December 03, 2023 07:55 PM



The 7th Military Literature Festival, Chandigarh came to an end with Shri Banwarilal Purohit, Governor of Punjab and Administrator of Chandigarh presiding over the closing ceremony.

In his speech Puruhoit said,  he was very happy to be present in Military Literature Festival because it is a platform to remember the heroic stories of the brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives for our country.

Furthermore, it is heartening to know that the Military Literature Festival is jointly organized every year by the Government of Punjab, Chandigarh Administration and the Western Command of the Indian Army and that this year the festival has been dedicated to the martyrs of the 1947-48 war.

Such events provide an opportunity to the people, particularly the youth, to get acquainted with the battles fought by our Armed Forces and get inspired by the experiences of the soldiers. He also said that this edition of the Mela, among other programmes, also had a programme called 'Samvad' where serving Army officers awarded gallantry awards interacted with the youth. He appreciated this initiative and congratulated the organizers.

The concept and organization of such a programme is commendable. He was sure that the youngsters joining the event would have been excited and inspired to see the heroes of our armed forces in front of them. Despite a long and glorious military history and strategic culture spanning several centuries, people are largely unaware of its various aspects.

Punjab has a rich martial history. There is a tradition of valour, bravery and military prowess. The ancient epic Mahabharata mentions the Punjab region and its warriors. An important event in Hindu mythology, the Battle of Kurukshetra is said to have taken place in this region. (Kurukshetra, now in Haryana). Punjab saw Alexander's invasion in 326 BC.

The fierce resistance of various kingdoms and rulers like King Porus displayed the martial spirit of the region. Punjab remained an important frontier during the Mauryan and Gupta Empires, which contributed both troops and strategies to the military strength of these empires. During the Mughal period, Punjab became an important province. The Sikhs under the leadership of Guru Hargobind and later Guru Gobind Singh organized themselves into a martial community (khalsa) and resisted Mughal oppression. Under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Khalsa army was renowned for its bravery, discipline and military prowess.

Punjab made significant contributions to the Indian Army during both World Wars. The soldiers of the region displayed exceptional valour and sacrifice on various fronts. The State continued to contribute a large number of soldiers and officers for the Indian Armed Forces and played an important role in safeguarding the country's borders. Many heroes have been born here who are known for their bravery, valour and sacrifice.

None of us can ever forget the leadership of late Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, who led by example at a crucial juncture in our country's military history. Subedar Joginder Singh: He was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India's highest military honour, for his exceptional leadership and courage during the Indo-China war of 1962.

He led his platoon against the heavy Chinese army and fought till his last breath. Naib Subedar Bana Singh: He was awarded the Param Vir Chakra for his bravery during the Siachen conflict in 1987. Leading a team to capture a strategic outpost despite adverse weather and enemy shelling, he displayed exceptional heroism.

Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh: Known for his leadership during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, he skillfully commanded the Indian Army's Western Command and played a key role in thwarting Pakistani aggression in the Battle of Asal Uttar.

Brigadier Kuldeep Singh Chandpuri:

He was the hero of the famous Battle of Longewala during the Indo-Pak War of 1971. Chandpuri, who was a Major at the time, and his troops successfully defended their post against a much larger Pakistani army.

Such heroes from Punjab have left an indelible mark on the history of the Indian Army, embodying the spirit of sacrifice and courage.Their stories have the potential to inspire generations of Indians. But we need to get them to the people. A few years ago, a film 'Border' based on the actions of Brigadier Chandpuri was released. The film became very popular and the feeling of respect and patriotism for the Indian Army was strengthened among the people. The meaning of this is that we have to acquaint the common people with our glorious military history, create a connect among them.

In Indian culture, "Ahimsa Parmo Dharma" is taught, but when someone attacks us, he has to be given a befitting reply because our culture has also taught us to protect the country and religion. It is our duty to preserve the hard-won freedom for which countless Indians have laid down their lives.

The Governor congratulatedLt Gen TS Shergill, PVSM President of the Military Literature Festival Association, for staging this wonderful festival and appreciated the work and untiring efforts of the entire team of the Military Literature Festival. 

