The army in India was not a mere replica of the British army at home, in terms of higher organisation, staff and command arrangements. It was led by the C-in-C in India, who was, in turn, directly responsible to the government of India, the governor general and ultimately, the secretary of state for India in London. Given the size of the army in India and later its role in the First world war, little attention was paid to the development of the general staff in the subcontinent. Lord kitchener’s efforts to improve the Indian staff system during the early 1900s eventually culminated in the formation of general staff in India in April 1910.
The British did not expose Indian officers to critical staff appointments like operations and intelligence. It was not surprising that when independence came, there were only three Indian officers…
The standard of training of staff officers at army headquarters and the organisation and staff immediately concerned the new C-in-C in India. In 1902. It was ill-prepared for hostility. The staff in India did not enjoy a reputation for efficiency.
In 1903, the Government of India submitted its proposal, with the strong endorsement of Viceroy Lord Curzon, for an Indian staff College. It met strong opposition from the army council. Lord kitchener won the agreement of the secretary of state, after accepting that it would have the same entrance examination, curriculum and syllabus as Camberley. The Indian staff College opened in temporary accommodation at Deolali, and soon after, at its permanent location at Quetta in Baluchistan in April 1907. after independence, the Defence services staff College (DSSC) was established at wellington.
The British did not expose Indian officers to critical staff appointments like operations and intelligence. It was not surprising that when independence came, there were only three Indian officers – GSO 1 (Ops), GSO 2 (Ops) and GSO 3 (Ops) in the Military Operations Directorate in army HQ – Lieutenant Colonel SHFJ Manekshaw (later Field Marshal), Major yahya khan (later General and President) and Captain SK Sinha (later Lieutenant General).
The present Indian army is following the then-British army’s staff system since independence and there has not been much of a change. In 2005, staff appointments at all level of headquarters have been upgraded or increased to accommodate the aspirations of officers, post the AV Singh Committee Report. The CR based promotions and nomination to career courses was replaced by the Quantification system in 2007, giving adequate extra weight-age for courses there gradings, field tenures, operational reports and gallantry awards amongst others. This change resulted in selection of officers for higher defence management courses with a wholesome profile, reasonably balancing between the academic and the operational attributes. These officers with a balanced profile were to attain higher staff appointments in higher defence headquarters meeting the requirements of the stipulations in an operational environment of the 21st century army, but not anymore.
We don’t pay enough attention to…the whole essence of making decisions on how staff is going to be structured, physically laid down on the ground, interact with each other, the processes/procedures they need to go through, the technical systems they’ll need to support them-that needs to be structured in a way to be conducive to rapid, effective, relevant decision- making.
— General AC Zinni, USMC (Retd), Former CINC CENTCOM (US)
This implies that an officer should be a well rounded personality having high academic credentials supported by a strong operational profile.
Thus the staff officers in these modern times must be capable of framing and resourcing operations to provide subordinate units the greatest freedom of action in simultaneous and rapidly changing operations. Bureaucratic staff organisation is no longer relevant under modern field conditions.
Indian Army, the country’s most trusted and respected institution is at cross roads. Today, even though the requirement of the Staff officers in complete decision making process of the commanders, has to be of an interactive and a flexible interface, who holds a complete grip over the nuances of operations both at the planning and execution stages. This implies that an officer should be a well rounded personality having high academic credentials supported by a strong operational profile. Unfortunately every COAS has virtually ensured that the policy of promotion and selection to higher defence management courses never crystallizes and they should be blamed for tinkering with the stipulations to suit an agenda. Ambiguity and regular shifting of goal post has resulted in nervousness amongst the middle and senior echelons of the officer cadre in the Indian army.
Yet again there has been a change and now from January 2014 onwards the operational service of the officers is not going to be rewarded anymore, like in the erstwhile quantification system. The officers with better academic profile and sprinkling of staff tenures will now be moving up on the ladder as it has been decided to do away the allowance granted for field service or gallantry awards in nomination for the career course( Higher Command /Higher Defense Management Course).
These exclusions creates an impression that organisation desires to provide impetus to academics over operations. Impetus towards better course profile and better staff assignments at the cost of field profiles and gallantry awards creates a mirage that our present commanders have no concern for operational service in difficult areas. This would result in a shift the way an officer plans his career. For him précis and pamphlets would be in higher order of precedence in relation to operations, since the incentive for the latter is gone. The emphasis would be to acquire greater academic excellence rather than carry out patrolling and ambushes. As the later will provide no benefit in climbing the ladder of promotion, the generations thereon are likely to get inclined to seek comfortable options when substantial incentives for field service are not available. The repercussions would be quiet damaging to the organization in times to come.
The culture of rewarding the service chiefs by lucrative post retirement appointments has had a cascading affect in the rank and file of the organization.
These policy change by military secretary branch is also mired in controversy as exclusion of marks for Gallantry Awards was carried out on 27 January 14 coinciding with screening process for Higher Command /Higher Defense Management Course and the informed sources within reveal that these changes were carried out to include some favorites in the list.
These policy changes are also not resultant to any change in ground realities which would have forced the organization to consider their inclusion / exclusion in career progression. Ground reality in border areas remains grim as ever. The infantry was night blind in past; it is in same status today due to non-provisioning of desired equipment and will remain so as our procurement policies do not facilitate rapid procurement. Infrastructure in forward areas is also awfully inadequate, resulting in even lowering of life span of the equipment and enhancing risks for all ranks operating. In contrast the MS Branch, a self-seeking military babu organization has withdrawn these operational compensations to ensure better prospects for some selected few, probably to facilitate those favoured.
Military had always distinguished between managers and leaders. The culture of having well rounded leaders like SFHJ Manekshaw who had proved themselves as able commanders right from leading a platoon in Burma during the WWII to the iconic victory of Indian Army in 1971 war as its chief. The culture of rewarding the service chiefs by lucrative post retirement appointments has had a cascading affect in the rank and file of the organization. Those officers who have served the General or fit into his template of parochialism are generally rewarded by promotion and career courses even if it meant changing existing policy to suit the chosen candidate. This has been the trend which has been more profound since December 2002 and continues till date.
After this change the present day’s managers will be our future senior leaders as the organization now ensures accelerated promotion for those who possess excellent skills in organising peacetime activities, acquiring better academic grade over the operational profile. All these issues are shaking the faith of common soldier and create a dichotomy over the real soldiering viz-a-viz virtual soldiering. The concluding remarks by Maj Gen Mrinal Suman, would be very apt, “Health of any vibrant organisation can be gauged by the degree of confidence that its members have in its fairness. At present, the services score poorly on this count. Unless remedial measures are taken on a war footing, the situation may drift beyond easy redemption”.