Sixties and seventies were the time of “peace” and free movement around the world. Hippies were thronging the streets of Nepal as a new-found Shangri-La on earth. King Birendra proposed in 1972 that Nepal be recognized as “Zone of Peace”. India neither supported the proposal nor repudiated it and the proposal was put in the backburner. King Birendra revived the proposal and continually promoted it in international forums with Chinese support. By 1990, it had won the support of 112 countries, but it did not materialize.  

Nepal, however, continued to maintain diplomatic, informational and economic relations with India. Maoist led insurgency began in Nepal in 1996. Maoist were anti-Indian by ideology and in practice and were not supportive of India. But later, for whatever reason, they (Maoist) received support from India to establish multi-party democracy in Nepal. It must be remembered that at the time the UPA 1 government was in the helms of affairs of India and various communist parties of India were large constituents of the UPA 1.

In November 2005, the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) and the seven-political-parties alliance (SPA) of Nepal reached a 12-point understanding to fight against the King’s direct rule and to restore democracy. This understanding was reached in New Delhi with India’s assistance and the Maoist leader, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Prachanda, made his first public appearance in 10 years here in June 2006. Indian Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh had made the rare gesture of congratulating Prachanda within an hour of his election as Prime Minister on 15 August 2008. But soon after the equation changed. Prachanda, after being sworn in as the Prime Minister, undertook his first visit to Beijing against the set norms of visiting New Delhi.

Dramatic political developments in Nepal in the years 2007-2008 have also led to changes in Nepal’s interaction with both countries. Almost 240 years of monarchical rule was abolished, the country changed from a Hindu Kingdom into the secular Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, a new Constituent Assembly (CA) was created, and in 2008 the Maoist came to power. Since these political developments, China has extensively increased its activities in Nepal and there is a large section of society that thinks that Nepal will be better off with China due to its growing economy, military power and status in the world arena.

Communist parties won in their first proper general election (Nov – Dec 2017) after the Constituent Assembly’s term came to an end. It did not give majority to any one political party, but different factions of communist parties were the largest which formed an alliance to form the government in 2017 – 18. Mr KP Oli was chosen to lead the alliance of communists and was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Nepal on 15 Feb 2018. I will not discuss inner dynamics of the alliance.

Prime Minister Modi of India had invited all the SAARC head of states to attend his first swearing-in ceremony in May 2014 and Mr Sushil Koirala, then Prime Minister of Nepal had attended. Prime Minister Modi has made three rounds of visits to Nepal since 2014 to strengthen the ties with Nepal and laid out various development projects – some have been completed and some are still under development.

India and Nepal have a long history of their shared culture, history, and co-operation. They share an open international border of 1751 kilometres. Citizens of both the countries freely cross over without any travel documents like passport or visa. However, in the last few years communists have been dominant in the governance of the country and they have succeeded in whipping up anti India sentiments in the people. There is a large section of people who are more inclined to grow relations with China and see India as not trustworthy. Mr KP Oli, the Prime Minister of Nepal and Mr Pradeep Gaywli, the foreign Minister, and their minions are prominent among them to push the country in the lap of China. It is high time that India re-evaluates its special relationship with Nepal and considers NEXIT (Nepal Exit) on the lines of BREXIT but in a reverse order. The citizens of the United Kingdom wanted BREXIT from European Union. Here leaders of Nepal want it without ascertaining the will of the citizens of Nepal. Therefore, India should give NEXIT to bring all pinpricks to end once for all.

Nepal has more than 10 percent of its GDP based on “remittances” coming from its citizens working outside the country. India shares more than 50 percent of that remittances. Just for information Indian Embassy, Kathmandu, disbursed INR 2796 Crores (Nepalese Rupees 4473 Crores) pension to its ex-servicemen in 2016 -17, the latest figure available in the Indian Embassy website.3 It should also be noted that a very large number of Indian ex-servicemen living in the border areas like Darchula, Banbasa, Jhulaghat and Butwal and many other such areas for ease of drawing monthly pension and that figure will not have been included in the Indian Embassy figure.    India considered the Himalayas as a physical barrier from any invasion from the north. The Himalayas of Nepal was considered important for the security of India. It did not want Chinese knocking at the door at the Gangetic plains. The thinking of the twentieth century should be re-evaluated to the reality of the twenty-first century where physical barrier means little. Standoff with China in eastern Ladakh is a point to consider. Today’s cyber attack through the virtual world and weapons carrying capability of rockets and ICBMs see no physical barrier which cannot be surmounted.

