World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history leading to more than 70 -85 million civilians and military moralities. It was the only instance in history when an array of weapons of mass destruction were used to condemn millions of people to unparalleled disease, death, destruction, and starvation like the world had never seen. The United States detonated two bombs leading to approximately 120,000 sudden and painful deaths. On August 6, 1945, a device code-named “Little Boy” demolished Hiroshima. Three days later a plutonium device code called “Fat Man” dismissed Nagasaki from the face of the earth.
The result was that thousands of people including civilians continued to die in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki over a period of two-three months due to burns, radiation sickness, injuries, and malnutrition. Finally, on August 15 Japan surrendered to the Allies six days after the Soviet Union’s declaration of war and the bombing of Nagasaki. Eventually, Germany too lost its urge to fight. The people of Germany effectively prevailed upon their Government to stop fighting. Thus the six-year-old World War II came to an end.
Many years later people in New York and other parts of the world are unable to forget the 2750-odd victims who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks. It remains an emotional scar and an annual mourning ritual for their families and friends.
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World War II literally started on 1 September 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. Britain and France declared war on Germany. Both Japan and China could not tolerate each other but neither declared war. Over the next few years Germany, Italy, and Japan conquered many parts of Europe and formed the Axis alliance. However, later Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Bulgaria joined the scuffle. On 17 September 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east and Germany attacked from the west within a span of sixteen days. The rest is history – the military operations ended on 6 October 1939 with the annexation of Poland in what is often called the Fourth Partition of Poland. Besides Poland, the joint German and Soviet operation ended up diluting Finland, Romania, and the Baltic states. On 22 June 1941, the Axis –powers invaded the Soviet Union in what was to be the largest theater of land skirmish in the history of warfare. In December 1941, Japan attacked the United States. Both U.S. and Great Britain retaliated while the Axis declared war on the U.S.
Today the COVID-19 outbreak or ‘Corona War’ has now entered its fourth month. Its initial epicenter was Hubai province border but thereafter has engulfed the entire World with more than 190 countries affected now. We could surely categorize this as the “Third World War”. The only difference is that we have an unseen enemy and do not have any weaponry (vaccine) in our armory to neutralize it. At best we are putting up a defensive mechanism in a place akin to hiding in bunkers till the air strikes are over; unfortunately, no air force jets to counter this strike.
In the coming months, the war against the ‘Wuhan Virus” is going to escalate with no ‘cease fire’ in the offing. The casualties are mounting day by day with over 25000 people having succumbed to it across the globe. Countries like Italy, Iran, Spain, and the USA are fast getting infected at an astonishing pace. The consequences will be a catastrophe of the highest magnitude. The casualties may even surpass taking into account all the World Wars combined.
The Indian Government has been proactive and has initiated measures such as lockdown, social distancing, streamlining the public distribution system, an economic package for the poor, etc. The media has also played a very important role. Will these measures be adequate to contain the spread of the virus or more is required to be done is the question in everyone’s mind today. It is indeed a piquant situation, wherein, the following question needs definite answers.
- How much of the population is likely to get affected?
- Do we have adequate medical resources to treat the infected population?
- How long would the virus last? Is any definite timeline envisaged?
- Do we have a damage control mechanism in place in case of escalation?
- When will the counter vaccine be ready?
Before trying to analyze the above aspects, it may be pertinent to outline a plausible ‘Corona Strategy’ to fight this war. Taking a leaf out of executing a successful military campaign let’s try contemplating this situation. The key ingredients of a successful military campaign may involve the following:-
Planning: In terms of capacity building both human as well as material.
Leadership: Exemplary leadership on a team-based approach with quick decision-making capability.
Strategy: Both at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.
Intelligence: In terms of information on the adversary and countermeasures.
Therefore in general terms, the essentials could be summarized as planning, executing, controlling, and concluding. The manner in which the operation would be terminated would often influence the public perception of its success.
Presently, the strategy of the Government has encompassed all the above ingredients, with variations in the degree of success. Let us study this. The Government delayed its response to the outbreak of the virus by at least two months. The major factors incorporated in its planning process were the medical establishments and the law enforcement agencies. The private sector got involved at a later stage. However, the Indian Armed Forces with its capabilities, equipment, and trained manpower have not yet been incorporated in joining the ‘Carona War’. Will it be a case of “too late too little”, when the situation goes out of hand?
It would be going without saying that there is no better organization than the Indian Armed Forces, to be a part of the Government machinery to combat this virus. As with any other machinery, whether it’s food or a pandemic, the usual response is to call the military the most reliable and efficient organization in times of crisis. During the Ebola crisis in 2014, the US Army deployed more than 400 personnel to Africa to deal with the outbreak. The force was led by the 101st Airborne HQ and built 17 hospitals, delivered aid to the local authorities, and helped medical organizations with logistics and transportation.
Let us now see how many militaries the World over have responded to this global spread of the ‘Wuhan Virus’. Let’s start with China where the virus originated. The response of the People’s Liberation Army(PLA) was extremely prompt in fact within one month of the outbreak of the virus. Currently, 10000 medical personnel of PLA are providing support to the provinces of Hubai and Wuhan by setting up two make-shift hospitals and giving the necessary logistics support. The US Army has contingency plans in place to erect field hospitals and move the infected persons in isolation pods in cargo planes. Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei has called the Armed Forces to join the health ministry in the fight against the ‘Wuhan Virus’. The Iranian Army has mobilized 3,00,000 soldiers and volunteers.
In France, four out of the eight Armed forces hospitals have been mobilized. France has a specialized Army Unit dedicated to combating nuclear, radiological, biological, and chemical threats.
Based at Marie-et-Loire, the 2nd Dragons Regiment is currently on standby. This unit was also deployed in Guinee in 2015 to deal with the Ebola crisis.
It is now time for the Indian Government to take a call with regard to the mobilization of the Indian Army for the ‘Corona War’. There is no better trained and equipped force in the country to deal with this situation. The Indian Army has CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) units especially trained and equipped with special equipment for de-contamination of the infected areas and set up isolation camps. The Indian Army also has CBRN monitoring reconnaissance vehicles developed by DRDO. Further, the highly specialized medical infrastructure of the Indian Army can be utilized with the field hospitals being mobilized. Another important area where the Indian Army could play a key role could be in terms of logistics and supply chain management. Distribution centers can be set up in each locality to augment the existing public distribution system.
The Government, therefore, needs to adopt a multi-pronged strategy that should have its verticals as Medical, Law Enforcement, NDMA, Indian Army, and Private Sector. Joint Operation Rooms(JOR), need to be set up in each largely infected city. Specialized ‘Carona’ sub-hospitals to come up in these areas manned by Government and Army doctors with private hospitals augmenting the infrastructure. The logistics chain is to be built up with the support of the Indian Army. Distribution centers are set up in each of these population areas stocking all essential dry rations, vegetables, and dairy products. The system be geared up to deliver these items to poor households. Fast-track orders for medical supplies and protective equipment to be processed on priority, especially ventilators.
The Indian Army has always risen to the call of the Nation, during natural calamities as well as aid to civil authorities. The Government needs to give this ‘Clarion Call’ now. The Carona War has to be won at all costs