SPEECH BY SHRI K.R. NARAYANAN PRESIDENT OF INDIA WHILE INAUGURATING THE BIRTH CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS OF FIELD MARSHAL K.M. CARIAPPA (SPEECH 05-Jun-1999)
New Delhi, Saturday, June 5, 1999
I am very much honoured to have been asked to inaugurate the Birth Centenary celebrations of Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa. I could not go to Bangalore and therefore I value this opportunity all the more. Field Marshal Cariappa was one of the great founders of modern India. He has been described as father of the Indian Army. In many ways he is on a par with the best Indian leaders of our country and his contributions are of lasting nature. On this occasion, particularly, we remember him with gratitude for the leadership he gave to the Indian army, for the inspiration he still provides it and the example he set for soldiers. He had laid down certain examples and certain precepts for the Indian Army and defence forces. First of all, he was a builder, who laid the foundation for the Indian Army, to make it an ideal army for the whole world. He insisted upon efficiency, loyalty, honesty, sincerity and qualities of this type that make one leader of men. Above all, he made the armed forces an apolitical institution. He used to tell that army should understand politics but should not participate in its processes. He said that the army is above politics, above party. This nature of the Indian army has been a tower of strength for our democratic society. It is a characteristic which is still profoundly influencing the Indian army.
Today, when we are facing an almost warlike situation in the Kargil-Dras sector to defend our country, I think this is an ideal occasion to pay a tribute to our brave armed forces and to declare the support of the whole nation to the brave boys who are fighting in Kargil and Dras sector. There are many acts of bravery and sacrifice during this action which has been imposed on us. This morning I had an occasion to meet Flt. Lt. Nachiketa, who was lucky enough to come back to India after having his aircraft crashlanded in Pakistan. There are so many who made the supreme sacrifice in recent days. I should like particularly to mention the names of Lt. Col. Vishwanathan, Capt P.V. Vikram, Maj. Saravanan, Maj. Adhikari, Maj. Kamlesh Prasad, Sqn. Ldr. Ahuja and many other men who sacrificed their lives during this operation.
The military leadership, the courage and the audacity of Field Marshal Cariappa has to be remembered at this moment when we are actually fighting in the Kargil-Dras sector. His brave intervention across Zojila to defend Ladakh and liberate Kargil is a saga of its own. As Commander-in-Chief of India, General Cariappa provided leadership of an extraordinary kind to the Indian Army. He used to have a dialogue with Armed Forces through his personal letters which he addressed to them regularly. These letters provide inspiration even today. We are today standing up for the rights of our country, for the defence of our border. We have tried our best over the years to live in peace with our neighbour Pakistan, and entered into many agreements with them. But unfortunately today these agreements are being violated. It has been said that the Line of Control in Kashmir is vague, it has no sanctity and it has not been defined. But this is disinformation and deception practised on the world. In fact, we all know that a ceasefire line was established, delineated and marked on the map and accepted by both parties. In Shimla Agreement of 1972 India and Pakistan pledged that we would put an end to the conflict and confrontation that had marred the relations between India and Pakistan. Both the countries vowed to respect the ceasefire line. It was written into agreement that neither would violate this line whatever the differences between them and neither would violate it by threat or by use of force. Maps were signed and exchanged in solemn agreement and the maps do delineate the Line of Control without ambiguity. In this situation to be told that there is no sanctity to the LOC is to hoodwink the whole world and we have no other alternative but to defend this area and try to regain them. Our Army and Air Force are engaged in a very difficult struggle to regain these territories captured by Pakistan through deception and at the same time we have offered a hand of friendship to Pakistan and are willing to talk with them and try to find a solution, to this particular problem.
Field Marshal Cariappa was not only a great army leader but also a splendid human being. His humanity and human characteristics stand out in the leadership which he gave to the Indian army. I recall that when I was in Australia I used to hear stories about him as High Commissioner in Australia after retirement from the Indian army. I went once to a small town near Melbourne. I stayed with a family who had put up General Cariappa when he had visited that place. They told me a story that when he first arrived there, he wanted to see the local war memorial. He was taken there and he found it rather shabbily kept with dead leaves scattered all over. He told the Mayor of the city, that was not the way to look after the war memorial and instructed him that it should be properly kept. Several months later, when he visited the town again and when he enquired about the war memorial, he was told that it was in the same condition. So one morning, General Cariappa took a broom and a shovel and went to the war memorial cleaned it up himself, setting an example to the whole town and putting them to shame. Thereafter, the war memorial was maintained very carefully and neatly. This is the kind of person whose centenary we are celebrating. He set a personal example for everything. He did not expect his men to do anything that he was not prepared to do himself. This kind of leaders are what we need today. He wanted to look after the welfare of the armed forces but he told them that this should not be overdone as they should not become soft. But he fought for their rights and welfare throughout his career and dedicated his life to the welfare of the ex-servicemen. When he was asked by Jawaharlal Nehru to go as High Commissioner to Australia, he said he did not like to leave the country and that he wanted to keep in touch with his people but he later agreed and the contributions he made in Canberra are still remembered. There is a Commonwealth Club in Canberra. It was actually founded by General Cariappa. Because ofthe lack of social facilities in the city, he talked to the Prime Minister Menzies that there should be a modern club and Prime Minister told him that many people had tried to establish a club but had not succeeded as there was no proper response from the people. But the General took it up as a challenge and himself organised the club which today is a very popular club in the city of Canberra.
While dealing with army in India, he used to emphasise the importance of discipline and once he said that no Commanding Officer of a unit should be proceeded against in any sort of inquiry because that would be opening the door for indiscipline and demoralisation of the Army. He once said that removing a commander from the army would be the beginning of the demoralising of the army. He accepted and honoured the idea of civilian supremacy over the armed forces but at the same time, he insisted on the due participation of the armed forces in the process of defence and decision-making. To remember him today is a matter of great significance. We have to give full support and encouragement to our brave boys who are risking and sacrificing their lives on the front, and for this we have to stand behind them unitedly and wholeheartedly and give encouragement and praise. We have nothing but admiration for the courage and the spirit of sacrifice of our armed forces. It is this spirit of the army which matters in a crisis not mere weaponry or numbers. What is called the spirit of the army is what gives them strength to stand up in critical situations.
I am glad that you have all collected here in Delhi, specially the Kodava Samaja that thought it fit to to organise this function here in Rashtrapati Bhavan as a symbol of the nation`s full and unreserved support to the armed forces as the pillar of our defence. This is the occasion to pledge our full support to the armed forces and to the men who are fighting in very difficult conditions among the mountains of Kargil. I hope the spirit of Field Marshal Cariappa will descend upon us and inspire us to do heroic deeds in the defence of our country. I join you all in paying my homage to this great soldier and splendid human being.
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Bureau, Government of India.