Foot Notes:

1Bhawna Pokharna, India-China Relations: Dimension and Perspectives (New Delhi: New Century Publications, 2009).

2John Rowland, A History of Sino-Indian Relations: Hostile Co-existence (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company, 1967).

3 https://www.indembkathmandu.gov.in/page/pension-branch/ Indian Embassy website accessed on 12 Aug 2020.

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Twisting Relations Between India and Nepal

Whatever may be the utterances of the leaders of Nepal, mainly the Prime Minister KP Oli and the Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali, the destiny of Nepal has been intertwined with India from centuries. Present-day Nepal may have been unified by King Prithvi Narayan Shah (1779 – 1850), but the presence of Indian rulers began much earlier in Nepal. Lichhavis defeated Kirat kings in Kathmandu valley and ruled from circa 400 to 750. Lichhavis originated from present-day Vaishali in Bihar.

Notwithstanding, the leaders of Nepal taking cudgels with India for the furtherance of their own agenda, people of Nepal do not see India as being projected by their leaders. But subterranean anti-India feelings have begun, especially after 2015 blockade. People of Nepal blame India for the hardship that blockade caused to them. A lie told a hundred times may begin to look like a truth after some time.

Some Nepalis perceive India as a big brother bully in the region. The foreign policy of any nation must start with the neighbouring countries. As they say, you cannot change your neighbours in the context of countries. India helped Bangladesh in 1971 because the people of Bangladesh wanted separation from West Pakistan. In the 21st century, it would be unthinkable otherwise to do so by any country.

Nepal’s main grudge against India is its various Treaties which they now consider are unequal while dealing with a sovereign nation. Sugauli treaty of 1816 signed between the British and Nepal is over 200 years old. And if one sees the fine print of the treaty, one will notice that the treaty has not been signed by the king or the Prime Minister of Nepal but by their representatives, later ratified by the Govt under duress. Even at that time – more than 200 hundred years ago, Nepal considered treaty to be disadvantageous to Nepal. And in all good wisdom, it needs to be reviewed. According to the treaty Nepal ceded all territories captured by it to the west of river Kali and certain territories in the south to the British empire. For the discussion of this paper, we shall only touch upon the boundary marked by river Kali between India and Nepal and not discuss territories ceded in the east and the south.

Main frictional point of the two nations has been the alignment of Kali river from its source to the point where it joins river Kali/ Sarda at Kalapani. Perception of both countries differ. Nepal thinks its origin is from the Limpiyadhura whereas India thinks it is below the Lipulekh pass. Because at the time of signing Sugauli treaty in 1816 there was no proper cartographic map of the area available and attached with the treaty.

Words play a big role in understanding the origin or the history of the place. Dhura in Nepali means a “RIDGE”. Word Dhura is suffixed by Nepali to name a place. There is no word as Dhura in Garhwali or Kumaoni of Uttarakhand which is immediately west of river kali. Limpiyadhura or Mangshyadhura (east of Limpiyadhura) therefore, to me, appears to have been named by Nepal forces when they were in occupation of Kumaon from 1790 – 91 till 1816. However, it will be worth mentioning that there does exist a village called Dhura in Garhwal, little short of Lansdowne. This village could have been established by Nepali forces when they were in occupation of Garhwal or the village came up during the time when Lansdowne was a Regimental centre of the 2nd Gorkha Rifles during the British time, needs to be verified. But there is a district named Dhadheldhura in western Nepal and a place called Khalasidura in Darjeeling. I will leave it to the readers to draw a conclusion.

