Throughout history, the Indian soldier fought in the defence of his motherland with unmatched valour and yet lost to almost every invader: even to those who arrived with an army of just a few thousand. What were the underlying causes of this unremitting chain of military defeats! Stephen Peter Rosen, professor at Harvard, in his book,’ Societies and military power: India and her armies, ‘argues, that even in the case of the British, their successes against armies of India did not lay in their superior technology because Indian guns, muskets and swords were better. Where then lay the causes for this unbroken sequence of military defeats!
These perhaps lay in the quality of leadership of these armies. They never developed and practiced the art of war and when surprised by the unaccepted, could not innovate, wrest the initiative and quickly master the situation. The First Battle of Panipat is the more glaring example of this failing. This obviously reflects on the quality of military leadership and its professional skills India provided to its armies. Philip Mason, ICS, in his book ‘A Matter of Honour,’ lays the blame for this long record of military defeats at the door of politics and the type of governments that had grown up in India.
The British addressed this failing in the profession of arms, by giving it honour, a place of pride and suitable perks and emoluments, so as to attract good soldier material and draw on the right leadership. It compensated in monetary terms the disadvantages of military service, such as early retirement, very slow and few promotions, hard and risk filled life etc. All of these rolled together has come to be known as ‘X factor.’ Under the British, the Indian military won many a laurel, built great reputation and came to be regarded amongst the very best. The carry forward of this was abundantly clear during the 1947- 48 Kashmir war, when the Indian military, with great skill and daring, retrieved Kashmir valley from the very jaws of invading tribal hordes.
“¦a soldier, after being retired at the age of 35/36, reaches the age of 60 years, his pay during service and subsequent pension is short by Rs 33,3 lakhs”¦
Once the Indian politico-bureaucratic combine came into play with its suspicions and bias against the military, it engineered the downward slide and by 1962 the deed was done. Once proud and valiant army was, by then, had been reduced to a second rate force which the Chinese had little difficulty in putting to heel. The very same Chinese, whom the Indian Army had thoroughly beaten and captured a number of its regimental colours and trophies from Peking which adorned most unit officers messes. The attitude of the political class and the government towards issue of national security had reverted back to what Philip Mason laments in his prognosis of India’s dismal war record. The consequences of this politico-bureaucratic approach towards matters military and national security are there for all to see.
Winston Churchhil writes that, “Indian Amy is not so much an arm of the executive branch as it is of the Indian people. Military professionals have a duty and an obligation to ensure that the people and 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 has grown up who have come to form the view that for the military, it is not to reason why! Consequently the public at large is none the wiser and continues to remain oblivious of the true state of national security.
Since independence a concerted and sustained effort has been made to denigrate the military, strip it of honour and pride, the two essential prerequisite to draw the right leadership, thus making this career of arms so unattractive that it is no more a choice for the suitable youth of the country. Inspite of frequent tampering with the intake standards, large deficiencies persist. In the military deficiencies of as much as 12000 to 13000 officers has been there for years. Situation in the other two services in no different. Large number of officers, including senior officers, are seeking premature exit from the service.
Since independence a concerted and sustained effort has been made to denigrate the military, strip it of honour and pride, the two essential prerequisite to draw the right leadership”¦
The blame for this downward slide rests, not entirely with the political class and the government but equally with the higher leadership in the military which has singularly failed in its onerous duty to alert, forcefully enough, the political executive of the inherent dangers and consequences of this slide, in the quality of military’s intake into officer cadre and eventual fallout on national security.
To get an idea how this sustained downgrading of the military was brought about, consider what follows. At independence a brigadier drew more pension than a chief secretary of a state, due to the X factor. A decade later the chief secretary of a state had the status of a two star general (and now of an army commander!). The police, not withstanding the orders prohibiting copying of military ranks and uniform etc, went overboard to copy army badges of rank on the one hand and on the other, in cohorts with the bureaucracy, managed to establish untenable equivalence with various military ranks in the officer cadre.
On every scale, be it the warrant of precedence, pay and allowances, promotion avenues, etc, all central services have left the military far behind: in fact out of reckoning. A field marshal (who never retires) was ranked with the service chiefs and it took the Government of India more that three decades to decide his pay! When this was finally sanctioned he was already over ninety and had gone into a coma! Even civilian officers in defence headquarters have been made to jump over their superiors in uniform, protests from the service chiefs falling on deaf ears. This completely distorted working at defence headquarters when subordinates over night became senior to their superior officers. The issue of X factor has simply been ignored. Successive Parliamentary Committees of defence, though alive to these issues, have simply failed to get their recommendations accepted by the government.
This contrived and artificial relative status has brought us to a point where a DIG of police who figured between a Lt Col and Col, now stands equated with a brigadier. While this new equation is one part, the other is the delayed promotions in the military. Brigadier rank comes after around 28 years service while that of DIG (IPS) after 14 years. Others of equal status, such as director (IAS) after 12 years. Scientist F of DRDO after 17 years, DIG of CPO after 20 years and so on. This self determined equation runs right across the military’s rank structure.
The situation related to promotion prospects in the military and those in the civil services are poles apart. Just about 4 to 5 percent in the military make it to brigadier rank, while 100 percent in the IAS and IPS make to director/DIG. Only around 3 percent make to Maj Gen while in the IAS 100 percent become joint secretary and almost similar is the case with IPS officers. Similar vide disparity exits for other higher ranks. In matters of pay an IAS officer at 17 years service gains an edge of 12.9 percent over an army officer with the same length of service, at 25 years the gap increases to 17.3 percent and at 31 years service it jumps to 32.6 percent. Then there is proportionate cumulative effect of these differentials of pay on allowances, pensions etc which when compounded slips into traveling classes in railways and airlines, besides issues related to LTCs.