The Greeks, John Murray writes in his Book, The History of India, have described Indians as tall and active. Their bravery was always spoken of as characteristic; their superiority in war to other Asiatics is repeatedly asserted and appears in more ways than one. They are said to be sober, moderate, peaceable, good soldiers, good farmers, remarkable for simplicity and integrity; so reasonable as never to have recourse to a law suit; and so honest as neither to require locks to their doors nor writings to bind their agreements. Above all no Indian was ever known to tell an untruth”. How soldierly our ancestors were.
However, what about the contemporary Indian society. Swapan Das Gupta in his forthright article in India Today, Aug’98 said “ Indians lack discipline and Civic sense”.
The Indian army because of its apolitical nature has often been confined to the cantonments & is therefore known to the civil society only through the electronic media and Hindi movies. The soldier for our society is like a sacrificial goat ; looked after by the Govt, who only knows how to use a weapon and do parade and is supposed to die while fighting the enemy. The officer for them is a habitual drunkard , keeps huge moustache, who parties around and laughs loudly. Little realizing that it requires hell of a Leadership skill to lead people to face fire. It is this reason why no eye brows were raised when 1500 soldiers were killed in Srilanka, and almost 20 times of this in J&K while fighting the Pakis and terrorists & unfortunately the leaders responsible for creating this mess are still revered by the Indian polity. I was therefore not surprised by the statements made by some ministers of Bihar Govt after the death of few soldiers on LOC by Pak army. Such leaders in US & UK would have been kicked out of politics forever.
Stephen Cohen while discussing about the Indian military traditions writes in his book The Indian Army “There are particularly two different sets of attitude towards military in India. Modern militarism and traditional militarism”. The modern militarism, he says, was the outcome of the realization that the Army is the symbol of state power and was an expression of national will which demanded equalitarian recruitment. This sentiment was more prominent in Bengal and Western India and thereafter grew in other regions. Whereas, the Traditional Militarism was confined to specific regions and castes. He further adds that, “As a result of agitation both in England and India the strength of Indians in ICS increased to the 5% of the total within a span of 15-20 years whereas during the same period although the lower ranks of Indian Army were mainly Indians but there representation in the officer cadre was much below 5% and it was not till late 20th century that there was some pressure from urban India”. This implies that Army was never a lucrative career for urbanite and educated Indian youth(except in some regions).
The confinement of Indian Army to barracks, limited military traditions coupled with indifferent attitude of urban youth towards military not only deprived the Indian civic society from imbibing military values and qualities, a soldier is known for but even our leaders looked at the soldiers with disdain. Nehruji in his Book Towards Freedom writes about the soldier “Bred in different atmosphere, where reins and criticism not tolerated, so he resents the advice of others and when he errs, errs thoroughly and persists in error. For him his chin is more important than brain or mind”. He further wrote about the military man who stiffening to attention, drops his humanity and acting as automation, shoots and kills inoffensive and harmless persons who have done him no ill”. Surprisingly, he the pillar of Indian Democracy never listened to any one’s advise when it came to China and J&K and therefore erred completely. And the nation is still suffering because of his mistake; He did not listen to anyone. A leader’s worth is known when he is long gone.
Militarism does not only mean a belief to use a weapon and do parade. It stands for discipline, loyalty, brotherhood, honesty straightforwardness, moral courage, sacrifice and even-handedness. This lack of interest in military affairs and scant regard for military values has adversely affected the civic society, its institutions as well as the military. After having taken premature retirement from army I have really felt the need for our countrymen in civil to learn some thing from their own army men, but I felt they are scared to learn from us because most of them have been brought up in an environment which encourages indiscipline, treachery, deceit, craftiness and guile. In 2007, I had gone to Bangalore to attend a training programme on Business Excellence Model organized by CII(Confederation of Indian Industry). There I met an MD of a logistic company who was very impressed with the Armed forces supply chain management system. I was first surprised with his knowledge of armed forces and so asked him about the source. He said, he visits US often and there he attended lectures conducted by US armed forces officers on logistic management.
Indian army which is spread over thousands of Kms and deployed in such inhospitable terrain, has any logistic company or for that matter any company employed army guys to manage their stores and supply chain, if there are any, I know for sure one can count them on finger tips. Armed forces are equipment oriented organisation, every man in armed forces carries an equipment, it has 10 lakh employees spread over thousands of kms, and we do not hire people from IITs and IIMs even then we are innovative, and effective under all conditions, we maintain our equipment and do logistic planning, audit the accounts, manage CSDs, transport etc. we are flexible as far as the planning is concerned but not on values. Compulsory military training for most of the Indians is an anathema primarily because firstly , they are not aware, what armed forces can give them in terms of learning and experience. secondly, as a society, Values have little importance unlike Japanese or some Western countries.So, we are branded as Rigid.
The study of British history reveals that the British Society, has not only strived hard for the creation of various institutions, including Military, but for numerous other reasons have imbibed those qualities, for which a soldier is known for but which are anathema to our civic society. Don’t we all appreciate the sense of duty and discipline of the British and the Japanese.