Let us leave aside the names and conjectures and discuss the disputed origin of Kali river. Both India and Nepal agreed to set up the India-Nepal Joint Technical Level Boundary Committee to review the boundary issues in 1981- to find a reasonable solution. The Joint Committee has completed nearly 97 per cent of the work and two points of contention which could not be resolved by them were recommended to be dealt by the Foreign Secretaries/ Ministers of both the countries.

Nepal accuses India of not responding to their requests made three times since Nov 2019 to hold the Joint meeting to sort out the boundary issue. Therefore, Nepal took unilateral decision to assimilate territory up to Limppiyadhura (335 square kilometres) which was till now being shown as a part of Uttarakhand, India. Nepal parliament unanimously passed the proposal to do so and a new map of Nepal was published. This has created a tension in border districts in Dahrchula and Champawat areas. Trigger to do so is believed to have been 05 Aug 2019 decision to divide the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories and publication of the new map of India in which all areas west of Lipulekh pass have been shown as Indian territory.

The question to ponder is, could this situation have been avoided? And if so, who is to be blamed for the neglect of the issue, as important as border settlement? In my opinion, a large part of the blame lies in the door of India’s Foreign Ministry (Nepal desk). All neighbours of India consider India as a big bully giving scant respect to the sovereignty of their being. It is this attitude of India that neighbours like Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives wish to disengage with India. And China is ever ready to quickly fill that vacuum. Our foreign policy seems to have no clear vision whether in terms of neighbouring countries or the world. We do take some decision and sleep over it, unlike China which goes all out to take control of the situations. A recent case of losing development of railway line from Chabahar port to Zahedan is a case in point. We have not only lost a project but a trusted friend because of the lackadaisical attitude of the foreign office and the Finance ministry.

Way Forward

  • Lipulekh pass is important for India for its strategic reasons and has been in control of the area after Chinese aggression in 1962. India has built a motorable road to Lipulekh pass which was inaugurated on 08 Jun 2020.
  • Nepal claims it is her territory as per the Sugauli treaty of 1816 which demarcates the boundary between the countries based on the Kali river. However, the origin of the Kali river has not been defined and marked on any map in Sugauli treaty.
  • It is unfortunate that the situation has come to such a passé where new maps have been published by both countries. It could have been avoided.
  • A renowned team of hydrologists should have been consulted to establish the origin of the river Kali, like USGS (United States Geological Survey) and put the issue to rest once for all.
  • If the USGS verdict favoured Nepal, India could have bought/leased the area from Nepal and due consideration paid, or
  • There could have been suitable exchanges of areas by both the sides like it was done with Bangladesh where various enclaves were exchanged with the satisfaction of both the countries. For the long-term border solution, give and take policy needs to be accepted, like in the case of Bangladesh wherein she received 111 enclaves and India 51. Citizens were given a choice to choose their destiny with the country they like. Case in point is the area of Susta* which remains to be resolved with Nepal.

*(Susta — is an enclave east of river Gandaki/Natayani). Nepal considers Susta as a part of its west Nawalprasi district. Whereas India considers it to be part of West Champaran district of Bihar and it is presently administered by India.)

By Col Shiv Om Rana, Ph D

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Theory Of Evolution

A hypothetical conversation between a mother and genetic scientist, Vasu, is given below to explain the theory of evolution as per Hindu scriptures based on mythologies “Dashavtar” (10 Avtars of Lord Vishnu).

“Mom, I am a genetic scientist. I am working in the US on the evolution of man. Theory of evolution. Charles Darwin, have you heard of him?”  Vasu asked.

His Mother sat next to him, smiled and said, “I know about Darwin, Vasu. But Have you heard of Dashavatar? The ten avatars of Vishnu?”

Vasu replied ‘no’.

“Ok! Then let me tell you what you and your Darwin do not know.

Listen carefully: –

The first avatar was the Matsya Avatar, it means the fish. That is because life began in the water. Is that, not right?”

Vasu began to listen with a little more attention.

She continued, “Then came the Kurma Avatar, which means the tortoise, because life moved from the water to the land. The amphibian! So, the Tortoise denoted the evolution from sea to land.

