Wars represent the worst of humanity. However, ironically, and depending on the circumstances in which war has broken out, the soldiers sometimes represent one of the highest virtues a human can acquire: selflessness. As history has shown us, often their only motivation to fight is that the people back home can sleep peacefully.
As civilians, it is our responsibility to never find peace in that. Our safety should not come at the cost of their lives.
This selflessness, though, can open their minds in a way that most people would not understand. They realise that the soldier on the other side has a lot in common with them. Both bound by their duty to their nation, both hoping they get to see their loved ones again. It is out of this commonality, that they end up making gestures such as the one we are going to discuss.
During the Kargil War, Indian Army officer, Brigadier M.P.S. Bajwa, did something that was unheard of at the time. He wrote a letter to the Pakistan government, appreciating the efforts of Captain Karnal Sher Khan and it was this letter that earned the Pakistani officer Nishan-e-Haider, the highest gallantry award in his country.
Brigadier M.P.S. Bajwa was in charge of capturing Tiger Hill, an important base for both countries and while the early success made the goal seem within reach, it was Captain Khan’s persistence that made things tough for the Indian Army.
Ultimately, and in a big war victory, India was able to capture Tiger Hill, killing many Pakistani soldiers in the process, including Captain Khan.
When the bodies were being brought down to the base, Brigadier M.P.S. Bajwa found a letter to Khan from his wife, written in Urdu – and when his body was being sent to Delhi, the Indian officer expressed the desire to hand it over to Pakistan with a note appreciating the bravery of their soldier.
The Brigadier was allowed to do so. Things did get difficult when Pakistan refused to accept the body to maintain the stand that its Army was not involved in the war, but later, it accepted the fact and awarded Khan with Nishan-e-Haider.
Touched by the gesture, Khan’s family wrote back to the Indian Army, thanking it for honouring their son.
It’s instances like this that show us how humans can find a way to be empathetic, in the ugliest of situations and that, if we were to encourage this empathy, instead of forcing people to fight, kill and die, we’d be living in a very different kind of world.