PHOTO BY: Lt General RR Nimbhorkar
Gen RR Nimbhorkar

Lt General RR Nimbhorkar talks to our Consulting Editor Dr Shipra Mathur



New Delhi – Inside Story of Surgical Strike counters the claim of the Congress party that such strikes took place during their tenure. The man who moved the proposal and was responsible for carrying out three strikes inside Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) in 2016 Lt General RR Nimbhorkar talks to our Consulting Editor Dr Shipra Mathur on the whole range of defense preparedness, India’s shift from denial mode to intense response for provocations and contribution of Manohar Parrikar, the then defense minister of India who recently died of cancer. Parrikar was seen working in office even under critical clinical condition, an IIT graduate famous as a real ‘common man’ of Indian politics.

IAT:
How did it feel when you were awarded the Param Vishisht Sewa medal for distinguished service?

Nimbhorkar:
I was awarded PVSM for rendering the distinguished services of highest order for serving over 40 years. I am always grateful for the way the nation has recognized contribution of my subordinates, family members and peers as well. We fight and live for honor and definitely this award has added years to my life.

IAT:
Is it true you are the only serving officer to be conferred maximum number of awards, which are a mix of gallantry and devotion to duty in the Indian Army today? You fought in the Kargil war, killed 22 terrorists in Baramulla district of Kashmir as Major, and captured an enemy post as a Captain. The list of credits is really long. How does it feel?

Nimbhorkar:
I had read about maximum awards in ‘Business Standard’ in January 2018 and they confirmed that this is so. At that time the statement was correct. When I look back at this achievement I feel overwhelmed with emotions and am grateful to almighty for allowing me to see this day. As on at least three occasions in my service, I stared death in the fall and survived it. In Army to achieve this feat is next to impossible.

IAT:
Having served in the Army for over 40 years, how did you view the tenure of Manohar Parrikar as defense minister?

Nimbhorkar:
I directly came in contact with Mr Parrikar when I took over the duties of 16 corps in July 2015. On numerous occasions, he would directly speak to us on phone and take update on the situation. When the surgical strike was successful and our parties returned back safely, first call I got from Delhi was from Mr Parrikar. He simply said “well done”. These words meant a lot to me and my troops. After this tenure, I moved to Delhi as Master General of ordnance responsible for equipping and maintaining the Indian army. Here I had to interact with him very frequently and found him to be very hard working, extremely quick on uptake and he understood the nuances of complex defense ministry very quickly. I regard him as one of the best defense ministers our country has ever produced. He was always quick to accept reasonable suggestions and incorporate them quickly. He was approachable and treated us with due respect. He never took any leave and was a workaholic. He used to start working at 5 o’clock in morning till 11-12 in the night. Overall I view his tenure as one of the best.

IAT:
What went before you decide to move a proposal for a surgical strike in the year 2016?

Nimbhorkar:
When I took over control of 16 corps in 2015, I had planned the targets keeping in mind a slim chance of getting to activate it. Therefore, the targets with me were already ready. Same was with other commanders. Troops also knew their targets well and used to periodically rehearse the drills involved and were always ready. But going by the past precedence, I did not think that we would get the permission to launch strike across. However, we did give the options. Our government did take a stand and gave us a go ahead. Other options of heavy firing on posts along line of control, heavy sniping were also considered. I must admit that I was little surprised when the go ahead was received. For, if such actions would have resulted into failure the price to be paid would have been too high and one who takes the decision had to be ready for the backlash. The best part was that while permission was given, the planning and execution was fully left to us.

IAT:
What is your take? Congress party has been claiming to have done surgical strike during their time and never have been vocal about it?

Nimbhorkar:
Actions taken earlier were not of this nature. To my knowledge after 1971 war, such operations were never undertaken. The actions that of the nature of raids on enemy posts, fire assaults, ambushes on moving parties and firing to cause casualties were carried out. In no way, these remotely were like the surgical strikes undertaken post Uri incident. Most importantly, this time we openly armed up and took responsibility for the actions carried out. Earlier, government did not own up even the border actions the forces undertook. In fact, we used to be in denial mode. So, this was major difference in decision making.

IAT:
Would you say that Parrikar’s two and a half years was a paradigm shift in India’s response to cross border provocations?

Nimbhorkar:
Mr Parrikar’s term as a defense minister was unique in a way that he took quick decisions and constantly analyzed the situations. During his time, there was reduced infiltration and a large number of terrorists were killed, thus contributing to the stabilizing of situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Army in 2015 also carried out raids on insurgents in Myanmar post Uri. Therefore, the clear message was sent to the adversary that if action is aimed out against us, it would be replied with equal or more intensity. This definitely was paradigm shift in policy making.

IAT:
What is your perspective to address the real demands and priorities of the defence forces? Do you think Parrikar was successful with some of his key decisions?

Nimbhorkar:
As far as the forces are concerned Mr Parrikar and the government in power introduced numerous programs for the welfare and wellbeing of the personnel. Foremost was the grant of ‘One rank one pension scheme” which has been introduced for the first time after independence. Some minor shortcomings are still perceived, but I am sure these can easily be sorted out. In fact after 1971 war pension of service personnel was reduced from 70 to 50 per cent, which was a retrograde step. Mr Parrikar had planned other reforms but all could not be implemented in short period. As for the defense preparedness he took keen interest and simplified the process of acquisition. Due to the non-procurement of ammunition and critical equipment for numerous years we reached a situation where the stocks were dangerously low. He invoked emergency powers and ordered recouping ammunitions, equipment and spares for our readiness to sustain ten days of war fighting which subsequently was to be built to 40 days. Vice chiefs of all these services were granted requisite financial powers. I can say with confidence that we are now ready for any eventuality. During his time good quality helmets, bullet proof jackets, efficient vehicles, excellent clothing was provided to the troops. Carrying on from there, now we are purchasing sophisticated rifles on fast track. He took keen interest to revise defense procurement process and gave a boost to make in India program. His giant contribution is also off wading seven types of critical ammunition from foreign manufacturers and shift the work to private industries to ensure easy availability, cost cutting, and reduce dependence. Joint venture for making of AK 207 weapons has also been implemented and entire credit is his.

IAT:
Overall, what is your vision for a lasting peace on our subcontinent?

Nimbhorkar:
To achieve lasting peace in the sub-continent is a distant dream, it depends mainly on Pakistan where army plays larger role in decision making. If there is peace with India, then need to keep a huge army for Pakistan shall have no justification. Secondly, the linkages with Kashmir problem makes it extremely difficult to arrive at a workable solution, given that both sides have fixed position on the issue. Formula offered by Pervez Musharraf was probably the best. Also, it’s in China’s interest see our country is destabilized, therefore if we engage strongly with China on economic front, interdependence will increase and then we can hope to see a peaceful subcontinent.

IAT
You belong to an armed forces family, younger brother in the Air Force and the youngest retired from the Indian Navy. Your elder daughter is a doctor in the Indian Navy and son-in-law also an officer in Indian Navy. Your younger daughter works in corporate sector in defense and aerospace. Your wife Sheela Nimborkar is involved in welfare activities under Army Wives Welfare Association and Chairperson of AWWA Ecosystem Committee. How does that your personal and family life. All full of commands and orders?

Nimbhorkar:
Ours being an armed forces family, the ethos and traditions of the forces are imbibed in value system. We adhere to a life of discipline and dedication to nation. I personally am proud of this fact and sincerity. I wish we continue to serve through generations to follow

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