AN INTELLECTUAL FAILURE TOO ALONG WITH FAILURE OF ISRAELI INTELLIGENCE: EXPERTS WADE INTO OCTOBER 7th ATTACK AND SUBSEQUENT WAR: The October 7 mayhem unleashed by Hamas in Israel was a total failure of Israeli agencies to act in time, both at the intelligence and intellectual level. The views were echoed by experts here today during a panel discussion on the second and concluding day on the 7th Military Literature Festival 2023. 

The session on 'The Israel-Hamas War and its diplomatic and military lessons for India' was amongst the most engrossing discussions with noted speakers including veteran of Israeli defence forces Rafi Sella involved in design and manufacturing of the Merkava Tank for special operation forces, and noted editor and history buff Sushant Sareen. 

Moderated by former Western Army Commander Lieutenant General K J Singh, the session evoked insightful observations with strategic affair analyst Sushant Sareen rejecting the failure as merely from the standpoint of intelligence. 

It is fashionable and always convenient to pin blame on the intelligence failure. Intelligence works up to a point and in this case there was intelligence about Hamas plans but this was a greater failure in the sense that of anticipation of what a terrorist would do. Juxtaposing it with 9/11 attacks on the US soil, Sareen said had anyone remarked that US planes would be hijacked in this manner everyone would have laughed that out, while underlining that greater threat is to counter the ideology of a terrorist organisation than just shadow boxing to annihilate the physical infrastructure of the militants. 

In a sense, just like 9/11 was a victory for Osama for he managed to spread his dangerous ideology, the October 7 is a victory of Hamas if actions are not taken to oust these organisations intellectually too, Sareen said further. 

Delving into the realm of fixing failure in the political class, Israeli analyst Rafi Sela said that the centrality of decision making in Israel was a major factor. The Prime Minister was on a vacation that day and he took close to 7-8 hours before reaching the command position, Sela said underlining that it is the PM without whose orders military decisions are not possible. 

On the alteration in the Middle Eastern landscape due to the Israeli reaction, experts were of the opinion that there has been a near irrevocable situation with no chance of peace return in the close future. Israel will finish the task of eradicating Hamas even at the cost of upsetting its equation with the US, Sela remarked. 

It is fashionable and always convenient to pin blame on the intelligence failure. Intelligence works up to a point and in this case there was intelligence about Hamas plans but this was a greater failure in the sense that of anticipation of what a terrorist would do. Juxtaposing it with 9/11 attacks on the US soil, Sareen said had anyone remarked that US planes would be hijacked in this manner everyone would have laughed that out, while underlining that greater threat is to counter the ideology of a terrorist organisation than just shadow boxing to annihilate the physical infrastructure of the militants. 


On the issue of conspiracy theories on social media about Israel staging these attacks, just like US was alleged to have done 9/11 on themselves, the panellists debunked it as a wasteful norm in this age of hyper social media activity. There is a social media trend of dumbing down everything these days which we all must avoid, Sareen said while particularly addressing the youngsters in the large audience.

CONSTITUTION AND ARMY BINDS INDIA, SANDHWAN LAUDS MILITARY LITERATURE FESTIVAL FOR INSPIRING PUNJAB'S YOUTH: Stressing on the exemplary contribution of Punjab in our national history, the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker Kultar Singh Sandhwan on Sunday said that respect for Constitution and Army binds the whole nation in one unifying thread of love for the country. 

We Punjabis have always been at the forefront of joining defence forces and making sacrifices for the nation whenever required, Sandhwan said here while addressing the gathering at the second and concluding day of the 7th Military Literature Festival (MLF) 2023, adding that events like MLF go a long way in nurturing the spirit of courage, dedication and discipline amongst our youngsters. 

I am sure with the organisation of more festivals like these our future is in safe hands, Sandhwan said while lauding the MLF organisers for their sustained efforts in ensuring our youngsters are motivated to join our defence forces. 

Sandhwan who attended the day's first session on the topic 'The Lahore Durbar and its gift of the North West Frontier, Kashmir, Baltistan and Ladakh to India' also asked the organisers to organise more sessions in Punjabi for dissemination of knowledge to masses. 

Recalling a saying of Nelson Mandela that if you speak to a person in language he or she knows it reaches their head but if you speak to a person in their mother tongue, it directly strikes a chord with their heart, Sandhwan said that Punjabi as a medium of communication is sacred for us. We need to correct this mindset that English is superior to any language, Sandhwan said. 

Thanking the organisers for inviting him, Sandhwan while noting the intensity of the discussion said he should have come early and he would have been more enlightened. Speaking about the contribution of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, he said that his unmatchable significance in Punjab's military and social history is a beacon of light for future generations. 

It is in the DNA of Punjabis to fight wars and serve their nation, Sandhwan said adding that history has been written by the sword of the brave. 

Earlier, during the panel discussion, Dr. Karamjit K Malhotra said that in the entire Indian history the empire of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the only trans-regional state which was created in the North Western region and it was he who practically gave the concept of North-western frontier. 

On the significance of the Amritsar Treaty, Dr. Malhotra said that before Maharaja Ranjit Singh signed the treaty of Amritsar in 1809, he was ruling over a large area of five doabs (interfluves) of the Punjab. That with this treaty the Britishers recognised the Maharaja as the sovereign ruler of Punjab. 

Bringing out that Maharaja Ranjit Singh was a statesman and he wanted to secure his territories up to the mouth of Khyber than going across, Dr. Malhotra said that even when Maharaja Ranjit Singh's European and Sikh military officers were enthusiastic about expanding the territory by taking advantage of the unsettled situation in Kabul, the Maharaja rejected the idea. 

Sharing his insights on the contribution of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the panellist French-born author and journalist Claude Arpi made a presentation on the spread of the empire and its colossal significance for the region. 

Maharaja Ranjit Singh's strategic acumen was instrumental in the vastness of his political rule and there is a reason its significance in history is discussed so vigorously even today, Arpi added. 

The session was moderated by Prof Indu Banga who advocated holding of more research and discussions over the contribution of Maharaja Ranjit Singh from a military angle.

In the panel discussion on China’s Strategic Culture-Use of Force From Yellow Emperors to Red Monarch the three panelists, Maj Gen (Dr) GG Dwivedi, Maj Gen (Dr) Mandeep Singh (Moderator) and Col Nihar Kunar said that the global polity is often taken by surprise by Beijing’s unpredictable actions. This can be primarily attributed to the ignorance about the Chinese strategic culture, which richly draws from its ancient wisdom. It continues to influence the thinking and decision making of Communist leadership of ‘People’s Republic of China’ (PRC) significantly.

China’s strategic culture refers to distinctive set of beliefs which are deeply embedded in history. In continuum of traditions and norms over millenniums, great philosophers and thinkers made yeomen contribution in adaption of ideas into statutes. Confucian (551-479 BCE) advocated the idea of harmonious society but also recognized that military force might be necessary for protecting the state and people. His doctrine of ‘Guanxi’ implied reciprocal relationship based on ‘network of balanced interaction’ among the states. Sun Zi (544-496 BCE) an ancient Chinese military strategist in his treatises, “The Art of War” espoused the ‘doctrine of legalism’. He propounded military to be an instrument to rein in the adversary but laid emphasis on the cautious use of force.

The notion of ‘Zhong Guo’ (Middle Kingdom’) and concept of ‘Tianxia’ (all under heaven) signify the legacy of imperial past, an idea of China’s centrality in the world and its culturally superior civilization. It is symbolic to national pride and conviction to regain the past glory. Chinese strategic culture is not monolithic or static but diverse and contextual, relates to different historic periods, evolved over millenniums.

Use of force in the Chinese culture has been influenced by numerous factors. The concept of ‘just war’ in the ancient Chinese texts considered use of force in response to aggression or perceived threat as absolutely acceptable and deemed it to be defensive action. ‘Yizhan’- ‘righteous warfare’ tenets emerged during the turbulent ‘Spring-Autumn’ period (770-476

BCE). The traditional beliefs continue to be adhered implicitly, evident from PRC’s leadership frequent use of force ever since its establishment in 1949, due to the obsession with sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

The ramifications of China’s cultural inclination towards use of force and aggressive behaviour have significance implication for the global polity. PRC has continued to employ assertive actions to serve its national interests and settle territorial disputes as brought out above. Since Xi assumed power a decade back, PLA’s actions have been highly provocative especially in South and East China Seas, Taiwan and against India. These have led to heightened geo political tensions and instability in the region.

