Being the first issue of the year, the Indian Army special is usually imbued with a sense of optimism. Whatever may have happened in the year gone by, we try to start with a clean slate, determined to write a new version of the old story, hopefully, with an end in which everyone wins—a win-win. But sometimes the baggage of the past is so heavy that it pulls down the hope-filled balloon.
Something similar has happened this year. 2022 has been both a tumultuous and unprecedented year in several decades. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has thrown the world in a disarray, forcing nations to re-evaluate relationships of habit against imperatives of the future. While fears of a third world war may be exaggerated, the once clear west-east and north-south delineations are getting increasingly smudged. Once purely a function of geography, the area of influence is now being determined by economy and technology. No one can say how all of this will end and how deeply that end will impact the world.
Closer home, the India-China talks on Ladakh continue to drag after hitting several roadblocks. Clearly, the road forward will be more perilous for India. We continue to blow hot in our relations with Pakistan, often bypassing diplomatic civility too. Our struggling economy has forced the government hand on the ill-conceived Agnipath scheme, which threatens to render us more vulnerable. The Indian Northeast remains restive, so much so that in a long time there has been fratricidal violence between states. The civilian population has become increasingly polarised due to relentless mainstreaming of communal hate-driven violence in the society.
And despite the carefully crafted illusion of calm in Kashmir, violence throbs just below the surface. Through 2022, government sources frequently issued numbers to claim decline of terrorism. The terrorists spoke the same language, targeting the most vulnerable in the Valley—civilian Kashmiri population. On the first day of the new year, as the government patted itself with claims of Kashmir becoming the hub of tourism, after being the hub of terrorism, the terrorists descended upon a village in Rajouri district of Jammu and killed four civilians.
It’s easy to say the more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s tempting to say that things will get better in 2023. However, beyond ease and temptation is the reality that we are going through extremely difficult times. May times be kind to all of us. May good sense prevail. As Gandhi’s favourite bhajan goes—sabko sanmati de bhagwan!
Happy New Year!