LEADERSHIP IN THE INDIAN ARMY
On leaders , Shakespeare wrote that (whilst ) some are born great , some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. The first statement is difficult to envision and I therefore ,merely ascribe it to the imaginative in the bard. In reality,leaders essentially emerge out of the other two categories described by the poet. General Singh's soldiers were such leaders. All of them were a part of British India in their formative years and have had to contend with the attitudes of the ' Gora Saab' in varying degrees who looked at the brown Indian with a measure of contempt. Their abilities were forever doubted by their British masters. Irrespective of the fact whether they were from Sandhurst ( Kings Commission), Viceroys Commission ( VCIO) or for that matter the ICO ( Indian Commission). This impression keeps hitting the reader. He would be wrong in concluding that the Indian soldier rose through an enormous handicap to prove himself. He was under subjugation as a matter of policy. In such a backdrop, when the author goes on to laud the sense of British fair play, on several occassions , one is quite enraged. Perhaps, General VK Singh has been extremely noble and large hearted in this regard.
The readers and specially the youth, would do well to remember that leadership is a mysterious art form or at best a craft. And certainly, leadership is an aesthetic process, one involving enormous creativity. It calls for ingenuity. Leaders are more like poets than plumbers. General Singh's leaders proved that. From Field Marshal Cariappa to Lieuenant General Hanut Singh all demonstrated some sterling qualities. Whilst one is certain that the author's list of soldiers is rather small and many names could be added to it. But it must be acknowledged that he had a difficult task in the selection process and we must accept his logic. In the preface to the volume he clarifies that " The leaders represent a cross -section of the Indian Army. Of the 12, nine are from the Infantry and one each from the Cavalry, Engineers and Signals. Three are three Chiefs ( Cariappa, Thimayya and Manekshaw); four Army Commanders ( Nathu Singh , Thorat , Bhagat and Sinha ); one Head of Arm ( Batra ); and one Brigade Commander ( Usman )."
The narrative on Lieutenant General Thakur Nathu Singh was highly inspiring and his nationalism touched an emotional cord. This General Officer did not allow himself to be dislodged from the pedestal of values and integrity despite the derision and pressure heaped by the British members of the army. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw's charisma truly emerges vividly. Sam Bahadur comes out vivacious and vibrant. But, all biographies tend to be anecdotal and this book can not be any different. Although, the author's hard work and research has definitely rewarded. The portrayal of the individuals is well constructed and we are able to look at the leaders from 'Larger than life' to the smallest human face. The publisher rates the leaders as exceptional and therefore, we must read this volume in great detail.
To the discerning however, it is extremely difficult not to notice sharp divergence of views between the military and political leadership on national issues. Such issues periodically keep cropping up in our literature on the texture of civil military relationships in India. The author has chosen to bring these issues up. The reflection of righteousness among military brethren seems quite out of sync with democratic modern India. Military establishments in India play a deep participative role in the country within laid down structures and that is how it has to be.
India is undergoing through a transformation of sorts. As an emerging power it is expected to play a strategic role not merely in Asia but perhaps globally. To a large milieu of youth aspiring to be members of India's armed forces, an intense reading of this book is very strongly recommended.