The action that armed forces took during the Ladakh standoff in 2020 was a “whole of nation effort” and credited to the coordination among the three services and the strong will of the Indian jawans who held their posts despite harsh weather conditions at such high altitudes, former Army chief Gen (retired) M M Naravane said on Monday. Addressing an event here, he also said that whatever actions the armed forces take would not be possible if “our jawans are not good”.
“We say the man behind the gun, and the man behind the gun is our jawans, our strength,” Naravane said. Later, when reporters asked about his views on the Agnipath scheme announced by the government recently, he declined to comment. The Agnipath scheme for short-term recruitment in the armed forces has triggered protests in several parts of the country.
Two books, one each on the India-China standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the Balakot airstrike, written by two senior journalists, were released on Monday in the presence of Gen Naravane and former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal (retired) RKS Bhadauria. “I have shared this earlier in my press conferences too that during the time when the tension was going on at the LAC, the three service chiefs used to meet every morning at 9 AM at my office and assess what action had been taken and what to do next,” Naravane said.
The former Army chief termed the actions taken during the standoff a “whole of nation effort” to which all three services contributed. “And, it was not just the armed forces, but whole government, whole of nation, at political, diplomatic and military levels, were contributing to it. And, this should be the way forward too…whatever actions we take in the future, it should be jointly done,” Naravane said.
The coordination between the three services was of “very high quality” during the standoff, he added. “The actions that we took, it would not have been possible if the Indian Air Force had not fully supported us,” said the former Army chief, who retired in April 2022.
Following the escalation in tension in eastern Ladakh in June in 2020, the IAF had deployed almost all its frontline fighter jets such as Sukhoi 30 MKI, Jaguar and Mirage 2000 as well as its attack helicopters in the key air bases in eastern Ladakh and elsewhere along the Line of Actual Control. “And, thirdly, whatever actions we take, it would not be possible, if our jawans (soldiers) are not good. Whatever orders they got, they acted upon it, despite such harsh weather conditions. At such heights, in harsh winter they held their posts. And, this is the reason why we were able to achieve that success,” he said.
Naravane said that when soldiers take part in any action, their “tales of valour” are not seen by a reporter or a TV journalist, and it is important that military historians tell their stories to their fellow citizens. “The story of ‘jawans’ should be told and reach the entire nation and the youth — that this is Indian armed forces….We say the man behind the gun, and the man behind the gun is our jawans, our strength,” he said.
Air Chief Marshal (retired) Bhadauria, in his address, said it is important that books on military actions should “keep a gap” between what action is being written about and how it actually happened on ground, in the interest of national security. Gen Naravane, on the sidelines of the event, also said that a delicate balance has to be struck between what is going to the public domain through published material like a book and what needs to kept within the confines of the armed forces as these are sensitive matters.
The Indian Air Force had struck a terrorist training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammad in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26, 2019 in response to the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
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