'If We Respect Our Soldiers, We Must Speak Against War'
NEW DELHI: Editors Note: This is a blog put together by peace activists and comes as a welcome, and factual, voice in the din of war. It also estalishes that there is a second narrative, more important and perhaps with more silent supporters than the one being pedalled out by the 24 hour television channels. The Citizen is happy to reproduce this effort that points out that the futility of death for little more than political gains.
Soldiers are one of the most direct victims of Conflict. But the glory of War doesn’t allow one to recognise it. Soldiers are highly respected and they should be but this respect is used to gloss over the tragedy that defines their lives. The tragedy of War. Soldiers are hailed for the great sacrifice that they render but this is also used to suppress any hope for improvement in their working conditions and family life. The Soldiers are devoid of any agency or voice. There are many assumptions and preconceptions woven around soldiers, imagined as a homogeneous group. The human aspect of being a Soldier is ignored.
It is assumed that Soldiers hate the Soldiers of the other side and want war. It is assumed that Soldiers regard War to be the only option. It is assumed that Soldiers hate the word “Peace”. This article is the beginning of our attempt to burst these stereotypes and highlight the voice of the Soldiers of India and Pakistan.
We have been working for Indo-Pak for five years now and we have made an active and consistent attempt to reach out and highlight the victims of Conflict, the most direct and major ones being the Soldiers. This article is based on the stories that have appeared in popular media as well as our own experiences and interactions with Veteran, Retired as well as serving Soldiers of India and Pakistan.
Last year, two of our team members were in Baroda, a city in the Indian state of Gujarat, for conducting workshops on Indo-Pak peace building in schools and colleges. In one school, while they were waiting for the teacher concerned in the reception area, two people started talking to them. One of the persons was from the Indian Army. When he got to know about our joint Indo-Pakistan Friendship Initiative Aaghaz-e-Dosti and about the subject of our workshop, he smiled and said, “It is nice to know about your work (peace workshop in school) but Indo-Pak conflict is a dispute between the political actors of both sides so what is the role of the people in it?”
His reaction shocked them. He did not question our efforts or spoke negative about the other country. He only stated that this is more of a dispute between the States.
Retired Navy Chief of India, Admiral Ramdas, is member of several Indo-Pak Peace Initiatives
Admiral Ramdas, who had served as the Chief of Indian Navy, is a staunch supporter of Indo-Pakistan peace. Admiral Ramdas has been the founding member of several Indo-Pakistan peace initiatives. He had also extended support to Aaghaz-e-Dosti through his message in the 3rd Indo-Pak Peace Calendar – 2015. His message was
“The year 2015 gives us yet another opportunity to resume the Indo-Pakistan dialogue to bring permanent peace in South Asia. Although geography and identities have changed, we have a shared history and we must build upon this, focusing on greater trade and exchange of people-to-people visits for a better future. – Admiral Ramdas”
Indo-Pak Peace Calendar 2015 was launched in Artillery Centre in Nashik (India)
The annual Indo-Pak Peace calendar was launched in the artillery centre in Nashik, a city in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Among the chief guests were Commandant Brigadier P.R. Murli and Colonel Augustine M.T. The army persons had not only extended their solidarity, but as a mark, the calendars were also displayed at the headquarter of All India Artillery Centre.
Qais Hussain, a Pakistani Fighter Pilot wrote to the daughter of Indian Pilot he shot down and expressed his grief
Qais Hussain, a retired Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Officer had reached out to Farida Singh, daughter of the Indian pilot whose plane he had shot down during the 1965 war. This shot down plane was actually of Balwant Rai Mehta, a freedom fighter and who was the then serving chief minister of Gujarat who flew that day from Tata Chemicals, Mithapur to Kutch border between India and Pakistan. It was piloted by Jahangir Engineer, former IAF pilot. Mehta was killed along with his wife, three members of his staff, one journalist and two crew members.
Qais Hussain wrote to her 46 years after the war, after his retirement but said that he still remembered it like it happened just yesterday. This incident had stayed on with him. The letter had stunned people especially those who claim to respect soldiers but advocate war. Here is an extract from the letter that revealed a soldier’s view about war and peace:
“Mrs Singh, I have chosen to go into this detail to tell you that it all happened in the line of duty and it was not governed by the concept that ‘everything is fair in love and war’, the way it has been portrayed by the Indian media due to lack of information. I did not play foul and went by the rules of business but the unfortunate loss of precious lives, no matter how it happens, hurts each human and I am no exception. I feel sorry for you, your family and the other seven families who lost their dearest ones. I feel greatly grieved that you lost your brother Noshir recently. If an opportunity ever arises that I could meet you face to face to condole the death of your father 46 years back I would grab it with both hands. I would highly appreciate if you please convey my feelings to the other members of your family, who were equally hurt by the untimely departure of Jungoo to the next world.”
