Thursday, January 1, 2015

Bargaining with the Soldier

Lt-Gen Harwant singh ( Retd )

First it was the then officiating defence minister Shri Jaitley, who, during his meeting with a delegation of veterans, told them to lower their demand for One Rank One Pension, (OROP) Now the present defence minister, speaking the same language mentioned that OROP could be considered once this figure is lowered to 80% of what is being demanded. Further he is of the view that pension cannot be hiked with every Pay Commission rise of pay.

The question haunts us as to why we continue to be so ambivalent about national security on the one hand and continue with our efforts at weakening and demoralizing the military on the other!

        Why this bargaining with the soldiers! Little does the defence minister seem to know how badly the soldier in India has, over the time, been disadvantaged and soldiering as a profession made so, grievously unattractive. He seems unaware of the fact that veterans are dying early and to what extent they are financially disadvantaged?

        In its very elementary terms and at the cutting edge, national security boils down to two factors, the gun and the man behind the gun.  That is, military weapons, equipment, defence infrastructure and the quality and morale of the men who wield these instruments of war. On both counts all governments after independence have failed to deliver this most basic of its duties.

Had Pakistan not started the Kashmir war in 1947, Nehru and his government would have, in all probability, done away with the military and relied only on police, as he once famously articulated that India did not need an army and that police could attend to security needs of the country. Eventually, as noted by Jaswant Singh in his book, Defending India, Nehruvian foreign policy did not leave a legacy of a stable security environment, or even secure frontiers. What it did as a legacy was ambivalence, ambiguity and an uncertain and apprehensive filled future.

       Chinese gave Nehru a lesson or two in 1962, and left him to rue over his slogan of Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai, and notions of a new world order.  The shocks delivered by the Chinese reduced him to a derelict. Yet subsequent governments did not learn enough. Yes we did scrape through in 1965, and in 1971, were able to exploit Pakistan’s great disadvantage in its Eastern Wing.
Historically India has, over the centuries, neglected national security and suffered an unbroken chain of military defeats, at the hands of invading armies, spread over a period of two thousand years. The last time India won against a foreign army of consequence was in 303 BC when Chandragupta Maurya defeated Seleucus Nicator, Alexander’s general.  An over simplification of this complex military situation can have its own pitfalls and lead to inappropriate and invalid conclusions. Yet the question haunts us as to why we continue to be so ambivalent about national security on the one hand and continue with our efforts at weakening and demoralizing the military on the other!

Stephen argues that a highly divided society that has not shared threat perception, will always produce a weak army.

      Stephen Peter Rosen, a professor at Harvard, in his book,Societies and Military Power India and Her Armies, argues that a highly divided society that has no shared threat perception, will always produce a weak army. He goes on to argue that British successes in 18th and 19th centuries in India were not due to superior technology, because Indian guns and muskets were superior. Indian sword too was of better quality, second only to steel from Damascus.

The most persistently obvious cause for India’s poor war record was complete lack of national security perspective. Philip Mason, ICS in his book, A Matter of Honour, dilating on the nature of Indian state, writes, no one gave thought to the best means of providing an army that would protect the state faithfully or to finding a system of tactics that would bring victory. Elsewhere he contemplates, It was neither in personnel nor in technology where did India’s disadvantage lie. He goes on, to say, I believe in ideas about war, in the nature of organizations of armies and in the end in politics and the kind of governments that had grown up in India. One can fast forward to present day and find little change.

       Since independence a concerted and sustained effort has been made to denigrate the military and strip it of honour and pride. Upto fifties a brigadier drew more pension that the chief secretary of a state. A decade later chief secretary was given status of a two star general and now that of an army commander! The police, notwithstanding the law, prohibiting copying of military ranks and uniform etc, has gone overboard in copying army’s field uniform and badges of rank on the one hand, in cohorts with the bureaucracy, managed to establish untenable equivalence with various military ranks in the officer cadre on the other. All this has resulted in lowering the standing of the military and caused un-necessary confusion in the public mind.

      The needs and necessities of the military when aired were severely criticized and never heeded. Consequently this downward slide continued.

Kautilya treatise on war, which influenced Indian Mind for better part of two thousand years, eulogized the stratagem of deceit, double crossing, treachery, sabotage, bribery and much else. He propagated that, intrigue is better than power and treachery over open war. The application of these techniques came to be applied more internally than against the invaders. During quarter of a century of campaigning in the Deccan, Aurangzeb took far greater number of forts through bribery and intrigue than assault. We produced a perennial crop of Jai Chands, Mir Jaafars and Lal Singhs and they proliferate to this day: working against own military.
On the other hand, we neither have state of the art technology nor a motivated manpower in our military.  We have over a period of time downgraded and profession of arms to an extent that it no more draws suitable candidates for entry into its cadres.  Not content with what has already been achieved against this profession, we now want to bargain with what little is left of it!

      Winston Churchill once wrote, that, Indian army is not so much an arm of the executive branch as it is of the Indian people.  Military professionals have an obligation to ensure that the political leaders are counseled and alerted to the needs and necessities of military life. This cannot be done by adhering to the notion that military profession is silent order of monks, isolated from the political realm.

The needs and necessities of the military when aired were severely criticized and never heeded. Consequently this downward slide continued. In India a class of politicians and journalists have grown up who have come to form the view that for the military, it is not to reason why and that they know all about national security! Consequently the public at large is none the wiser and continues to remain oblivious of the true state of national security.

       The ministry of defence and CGDA etc are busy working out varying monetary implications for implementing OROP. Did anyone take into account, the financial implications, when Non Functional Up-gradation was sanctioned for nearly four dozen civil services or when MPs periodically jack up their pay, perks and pension. So why bargain with the military for what is long overdue to it. The defence minister need look after his charge and not be beguiled by the babu.

This Article appeared in Indian Defence Review on 01.01.2015


  1. The tradition of defeat which replaced the tradition of gallantry thousand of years back is currently heavily fuelled by adversial deliberate degradation of the Military . A stage is not very far off when the Soldier dies of nothing and for nothing. We must face the music for outsourcing welfare to others

  2. If u cannot look after a woman then don't marry.Similarly if u cannot look after your soldiers then don't keep an army, invite other nations to take care of us, so that our security of citizens is safe incl our politicians.Keeping a Army is an expensive business as compared to all the money swindled by the politicians and the likes of engineers as shri yadav,GOD SAVE THIS COUNTRY.