The Indian Army is the largest voluntary army and, next to China, the second largest army in the world. It is also a large conglomeration of values, experience, regimentation, customs, traditions, ethos and culture.
When combined it takes the shape of a multi-spectrum kaleidoscope, covering many centuries. In spite of its large size and diverse regional cultures, it is a shining example of unity in diversity.
As the nation celebrates its 62nd Army Day on January 15, its men in olive green look back at their outstanding achievements, with a deep sense of pride and satisfaction. These can be attributed to a glorious military history and a few core values of high significance.
During the span of its rich history, thousands of soldiers have fought hundreds of battles, worldwide, many of epic dimensions. Recourse to arms was only taken when peace was threatened.
In fact, the word 'peace' forms the very core of Indian philosophy, and compassion a benchmark. Coming to traditions, Indian soldiers hail from regions, where tradition and chivalry play a vital role in society.
These are based on, both, historical cum religious events and legends, where heroic figures become role models. Iconic warrior like Arjuna, Ashoka, Tipu Sultan, Chhattrapati Shivaji, Maharana Pratap, Tantia Tope, Rani of Jhansi, Ranjit Singh, Gulab Singh and Zorawar Singh, to name a few, have proved to be a great source of inspiration and are deeply etched in the psyche of many Indian soldiers.
This forms the bedrock of our regimental traditions, and many regimental customs, battle cries, crests, badges and so on are based on such traditions even today.
That apart, it is also a fact that the Indian Army has fought the maximum variety of opponents worldwide be they the Turks of the mighty Ottoman Empire, Germans, Italians, Japanese, foreign mercenaries operation alongside Belgian based Gendarmerie in Congo, armed tribals of the North West Frontier Province, the Chinese, Portuguese, Pakistanis, Somalis, Hutu rebels in Rwanda, various factions in Sri Lanka, foreign trained and armed terrorists in the states of Jammu and Kashmir and the North East.
As a corollary, bravery and valour are other related factors, which distinguish Indian soldiers worldwide. To cite a single example, during the two World Wars, next to the Royal British Army, Indian officers and soldiers earned the largest tally of Victoria Crosses, the highest award meted out for valour and bravery in battle -- totaling 42.
All this could instill a sense of pride and awe even amongst the staunchest skeptics.
Post independence, the Indian Army has once again risen to numerous operational challenges. These include four major wars fought along India's borders and many other localised conflicts: counter insurgency operations in the North Eastern States, the Kargil war of 1999 and the ongoing 'proxy war' in J&K.
It has also operated in different terrain, altitudes and weather conditions, such as the sub zero mountainous and glaciated region of Siachen, icy plateaus of North Sikkim, deserts of Rajasthan, salt marshes of Gujarat, riverine and dense jungle terrain of the North East, island territories of Andaman & Nicobar and the Lakshadweeps.
Such an exposure is rare for any army, that too which is located in the unique Indian peninsula.
True to traditions, Indian Army's various regiments, officers and men have risen to the clarion call on each operational occasion with alacrity and firmness.
The adroit handling of such challenges, give an insight into the raw guts, steel sinews and moral fibre of Indian Army personnel, irrespective of their regional ethnicity or regimental affiliation. It is a proven fact that when operating collectively as part of formations, it imbibes a common credence, based on national values and fervor.
India has also been a champion of global peace, under the aegis of UN peacekeeping. It has participated in an exemplary manner in UN peacekeeping operations in more than a dozen countries, spread across four continents.
Presently, with nearly 8000 troops deployed in various mission areas, India is ranked amongst the largest and most reliable troop contributing nation, towards this laudable UN cause.
That apart, it has also conducted joint military training on varied scenarios on a number of occasions, including with armies of the USA, Russia and China amongst many others.
The Indian Army is not just about soldiering. It has made inroads into a plethora of diverse fields as well, such as creating a secure environment for its nationals; ecological development and nation building; border guarding; internal security; providing quality aid and succor to victims of floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, avalanches, landslides and other natural or manmade disasters and endurance based feats. Its varied experiences have helped it to attain all round excellence and gain tremendous confidence in itself, its leaders and the system per se.
In the field of sports and adventure activities, too, it has made great inroads. If its mountaineers have conquered some of the highest mountains time and again, often from difficult directions, its personnel have traversed the world in yachts, skied to the South Pole, conducted lengthy desert safaris, established new records in para sailing, hang gliding, free fall, motorcycle expeditions and white water rafting.
In international sports, too, it has created history by winning medals in the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and the recently conducted Asiad.
All these achievements have been the result of sound planning based on a clear vision, sustained training, sheer guts, determination, camaraderie and esprit de corps.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru once said, "Success often comes to those who dare and act. It seldom goes to the timid". Based on this adage, the Indian Army is rededicating itself with renewed zest and vigour to attain much greater heights, and to face many new challenges, in diverse fields in the years to come.