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The National Identity IV: India's original "Cold Start" and the day the Indian military nearly went rogue

Arun Singh strode away into the mountains of Almora, the heartland of Kumaon. If it felt like a betrayal of his close friend Rajiv Gandhi, it was at least a decision taken with a heavy heart. Thrice, he had been persuaded by Prime Minister Gandhi to continue as Minister of State for defense, but with the weight of the Bofors scandal sagging shoulders in the Ministry of Defense, he thought it was best to go. He had wrenched himself away to an altogether different world, far removed from Delhi not just in distance but even more so in time, and he had no intention of returning.

The year was 1988. A year earlier he helped oversee an operation which brought a freshly nuclear armed Pakistan and India to the brink of war.

The intervening years between 1974, when India displayed her nuclear might, and 1987 were largely peaceful, in the conventional sense. India and Pakistan didn't engage in open conflict, but as the arms race between the two neighbours heated up, so did the misadventures. In Operation Meghdoot in 1984, India wrestled control of the highest battlefield in the world, Siachen Glacier. With the Simla Agreement in 1972, failing to demarcate Indian and Pakistani territory, India for once, assumed a defensively-offensive posture to capture the area beyond point NJ9842, referred to as "thence north to the glaciers" in the Simla Agreement. As India had preempted Pakistan, India had the advantage of commanding the heights and used it to devastating effect to counter wave after wave of Pakistani attempts to gain a foothold on the glacier. More than thirty years on, India still controls the entire Siachen Glacier.

Perhaps buoyed by this daring manoeuvre, the Indian Army wasted little time in developing blueprints for future "preemptive" and "defensively-offensive" strikes. The Indian Government had, since Independence, assumed a purely defensive posture but under Chief of Army Staff General Sundarji, the military was at least ready to showcase its conventional might, as a sign of deterrence to Pakistan.

Gorkhland? Never!

On Imported Blog

I don't support the movement for a Gorkhaland. I have been in the Darjeeling hills for 16 years now, and with Nepalis my entire life, but I cannot bring myself to be sympathetic to their cause. Make no mistakes, my best of friends belong to the community, and I love the hills very much. Here are my reservations for a separate state. I have consciously tried to avoid generalisations.

Nepali is, in fact, a lingua franca for many tribes and communities (with unique languages and scripts) sharing a common domain, not to mention those of the Tibetan stock. "Gorkha" itself seeks to unify vastly varied sorts of men. I interpret this to be a political move to create a consensus where none exist.

The government of West Bengal has for the last 58 years fed and nurtured virtual foreigners, and yet these brave warriors of the hills have foregone their attitude of gratitude for a seemingly selfish (and unrealistic) demand for another state. The greater pity is that the Gorkhas are not one people, but a staggered hoard of refugees (Tibetans), immigrants and an out-numbered group of indigenous people (the Lepchas, et al). The latter have even forgone their language and culture, and adopted Nepali. The loss is theirs, only. Some have even said that India should give in to their desire for Gorkhaland in return for the service rendered by the community's soldiers. At this rate, they might ask for Wales from the UK, for the contribution made by the Gorkha soldiers of the British army.Somewhere, though, I feel the Bengal government should give them their state. Bengal has been a blessing for the hills. After all, one doesn't realise the value of his teeth till he loses them.They should learn their lesson!

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