On the day of Pakistan’s elections and with so many good friends from my team in Rwanda, Col Shibashish Banerjee, Col Gopi Menon and Col Shashi Sharma, all commenting on my article on PM Modi’s visit to Rwanda, I am reminded of this incident.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda II (UNAMIR II) was headed by Mr Shahryar Khan of Pakistan as the Special Representative of the Secy General(SRSG).
He was earlier Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary. A Mohajir from the Bhopal Royal Family Shahryar Khan was known for his finesse and correct ways.
In March 1995 a briefing was to be conducted at HQ UNAMIR II at Kigali; a very detailed brief on the security situation.
I was the Sector Cdr of No 3 Sector and commenced the briefing in typical Indian Army style, introducing the map, giving the situation, the threats perceived, actions in hand, the infirmities, requirement of resources and finally recommendations (which Indian Army officer does not do it in this way…? Its routine for us).
I could see Mr Shahryar Khan’s face light up and he complimented me on the quality of the brief.
Thereafter seven more sectors were to brief on their areas of responsibility.
None of the Sector Commanders stepped forward.
The brief for all was done by seven outstanding officers of the Indian team, all of whom were performing duties of Operations Officers of their respective sectors.
Every Sector Commander felt that if an Indian Army Officer was with him everything would go well and all loose ends would be tied up.
As Mr Shahryar Khan watched Indian after Indian troop in and out, to and from the rostrum, he kept looking at me appreciatively. Then he stated publicly -“Isn’t there an Operations Officer from any nation other than India”.
When he got a blank look and a smile from the Canadian Force Commander, Maj Gen Tousignot, he stated – ” I must really appreciate the Indian Army’s quality of selection of its officers. I have not seen this quality of briefing any where in my service”.
Turning to me he said -” Colonel Ata Hasnain please accept my compliments for this outstanding display of professionalism, I hope every officer here takes note of the way these officers have shown their grasp over the situation in Rwanda”.
He then took me to a side during the inevitable tea and snacks break and told me – ” You should be proud of your professional culture; I can admit I would never have found such a standard of conduct of briefings in Pakistan”.
That was a Wow for me. I thanked him profusely. Present alongside was Colonel (later Lt Gen) Shivkumar, of the Jat Regiment(another outstanding officer), the Chief of Staff of the UNAMIR II mission. He too was thrilled with the compliment.
What Mr Shahryar Khan stated is actually the plain truth about the quality of selection of personnel of the Indian Army for foreign missions.
The Indian Army, by its sheer professionalism invites much admiration and also jealousy.
I had to shield some of our officers from Sector Commanders who wanted to endorse negatively in their confidential reports. I held the stick by stating I would do even worse to officers from their countries.
The problem is that people like Mr Shahryar Khan are not going to come to power in Pakistan.
I wish they could because that would make a world of a difference in the relationship between India and Pakistan.
Over the next few days one will be writing a lot on the Pakistan elections and what they hold for India but in the midst of that its always good to get a positive story into the narrative.
Cheers to the Indian Army and the MILOBS team of UNAMIR II and compliments to Mr Shahryar Khan who displayed some fine qualities of head and heart as UNAMIR’s leader in most trying times.
Bravo Indian Army!
(The writer is a Retd Lt Gen of Indian Army and presently Chancellor Central University of Kashmir.)