A recent article written by a respectable author got me thinking.In response, this is what I have to say…http://www.dailyo.in/politics/indian-army-indian-air-force-royal-air-force-pakistan-indian-military/story/1/12074.html
As one takes time to assimilate the several issues that the writer swipes at with flourish and abandon I am overcome simultaneously with sincere anger and grudged admiration at the hurtful truths seeing the light of public knowledge.After this start, I hastily sit back to collect my thoughts ,unjumble my personal experiences while in the Indian Air Force with some readings of different but related matters.And then this anger I find changes colour:only my admiration is transformed into distress for the author writes neither as an academic, defence analyst or journalist. For all of these demanding vocations would call for a basis, substance of content,sources, verifiable evidence, if any, historical proof or cause for the alarming suppositions made.
Has has he carried out any form of investigation legitimate or otherwise, research of any or several units of the Armed Forces (which includes the Army, Air Force and the Navy), interviews or misread autobiographies of Indian military soldiers? Apart from this being a daunting exercise as one commonly understands the Defence Sector is infamously (and with a lot of truth in it!) reticent or downright tight lipped about its own matters. Nothing gets on to the public domain quite that easily, notwithstanding, the many leaks that mischievous and motivated bureaucrats or politicians at the behest of greedy arms dealers do. Bureaucrats in the recent past have been making a beeline to publish never before known facts once retired to curry favours or seek rehabilitation appointments with the different dispensations. Some from the military try doing this for similar rewards but, with not too many dividends generally, unless they helped inking some questionable military deals. Seldom, the military big wigs manage producing readable (sensational?) memoirs(anyways) barring the few that spilled over as an aftermath of the Chinese fiasco. The rest have been generally hagiographies or handouts to be read out by official spokesmen. Unless, of course, the author has been reading too much into the Pakistani propaganda machine.
So what does he get on the table to show as proof? Visits to inaccessible libraries that house hitherto, undisclosed documents a la Assange,snooping inside sealed battle rooms, studies of Socialist people’s armies, the many books or introspective blogs, research articles, plethora of magazines, declassified Pentagon documents or personal accounts of senior White House officials or generals? No. Instead he refers to a couple of American authors that most may not have read and some off-the cuff anecdotes probably heard in the quiet, dark corners of the Delhi Gymkhana or Secunderabad RSI,Bangalore Club Bars with intelligent, aging but volatile colonels ,Airy Marshals or the Naval dapper boys as per his social skills.
In the end, however, we are left gasping and wide-eyed at Mr. Guruswamy’s supposed erudition(of military aspects) and cleverly plagiarized thumbnail sketches of what ails the military in the US of A as the carte blanche for his righteous and penetrating no-holds-barred revelation. Facetiously, he also flashes a road map with answers to twisted questions purportedly the military never knew, and never asked.
I would therefore use this article to contradict the basic thesis of failure of leadership and its hidebound,unquestioned command; defend the practice and ethos of generalship ;draw attention to systemic issues and from the arising issues pose more serious questions that have been evidently glossed over, perhaps by design or in the enthusiasm to be the first to inform a sensation hungry readership .This sudden or startling discovery is actually an open secret. The ostensible argument is reform of a colonial and archaic mindset. Modernisation, induction of cutting edge technology, deep selection and injection of the new and daring performance- based foot soldiers challenging the status quo and doing away with a servile culture. Very honourable all this, surely! Which right thinking patriot will have quarrel on that?
But, in recent times we see a curious interest from informed and powerful circles to let leak or slip out of the old oak unlocked cupboards some selective ideas to cleverly but deviously weaken the supposedly, impenetrable military monolith. In the guise of reform Trojan horses are being let loose in full public view to question a hallowed temple of disciplined, battle-tested, sacrificing army of trained people with demonstrated performances.Witness the media deluge and unsubstantiated reportage of divisions within the military,on inadequate pensions created or existing between officers and men,attempted coups by moving tanks and troops around Delhi,how the para-military is at par and similar with them and diverting the central question of the insinuations of the of politically supported bureaucracies,scams in Sukna Land Deals,the former Chief of the Air Staff cutting deals in helicopter purchases ,military excesses in Internal security duties and the turf wars within and intra-services,retired army soldiers and generals mouthing party backed definitions of sovereignty and nationalism within hallowed University Campuses and in staged media discussions among other things.