Third avatar was Varaha Avtar, the wild boar, which meant the wild animals with not much intellect, you call them the Dinosaurs, correct?” Vasu nodded wide eyed.

“The fourth avatar was Narasimha Avtarhalf man and half animal, the evolution from wild animals to intelligent beings.

Fifth, the Waman Avatar, the midget or dwarf, who could grow tall really very tall at will. Do you know why that is? Because there were two kinds of humans, Homo Erectus and Homo Sapiens and Homo Sapiens won that battle.”

Vasu could see that his Mother was in full flow and he was stupefied.

“The Sixth avatar was Parshuram Avatar, the man who wielded the axe, the man who was a cave and forest dweller. Angry, and not social.

The seventh avatar was Ram, the first rational thinking social being, who practised and laid out the laws of society and the basis of human relationships.

The Eighth avatar was Balarama1, a true farmer, his weapon was a plow, who showed value of agriculture in the life.

The Ninth avatar was Krishna, the statesman, the politician, the diplomat, the Ambassador, the subtle interpreter, the lover who played the game of society and taught how to live and thrive in the adharmic (irreligious) social structure.

And finally, my boy, will come Kalki, the man you are working on. The man who will be genetically supreme.

Vasu looked at his mother speechless. “This is amazing mom, how did you …. ? This makes sense!”

She said, “Yes it does Vasu! We Indians knew some amazing things, but just did not know how to pass it on scientifically. So, we made them into mythological stories.  Mythology creates faith and makes man sensible. It is just the way you look at it – Religious or Scientific. Your call.”

Vasu touched the feet of his mother and hugged her. She kissed and blessed him smilingly.

Note: –

1. However, there is a differing opinion for the 8th and 9th Avtar. Some believe that the Lord Balram was the 8th Avtar and being an elder brother of Lord Krishna, he was placed as 8th and the Lord Krishna as 9th Avtar. However, there is a different school of thought which does not believe in Lord Balram being an Avtar of Lord Vishnu. And I personally tend to agree with this thought. Because Lord Balram is believed to be an elder brother of the Lord Krishna. And if that be so, Lord Vishnu cannot be in two different Avatars at the same time.

Buddha

Therefore, another school of thought is that the Lord Krishna was the 8th Avtar and Lord Buddha is the 9th Avtar. Some Buddhist scholars do not agree with that thought. There is no definitive answer with me. If one looks at the period in which these Avtars are believed to have been born, it is reasonable to believe that Buddha may be considered to be the 9th Avtar. I leave it to the readers to draw their own conclusion.    

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Soldier & Personal Weapon

A CO cannot be exposed to danger in a Bn. The CO of the Bn is injured plus two of his escorts and all have succumbed to the injuries. The question is why did this happen? Why was CO right in the front? Where was his Coy Cdrs? Was he ordered to go there? I hope the truth comes out.
But what surprises me is that the Bn at an LAC wanting to confront the enemy in large number is without their personal weapons. Escorts of the CO are without their personal weapons. The officer himself is without his personal weapon. Chinese soldiers injure them with stone and rods/clubs. I saw a video a few weeks earlier circulating in WhatsApp gp our soldiers without their personal weapons engaged in a scuffle (pull & push). This trend I noticed in Doklam “Stand Off” also.
Since when have we (Armed Forces) become a “Civil Police”? Moving around in an LAC environment with Dandas in hand throwing stones like one sees CAPF/Civil police doing it Srinagar. Have we been involved too much in such stone-throwing exercise? Even when army goes out “In Aid to The Civil”, army caries weapons during its Flag March. That’s the deterrent.
The question is who ordered the Bn to go to the LAC without the personal weapons? And if the escorts and the officer had their weapon why did they not use it? If the Bde Cdr ordered the Bn to go without the personal arm then he is guilty of the fatalities. And so are all the Cdrs up the chain: may stop at the door of Raksha Mantri or Defence Secretary or CDS/CAOS – wherever.
We took pride in our “arms & amns”. Our seniors taught us and we taught our juniors that never part with your arms & amns and never part with your packed food. You never know what situation may be next.
In this case if there was a stone-throwing or an attempt to use a Lathi by the other side a warning shot should have been fired and if need be resort to firing. We have been a slave to the idea that after 1967 not a single bullet has been fired. And I think that mindset of the Cdrs at all level is frightening if at all it is so. In Sumdorong, Arunachal Pradesh, in 1986 Chinese patrol occupied a spur and later built up a Pl strength. There was a quick response and a Bde was ordered to occupy heights overlooking the post. I know an incident when a Bn asked to open fire when a Chinese patrol tried to probe the Fwd post. It was very quickly obtained and passed down to the Bn which did the honour. And after that, no Chinese or Chinese patrol tried to move out of their post towards our posts. I know it as I was posted in the Bde HQs and I was the one to pass the order back to the CO/Adjt to open the fire. Our Bde Cdr was with the Div GOC when I contacted him with the request of the Bn and which was approved. Suffice it to say that the GOC was Maj Gen JM Singh of the Guards (later Lt Gen).
PS: Josh w/o Hosh could be a possibility but as I said there lies a bigger malaise – moving without a weapon. This begs an answer.
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Telemedicine Consultation For Armed Forces Personnel

