At this critical juncture, India needs to demonstrate its resolve, and ensure the strength and morale of its armed forces. Instead, however, the self-pride of the armed forces is being subverted by parochial interests and narrow considerations. If some planted stories in the media are to be believed, the revised pay demands of the armed forces have not only been met, but enhanced by the government.
This is a travesty of truth. In reality, the basic demand of the armed forces for pre-Sixth Pay Commission status quo has been brushed aside with complete disdain. There are three major demands of the armed forces: one, a hike in pension (70 percent of the last pay drawn) in respect of personnel other than officers; two, restoration of the status of Lt Cols in the higher pay band (Pay Band-IV); and three, restoration in the status of Lt Generals vis-à-vis Director Generals of Police (DGPs).
In the United Kingdom, the males of the Royal family invariably serve in the armed forces. In the US, a military past is a political asset, with most Presidents proudly proclaiming their military background. The Indian politicians and bureaucrats, leave alone sending their sons, discourage even their sons-in-law from the military.
The government’s willingness to enhance pension for lower ranks does not actually translate in an actual raise, as the reduced slab announced earlier was based on the flawed premise that post-retirement they would be absorbed in the paramilitary forces, something which is still on the drawing board.
The other two demands, for restoration in status of Lt Cols and Lt Generals have either been rejected or have come with riders. The most ridiculous clause is the pay package of Lt Cols and their equivalent in the other two services. While their pay package have been upgraded to Pay Band-IV, it has been stipulated that their status in this Pay Band with regards to their Grade Pay, which determines their status, would be only applicable when they are serving on combat duties and not when on deputation. The term ‘combat duties’ has confounded all ranks. This smacks of a disdainful ‘take the money and forget about status’ attitude on part of the government.
The junior officers, that includes Lt Cols and their equivalents in the other two services, form the cutting edge of the armed forces. It is the same grade of officers, who dislodged Pakistani troops from the Kargil heights, by some most tenacious and daring assaults, without any parallel in the history of high altitude warfare. The demand for status parity for Lieutenant Generals with the DGP Police has been rejected. In Uttar Pradesh alone, there are more than two-dozen officers in the rank of DGP.
Is this the way to treat the Indian Armed Forces, which are respected for their professionalism in most parts of the world? Our vote-bank driven politicians have no direct stake in the armed forces. In the United Kingdom, the males of the Royal family invariably serve in the armed forces. In the US, a military past is a political asset, with most Presidents proudly proclaiming their military background. The Indian politicians and bureaucrats, leave alone sending their sons, discourage even their sons-in-law from the military.
A leader of the country like India, which aspires to be a great power, must enjoy the respect of the armed forces. He must realise that diplomacy and military strength are the two sides of the same coin.
Time and again, the Indian Armed Forces have drawn applause in bilateral and multilateral military exercises involving several nations. When India wins a cricket match, the Speaker does not fail to mention it in the Parliament. However, a few years ago when the Special Forces of the Indian Army stood first in a professional competition organised in South Africa, where more than two-dozen countries had participated, it did not find any mention. Our politicians including our Prime Minister and the concerned bureaucrats, I am sure, were even not aware of it.
The bureaucrats and the police hierarchy, relics of our colonial past, have over the years been systematically denigrating the armed forces out of sheer inferiority complex and to promote their own vested interests. The only hope for the armed forces personnel was the politicians. The politicians, however, have allowed their minds to be subverted by wily bureaucrats.
To make matters worse the Prime Minister too seems to relish the role of a bureaucrat rather than the leader of the country. In the Sixth Pay Commission, he had refused the military’s demand to appoint an armed forces member in the commission. Now he conveniently concedes that the military is entitled to a separate pay commission, which ironically will be constituted in 2018!
A leader of the country like India, which aspires to be a great power, must enjoy the respect of the armed forces. He must realise that diplomacy and military strength are the two sides of the same coin. He must also realise that the ‘argument of power’ is as, if not more, important than the ‘power of argument’. And the ‘argument of power’ is based on the strength and efficacy of a country’s armed forces. During his visit to India, US President George Bush told the Andhra Chief Minister that military should always be kept happy for the well-being of the nation.
Yet our leaders, abetted by the bureaucrats, for reasons best known to them, thrive on sowing seeds of inter-service rivalry in the armed forces. A Minister of State for Defence with a police background was candid in telling me that to be a successful defence minister, one has to generate inter-service rivalry, and the best way to do it was by making the three service chiefs squabble over budgetary allocations.
With such an attitude, one wonders if the Indian Armed Forces can ever hope to find their legitimate status, and the institution of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) will ever see the light of the day.