It is my endeavour to underline in the subsequent paragraphs some problems that have intrigued me and which debilitates the overall military functioning when unjustifiably these are put at the the door of the Generals alone. The intention is also to bring to attention that there are systemic and perhaps misunderstood constitutional definitions or interpretations that would not quite easily be wished away even by the “young Turks” of the future military as the author so casually recommends.
It is not common knowledge today that the Armed Forces are sworn by the Constitution to be the sword arm of the government of the day against the enemy at the borders . They are bound by various articles of the Constitution to curb their inalienable right to freedom of speech via the Official Secrets Act .No other service para-military or civil is limited thus who are to ensure law and order within the country. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 is a creation of all the bureaucrats and politicians for performing the thankless duty within its pristine borders against its own people. At all times the fiction of” aid to civil power” is made alive and mischievously enforced through the military whilst with civil officials are in the lead and by express government fiat. Thereafter, the mess so often the result of civil and political misgovernance or mishandling is left to be cleared by the bayonets of the Armed Forces. In such a volatile and often violent scenario excess is an undesired consequence. It is then conveniently argued from a colonial standpoint for law and order enforcement from the comforts of plush offices while the military is left to live with public disfavour and ignominy . In my knowledge several commanders have voiced similar or more courageous dissensions risking careers and promising futures.These have been overlooked or deliberately canned as opinions of the over sensitive or disgruntled .Resultant, the young, bold and the experienced old are all consumed in this pathetic orgy of avoidable public duty or to be seen struggling in constituencies not of their own making or choice. Counter Insurgency in Kashmir and North East, fight against so called left adventurism and militancy ,communal riots, natural disasters and so many others that needlessly exposes the hitherto, sequestered military to sticky situations and tricky compromises which only the clever and seasoned civilian counterparts both in the bureaucracy and politics are adept at and lawfully sanctioned to act upon.It is my attempt to question the increasing politicization, of the Armed Forces Yes,Not military but politics should be in command.Also it needs to be clearly understood that it is not the bureaucracy or the ruling party’s ideology that sets the agenda.But the government of the day.That is the constitutional obligation of the military to be responsible to. It is to safeguard the nation from external dangers : for like one Major General had opined,” aid to civil power”, with the use of arms by the military is that of attending a patient when in the ICU!
What would the young and fresh ideation do to undo this doctrine in perpetuity?
It is also common knowledge that the simplest way to expend money without detailed audits or the prying private eyes is investing in purchase of modern weapons to wage wars or defend. The question is who makes this battle strategy? Generals or those in the political ops room doctored and guided by motivated intelligence officials, arms merchants or their surrogates? Wars and enemies are decided not on military chessboards. If India wants or does not, a Blue Water Navy, a mountain Brigade, surgical strikes outside of its borders, the latest in Drones or to stretch its threadbare, non-existent capability up to the South China seas up in the East or up to the Gulf of Aqaba in the west or Madagascar in the south is not a military decision. They only prepare and submit blue prints of the probability of successes and associated requirements on the basis of their hands-on experience,knowledge of war and strategies thereof,personal acumen and vision dovetailed to an overarching, but unquestioned national perspective decided by the authorities of higher direction of war honed to plan and fight on drawing boards .Men and weapons are bought or sold tragically , thereafter at the altar of patriotism and jingoistic nationalism in direct proportion to the ever growing needs of the political master.
What would then these uncluttered minds now trained with the Delta Forces in Fort Bragg ,on Board the Nimitz Class Super Carriers ,the space age fighter jets or those exposed to the doctrines of inter-operability across continents in joint missions with the dominant super power, do to recognize and identify enemies independently and without political interference, determine its perceived frontiers and thereafter requisition military funding and support?
