Historically the Armed Forces are looked at with a ‘jaundiced eye’ the world over. Indian Army surely has forever been castigated as being a ‘White Elephant’ and a drain on good tax payer’s money.
Israel perhaps is the only state which has the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) occupying centre stage in National affairs! The only two Nations where ‘Conflict’ was gifted, along with the creation of an Independent State are India and Israel.
In 60 years Israel came to be recognised as a prosperous economy and made a name for herself, India lagged a little behind but today is considered a growing economy and an opportunity for FDI.
Israel came to life in 1948 and India a year before that, both Nations faced immediate aggression from the neighbours. In 60 years Israel came to be recognised as a prosperous economy and made a name for herself, India lagged a little behind but today is considered a growing economy and an opportunity for FDI. How have the two nations fared with reference to National Security & how have the two armies, IDF and Indian Army (IA) fared?
While Israel is firmly anchored in the Western world in terms of its values, it remains unique amongst many other Western democracies on account of its geopolitical situation and the central role that its military plays in so many areas of the country’s life.
The founding of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948 was swiftly followed by a combined attack by five Arab armies (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq). This was to be the first real test of the IDF, officially set up on 26 May of that year, a test from which they ultimately emerged victorious.
Ever since it’s founding, the State of Israel has lived through numerous wars, military operations and other violent conflicts, such as the Arab uprisings in the Palestinian territories (known as the First and Second Intifadas). The IDF have earned for themselves a name for being dedicated, motivated and professional. They have also been a part of Nation building through Defence Industry and world class education provided by the IDF.
IDF and Society
Studies/Polls conducted in Israel reflect the strong trust and faith placed by the majority of citizens in the army which is highly appreciated compared to the country’s political affiliation. A recent poll indicated that 91 per cent of the Jewish population trust their armed forces, which came out top in a poll measuring public trust in Israeli institutions. This high level of esteem may be attributed to the fact that Israel feels the need of a powerful army for the survival of the community, the important societal role played by the IDF and the fact that they have emerged victorious from every war fought against other nations.
…the State of Israel has lived through numerous wars, military operations and other violent conflicts, such as the Arab uprisings in the Palestinian territories (known as the First and Second Intifadas).
Reflecting the philosophy of David Ben Gurion the founder of IDF, the Israeli Army is as “The People’s Army”, a citizen’s army that transcends social differences. An apolitical national institution, in which every segment of heterogeneous Jewish immigrant society would be represented. Not just as an instrument of defence, but as an institution with a duty to undertake social tasks and help shape the new Israeli society.
Viewed as a defensive institution with the mission of protecting the Israeli people, the role as an army of defence also confers a certain legitimacy on the IDF. Most Israeli Jews consider the wars fought by the IDF as “wars of necessity”, forced upon the country because of repeated attacks by its Arab neighbours. Because of the existential importance of the IDF to the very survival of the State of Israel, there is a great willingness on the part of the Jewish Israeli society to contribute to and make personal sacrifices in defence of their country. Military service is seen as one way every individual can contribute to the existence of the state. It is described as a melting pot, a human mosaic, of different cultures and a catalyst for integration and communication, between the various sectors of society. Youth of Israel take great pride in serving the Nations Army.
The Defence industry of Israel is a strategically important sector and a large employer. It is not merely a major supplier for the IDF but the IDF itself has contributed many products. A major exporter of military equipment, three Israeli companies were listed on the 2017 ‘Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’ index of the world’s top 100 arms-producing and military service companies : Elbit Systems, the State owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), and Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd (RAFAEL). The Defence industry in Israel is a strategically important sector and a large employer within the country. It is also a major player in the global arms market and was the sixth largest arms exporter in the world as of 2014. There are over 150 active defence companies based in the country with combined revenues of more than $3.5 billion annually. Much of the exports are sold to the United States and Europe. Other major regions that purchase Israeli defence equipment include South East Asia , Latin America, China and India.
IA as a Parallel
Policies of the Indian Government were such that Indian Armed forces faced ‘neglect’ almost immediately post independence. This could be seen as a result of the legacy of ‘British Indian Army’ being split into IA and Pakistan Army quite unlike the evolution of the IDF which was formed out of a necessity by ‘Volunteers’.
…there is a great willingness on the part of the Jewish Israeli society to contribute to and make personal sacrifices in defence of their country. Military service is seen as one way every individual can contribute to the existence of the state.
The first war saw our armed forces stop Pakistan’s adventurism soon after partition itself. Operations were halted by our political leadership, before the situation could be entirely restored, thus resulting in POK and Aksai Chin. The second conflict came in 1962 with the Chinese aggression which ended in a humiliating defeat attributable squarely to the Political leadership of the time. On the heels of ’62 came the next conflict with Pakistan in 1965, the IA acquitted itself well and the ’71 war won it laurels like never before. 1999 brought the Kargil war fought to regain our own territiory, however, the Government failed to recognise the fact that the Indian subcontinent was an area of conflicting interests which made a ‘strong military force’ a necessity.
Over the years the IA has evolved to become the second largest army in the world. However the chequered history due to the lack of support it deserves from the Politicians and bureaucrats continues to plague this dedicated organisation.
While the IDF has evolved into a ‘People’s Army and a Nation builder’, the IA finds itself on the back foot as far as ‘Funds, Indigenisation, Modernisation, hollowness due to equipment deficiencies andStatus ’ are concerned . The disparity in weaponry, self reliance and support from the Government are starkly different.
