The scenarios are different — an airfield in the midst of an ocean pockmarked by blistering gunfire, soldiers in mountain gullies where snow falls in thick flurries, a West Asian port where fleeing residents turned refugees, and guests at a plush hotel held captive by terrorists. But, the spirit of India’s armed forces to hold out and win in these situations has remained the same — honed to perfection by guts and glory.
Modern military operations are often the subject of harsh scrutiny when underway, but slip from our clutch of memory when over. To mark Republic Day, Discovery Channel presents Battle Ops, that takes a hard look at iconic operations featuring the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force, and special forces such as the NSG. The four-part series, that begins today, reconstructs these events through 3D graphics, interviews with people who were involved, and archival footage.
Zulfia Waris, Vice-President and Head, Premium and Digital Networks, Discovery Communications India, says, “The military has always been one of Discovery’s top genres, and after the success of our last military offering, Breaking Point, our confidence in the subject only grew. Battle Ops was developed by the in-house team, and our production partner 101 India. There has always been curiosity about India’s military operations, but there is very little understanding and knowledge about what goes on behind the scenes.”
Season 1 will feature four operations — Operation Meghdoot (when India captured the strategic Siachen glacier, where temperatures fall as low as -50 degrees Celsius), Operation Cactus (where Indian armed forces overthrew rebel Maldivians and Tamil mercenaries who had staged a coup in 1988), Operation Raahat (where Indian citizens and other foreign nationals were evacuated from Yemen during the 2015 crisis) and Operation Black Tornado (when NSG commandos flushed out terrorists and rescued hostages during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks).
In a telephonic interview, General Ved Prakash Malik PVSM, AVSM (Retd), former Chief of Army Staff, who headed the force during the 1999 Kargil War, says, “To create strategic culture in a country, awareness about these operations is necessary. We need to draw lessons from them, and those can be learnt only when you go through these records. This is especially important for academics who would want to study these operations.”
Operations of this magnitude need resolve, efficiency, and complete utilisation of the ‘golden hour’, and Gen Malik says that he would choose Operation Cactus as the perfect textbook op. “When we went to assist the Maldivian government, it brought India and its armed forces into the limelight. Never before have we launched an operation at such great speed over such a long distance. Starting from political decision-making to operational launching involving the Army, Navy and Air Force, everything was perfect. Subsequently, I would choose Op Vijay, in which I have played a role.”
Any operation exercises the minds of historians and strategic experts. Those who launch it also have the demanding task of winning the trust of citizens in a war-ravaged society. Gen Malik says, “From a global point of view, Ops Cactus and Raahat were admired. Any experience will give you benefits. If it goes wrong, you learn a lesson, and if you do well, it’s both a lesson and an inspiration for the future.”
He added that armed forces prep for these operations apart from their annual rehearsals. “Surprise war exercises assure us that our troops are ready at short notice. Events such as the Cambrian Patrol, where we are pitted against rapid reaction forces of other countries and do exceedingly well, give our armed forces a competitive edge. Decision-making and jointmanship is what is needed.”
While the series may be an invaluable addition to the increasing focus on India’s armed forces, it should also be watched to celebrate the people who flesh out the values that make us a republic.
Part 1 of the four-part series will be telecast today at 2 pm and 9 pm. It will also make its début on Discovery Veer, said to be India’s first digital channel dedicated to content featuring the Indian armed forces.