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.