Military & Aerospace

The Military Must Find Its Voice
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Issue Vol. 26.4 Oct-Dec 2011 | Date : 05 Dec , 2011

…military professionals must speak out; they must counsel political leaders and alert the public that there is no such thing as a war fought on the cheap. The Army must make the price of involvement clear before we get involved, so that the country can weigh the probable costs of involvement against the degree of non-involvement. This cannot be done by adhering to a notion of the military as a silent order of monks isolated from the political realm.

To say that the strategic landscape remains unsettled for India would be an understatement. Since Independence, the military has fought four major wars and been involved in countering insurgencies in various parts of the country for decades. It has also performed numerous “non-traditional” humanitarian and peacekeeping missions, while concomitantly struggling to adjust to a variety of social demands such as the integration of women, and at the same time attempting to prepare for future conflicts. As a result, the military faces a dilemma: how to respond to the uncertainties of the new domestic and strategic landscapes, maintain a healthy relationship with civil society, and yet retain its core raison d’être, which is to deter or win wars against the nation’s enemies.

“¦military officership is a profession, not simply a vocation. This means that members of a profession accept certain values specific to their profession, which are more fundamental than other values.

One thing clearly emerges from these auguries: the military cannot afford to withdraw into an ethical cocoon and take on a defensive posture. It must make a prudent and positive response to the travails imposed on it and not shrink from articulating its views in public. Senior military officers must reshape the notion of military professionalism by candidly admitting the impact of politics on the military’s ability to do its job and daring to practice constructive political engagement. This may appear to violate the sacred code of silence by which the military is strictly apolitical, offers technical advice only and goes out of its way to honour the principle of civilian control.

It is through constructive political engagement that military professionals can legitimate their role in policy debates, mark a clear boundary between defence policy and merely partisan politics, and provide the public with a clearer understanding of military issues. Constructive political engagement, far from threatening to make it an independent agency, presupposes that the military is dependent upon a variety of political actors and the public at large. It is because the military is under tight civilian control that it must make its voice heard in civilian councils.

Any number of issues might fall within the scope of constructive political engagement, but the two most critical are the apparent divergence between the military and society; and the problematical utility of military force in contingencies that may arise. These issues are interconnected and have a profound impact on the military’s operational effectiveness. There is an imperative need for the military to inform society about its place in society; and its concerns for creating capability- as expected by society.

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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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Col Harjeet Singh

Col Harjeet Singh

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