Shri C Rajgopalachari mentioned in his prison diary in 1922 “ Elections and their corruption, injustice and the power and tyranny of wealth and inefficiency of administration will make hell of life as soon as freedom is given to us. Men will look regretfully back to the old regime of comparative justice and efficient, peaceful more or less honest administration. The only thing gained from independence will be that as a race we will be saved from dishonor and subordination”. Did the British acquire these qualities from their historical military traditions or they are inherently justice loving and disciplined. Is there any relation between military traditions, militarism that has helped the societies become disciplined, apolitical, justice loving, honest and diligent.
The tactical and strategic goof ups and excessive casualties have never been a cause of concern for the Indian polity as well as media to make it an election issue during any of the Indian elections and as a result Indian polity has never punished the political leaders for ; referring the J&K issue to the UN, declaring cease fire in J&K in 1948, humiliating defeat in 1962, not settling the J&K issue once for all in 1972, inducting Indian troops in Sri Lanka in 1987 in a hurry without basic logistic planning and preparation, attacking Golden Temple when the same objectives could have been achieved by some other method as achieved by Mr Ved Marwah the very next year ;1985, and for fighting the Kargil war in a manner it shouldn’t have been fought.
As a matter of fact strategy has never been our domain. Nehruji also after the ignominious defeat in 1962 remarked’ We were living in our own make believe world’. The recent Chinese incursions and Pak belligerence at LOC has once again shown that we are still continuing to grope in that make believe world. Remember, when Mr George Fernandez had said Its China which is our enemy Number One, the media and our arm chair scholars who are Bhakts of Congress and Rajeev Gandhi who was instrumental in initiating the peace process got after him. Historically also except the great strategist Chanakaya, we have not produced any military thinker unlike the Chinese, British and Germans. However, we can boast of number of legendary warriors who laid down their lives fighting the enemy. Probably, as India attained freedom through peaceful means, few Indian leaders had the vision and experience like the British with the application of Force and its relationship to statecraft and diplomacy. Those who had the vision and took interest in military matters were politically marginalized (Stephen Cohen ; India Emerging Power).
We Indians as a result seem to have no strategy to deal with our inimical neighbors, and to project India as a power. We therefore live from crisis to crisis; sometimes China fingers us and sometimes Pakistan, as highlighted by Pak’s ability to wage unconventional war against India with impunity for such a long time. We are Even unable to truly exercise power and influence the behavior of our neighbors, which are being used for anti India activities by China and Pakistan. We are being pushed in from all sides.
If the taxpayer is not concerned about how the security forces are spending his hard earned money the consequences can be disastrous. Hajendra Baweja in her book; The soldier’s Diary while blaming the entire set up for the Kargil war says, ‘Maybe this diary will expose those responsible. But who will pay the price? My overwhelming fear is that the sacrifices of so many brave soldiers will have been in vain.
Can the armed forces alone be blamed for all the strategic goof ups? Or it should be shared by the civic society as well, to include the media and the political organizations as well as the government.
Stephen Cohen in his book, Emerging Power: India says, “No other country has ever engaged in as lengthy wide ranging and intensive discussions as India did before it crossed various nuclear thresholds. This was when its neighbor with whom it had fought a war had become nuclear in 1967. Probably, under the influence of the moral precepts the Indian establishment does not possess the expertise to deal with such concepts as limited nuclear war or deterrence.
Few arm chair scholars while praising India for its greatness often boast that India has never conquered territories but the influence of its culture has spread far and wide to distant lands, little realising that only an economically developed and militarily powerful country can sell its culture, a weak nation can not. (The Clash of Civilisations By Samuel Huntington). Asoka, the Great sold Buddhism to the World when he became the Emperor after the Battle of Kalinga and the Cholas could spread Indian culture to South East Asian nations because they were powerful Kings, and had strong navy.
Thus the contemporary India which is corrupt and seems to be aping West in every aspect is in no position to have any influence on its neighbors whether it adopts Gujral doctrine or not. Although, economically India may appear to be on a rising path, however it is far from becoming a world power in its true sense. A country where after every monsoons children die of dengue and chickengunia can never become a super power. We need to work out a strategy to project India as a power and in order to do that there is an urgent need to overhaul the entire setup and develop strategic vision for the future. One may not want the country to become only militarily powerful but it should be a nation where people are happy and there is no suffering.
Brahma Chellany, a renowned strategist says, “In spite the economic progress, India can neither wait half a century to be heard with respect internationally nor can rising prosperity by itself bring power and respect as exemplified by today’s Japan, which faces a dwindling international profile inspite remaining the world’s second largest economic power house. There is hence a need to project national power through an integrated approach, which utilises the military, economic, cultural, social, political & technology levers.
It is only then that the world would listen to us and we would be able to spread our values, our culture to far off areas as the Cholas and Emperor Ashok did. Can we not work together to become innovative, discover and invent new horizons and technologies, develop innovative methods of improving governance rather than singing all the time the old song of SECULARISM and finding ways to damage the reputation of people who have the passion to make India a powerful nation.