Hi Folks – I came across a useful website wherein members of the Tri-services can have an audio-visual telemedicine consultation. One needs to “Register” and the website will guide one through the process till one gets token for an appointment with the Armed Forces Medical Service Doctor and an e-Prescription.

The website is easy to use. Therefore, thought of sharing it especially in this time of COVID 19 pandemic. The link is given below: –

https://sehatopd.in/Home

Col Shiv Om Rana

*******************************************************

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205th Raising Day Celebrated Like No Other

Five years ago I Was at Mamun Cantt, Pathankot, to celebrate the bicentenary of 1/1 Gorkha Rifles on 24th April 2015. Over 1000 people of all ages, from all ranks, had come from as far as England and remote corners of Nepal to be part of the event.

Yesterday, 24 April 2020 was 205th Raising day and none of us could meet in any one place because of the lock-down in the country: Corona virus, COVID 19 being the culprit. But we did celebrate it like none earlier. Please read on how it happened.

Yesterday in the morning Maj Gen A Kumar (a die-hard First Gorkha officer and an ex- Col of the Regt) suggested in our Regimental group WhatsApp not to despair due to the lock-down and how to bypass it. I quote his message verbatim below.

Dear All.. on behalf of the Col of The Regt, I am taking the liberty of proposing a Toast for the Well Being and Prosperity of Entire First Gorkha Fraternity and Their Families ( both Serving and Retired ). Since we can’t celebrate the 205th Raising Day by indulging in traditional Barakhanas and Get Togethers , due to present day circumstances, I propose the following… Today at 7.30 PM sharp, COR is requested to send a Whatsapp msg on FGRA Gp and may be Bicentenary Gp as well, conveying his Greetings of the Day, ending with JAI HARI. By that time, all of us, wherever we are, should be ready with a drink of his or her choice. As soon as COR’s post is recd by us , we all say JAI HARI in respective LOCKED DOWN locs with SOCIAL DISTANCING in place and drink the same. “”Eota Twak Swattai Khane Ho”” Thereafter, it is individual’s choice to drink to his capacity/heart’s content and continue the Raising Day Celebrations in respective LOCKED DOWN locs with due approval of the Spouses 🙏. Hoping sincerely that this has the approval of the COR… JAI HARI. I am not a member of the Bicentenary Group. If COR thinks it appropriate, it could be replicated by him there also . Awaiting a nod or otherwise from COR please. Anyway, one way or the other, I intend doing so . It would , however , be nice and historic, if we do it across the Regt. 😊😊. Jai Hari.”

The suggestion was appreciated by all and agreed by the Col of The Regt.

Well, dot at 07.30 PM a recorded message was received in the FGRA WhatsApp group. And Jai Hari said. And drinks went down the throats all over the country.

