The Welham Symphony: Expanding Horizons

As the curtain came down on the Sixth Military History Seminar at Welham Boys’ School in Dehradun, students from 25 schools stood ramrod straight as the Indian Military Academy band struck up the National Anthem for the last time. Admiral Karambir Singh, the erstwhile Chief of Naval Staff, who had flown in from Goa to preside over the closing ceremony, said he was delighted to see how the ‘Welham Initiative’ was doing ‘an exceptional job to groom India’s future generations.’

Earlier, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, who was Admiral Karambir’s coursemate at the National Defence Academy and had presided over the Opening Ceremony, fielded questions about India’s indigenous projects, especially the LCA (Tejas) and other aviation-related projects, including helicopters. Moderating both the opening and closing sessions was Shiv Kunal Verma, the author of 1962: The War That Wasn’t and 1965: A Western Sunrise. When pointedly asked if the outcome of the conflict with China sixty years ago would have been different had the IAF been used in an offensive role, there was no ambiguity in ACM Bhadauria’s reply: ‘I have absolutely no doubt about it!’ Incidentally, the ACM had been the Air Chief during the stand-off with China in 2020. ‘I had no hesitation to even push the just inducted Rafael into an operational role. The IAF was fully prepared to take on the Chinese.’

All three service Chiefs… General MM Naravane, Admiral Karambir Singh, and ACM Bhadauria had met every morning during the Eastern Ladakh standoff. Also present at the seminar was Lt General Harinder Singh, who was then commanding the Leh-based 14 Corps. While the Air Chief said joint manship in the three services was getting a major boost with the concept of Integrated Commands being put in place, Admiral Karambir said a lot more needs to be done and required a top-down directive to bring all of the country’s resources to meet the challenges of ever-evolving threats.

The theme of the seminar was the ‘Evolution of India’s Military Thought.’ In a heartfelt vote of thanks, Sangeeta Kain the Principal of Welham Boys’ School underlined the fact that the Military History Seminar was the brainchild of Mr. Darshan Singh, the Chairman of the school, and an initiative by Welham Boys’ to introduce school students across the country to a topic as nuanced as military history. The Principal appreciated the efforts of Team Welham in conducting a flawless event and in particular thanked the Vice Principal, Mahesh Shanker Kandpal, the seminar coordinator, Sana Durrani, and the Coordinator of Activities, Rajeev Bhatia.  Almost all participants echoed the sentiment that not only had Welham Boys’ broken new ground, but they had also done an exceptional service by involving other schools as well. 

Among the Resource Persons, apart from the two chiefs, were the former Vice-Chief, Lt Gen PC Bhardwaj who himself is a highly decorated Special Forces officer. Also present was Lt General Mohinder Puri, who had commanded the 8 Mountain Division during the Kargil conflict. Another outstanding officer who had commanded the 70 Infantry Brigade at Ghanasok in the Batalik Sector, Brigadier Devinder Singh, also shared his knowledge. Along with General Harinder Singh and General Yash Mor, Brigadier Devinder Singh addressed the third session, Siachen and Beyond: From Reactive to Proactive.

Earlier, the Doon School educated Maj General Jagatbir Singh moderated the session with Col Ajay K Raina, Anirudh Chakravartty, and Shiv Kunal Verma on the Reactive phase that encompassed the 1947-48 J&K Ops, 1962 and 1965. Subsequent sessions saw other speakers that included AVM Manmohan Bahadur, Lt Generals KJ Singh, and General Shankar Prasad. Vice-Admiral Pradeep ‘Billu’ Chauhan then presented a detailed presentation that brought out the various aspects of Maritime power.

This year’s seminar saw a major increase in student participation. Over 120 Welhamites, led by the Jamuna House Captain Shubhankar Dhulia, volunteered to join the Military History CCA and were actively involved in running the show. This year, participating student delegates were assigned syndicates that interacted with the RPs before the actual session. ‘This worked well, for it also allowed the speakers to understand what was required of them,’ said General KJ Singh, who was participating in the seminar for the sixth straight year. ‘I look forward to being here yet again, for what Welham Boys’ is doing, is not only seminal in nature but a vital necessity in today’s scenario.’ 

‘These are the future young men and women who will take the country forward. This seminar is making them look beyond the horizon and opening up new vistas for them,’ said Anirudh Chakravartty. ‘It was my privilege to be a part of this incredible event. This is what education needs to be.’

Girls from the Unison World School and Him Jyoti joined contingents from RIMC and Welham Boys’ for the march past in the closing ceremony. There were two Sainik Schools that had come from Purulia and Jhunjunu. Also participating were Mayo College, Ajmer,The Scindia School, Gwalior; The Mann Public School, Delhi, KC Public School, Jammu; YPS, Mohali, Birla Public School, Pilani, Neerja Modi School, Jaipur; Colonel Satsangi Kiran Memorial School, Delhi. The Doon School, The Horizon School, Mussoorie Public School, The Doon Girls School; Mussoorie International School; The Oasis School; Manav Bharti India International; Vantage Hall Girls Residential School, were the participating schools from Dehradun and Mussoorie.

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