by Raghu Krishnan

There is this saying which goes, “You can take an Indian out of India but you can never take India out of an Indian.” That saying has launched so many advertising and other campaigns. In the case of the present Chief Minister of Punjab, the equivalent could be that “You can take Amarinder Singh out of the Indian Army uniform but you can never take the uniform out of Amarinder Singh.”

Captain Amarinder Singh has retired but his love for the Indian Army comes through on every occasion he speaks. He was interviewed recently by quite a few national TV news-channels a few days after 20 unarmed Indian soldiers of the 16 Bihar Regiment were clubbed to death on the LAC (Line of Actual Control) in Ladakh by men of the so-called People’s Liberation Army of China who were wielding baseball bats and metallic rods studded with nails.

Making it clear that he was speaking not as a politician but as someone who had served in the Indian Army, Captain Amarinder Singh unequivocally told the TV news-channels that once the 16 Bihar Regiment CO (commanding officer) Col Santoh Babu had been killed by club-wielding PLA goons, he would have expected the second-in-command to order firing to protect his comrades. You may or may not agree with him but Captain Amarinder Singh has that rare quality of speaking his mind and telling it like he sees it.

After all, hasn’t the Chetwode Motto inscribed at the entrance of the ceremonial hall of the Indian Military Academy told generation after generation of officers and gentlemen graduating from its distinguished premises like Amarinder Singh that “The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.”

Amarinder Singh joined the Indian Army in 1963 when privy purses and princely titles had not yet been abolished. He chose to join the Indian Army when many other sons of maharajas were either resting on their inherited laurels or partying here, there, and everywhere. He left the Indian Army after serving in some of the coldest places on Earth and at heights of 16,000 feet. Once privy purses and princely titles were abolished, he would never be the Maharaja of Patiala but would always remain Captain Amarinder Singh

Which is why Amarinder Singh has what many other contemporary politicians and leaders don’t have when they speak on defence, national security and matters pertaining to the Indian Army. Which is credibility. When he speaks even briefly on these issues, even an ounce of credibility from him is worth more than a tonne of verbiage from anyone else.

There are, of course, those in the BJP who have served with distinction in the Indian Army before retiring and joining politics. Like Col Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore who, while in uniform, served in the troubled vale of Jammu & Kashmir, fought in the Kargil War and took part in counter-terrorist operations before shooting his way to a silver Olympic medal in the double-trap event at the 2004 Games at Athens. Rathore subsequently retired and joined politics and was elected as a BJP MP in May 2014 and served as India’s minister for sports. The BJP returned to power in May 2019 and Rathore was re-elected as the MP from the constituency of Jaipur Rural. And, then, inexplicably, he was not included in the ministry of the second Modi government. And so what if Rathore was a kamdaar (achiever) and not a namdaar (dynast), a distinction his leader would often draw, especially at rallies on the campaign trail.

One wonders what Col Rathore thought of the somewhat semantic statement made on the evening of June 19, 2020, by his leader while addressing the presidents of national opposition parties that there was no incursion and that not an inch of Indian territory had been ceded.

When serving soldiers die on duty on any border they deserve an unambiguous statement on the sequence of events leading to their tragic demise.