Then started the messages to say Jai Hari in the group: coming from North of India, south of Vindhya, east and west. It was exhilarating. 

It was followed by group video calling with the glasses in the hands and sharing how lock-down is treating us all.

As I said, it was the Raising day celebration like no other, indeed.

Notes:-

1. “Eota Twak Swattai Khane Ho”. It is in Gorkhali meaning – one shot bottoms up.

2. Jai hari is a Regimental greeting which is said before the beginning of anything like saying “Bole Sonihal, Sat Sri Akal” in Sikh Regiment and “Jai Badri Vishal” in Garhwal Regiment. All regiments have their own greetins.

3. FGRA is First Gorkha Rifles Association

 

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A Hill Called *Melrose*

Prologue

In combat operations, it is generally not possible to find an objective with a proper noun. Therefore, world armies create their own names to identify their objectives for any operation to easy understanding assimilation by all troops involved in the operation.
Melrose is a name given to a hilltop for the identification of an objective during the Burma Campaign in the II World War.
This is the story of an attack by a Punjab battalion of the Indian army narrated by a son whose father led the battalion into the war which was considered so crucial to unhinge the Japanese march to India.

By
Dr Yashwant Thorat

(I received it in my email and I thought to share it……. Shiv Rana)

“May I have a light?” I looked up to see a Japanese, more or less my age, with an unlit cigarette in his hand. I reached for my lighter. He lit up. We were on a train travelling from Berne to Geneva in the autumn of 1980.

“Indian?” he asked. “Yes” I replied.

We got talking.

He was an official in the UN and was returning to home and headquarters at Geneva. I was scheduled to lecture at the university. We chit-chatted for a while and he gave me some useful tips on what to see and where to eat in the city. Then, having exhausted the store of ‘safely tradable information’, we fell silent.

I retrieved my book, ‘Defeat into Victory’, an account of the Second World War in Burma by Field Marshal William Slim. He opened the newspaper.

We travelled in silence.

After a while, he asked, “Are you a professor of Military History?”

“No” I replied. “Just interested. My father was in Burma during the war ”.

“Mine too,” he said.

In December 1941, Japan invaded Burma and opened the longest land campaign of the entire war for Britain.

There were two reasons for the Japanese invasion.

First, cutting the overland supply route to China via the Burma Road would deprive Chiang Kai Sheik’s Nationalist Chinese armies of military equipment and pave the way for the conquest of China.

Second, possession of Burma would position them at the doorway to India, where they believed a general insurrection would be triggered against the British once their troops established themselves within reach of Calcutta.

Entering Burma from Thailand, the Japanese quickly captured Rangoon in 1942, cut off the Burma Road at source and deprived the Chinese of their only convenient supply base and port of entry. Winning battle after battle, they forced the allied forces to retreat into India. The situation was bleak.

The British were heavily committed to the war in Europe and lacked the resources and organisation to recapture Burma.

However, by 1943 they got their act together. The High Command was overhauled; Wavell was replaced by Mountbatten and operational control was given to General William Slim, a brilliant officer.

Slim imbued his men with a new spirit, rebuilt morale and forged the famous 14th Army, an efficient combat force made up of British, Indians and Africans.

The Japanese, aware that the defenders were gathering strength, resolved to end the campaign with a bold thrust into India and a simultaneous attack in the Arakan in Burma.

In the ebb and flow of these large events chronicled in Military History, my father, a soldier, played a part, first in Kohima in clearing the Japanese from the Naga Hills, then in Imphal and finally in the deeply forested mountains of Arakan.

Destiny took him there.

In the blinding rain of the monsoons in 1943, the Supreme Allied Commander’s plane landed at Maugdow where the All-India Brigade of which his regiment was a part was headquartered.

Mountbatten was accompanied by his Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Browning, who had been my father’s Adjutant at the Royal Military College in Sandhurst. He and the two other Indian Commanders, Thimayya and Sen, were introduced to Mountbatten who made casual but searching enquiries regarding their war experience.

