Chandigarh, December 8, 2018: War veterans and defence experts on Saturday regretted the reluctance of the central government to take inputs from them in drafting the country’s defence strategy and called for brainstorming for a long-term cohesive combat and defence plan.

At a session on `Evolving Challenges in Indian Defence’, on the second day of Military Literature Festival 2018, here today, they underlined the need for decision makers to ensure that, along with a booming economy, there should be no shortage of funds for the armed forces.

Gen. VP Malik (Retd), former Indian Army Chief, was the moderator of this session, while Lt. Gen. KJ Singh (Retd), Col PK Vasudeva (Retd), Lt. Gen. Aditya Singh (Retd), senior journalists Dinesh Kumar and Vishnu Som were on the panel.

Vishnu Som said that our next door neighbour, China, was spending heavily on its internal as well as external defence, and their drone based and aerial warfare technology was by far the best in the world at present. China is also developing stealth armed drones, which makes it impossible for the target to defend itself, he said, pointing out that the Chinese J-20 aircraft is the first operational stealth fighter jet of the world. He said that there are several other military based technologies and equipment, which, if handed over to Pakistan, could be a cause of trouble for India.

Lt. Gen. Aditya Singh (Retd) said that China is also bringing Artificial Intelligence (AI) in drones, which is equipped with face recognition features. He said that the future of war would be the war of drones and robots along with hyper sonic aircrafts. Gen. VP Malik (Retd) said that along with these, the next warfare would also be cyber and space based.

Col PK Vasudeva (Retd) questioned whether India was spending enough on its Armed forces as compared to China. “In case of any conflicts, I can frankly say that we will not be able to face as blatantly as we have done in 1971 or 1965. What has happened? Army is basically indulging in counter insurgency, counter terrorism operations in Jammu & Kashmir and North East. Our soldiers are suffering because there are a large number of casualties because of lack of equipment, small arms, lack of ammunition etc. This is an economy which is one of the largest in the world, but has not been able to provide the basic minimum equipment to soldiers,” he said.

Giving the example of Israel, he said that the small country was surrounded by 17 of its enemy countries, but still the entire region was afraid of them. He regretted that the Indian government was spending crores on statues and bullet trains, while neglecting the defence budget.

Lt Gen KJ Singh (Retd) said India should focus on punitive deterrents against its enemies so that they think twice before initiating any action against our country. He said that our country needs more credible deterrents such as surgical strikes.

Sounding a note of caution, Dinesh Kumar stated that China was aggressively increasing its neighbourhood outreach, which ostensibly poses a grave threat to India as we are already surrounded by not so friendly neighbours.

CHANDIGARH: To ensure better interface between the public and the armed forces, various defence experts on Saturday emphasised the need to bring far more openness in defence matters to mobilise public opinion in the larger interest of national security.

They were also of the opinion that there should no politicisation of the defence forces, which was gradually creeping into the system.

These views were expressed by the experts during an interactive session on `Valour, History, Politics and Media’ with eminent columnist Vir Sanghvi on the second day of Military Literature Festival-2018 here at the Lake Club. The discussions were mainly focused on the role of cinema and media in highlighting the heroic deeds of armed forces.

The penalists included Lt. Gen (Retd) N S Brar, Lt. General (Retd) T S Shergill, UK based Brig. Justin Maciejewski, NDTV Channel Head Arati Singh, besides Actors Sonu Sood and Gurmeet Chaudhary.

The defence experts also underscored the need to have direct connect between common masses and armed forces to realise the hardships faced by the army personal and their 24X7 arduous nature of duty to safeguard our borders from internal as well as external aggression.

Sharing his views, Lt. Gen (Retd) T S Shergill that the media should play a pro-active role in boosting the morale of the armed forces to enable them to discharge their duties diligently with a sense of utmost professional commitment to safeguard the integrity, security and sovereignty of our country. He cited the 26/11 Mumbai attack, when the media was telecasting real-time, which led the perpetrators to know about the counter insurgency operations. He exhorted the media to discharge their duties by exercising restraint, especially while reporting on defence matters of sensitive nature.

Lt Gen. (Retd) N S Brar underlined the need for general debates in the public domain on matters related to National Security and defence forces. Thus, intimate interface was required more frequently between the Government and defence forces on issues of higher defence management, he added.

On the allocation of funds for defence forces, Lt Gen N S Brar opined that Media should come forward in mobilising public opinion in this regard to put pressure on the Union Government for adequate allocation of funds in the annual budget.

The panelists felt that regular media interaction should be held to dispel misconceptions while reporting military affairs far more accurately to ensure its credibility on the one hand and achieve the ultimate objective of national security on the other.

Dwelling on the role of cinema in portraying valour of the armed forces, the penalists and audience largely appreciated the enormous contribution of Bollywood in producing films like Haqiqat, Border, Lakshay and the recently launched ‘ ‘Paltan’ to showcase the gallantry deeds of our brave soldiers. The experts, however, said that Indian Cinema predominantly exploits emotions and sentiments, thus undermining the real aspects of the war to make them more entertaining for public, whereas the western cinema aimed at realistic presentation and to ensure their authenticity as in the famous war movies viz Fury, Saving the Private Ryan etc.

Participating in the discussions, actor Sonu Sood and co-star Gurmeet Chaudhary of Hindi movie ‘Paltan’, directed by JP Dutta, gave a brief account about an action-war drama based on incident of 1967 Indo-China. Sonu said the film vividly presented the real-time war account, thus portraying the patriotic spirit of Indian soldiers with the objective of imbibing the spirit of nationalism amongst the countrymen, especially the youngsters.

Several serving and retired military personnel, historians, foreign military delegates, academicians and students actively participated in the session.

Saturday, December 8, 2018