A former major-general with the Indian Army – now living in White Rock – gave a presentation to the Rotary Club of White Rock this week, not to speak about the bloody conflicts during his 42 years of service, but of the victories he made developing peace with the countries he was at war with.
Harwant Krishan described soldiers as “the most peaceful people of the world,” and that “they don’t want war.”
“It’s the politicians that keep them involved,” he said to more than 40 Rotarians at the Rotary Fieldhouse at South Surrey Athletic Park Tuesday afternoon.
An anecdote Krishan used to explain his reasoning – which was supported by photographs of himself and high-ranking Pakistan military officials – was what happened after peace was made on the Line of Control in the northern Indian state, Jammu and Kashmir.
He described a “meeting of flags” he and his troops held with their Pakistani counterparts in 1971.
Instead of weapons, the Indians crossed the former battlefield armed with bottles of beer and the Pakistanis met them with sweets.
“Pakistani and Indian countries are adverse, but the people are the best of friends,” he said to the crowd.
Krishan used sport as a way to describe the military psyche between two countries, in his experience. On the field, Canadians may try to break the ankles of their American counterparts, he said. But off the field, both teams may go to the pub for a few beers.
War, Krishan said, is no different.
The Line of Control is a contentious zone for both Indian and Pakistani governments. Following an official agreement signed by foreign ministers in Islamabad Feb. 16, 2005, residents on each side of the line were able to travel to the other side to meet their relatives. The first busloads of people went across April 7 of that year, and trade between the countries followed shortly after.
Krishan also spoke to the bond servicemen and women have with their comrades, and how the military uses family as a way to incorporate trust.
Using a projector, Krishan showed off dozens of photographs of himself and his late wife chumming with other military families. The families always seemed to be together.
When it came time to crawl into a minefield to rescue an injured comrade, soldiers wouldn’t think twice about the action as they have been integrated into the family, Krishan said.
Major-general is the fourth-highest rank in the Indian Army. The promotion is made through selection after 32 years of commissioned service.
After spending years leading troops, Krishan was assigned a task that he calls one of the highlights of his career.
From 2006 to 2007, Krishan was named the directorate general of resettlement for the Indian Army. No small task considering he was responsible for the resettlement of retiring Indian Armed Forces personnel (60,000 annually) and the welfare of 2.5 million veterans, as well as widows.
After retirement, Krishan followed his two daughters to Canada where they were studying. Today, both his daughters live in Seattle (one works for Microsoft, the other for Amazon).
He moved to White Rock last year to be closer to his daughters, he said, but added that he frequently travels back to India to manage his business, Pine Hills Eco Camp, which is located in northern India.
The camp is described on its website as an eco-tourism camp mixed with teachings of the rich heritage of the region.