Thereafter he was closeted in the conference tent with the senior commanders for a long time. As they came out he turned to Reggie Hutton, the Brigade commander and said, “All right Reggie let your All-Indian Brigade do it. But, by God, it is going to be tough”.

Then turning to the three of them he said, “Gentlemen, the Japanese are pulling out of upper Burma. You have been selected to intercept their withdrawal from there into the South. You will concentrate at Akyab, proceed to Myebon by sea, capture Kangaw, penetrate the Japanese-held territory and convert the Japanese retreat into a rout. Is that clear?”

It was.

My Japanese friend, who had been listening intently leaned forward and asked, “Did you say your father was in the All India Brigade?”

“Yes”, I replied.

Our conversation paused for a while as the waiter served coffee and croissants.

Later, picking up the threads he persisted “Was he a junior officer at the time?”

“Not really” I replied. “He was a Battalion Commander”.

He digested the information and said “Which regiment?”

“The Punjab Regiment”, I replied.

His face turned colour.

Maybe it was a play of light and shade or maybe it was just my imagination but I thought he was going to be ill.

“Are you okay?” I queried. He nodded. “Please carry on”.

After marching through hostile territory, the Brigade finally landed at Myebon. Their dis-embarkation was not opposed. They proceeded to Kangaw little knowing that forty-eight hours later they would be locked in a battle which was to last for a fortnight and claim the lives of three thousand men.

Mountbatten had been right.

The withdrawal route of the Japanese was dominated by Hill Feature 170 Melrose. It was firmly held by the Japanese and gave them the enormous advantage of having the commanding heights.

Worse, intelligence reported that they had two brigades.

The Indians had one.

Brigadier Hutton realised that if the withdrawal had to be cut, the hills would have to be captured irrespective of the numerical disadvantage.

He took the call.

The first attack by the Hyderabadis under Thimayya mauled the enemy but did not achieve the objective.

The second by the Baluchis under Sen met a similar fate.

It was then that Reggie asked the Punjabis to make a final effort. Artillery and Air Support was coordinated. The zero hour for the attack was set at 0700 hours on 29 January 1944.

At dawn, as the leading companies moved forward, the Japanese opened machine gunfire. The Artillery provided cover and laid out a smokescreen. The Punjabis began to climb the hill. Safe from amongst well-dug bunkers the Japanese rained fire on them.

The Indian casualties mounted, as men began to drop. The Air Cover which was a key part of the plan failed to materialise – bad weather and bad luck. Taking a calculated risk, the Commander pushed on. They were hardly a hundred yards from the top when the Japanese threw everything they had at them. In the face of such unrestrained fierceness, the advance faltered hovering uncertainly on the edge of stopping.

For the Commander, it was the moment of truth, to fight or flee?

As he saw his men being mowed down by machine-gun fire a rage erupted within him.

Throwing caution to the winds he ran forward to be with them. The scales tipped. The troops rallied, fixed bayonets and charged into the Japanese with obscenities and primaeval war cries. A fierce hand to hand combat ensued. Neither side took or gave a quarter.

The Japanese fought like tigers at bay. The conflict went on unabated through the night.

The Japanese counterattacked in wave after wave but the Indian line held firm.

Then the last bullet was fired and there was silence.

Many years later Mountbatten would describe what took place as The bloodiest battle of the Arakan and correctly so.

The price of victory was two thousand Japanese and eight hundred Indians dead in the course of a single encounter.

Fifty officers and men would win awards for gallantry. The Battalion Commander would be decorated with the DSO for ‘unflinching devotion to duty and personal bravery’.

But all that was to happen in the future.

At that particular moment on the field of battle, the Commander was looking at the Japanese soldiers who had been taken prisoners of war.

They had assembled as soldiers do, neatly and in order.

On seeing the Indian Colonel, their commander called his men to attention, stepped forward, saluted, unbuckled his sword, held it in both hands and bowed.

The Indian was surprised to see that his face was streaked with tears.

He understood the pain of defeat but why the tears?

After all, this was war.

One or the other side had to lose.

How could the Japanese explain to the Indian that the tears were not of grief but of shame?

