JUST IN JEST (Of Defence Analysts and Defence Experts)

Date: 09- 05- 24

Lt. Gen (retd.) Budh Prakash Singh Mander joined the school in 1960 as J-38. He was in the second senior most batch to pass out in December,1964 after completing his ISC. He belongs to the batch tutored in English by Mr. Michael Vodden a teacher on deputation from the British Council. This was the first batch seen through by Senior Master and Head of English, Mr. Michael Vodden before he left, to establish ISC in School. (Mr. Vodden is best known and remembered among other praiseworthy qualities for writing the ‘School Song’).

Budh or BIPS, as he is known in his close peer group, was the wit of his class and is fondly remembered by friends for his incomparable sense of humour and ready wit.

The ISC class of 1964 with Mr Michael Vodden. Budh Parkash Mander is second from left standing in second row.

He was in the second batch from School to join the NDA. After having served with distinction in the Army Service Corps, Lt Gen. Mander hung up his sword in 2007.

He is (happily?) married to Harmeet and is proud father of two brilliant daughters. He dabbles in writing humorous pieces under his byline “Just in Jest”. He has shared three of such pieces with me, which I share with my fellow Old Nabhaites for their delight.

He is a keen and gifted golfer who can be seen regularly in the company of fellow Nabhaites in Chandigarh Golf Courses.

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Of Defence Analysts and Defence Experts

An article by Lt Gen BPS Mander

These days it is fashionable to become a ‘Defence Analyst’, and if you cannot be one, then at least you can become a ‘Defence Expert’.  In foreign armies ‘defence analysts’ are appointed; and they work with the government or the military to examine, evaluate, and review information, and write reports with recommendations.

No such thing here. Some exposure in the IDSA can make you an ‘analyst’. Be that as it may; anyone can become an ‘expert’. All that is required is that he should have retired. And should you have served in the Valley, even as an Adm Comdt, your credentials take a big leap.

You are the authority on all issues in the Valley irrespective of your level of expertise.

When the trend began, a lot of officers became experts without any expertise. And in keeping with the established principles of seniority, the level of expertise got related to the rank; the higher the rank the higher was considered to be your level of expertise. Dramatically some ‘Colonels’ inserted themselves with a patent on ‘command experience’ and so the net result today is that you have Colonels and Generals on TV, with only an odd Brigadier as the link between the two.

When the trend of these specialists caught up, a lot of people wanted to join the bandwagon; but soon the positions were saturated as TV channels could only accommodate X number of people. So those who did not make it as ‘experts’ harboured a grudge against those who did.

Since I had done a study on the issue, some approached me for consultations. I gave them my view on what is the best way to get into this field. If they wanted to enter this field they would need to follow some guidelines. These would need to be practiced before the mirror if they were to make an impression on TV. I advised them on a three-point formula:-

– First, practice putting up a glum and serious face. After all war and insurgency is serious business.

– Second, grow a handlebar moustache, and if not possible, at least a sizable one, which endorses your dominance over the clean shaven civilians.

– Third and last and the most important,  unless you have some catch phrases in your vocabulary, you stand no chances of making it for more than one time on TV. You can represent, but can never be an ‘expert’. It is time to forget the weapon that you carried in service. Your new weapon is the ‘catch phraseology’, the flavour of the day. Be clear on what you have to say. You should speak of ‘an intended legitimate military target’ with ‘minimal collateral damage’, as against ‘carpet bombing’ which damages the ‘local psyche’. Operations must create ‘shock and awe’ and yet not ‘rattle’. Army is a ‘broad sword’ and not a ‘scalpel’, but yet the Indian Army used the ‘scalpel’ to carry out strikes with ‘surgical precision’.

This much would be enough to establish your position on TV, but should you wish to hold on to it, you need to do more. You cannot say that ‘the enemy was caught napping’, it has to be ‘enemy was caught in a stupor’. And no proof can be given of our ‘surgical strikes’ as ‘National interest’ and ‘National security’ are ‘non-negotiable’. After all the matter has been discussed in the ‘Cabinet Committee on Security’ and decided that ‘graphic accounts’ of ‘routine operations’ are never given out.

And all this will be of no use if you are not seized with how cross border terrorist camps and ‘launch pads’ are organized and the ability to counter ‘unprovoked and naked aggression’ and the ‘existential phenomenon’ of ‘cross border fire’.

Since arguing on Pakistan is a fashion these days, you have to be armed with some specific phrases.. Forget about ‘guerrilla warfare’, ‘insurgency’ and ‘terrorism’, the catchphrase is ‘asymmetric warfare’, a war ‘between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly’ to ‘offset deficiencies in quality and quantity’.

Please remember that “Osama Bin Laden’ and ‘Burhan Wani’ are no more in fashion.? Masood Azhar’, ‘Hafeez Sayyed’, and ‘Sayeed Salahuddin’  may still pass muster. However, this will see you through only one appearance on TV.

So if you want to be called repeatedly, you have to obliquely throw in the ‘ Haqqani Network’, since it is popular with US as it irks them. And to be super savvy, throw in names of some ‘non state actors’ like  ‘Jalaluddin and Sarajuddin Haqqani’, and their role post the Afghanistan imbroglio.

A young officer, who had done ten years in the Army before being released, asked me if he could become a defence expert. I told him that by all means he could. So, I gave him the catch phrases and told him to go ahead and make his mark. Incidentally he already had a handlebar moustache.

Armed with this knowledge he approached a Channel, confident that with the all the phraseology under his belt there was no stopping him. The firstquestion they asked him was his rank, and when he said ‘Major’, they told him it is a no go. He shot back that Sir Basil Liddell Hart was just a Captain and he taught generals. But they were not impressed. They asked him if he was from the Infantry, and when he said no, he had already lost the race. He gave them examples that Napoleon was a gunner and Mc Arthur was an Engineer and so on. But of no avail.

So frustrated he came back and told me that he had not made it. I consoled him that he need not worry as there were other options. So, I told him that he should become a ‘defence observer.’ ‘And what does a defence observer do?’ he asked.

Nothing, he just observes and enjoys the tons of wisdom doled out on TV, something we missed in service.

So, a word of advice to those who could not make it, just become defence observers and you will enjoy the unending sermons and will also be able to assess that some who could not find their feet in service, have now established themselves as ‘experts’.