Let us take a look at the possibility of contribution by IA towards Nation Building.
Across the board the IA is a large employer in every field, be it engineering, armament, aviation, medical, logistics, electronics & communication, catering , education and others.Deployed in remote areas, development of infrastructure(in Border Areas) has been a primary contribution, as also connecting communities and inculcating pride of character in a secular army has perhaps been a distinctive achievement where all ‘Indians’ stand shoulder to shoulder for the defence of India.
If the IDF contributes through education, so does the IA with over 137 Army Public Schools , 249 Army Pre- primary schools across India and 12 professional institutions of higher education, apart from the 142 defence training centres/academies in the country. Not to miss the Sadhbhawana and Good Samaritan projects in insurgency affected areas.
Individuals from across all states, communities and religions join the organisation at early years and the support cadre retires at young age while regulars form the back bone.
….the Government failed to recognise the fact that the Indian subcontinent was an area of conflicting interests which made a ‘strong military force’ a necessity.
While the IDF gets to enrol the best students in a mix of conscription and volunteers, 24 months for women and 36 for male members at the age of 18, the short tenure has begun to hurt the IDF. The IA being voluntary gets a percentage of youth from those who qualify an exam, not necessarily the best and certainly a little older.
Once the compulsory military service is over, having served with IDF is looked upon favourably by corporate. The support cadre from IA on the other hand find themselves on the street looking for jobs!
Manpower in the IA/IDF get leadership roles at various levels in challenging situations which demand improvisation/out of box thinking and innovation. These young men and women get to experience an India which is not seen by the Politicians, bureaucrats and Industrialists. They are aware of the needs in these areas. In India, absorption in corporates is difficult and in Government Organisations virtually nil due to lack of support from the Government.The IDF on the contrary is in itself a certificate for jobs!
While the senior leadership of IDF is closely involved in National Decision making, in India they are marginalised, political alignments gain ascendency.
IA and Society
Like the IDF in Israel, the IA enjoys the trust of 77% of citizens in India as per a 2018 study conducted in 22 assembly constituencies with 16,680 respondents by Azim Premji University (APU) and Lokniti (Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) followed by 54.8% in the SC and 48% in the HCs (post Galwan, the trust levels for the Armed Forces would have shot to much higher levels). On average, elected offices and institutions such as the President, Prime Minister, Chief Minister, parliament, vidhan sabha (state legislature) and panchayat/municipal corporation (MC) enjoyed an “effective trust” of 40%. Political parties garnered low trust, at -1.75% and polled the lowest in the list of 16.Corruption and apathy being the major cause of low trust in Governments and other establishments.
India’s defence Industry exports as compared to that of Israel reflect a dismal figure! INR 4,682 crore (US$0.66 billion) in 2017–2018 and INR10,500 crore (US$1.47 billion) in 2018–2019, of which eight Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSU) and 41 Ordnance Factories (OF) contributed INR 800 crore (7.6% of total defence exports).
Whilst Israel became self reliant in 1967, India has only recently pushed for greater indigenisation of military hardware as India imports around 70 percent (by value) of its high-tech defence hardware such as aircraft, ships, submarines, missiles even rifles etc mainly from Russia, Japan, Israel and United States. India was world’s second-largest arms importer in 2015-19.
In India, absorption in corporates is difficult and in Government Organisations virtually nil due to lack of support from the Government. The IDF on the contrary is in itself a certificate for jobs!
Listed as the fourth most powerful and the second largest armies of the world our defence imports have sky rocketed over the years.
A teeth to tail ratio of civilians vs Military personnel is completely warped. A 14.5 lakh Armed Forces have 4 lakh non performing civilians supporting them, a ratio of 3.6:1 and a burden on defence budget. To list a few( Figures are approximate):-
- a) Military Engineering Service: –manpower 86000-budget INR 14000 cr
- b) 41 Ordinance Factories :manpower 77000-budget INR 1500 Cr
- c) 51DRDO Laboratories: manpower 31000-budget- INR18000Cr
- d) Defence accounts Department: manpower 26000-Budget INR 1000 Cr
- e) Defence Estate Department: manpower 18000 sitting on INR 10000 acres of prime land.
- f) DGQA, QGAQA,AFHQCS, DOS,CSD, MOD: manpower 24000-budget INR 16000 Cr
Border Roads the only such organisation which is doing a yeoman job is being targeted for downsizing/disbanding.
A teeth to tail ratio of civilians vs Military personnel is completely warped. A 14.5 lakh Armed Forces have 4 lakh non performing civilians supporting them, a ratio of 3.6:1 and a burden on defence budget.
The Present imbroglio, with China/Pakistan is the result of the long standing refusal by Governments, past and present, to acknowledge the need for India to be a strong military power as deterrence to our adversaries. The knee jerk efforts at fast track procurement of weapons and equipment, are a reflection of bad planning.
Governments and higher military leadership have also failed to see the great opportunities in engaging the potential capabilities of Nation Building that our Armed Forces have. The vast numbers skilled in diverse fields span the entire spectrum of National needs as well as that of Industry are ignored.
The capacity for R&D at technical institutes is under utilised to say the least. It is to the credit of the IDF that they have some of the best indigenous weapons and technology, examples of the Merkava , Uzi, Iron Dome and many others can be quoted.
This article is aimed at stimulating thought for better utilisation of India’s Armed Forces as a National Resource for Nation building, education, character building and imbibing a National spirit amongst citizens.