There is little doubt the ‘Agnipath’ project of Agniveers is poorly conceived and adversely affects Armed Forces, particularly the Army, at the cutting edge. True, other militaries also have short-term engagement of soldiers but none have unresolved borders, and the type of operational areas in difficult terrain like ours, as also a nexus like China-Pakistan, with Nepal, Myanmar and now Maldives sucked into China’s strategic sphere.

The propaganda about high Armed Forces pension bills was in isolation, without comparing the expenditure on other government services (pays, perks, promotions, NFU, pensions all combined). This is why Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had to publicly announce that Agnipath has nothing to do with money.

There is no dearth of money in India looking at lakhs of crores of rupees being spent on projects for self-aggrandisement, and wooing voters. Aren’t we boasting about a $5, 10, 30 trillion economy, even though our industrial output globally is below 2%? So, why single out the Army?

If the scheme was so good, why is it not implemented into the paramilitary and police forces? The pretext of giving a younger profile is also absurd because the military has always delivered; it is the politico-bureaucratic hierarchy that failed to do so on numerous occasions?

The Agnipath scheme is apparently prompted by galloping unemployment, coupled with abhorrence to introduce population control measures by vote hungry politicians. Stopping Army recruitment for two years ensured the military hierarchy would readily accept mass induction of Agniveers, because of large manpower deficiencies.

Former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh had rejected the “Draft” Agnipath scheme in writing but when the scheme was implemented, the Service Chiefs lacked the guts to protest.

Now Indian “workers” are to serve in Italy, not only because of the relations between Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Italian PM Georgia Meloni. Italy has reserved a quota of 5,000, 6,000, and 7,000 “non-seasonal” Indian workers for 2023, 2024, and 2025. In addition, the reserved quota for “seasonal” Indian workers is 3,000, 4,000, and 5,000 for 2023, 2024, and 2025.

Last fortnight the media reported that Haryana is preparing 10,000 workers for Israel. Now an Israeli team has arrived in Haryana. News reports stated that Indian workers will not be employed in the conflict zones, although all of Israel is a conflict zone.

Egypt-Israel clashes are already underway, plus Iran and Israel are targeting each other’s assets in Syria-Iraq. How many Indians would return from Italy and Israel remains questionable, but it certainly helps in reducing unemployment. Interestingly, a sizable number of Indians who have migrated abroad over the last decade, including on ‘Donkey flights’, are from Gujarat.

It is being said that at one time, Nepal wanted to merge with India but we refused; who is that we - Mountbatten, Gandhi, Nehru? Another claim is that Nehru refused this offer from the King of Nepal in 1950.

However, according to Lok Raj Baral, former Nepalese Ambassador to India, this is only a “rumour”. Professor S. D. Muni of IDSA says the External Affairs Ministry is unable to find any such document.

Obviously, this is one of the many fake political gimmicks. Surely the King of Nepal didn’t telephone Nehru or messaged him on Whatsapp?

The din over Hindutva and Hindu Nation is deafening. But did we notice how the next door Hindu nation, Nepal, has been in China’s crosshairs ever since the era of Mao Zedong, the Maoists insurgency, massacre of the royal family and rise of the communists in Nepal who will continue to be either ruling or in coalition at Kathmandu?

Naturally, our politicians had no idea of how the ill-conceived ‘Agnipath’ scheme would damage a vital link between the armies of India and Nepal, and in turn between the two nations.

Meanwhile China is known to systematically work on diplomats serving in Beijing. In recent years Subramanian Swamy tweeted that some of our bureaucrats of the defence ministry are honey-trapped by the ISI.

Every year 16,000 Nepalese youth were being recruited into the Indian Army’s Gorkha Regiments, which has now stopped. It is being said that it is up to the Nepalese whether to join the Agnipath scheme or not, the scheme having little guarantee of second employment if relieved after 4-year service, and no pension.

Nepal’s Army Chief Lieutenant General Prabhu Sharma, who is also an honorary General in the Indian Army has said he is against the recruitment of the Nepalese in the Indian Army as Agniveers.

Why do the youth go to serve in the Army of another country? The straight answer is money, albeit in India it was also the environment. Nepalese youth are already serving in the armies of Russia (over 200), some in Ukraine, over 4,000 in the British Army and an unspecified number in the French Foreign Legion.

Why would China not employ them, even paying a little more than India? Nepal’s communist regime would be more than willing, saying it is the individual choice of the youth. Haven’t we seen photographs of Indians fighting for Israel in Gaza who have reportedly gone of their own accord?

Do we see the danger, especially through lightly held borders along Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar, as well as using their physical prowess in high altitude to deploy them against India? The trader mentality prevailing in India would say it will make no difference as long as our economic relations with Nepal are good.

But they ignore how China wages war, the ISI ensconced in Nepal and that Pushpa Kamal Dahal, alias Prachanda, current PM of Nepal, publicly told the Nepalese media some years back: “our ultimate fight will be with the Indian Army”.

With the annual recruitment of 16,000 Nepalese youth stopped, deficiencies in our Gorkha Regiments are to be filled up from within India, with Kumaonis, Garhwalis, Nagas and others. View this against the backdrop of NSA Ajit Doval speaking against ‘regimentation’ in the Indian Army when Agnipath was launched.

The plan appears to be to make all units all class, like police units, ignoring the tremendous advantage of regimentation especially in conflict situations. Ironically, such advantage can only be experienced by those who have served in the regiments, not by any politician, bureaucrat or policeman.

The ploy used is to link regimentation with colonialism, which is totally absurd. Concurrently the colonial game of cricket is being used to rename stadiums, develop new stadiums. Surely, cricket was not the game in ancient India. Why then this selective colonialism?

A lot is happening by way of inducting new weapons, weapon systems, new innovations and the like although we are still years, or rather decades, behind China in terms of military technology and equipment.

But why are we undermining the man behind the machine, which can hardly be ignored in the haze of religious fervour and politicisation of the military. In early 2014, it was being said that the traders of Gujarat are as good as Army soldiers.

No doubt every Indian serves the nation in whatever capacity he/she holds, but in equating traders with Army soldiers do we realise why the Somnath Temple was ravaged and plundered 17 times?