In the review of the book Mission Overseas headlined, “Derring-do in the line of duty” (February 28), Ajai Shukla raises the issues involved in dissemination of military history and the pitfalls of doing it poorly. Some more — though probably less significant — issues need to be considered to broaden the debate.
First, almost-live television reporting, especially after the Kargil War, made every viewer an “expert” on military matters, with no need to go into the nitty-gritty of complex issues. Second, respectable military hands have written accounts primarily for their professional peers or soldiers, which would serve as lessons in military strategy. Third, mention of military defeats has been a strict no-no for a long time. (I recall reading in my college years key books on Chinese aggression, especially one by Brigadier John Dalvi, called Himalayan Blunder; he was the highest ranking officer captured by the Chinese.)
Military books, like the one reviewed by Shukla, are necessary to maintain notions of patriotism based on actual events/real heroes rather than these getting hijacked by political players. These books should be essential reading for National Cadet Corps members as an adjunct to the various military subjects they study. Such books can also keep ordinary citizens mentally prepared till one day they get a call for national duty.
As citizens, we tend to remember the armed forces only during exigencies or when the issue of protecting the nation comes up. It is necessary for soldiers to write readable accounts of their experiences. Behind every drop of blood shed by a soldier for his country, there is a story waiting to be told.
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