Read the entire letter here
In an interview around this letter, Qais had also said that he supported peace initiatives between India and Pakistan. He wrote, “Aman ki Asha is a good initiative and closer people to people contact can certainly play a great role in bringing the two countries closer too. War is never a solution to anything. The days of Ghaznavis and Baburs are long gone and it is high time that both countries strive for a peaceful co-existence and work on this principle.”
The daughter of the Indian Pilot had also replied to Pakistani Fighter Pilot in the same spirit
Some extracts from the letter:
“It took courage for you to write this. And for me, too, (I say this humbly) it takes the same to write back… Yes, this was the one incident which defined our lives henceforth. But in all the struggles that followed, we never, not for one moment, bore bitterness or hatred for the person who actually pulled the trigger and caused my father’s death.The fact that this all happened in the confusion of a tragic war was never lost to us. We are all pawns in this terrible game of War and Peace…”
Read the entire letter here
Pakistani Air Force Pilot Kaiser Tufail helped Indian Air Force Pilot Nachiketa escape Torture
During the Kargil Conflict in 1999, Indian Air Force Pilot Nachiketa’s MiG 27 had crashed in POK near Skardu. The Pakistani soldiers captured him and had the intention to man-handle him. But Kaiser Tufail came out for his rescue and stopped his men from torturing the Indian Officer.
Years later Nachiketa told media that Tufail took him to his room and discussed about his likes and dislikes. Tufail discussed about the heart problem of his father and about his sisters marriage as well. Some vegetarian snacks were also arranged for him.
Capt (Dr) Mohinder Singh from Punjab revisits his memories of being stationed at Border Posts
In an interaction with Aaghaz-e-Dosti members, Retd Capt (Dr) Mohinder Singh shares his memories of being stationed at Borders posts. He writes,
“People of both the fighting countries take the things in a different manner i.e. winner and the loser whereas the soldiers are never the enemy of each other and are always one with each other but carry out the order of their civilian bosses. This has been seen by the author of these lines in the capacity of a soldier at Hussainwala border of India-Pakistan in 1966 and Nathula at Indo-China border in 1964. The soldiers greet each other when their civilian folks are not in sight.”
India-Pakistan Soldiers Initiative for Peace
At the end of 1999 (Kargil Conflict), Veteran soldiers from the Indian and Pakistani armed forces jointly started a peace initiative called “India Pakistan Soldiers Initiative for Peace”. The forum organised discussions wherein retired army officers of both countries would participate and discuss their views for Peace based on their experiences.
The first event of IPSI was a full day Seminar at United Services Institute New Delhi on 23 Jan 2001. The forum has been hosting delegations of Retd Soldiers and their families to visit each other’s country, conducted seminars and even met with present Army Generals of both countries.
In their annual peace initiative of 2013, Maj. Gen. (retd.) M.A. Naik appreciated that ex-servicemen had got the opportunity to talk about peace. He said,
“After spending 39 years in the Army where we planned on check-mating the other side, after retiring when I got this opportunity it felt very odd. But come to think of it, who can understand the value of peace better than those who have lost friends, relatives and colleagues to violence.”
During one such event in 2012, Lt Gen Akhtar from Pakistan had expressed his hope in the youth of India and Pakistan. He said,
“We are still very primitive people and now its time that both countries move forward. Our hopes lie with the younger generation. Now they have to pacify and cement relations”
In their annual peace initiatives, the ex-army men have been sharing their experiences and have been explicitly denouncing War as a solution. Lt Gen (Retd) Humayun Bangash from Pakistan said,
“War is not a solution. We have seen four wars, which is enough to teach us that there is no military solution to the problem. Increased people-to-people contact is what would end the hostility. When people interact with one another, there would be a greater chance of solving issues.”
It is also important to share that while Aaghaz-e-Dosti members are in contact with serving soldiers and people assigned with other roles in the Army, from both sides, they have been told that it will be difficult for them to speak up for Peace till they are serving. This, we feel, is another fact.
This article is only a beginning of this effort. A Soldier’s aim is to achieve peace and so is ours as Peace Activists. We do not think that we are against soldiers. Through this article, we also try to break this myth that all soldiers believe in War as a solution and consider the solder of the other side as an enemy. We want peace and speak against War, in favor of our soldiers.
We speak against the waging of war in the name of a Soldier. Killing of Soldiers has to stop and this can happen only if we work to end the conflict, not to sustain it.
Killing of Soldiers result from the political inefficiency and lack of political will to solve conflicts. The role of people in this glorification of war is also significant.
If we respect our soldiers, we must speak against War. War is not inevitable, killing of innocent lives is never inevitable.