It was euphoria among the Services in general and in Army Headquarters in particular on Feb 12, 2018, for the front page news, at least in one of the national level newspapers, said that India had now solved the problem of fielding forces in a matter of just three days , instead of the long time the Army takes to get battle-ready.

The Ministries dealing with security aspects were also abuzz with this marvellous piece of news, with the Ministry of Finance being first off the block, for here was the chance of drastically cutting the defence budget from the miserly 1.5 % of the GDP announced in the budget speech only a few days earlier, to as low as possible without reducing the lavish emoluments to defence civilians, who after all were the best vote-bank of the government in power.

For a person like me, It was happiness personified as I, as the DGMO (Director General Military Operations) once. had spent sleepless nights trying to speed up our deployments for taking on the enemies of the nation.

It was so with all professional military personnel, serving or retired, who rejoiced at this new-found capability of fielding soldiers ready for battle in three days, instead of months and years that the Army needs for the same purpose. There was a sudden and heavy demand for the national daily, which had carried the report on the front page, rightly too, for such morale boosting news deserved to be on the front page!

Before I get carried away in my excitement, let me re-state what was said; by whom; and in what context, so that the facts are crystal clear.

Apparently, the Rashtriya Swayamsevek Sangh (RSS) Supremo, Mohan Bhagwat himself had said so, while addressing various Sangh wings at Muzaffarpur in Bihar the previous day, where he was meeting Sangh volunteers from Bihar and Jharkand.

It may be best to quote him, so that no distortions get added later. He stated, with all earnestness, that his organisation had the capability to do in three days what the Army took six to seven months to do, when the country needed it. He was of course speaking in Hindi, but a verbatim translation is: “Ours is not a military organisation but we have military discipline and if the country requires it and the Constitution..., then the Army would take six to seven months to get ready, while our volunteers will take three days; this is our capability”.

Now, was it not wondrous news? It is not very clear whether Shri Bhagwat was referring to ‘mobilisation’ or ‘raising a force’. It may be recalled that when the Army, as well as the other two services had mobilised following the attack on Parliament in Dec 2001 (NDA was in power), it took the Army nearly a month to mobilise fully, resulting in the other side mobilising earlier, as their forces were closer to their operational locations.

Operation Parakram, as it was called, then turned into a stalemate. I wonder why the disciplined volunteers of the RSS were not mobilised then! Maybe if we had done so, we would have finished the problems with Pakistan in a jiffy! So a concept called ‘Cold Start’ was evolved, but soon denied, as we are prone to do. Cold Start has since been lying in storage!

In case Shri Bhagwat was not talking of mobilisation but ‘raising of units’, we are again on an impeccable wicket, for with the vast disciplined hordes of RSS being ready for battle in three days, the Army can close its large number of Recruit Training Centres and Officers training academies; save a lot of money; and deploy huge numbers against our enemies.

I remember how much time, planning and logistics was needed when we had raised a large number of units and formations of the Rashtriya Rifles (RR) for induction and deployment to bring down the violence in Jammu and Kashmir in the early 1990’s, after milking trained manpower from existing units and it still took time and extensive training to get them battle-ready.

Let me now come to how these remarkable winds of change perished in less than one day.The euphoria, as stated above was unfortunately short-lived for the bubble burst the very next day when clarifications were issued by both the RSS and the BJP, who changed their stances abruptly.

From the government side, it was the Minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijiju who acted as the points man for both the Party and the RSS, who was first off the mark. He was followed by sundry leaders of the RSS. Led by All-India Prachar Pramukh (communication chief) Mamohan Vaidya, it was stated that in no way a comparison between the Indian Army and the Sangh Swaymsevaks had been made.

Rijju also tweeted that “Indian Army is our pride. In emergency situation every Indian must volunteer to stand with the Defence Forces.

The moral of the story is that however powerful you are, if you think before you speak, you will prosper, but if you open your mouth without thinking, no one will believe you now or in the future.

(The writer is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff).