Military & Aerospace

Rapidly changing military sociology
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Issue Vol 24.3 Jul-Sep2009 | Date : 28 Jan , 2011

The soldiers therefore had hardly any avenue of personal growth. Later, the threat perception from Russia and the consequent importance of the NWFP resulted in the development of communication systems in Punjab, giving fillip to the agricultural economy of the region. During the First and Second World Wars, the threat to the British Empire was global. One of the major outcomes of the First World War in the Indian context was that Indian officers began to be inducted into the army. The period between World War I and II gave rise to the military culture that persists even today. The critical threat posed to the Allied powers during World War II, compelled the British to carryout massive recruitment and they were compelled to repudiate their martial race approach, as the so called martial races could not fulfill the manpower requirements.

The growing materialism and consumerism has created a segment of upstarts, who value materialism over character and enduring values. The army as a profession, where sacrifice of many personal comforts and life a such is involved, can ill-afford to be consumed by this phenomenon.

However, we in the Indian Army, though not explicitly stated, continued to suffer from the martial race theory. We continued to suffer from caste and class based ideas. It was also because of slow and marginal changes in the overall sociological and economic dynamics within the country. Our lack of originality in approach in determining fresh contours was not only evident with regard to military culture, but our professional orientation as well. Our professional literature and methods did not reflect on the practical security imperatives, both internally and externally. We have been at war in J&K for the last two decades. We had to intervene in Sri Lanka and Maldives.

We have been victims of the worst kind of terrorism since the last three decades. The change in the orientation of the army to the new forms of threat has been rather reluctant, resulting in suicides and fratricide within the army ranks. Even as these threats grew, there was quantum deterioration in civil-military relations. More than pay and perks, the army personnel were bewildered by the lack of empathy and encouragement by the civil society for their contributions in ensuring the safety and security of the country, a phenomenon that persists. Under these circumstances, army personnel are bound to be afflicted with a sense of cynicism. Why has it happened? The answer lies in the rapidly changing sociology of the country.

To begin with the Indian Army like all the armies of the world, which emerged from colonialism, was the most disciplined, evolved and modern institution, both in socio-economic and technological terms, and with well established traditions. The army was insulated from public glare and therefore, was an unknown commodity. The liberalization of economy has ushered in social and economic forces that threaten to eclipse those very attractions and institutional attributes for which the army was held in awe.

The socio-economic changes in the last two decades have been much more than the changes in the last five or six decades put together. We should not forget that we draw our men from civil society who go back to the same society after retirement. The impact of the rapidly changing social and economic dynamics in the country is discussed in the succeeding paragraphs.

Burgeoning Middle-Class: With every Pay Commission, the gap between the pay and allowances of officers and men has reduced. The Sixth Pay Commission, it cannot be denied, has propelled the Other Ranks into the middle-class category, with all the dreams and vulnerabilities typical to this class. The consumer and material comforts that an officer took some years to acquire two decades back, the other ranks can now easily possess them with savings of just a few months.

Also read: Kargil Controversy: Army pinpoints IAF failure

Women Emancipation: The biggest revolution unleashed by the liberalization of economy in India has been the emancipation of women and assertion of freedom by them. This is not only confined to the cities but is clearly visible in small towns and to an extent, in the villages. In fact, I met some Pakistanis at Dehradun, who were flabbergasted to see women driving two-wheelers and cars. Gandhi had said that you educate a man, you educate only him, but when you educate a woman, you actually educate the entire family. The emancipation of women in fact is giving rise to a much more confident generation. The increasing economic freedom and opportunities have impacted the Indian Army in two major ways, i.e. the increasing number of working wives and of course the recruitment of women in the army in the officers rank.

The Indian Army is finding it extremely difficult to adjust with both the phenomenon, as evidenced by the number of complaints by officers’ wives against the Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA) and allegations by lady officers against their male colleagues. The purpose of this article is not to debate over the sagacity of intake of lady officers in the army given the peculiarities of India, but their joining only officers cadre is bound to create a new ‘class’, causing resentment among their male subordinates. The situation can be addressed by intake of women in other ranks as well, but the demands of the profession, particularly the battlefield, are in complete dissonance with the proposition.

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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.

About the Author

RSN Singh

is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research and Analysis Wing, or R&AW and author of books Asian Strategic and Military Perspective, The Military Factor in Pakistan and The Unmaking of Nepal. His latest books are Know the Anti-Nationals (English) and Know the एंटी-नेशनल्स (Hindi).

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