The gradual decline of the importance of the Armed Forces in the scheme of things of an independent democratic India as an apolitical arm of the government has led to some worthy and many unwanted changes in its ethos. It is mistakenly believed that it is no business of the military to know and understand things political. Therefore it may come as a surprise (scandalous too!) to many, of what has been suggested in the arguments made so far. That the syllabus, curriculum, training, instructors or speakers at some of its august institutions like National Defense Academy, Staff College Wellington, College of Defense Management and other Higher Defense Courses are mostly from the military .This leads to a mechanical,uncritical,unanalyzed study of the military battles at home and abroad goes without saying .Instead they are just limited to the conventional and uni- dimensional count of lives lost,a preparation of a laundry list of destruction caused and inventory of weapons damaged or consumed and territories occupied. Whatever seminars or guest lectures are conducted do not debate or discuss the alternative points of view with regard to Nuclear weaponisation and the colossal costs to life and property involved, of the possible positive fallout in pursuing nonaligned politics or in the efficacy of Asian alignments, normalization of relations with China ,de-militarising the Siachin Glacier, Kashmir or humanizing AFSPA, of the humongous costs involved in a poor third world country while pursuing aggressive and a militant foreign policy. What is Sovereignty, nationalism and Patriotism historically and how is it understood today in the light of recent controversies? Do we need aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, many Brigades or Division for Para trooping or even the C-17’s which are meant for global deployment. Yes the author may be right here to suggest that the unwritten understanding is any soldier or officer tabling such views is surely to attract uncomfortable attention to begin with in his entire career that is to follow. The Civilian bureaucrats in sharp contradistinction,however, who attend these courses have much to learn and feel empowered enough to dictate and read out actions to be taken in the event of war subsequently. Where is the enriching and meaningful equivalent of exchange in training with for the military that the Civil Services are exposed to?These are face saving military exchanges at best that achieve nothing more than to be public relation exercises of goodwill hunting if you please ,through sharing of some attractive mementos and plaques , of some designer uniforms in vogue and conducted tours of places of tourist interest goes without saying. Everyone ends up happy. The conclusions are the same except with newer photos or fresh sand models, cut and paste dissertations adorned with some superficial gimmicks of adaption of digital technology.The military continues to wither in its own,self created blind tunnels of pedagogy, isolated and cocooned mentally in a time-warped learning system.
So will that deprived young be radical enough to ring in the change?
We all know of “career” and “professional” officers that the author claims to have known while abroad.How the problem of promotion and vacancies are to be resolved is far more deeper problem than this flippant suggestion.What about the troops and other ranks ? Why do they continue to be loyal?Do we not need to do away with the exclusivity of the Officers’ Messes?Do we need to revisit the histories of regiments, its ancient and suspect traditions and determine the insalubrious roles during various colonial wars like Sepoy Mutiny,Jallianwallah Bagh,Royal Indian Naval Mutiny,battles in the North East and Burma with the Indian National Army?What has been the views of the celebrated leadership on such and other matters?How do we look back into an uncomfortable past?
The author is enamoured of the corporations
and its efficient, swift and merciless interventions to reward merit and do away with redundancy. It insults my intelligence to liken thus for the military among other things chooses to die as part of his job description. I dread to quantify what the multi-digit earning, casual,jean clad,torn shoes wearing finance or risk analysts of the self-seeking industry( read Corporate) would assess the value to be? The American Flag screams the same outrage. Karl Marlantes, the much decorated American war veteran turned writer in his book “Matterhorn” on Vietnam with great existential verity says”You don’t show up for work at McDonald’s, who cares? and what if you were not with your buddies; there, were the bullets fly……
Military historians or theoreticians need to learn from post-colonial alternative narrative methodologies based upon multidisciplinary approaches( which include sociology, anthropology, developmental economics, folk lore and religious texts, forensic sciences, archaeology ,carbon dating) that help us arrive at an understanding in a rational and verifiable way our shared pasts, to live and analyse the present and envisage definable futures.
Institutional inadequacies and inherited legacies plague our forward path.Generals alone cannot carry the burden of blame and singular responsibility. In this all agencies including, bureaucracies, politicians, corporates along with the civil society in general needs to sit down, deliberate and change to help fulfil the constitutional duties of the Military as ordained or envisaged by our constitutional forefathers. Therefore without asking substantial questions and seeking their answers instead through superficial and clever generalizations could be read at best as mischievous while one agrees a lot has to change !
And if you are left wondering what is the fight about read what Admiral Arun Prakash had to say here