Chinese coercive diplomacy orchestrated through ‘Wolf Warriors’ makes it hard for the countries to engage in constructive dialogue with the Communist leadership for resolution of disputes. China has a proven legacy of using force to safeguard its territorial integrity and expand influence is amply substantiated by historical events which have left deep impact on the evolution of China’s strategic culture.

Given the prevailing environment, wherein there is shift in emphasis from traditional conquest to seeking global influence through geo-economics and economic power as a leverage is being increasingly employed as a tool of statecraft by the Communist leadership alongside the concept of ‘Unrestricted Warfare’.

Xi Jinping’s ‘China Dream’ envisions ‘prosperous and Powerful’ China. It encompasses the narrative of rejuvenation, i.e. restoration of China’s great nation status and position of global prominence; includes integration of claimed territories such as South China

One of the essential elements of the Chinese culture is strategic ambiguity. The Communist leadership is known to take advantage of the uncertainty and surprising the adversaries through unexpected actions. The rapid pace of PLA modernization in the coming decades only foretells China adopting more aggressive posture in the coming times.

To decode the salient aspects of Chinese leadership behaviour, it is imperative to comprehending the nuances of Chinese culture of use of force, so as to gauge its impact on the international and regional security dynamics.

The final session was a panel discussion on the Battle of Zojila – or more significantly, how the battle opened up the Gateway to Ladakh and saved Leh. Col Ajay Singh, renowned military historian and author of seven books – including the pathbreaking “India’s Battlefields from Kurukshetra to Balakot” – brought out the nuances of both the Pakistani and the Indian operations. The taking of Gilgit by British perfidy, aided by men of the Gilgit and Chitral Scouts was highlighted by the author, and also the manner in which Skardu and Leh were surrounded. Skardu was lost, but Leh held on. Yet, the Pakistani masterstroke in capturing Zojila Pass, cut off all area east of it. Leh and Ladakh were on the verge of being lost. 

It took the ingenuity of Gen Thimayya, aided by the gutsy determination of 7th Cavalry, led by Lt Col Rajinder Singh ‘Sparrow’ that moved a squadron of light tanks to the pass, and then attacked in a raging snowstorm on 1st Nov 1948, to retake the pass.

Tanks were taken to at a height of 11500 feet, and then launched an assault on the highest spot-on earth where tanks have ever been used in action. The infantry cleared the pass and then moved on to retake Dras, Kargil and eventually linked up with the garrison of Leh, ending its long siege. And just in time. Just a month later the ceasefire came into force, and the area held by the respective countries remained in their hands. That attack by tanks and infantry in a raging snowstorm, not only regained Zojila. It saved all of Ladakh. 

The intricacies of the operation and the manner in which it shaped the geography of the nation, was very well brought out and helped highlight some little-known aspects of one of India’s most momentous battles. The MLF helped bring about awareness of these very important aspects of Indian history. Moderated by Lt Gen NS Brar the panel also included military historian Sagat Shaunik.

Sagat Shaunik made the following key points:  Indian Army officers had proven leadership in WW2, Indian Armed Forces are all about legacy. It is about our fathers, brothers and sons. And now also about our mothers, sisters and daughters; with changing times, Men from all corners of the country fought for Zoji La, Gen Thimayya’s decision to induct tanks of 7th Cavalry changed the story of Zoji La, - Artillery, particularly a Battery of 30 Field Regiment had fired 1000 rounds on that decisive day.- Engineering achievements of Madras Sappers and innovation of EME helped win the day., Role of IAF in close support of all battles was appreciated. Lessons learnt from Punch as devised by Air Cmde Mehar Singh, MVC, DSO were used again in Ladakh sector, Sons of battlefield commanding officers joined their fathers’ battalions and lived up to the collective legacy., He thanked the organisers for commemorating 75 years of victory at Zoji La and for acknowledging Maj Som Nath Sharma, first PVC of India by naming the main venue after him.

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