Defence forces are pillar of Democracy. In a democracy, the military should not be under bureaucracy’s thumb. Just like the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, it should be a pillar of democracy, a strategic part of the governing structure.
The political leadership of any democracy needs to be respectful of the Nation’s Defence forces. The Indian defence forces are an example of professional expertise and are respected across the world. The Indian mass in particular and the world strategic leadership has time and again shown great admiration for the Indian Defence and Security forces.In a very laudable move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spearheaded the ‘Sandesh to Soldiers’ campaign to convey the nation’s love and greetings to our men and women in uniform, in a campaign planned to coincide with Diwali.
The military establishment is and will always be more competent and capable as compared to the civil bureaucracy. One just needs to see the record of the accomplishment of Indian Defence Forces during World War I and II, the Peace Keeping Operations in various countries and Post-Independence safeguarding of India’s sovereignty. With limited resource, they have done exemplary work both in War and Peace. The Indian defence forces are a role model for any nation that gained independence post-World War II.
The selection process of National Defence Academy and Military Academy is far more rigorous and the training far more comprehensive than what the potential bureaucrat’s go through. The soldier is known for his integrity and devotion to work. After a distinguished career in the forces, the Indian soldier is much sought after in the private sector, due to his discipline and learning curve he inculcated during active service. Our defence forces have been a unifying force that brings together young men from across the nation. Any responsible modern power, that does not care much for the standing of its military, will find it difficult to safeguard its national interest. Time has come to free the forces from bureaucrat’s control.
The real problem is the Bureaucracy with a Nehruvian mindset that has consciously worked to put the defence forces and security agencies under its thumb. Time and again the bureaucracy has attempted to assault the merit in the defence forces and its culture of assimilation of diversity.
The stalling of OROP till 2014, routinely putting hurdles in defence procurements and arms acquisition and stalling modernization of forces are some real examples, not to mention the glaring attempts at belittling our real heroes. The Indian environment is delicately balanced, with the military being in the news due to the challenging prevalent security environment and its pre-eminence in nation-building. The need of the hour is to make the defence forces be part of the establishment by involving them in shaping the emerging India - an assertive India free of cronyism.
The fact can’t be ignored that there is an unhealthy civil-military divide in India. The Kargil Review Committee was perhaps the first body that acknowledged the expertise and professionalism that uniformed personnel could bring to the workings of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Among the major recommendations was the one asking for integration of service headquarters in the MoD, thereby making uniformed personnel integral members of the ministry.
Sadly, the outcome led by our bureaucracy has been a perfunctory renaming of service headquarters to a convoluted sounding Integrated Headquarters of MoD (Army/ Navy/ Air Force), which too is just in name with no lateral placement of service or civilian personnel having been effected. In fact, bureaucrats are loath to serve under uninformed people as seen by the fact that no IAS or IFS officer coming to the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), even though vacancies exist for them. Unfortunately, in Indian context civilian control has come about to mean bureaucratic control due to the lack of vital political involvement in civil-military balance Thus, the deep sense of self-esteem that is ingrained in the Forces, and is the basis for the esprit de corps that motivates a soldier to lay his life on the line, has become a casualty. This, our prime minister must address.
It’s important to expose our civilian administration to the unique military environment for some time so that they can know. This can be brought about by taking three basic steps. First, true integration at MoD must be effected, with uniformed personnel tenanting important appointments. Thus, a proposal being mooted by a young Colonel working in the Space Cell of IDS could be routed to a Joint Secretary IAS officer who in turn reports to an Air Marshal or a Vice Admiral working as an Additional Secretary in MoD – the Kargil Review Committee recommends just that. Second, within the civilian bureaucracy, a pool of officers specialising in defence matters must be created, so that we do not have the case of first exposure to the military being at the level of defence secretary. And third, the political leadership should consider a more hands-on approach to the running of the defence ministry so that true democratic control is exercised. Prime Minister Modi has an understanding of the issues faced by our soldiers and officers in uniform. The bureaucracy must take a cue from his spending successive Diwali in border post with soldiers and correct the present imbalance.
It's time our Prime Minister corrects the Himalayan Blunder of the past regime and catches the proverbial bull by the horn and applies himself to smoothen the civil-military relation. Anomalies lingering from the 6th Pay Commission of 2006 (not to mention the 7th CPC) do not convey a good feeling and there is bad blood about the reduction of disability pension. Besides giving them a strategic role in the security strategy we need to involve the Indian defence forces in our nation building process.
We as a nation must send the message that we are for the permanence of professional empathy for the forces and they are the part of the process of shaping the destiny of India. The civil and Military wing needs to work together along with others for the progress of India.
The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily represent the views of NewsBharati