How could he make him understand what it meant to be a Samurai?

Given a choice he himself would have preferred the nobler course of Hara Keri than surrender. But fate had willed otherwise. The ancestral sword in his hands had been carried with pride by his forefathers.

Now he was shaming them by handing it over.

All this was unknown, unknowable to the Indian Commander. He came from a different culture and had no knowledge of what was going on in the mind of his adversary.

Yet there was something in the manner and bearing of the officer in front of him which touched him deeply.

He found himself moved.

Without being told he somehow intuited that the moment on hand was not merely solemn but personal and deeply sacred.

He accepted the sword and then inexplicably, impelled by an emotion which perhaps only a soldier can feel for a worthy opponent, bent forward and said clearly and loudly in the hearing of all “Colonel, I accept the surrender but I receive your sword not as a token of defeat but as a gift from one soldier to another”.

The Japanese least expecting this response looked up startled. The light bouncing from the tears on his cheeks reflected unspoken gratitude for the Indian’s remark.

Coming as it did from the heart, it had touched his men and redeemed their and his own honour.

The Punjabis, Hindus and Muslims, who had gathered around also nodded in appreciation.

Battle was battle.

When it was on, they had fought each other with all their strength. And now that it was over there was no personal or national animosity.

Maybe the Gods who look after soldiers are different from those who look after other mortals for they bind them in strange webs of understanding and common codes of honour no matter which flags they fly.

The moment passed.

He looked at the Signal Officer and nodded. The success signal was fired. Far away in the jungles below, Brigadier Reggie Hutton looked at the three red lights in the sky and smiled.
His faith in his Commanders had been vindicated.

He would later explain that at stake that night was not only the battle objective but the larger issue as to whether Indians ‘had it in them’ to lead men in war.

There had been sceptics who felt that his faith was misplaced. He looked at Melrose and smiled. Its capture had vindicated his faith.

I looked out of the window lost in my thoughts. Suddenly I heard a sob to find that my Japanese friend had broken down. He swayed from side to side. His eyes were closed and it was clear that he was in the grip of an emotion more powerful than himself.

He kept saying ‘karma, karma’ and talking to himself in his own language.

After a while, he looked up with eyes full of tears and holding both my hands said in a voice choked with emotion, “It was my father who gave battle to yours on Melrose. It was he who surrendered. Had your father not understood the depth of his feelings, he would have come back and died of shame. But in accepting our ancestral sword in the manner that he did, he restored honour to our family and my father to me. That makes us brothers, you and I.

The train pulled into Geneva station. We got down. What had to be said had already been spoken. He bowed.

Goodbye, I said.

Keep in touch.

Incidentally, would you like me to restore the sword back to your family? He smiled, looked at me and said “Certainly not. The sword already rests in the house of a Samurai”.

That was the last I saw of him.

Usha tells me that the probability of our meeting defies statistics. She should know. She studied economics and statistics. There was a World War going on.

Good. My father was in the Indian Army; his father was in the Japanese Army; perfectly okay.

They fought in the same theatre of war, Burma; understandable.

They fought in the same battle; difficult but believable.

The war finished, they went back to their families; plausible.

But that their sons grew up in two different lands, happened to go to Berne at the same time, board the same train, get into the same compartment, share coffee and cigarettes, have a conversation on something that had happened four decades ago, discover their fathers had fought on opposite sides in the same battle that bloody undoubtedly is insane.

Personally, I do not believe that there are outcomes in life which are necessarily bound to happen?

Yet, sometimes I am not so sure. You can never connect events by looking into the future; you can only connect them by looking at the past.

Maybe it is comforting to believe that because the dots connect backward, they will connect forward also. I don’t know. Perhaps, in the end, you have to trust in something.

The sword has a pride of place in our home. Whenever I see it, my mind goes back to the jungles of Arakan where, in the midst of the madness of war, two soldiers were able to touch each other and their compatriots with lasting humanity

~ Dr Yashwant Thorat, son of Lt Gen SPP Thorat, KC, DSO.

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