Feature Article of Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Columnist: Budhwar, Ravi

A Happy Independence Day to all Ghanaians

As Ghana celebrates its 56th Independence Day on 6 March, I am privileged to experience the true spirit in Accra. I am happy to be part of the celebrations of an independent, democratic nation, which bears many similarities to my home country, India.

I can feel the vibrant democratic mood in the humble Ghanaian people as the political leadership steers the common man towards new economic independent


The defense forces on ground, on the high seas and from the air, watch over the

people, reassuring them of their dedication and commitment to fiercely protect

the hard earned independence.

Ghana is a role model in the region, being the first nation to get independence and more importantly maintain an independent status for 56 years. It is not an easy task for the people to get independence; it is even tougher to maintain the status. The African continent has many examples to the contrary.

I salute the people of Ghana for the determination and grit to buck the trend of

the region and shine like a beacon; a true “leader of independence &

democracy “for other nations to follow.

Independence in a growing democracy does not merely mean not being ruled by someone else. As independence ages the effort to maintain it gets tougher. The young independent generation, perceives and conceives this very differently. For them economic independence, freedom of speech and decision making become key result areas, clubbed with a hunger to be free from the basic human needs of 'ROTI, KAPADA & MAKAN' in Hindi or “FOOD, CLOTHES & HOUSE" in English.

While no parallels can be drawn between any two nations/countries or races, lessons can definitely be learnt. India and Ghana have lots in common. Besides being erstwhile colonies, their economy and mainstay jobs depend on the

agricultural sectors. Natural resources like oil and gas do also contribute to

economic independence. The two nations have also a very unique pre-independence common factor. Very strangely and interestingly Ghana had no

connection or cause to share this common factor - The 'Burma' factor.

Driving through the Accra Cantonments I was intrigued and inquisitive on seeing the board 'Burma Camp'. Being an ex-Officer from the Indian Army, I could not help walking into the Army cantonment. My curiosity unraveled a unique common factor between India and Ghana. Both the nations soldiers contributed in

stopping the unstoppable march forward of the Japanese Imperial armed forces in

the inhospitable jungles of Burma, in the crucial stage of the Second World War.

Imagine the Ghana army sailing across the seas to fight an unknown enemy in

unknown environment, inhospitable terrain for an unknown cause.

In 1944 a simple-thinking 'non-independent' Ghanaian or Indian soldier was

perhaps not allowed to think or question why, as the saying goes: “ours

is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die".

I salute the personnel of 2 Infantry brigades of the West African Division who in 1944 travelled more than halfway across the globe to fight for

the independence from imperialistic rule, to fight for a cause for humanity.

Interestingly the brigade formed part of the XV India Corps and fought alongside Indian soldiers. The badge of the African Division was a “black spider on a yellow circle “a reference to ‘Ananse’ the mythology Ashanti character.

Perhaps the experience gained in a far away land by the brave soldiers of Ghana “passed on as legacy" to future generations to finally claim and morally fight for their own independence.

I wonder how many siblings of soldiers of the 2 Infantry Brigade followed the

honorable tradition of joining the armed forces in the footsteps of their fore

fathers. I will certainly try to meet with them and bond with them.

I was fortunate to follow my father’s footsteps, who was an officer in the

pre-independent Indian Army and fought in the famous Burma campaign as part

of the Chindits Force of the second world war and got wounded in battle. As

a young boy, I was fortunate to hear first hand vivid details from my father,

about fighting in inhospitable environment of the Burma jungles. He would

always commend the cohesiveness of the multi-cultural allied forces and had a

lot of respect for the fighting spirit of the “ghost Japanese soldier”. He

would call them the ghosts and masters in the art of jungle warfare.

In true tradition my two elder brothers followed my father’s footsteps to become

officers of General and Brigadier rank in an Independent Indian Army

and fought more wars to fiercely protect the Independence of sovereign India.

Credit and appreciation is in order to another common factor of India and Ghana of the 1940's the British soldier and officer cadre, who taught us the art of modern warfare and to fight for a common cause.

I am sure the Ghana defense forces, during peace time have to face huge challenges, as the very meaning of the word Independence changes with the changing times.

In a fast-changing world, the Indian Army has had to be very flexible, learning

fast and changing its mindset to face internal and external challenges. The

war is now unconvectional warfare. The control of the armed forces having

passed from the colonial rulers to the political leadership, it is creditable

for the democratic political leadership of both countries as also for the

military leadership to maintain the fine balance and immense respect for

maintaining a real independence decorum for the masses. Both our nations

have neighbors and countries that have followed different paths.

It is a very safe and warm atmosphere that engulfs an expat in Ghana. It is an

environment of peace and happiness; in spite of day to day hardships for want

of basic amenities, a challenge to be met and solved in any growing economy.

There is a sense of growing prosperity among the masses and a message of

promise to “do more" from the political leadership.

There is a lot to learn from a normal Ghanaian. The definitions of contentment,

patience, blessing, hope and to succeed by following the right path are so

humbly expressed in spoken words and in writing. I am touched by positive

phrases on shops, cars and dialogue like “Look what God has done", “God has a

plan" and many more.

A very happy Independence Day to all Ghanaians.

Lt Col Ravi Budhwar: A travelling Soul on Soles

(Retired, Indian Army)