Ever since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of India, he celebrated Diwali with the Indian Army. It has become more like an annual vacation that he religiously takes. This year it was at the Nowshera sector in Jammu and Kashmir. Upon reaching Nowshera, he first paid tributes to soldiers who lost their lives in the line of duty.
It is Modi’s way of expressing solidarity with the brave soldiers guarding the borders and appreciating the work they put in to ensure the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. While addressing the troops stationed there, he conveyed to the soldiers that their bravery and sacrifice enabled the rest of the country to sleep peacefully.
It makes for perfect optics with Narendra Modi getting clicked with the soldiers. Apart from bolstering his image as a nationalistic leader, does this annual chore serve any purpose?
No amount of grandstanding could deter the Chinese from occupying Depsang, and they have refused to vacate even after 13 rounds of negotiations. The Pakistanis have not stopped their overt support to Jammu and Kashmir, and our soldiers continue to be martyred by the terrorists.
No tangible benefit seems to have accrued to the soldiers or the Indian armed forces. On the contrary, it increases the burden on the men posted there. They have to ensure that Narendra Modi returns to his official residence hale and hearty without being caught in the enemy fire.
The ground reality is heartbreaking. There have been many instances of soldiers posting videos complaining about the quality of food they are served at their postings in recent times. They have been speaking against the ill-treatment meted out to them by the officers.
The soldiers posted as their “buddies” have to do daily chores like washing clothes and taking the pets out for their daily stroll even though they have been trained as soldiers. It would serve our national security interest better if, instead of indulging in such publicity gimmicks, Narendra Modi took more interest in matters of defence preparedness and the needs of our soldiers.
The accessories that the soldiers use are of inferior quality. The government has not been able to provide them with a proper assault rifle to date. The deal with Russia’s Kalashnikov will most likely be signed when Russian President Vladimir Putin comes visiting India later this year. So much for all the nationalism being dished out day in and day out by the Modi government since it took charge six years ago.
Most of our soldiers do not have access to ballistic helmets to protect enemy sniper fire. The bulletproof vests they use are not at par with international standards. They are too heavy. The shoes they use are not very good either in sharp contrast to the ones used by their US or Chinese counterparts.
The guns they use are not fitted with night vision devices. There is not much use of technology either like drones, in tackling terrorists leading to increased casualties. It is widely believed that drones could have prevented the massive loss at the Galwan valley incident.
The Indian Army needs new artillery to bolster its firepower against the Chinese. The infrastructure along the LAC is abysmal. There are no habitats for the soldiers to rest and recoup after serving in such trying conditions, whereas the Chinese have invested heavily in building world-class infrastructure on their side of the LAC.
Xi has never visited his soldiers posted on the border, but the Chinese soldiers are equipped with the best accessories and weapons. Recent Pentagon reports suggest that China has built a 100-home civilian village along the upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh. Subsequently, it has been converted into a permanent military camp of the PLA. This camp is built on disputed territory and has terrible intentions regarding India’s territorial integrity.
It is time Narendra Modi gave up his penchant for image building by indulging in high-octane optics. He needs to adopt a more nuanced approach to national security matters, focusing on defence preparedness and the well-being of our soldiers. Otherwise, a repeat of 1962 seems imminent.
Article Proofread and Edited by Shreedatri Banerjee