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NDA: Nursery of Leaders


By Brig Suyash Sharma (Retd)

It is the Amrit Kaal – 75 years of independence is being celebrated with fanfare and rightly so. Incidentally, another major milestone in the history of the Nation and Indian Armed Forces, in particular, coincides with this glorious year – the National Defence Academy also completes 75 years of its glorious journey. It is a saga unparalleled in the annals of history of an institution where bright young adolescent lads have embarked on their individual voyage of discovery and service to the nation.

The Joint Services Wing was raised in 1949 at Dehradun, in a first of its kind anywhere in the world experiment, where the training was envisaged in a joint manner for the cadets aspiring to join the three services Army, Navy and Air Force. It was a crucible to test the concept of “jointmanship”, the merits of which were discovered in the just concluded Second World War. That NDA has passed the test with flying colours is testimony to the “Idea of NDA”, akin to the ‘Idea of India’. An academy where boys from all parts of the country, and some from some friendly foreign countries as well, were put through the paces, who turned out to be tigers in the true sense of the word, in every battle they fought, be it in the United Nations Peace Keeping Operations, Indo-Pak conflicts, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Sino Indian War, Counter Insurgency in Jammu & Kashmir or the North East. They not only surprised the enemy by their indomitable courage but also laid down impeccable standards for others, covering the Indian Armed Forces and themselves with glory. The ‘Hut of Remembrance’ constructed as part of ‘Shramdaan’ by Cadets themselves to pay tribute to the brave alumni stands testimony to this commitment and pledge taken by each cadet passing out under the Quarter Deck with junior cadets perched on top of each step, cheering them on towards their individual glory in service to the nation. Over the years, it has become a routine affair for the three Service Chiefs to be from the same course in NDA giving a huge fillip to the cause of Jointmanship and Theatrisation, which is on the anvil in India.

It would be an understatement to call NDA the Cradle for Leadership, in fact it is much more than that, as the feeder institution to NDA, this institution is the “Nursery of Leaders”. Three officers from NDA have posthumously received the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest wartime gallantry award and eleven have won the Ashok Chakra, the highest gallantry award during peace time. Thirty Nine Maha Vir Chakras, 160 Vir Chakras, 40 Kirti Chakras and 135 Shaurya Chakras tell the tale of the heroic deeds of the once cadets of NDA, who lived a life in the service of the motherland. The majority of them were decorated posthumously making the supreme sacrifice living up to the Sanskrit adage, “Veer Bhogya Vasundhara” (The Brave inherit the World).

That NDA makes men out of boys is no secret. The fact that these boys, and girls also, now are persons of steel with unbounded courage and an unmatched spirit, they are a breed apart. So, if it is the first Indian in space – Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, AC, an ex-NDA, or the first sailboat, “Trishna”, circumnavigating the world, Maj KS Rao, SC, SM and Maj AK Singh, KC, SM ex-NDAs leading from the front. Rajyawardhan Singh Rathore won the Silver medal in Rifle Shooting in the Olympics and, later, went on to become an MP and a Cabinet Minister. Ex-NDAs have been at the forefront in all walks of life even after they have shed their uniform, helping the cause of nation building. Some have been appointed to gubernatorial office, while some others were sent on diplomatic assignments abroad, while many charted their own course in the field of academics, became captains of industry, sports persons of international fame and undertook social work – they have been contributing in every possible field wherever they are, truly living up to their motto of “Seva Parmo Dharmah” (Service Before Self).

Naturally true blue NDA alumni do not rest content with past glories alone, they tread on uncharted courses nonchalantly, be it Wing Commander Abhinandan, VrC, who shot down an F-16 of the Pakistan Air Force in a daring dogfight with his MIG 21 or Col B Santosh Babu, MVC, of the famous Galwan Sino Indian skirmish. Three cheers!!

NDA continues its quest for excellence and renews its pledge in this 75th year of its raising. Generation Z has their task cut out. It reminds me of the old ad “Do you have it in you, boys and girls?”

(Brig Suyash Sharma, VSM, an ardent Rimcollian is an alumnus of NDA. In his thirty five plus years of illustrious career, the officer
served in major instructional and staff appointments at all
levels. A prolific writer, he has two books and a number of articles to his credit, published in professional magazines as well as