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Indian Armed Forces Officer — A Breed Apart
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Lt Gen A K Singh | Date:21 Jun , 2017 0 Comments

Of late the Indian Army has been in the news more than what is desirable. Whilst some focus on important issues is to be expected in todays transparent world, some of the issues taken up by overenthusiastic TV channels and anchors have left us all perplexed.

The armed forces are composed of essentially two elements : Human & Material resources, each having many related facets. This article will focus on, what in my opinion, remains the most important and critical to the well being and effectiveness of the organization- “ The Leadership”.

As Leadership is a vast domain, one has chosen to dwell on an important segment, The Officers, to highlight what they stand for. Let me also state at the outset, the soldier/sailor/airmen are the fundamental strength of any armed force and in our case, we are fortunate to haveone of the best in the world.However,its  the officer who hones them during peace and leads them in war. Infact there is a saying that a soldier will be as good as the leader who trains, motivates and leads him.

A prospective officer is selected through a vigorous and transparent process. Apart from the written he/she goes through the services selection board which tests their potential in the physical, mental and moral domains. The methodology is under constant scrutiny and revision. The training process is very comprehensive and vigorous, the duration varying based on the entry. It may be appropriate to recount the essence of  Chetwode Motto enshrined at IMA , which guides all army officers during their Service :

The Country first always & every time; The Men you Command come next ; Your own ease comfort & safety come  last always & every time.

This is the essence of leadership in the armed forces and the officer is not only judged, but also tested time and again on this yardstick.

Leadership is present in all walks of life, so whats so special about leadership in the armed forces! Three aspects distinguish a military leader:

An unlimited liability contract-wherein he accepts to serve the Nation unconditionally. Even his family has to continuously adjust to the unpredictability and vagaries of service life.

As military leaders you deal with life & death issues, Not profit & loss. You have to be , therefore, worthy of the trust reposed by the Nation.

The Armed Forces are the last resort of the Nation, therefore, do not have the luxury of being runners up even once. This consciousness is ingrained in every officer from the very beginning.

Examples of exemplary leadership by officers of the three services are regularly to the fore, a large number having made the supreme sacrifice. Being just over 3% of the Army’s strength, officer casualties are almost 12%. It is not uncommon to see senior officers leading from the front, ready to risk the bullet before it harms the men. What makes an officer/leader perform so, repeatedly at risk to life or limb- it’s the unlimited liability contract in service of the Nation, the Chetwode motto, the trust & loyalty of his men who look upto him and the Regimental Spirit, a unique bonding that goes back into history. Its also an understanding and faith that his family will be cared for should he fall. This is the return unlimited liability assurance which the Nation, the Govt and the organization give to their officer and soldier alike.

So lets tread carefully when we start putting this unique breed of men & women in the dock on small issues on questionable basis , issues which need to be addressed within the organization. We as a Nation need to recognize, care for and appreciate this officer/leader and the soldier, who thinks nothing of putting his life on the line in the service of mother India. For this is what will continue to motivate him to surmount the odds and emerge victorious : the love and respect of the citizens, the care and support bestowed by the Govt and the organization , but above all his understanding of his duty to protect the honour of his country and uphold the trust of his soldiers.

The environment and culture of the 21st century does pose multiple challenges to the ethos and leadership of the armed forces. This can be the subject of a separate article as space doesn’t allow this articulation here.

The armed forces have been, are and will remain crucial to the Nation’s security and well being. How they deliver will depend largely on the caliber of military leaders that lead and steer the armed forces. We therefore, need leaders who are steadfast, visionary and who measure upto the highest standards of military skills; who have a comprehensive understanding of the challenges of modern warfare and who possess the physical stamina, strength of character and mental resilience to carry the burdens that modern warfare conditions impose.

My recipe for such a military leader is: ” Humility in his persona and arrogance in his uniform’’, based on his Integrity, Competence and Commitment. So take care India- look after your officer and soldier alike, in peace as in war, for your recognition, appreciation and care will spur them to do their duty to defend our Nation against all odds.


This article first appeared in Fauji India.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

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