The Soldier and the State: National Security A Shared Responsibility

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Sun Tzu said some 2500 years ago that to defeat an adversary in detail lies in the art of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting. Chanakya articulated that it can best be done by employing the enemy within. What are those tenants through which one can achieve this supreme excellence of defeating an army without fighting? The answer probably is to break the will of the adversary by:-

  1. Creating doubt in the minds of the army whether they enjoy the trust and confidence of the civilian hierarchy?
  2. Causing a friction among the military leaders and soldiers by a malicious propaganda.
  3. Eroding the moral of the army by showing them to be a burden on the state exchequer; telling the armed forces that profession of arms is like any other regular constabulary or unskilled/ semi-skilled labourer; Killing the pride and sense of elitismDepriving the perks and privileges which comes automatically with the profession of arms; Weave a seamless blend of facts and fiction to show armed forces in poor light. It becomes potent when individuals from the high places enact the strategy of misrepresentation of facts that could benefit adversary.
  1. Keeping the army at a low threshold of readiness by ensuring it remains ill equipped to face the emerging and future challenges.
  2. Denial of technological empowerment of the armed forces to meet the future challenges.
  3. De-incentivize the armed forces.
  4. Societal neglect of soldiers.

If an adversary is able to achieve such an objective through either by propaganda where a malicious campaign is launched continuously, or through internally embedded adversaries including those who are responsible to prepare the armed forces for the future, it becomes lethal. Through this strategy an adversary can achieve what it is called “subdue the enemy without fighting”.

What Separates Army from the Rest?

The ethos, character, tradition and elitism is built not overnight but is built by a process that takes centuries. Soldiers fight because there is history, tradition, name, and sense of elitism that acts as catalyst for an Army to make supreme sacrifice without fear and remorse. If an army loses the self-belief, faith in the authorities and deceit by those who are supposed to prepare them for ultimate wars, the best and greatest armies in the world will be on the side of the loser. There are few hard questions   that need answers-

  1. In an environment where the adversary is on the lookout for causing irreparable damages to the wellbeing of a nation, can a nation afford that its armed forces are weakened even before the decisive wars are yet to be fought?
  2. Who does such acts of deceit benefit?
  3. By eroding ethos of own armed forces, who gets benefited?

The answer to the above questions is that it benefits adversaries and those who stab armies in the back are bigger threat to the nation.

A nation can’t afford to kill the spirit of elitism especially among the armed forces which has become synonymous be it internal instability, disaster relief, border standoff, terrorism, insurgency and protection of vital national interests. A sense of elitism and self-belief also comes from the fact that he has been given the best equipment, resources, logistics and living conditions so that he can deliver during extraordinary national crisis. But if the modernisation is delayed, deferred and denied, it sure is a sign of wilful omission. Denial of perks and privileges, for rendering military service in an environment which is one of the most difficult obtained anywhere in the world is unethical and unpatriotic. No soldier anywhere in the world including that of US and other nations have faced such challenging war like conditions what has been faced by the Indian Armed Forces. The operating environment is unparalleled given the hostile ground and terrain conditions, yet the armed forces have delivered. Those who are responsible to prepare the armed forces should have taken the remarks of a former chief “we will fight with whatever we have” as a lesson for future to not allow armed forces to go to war ill-equipped and ill prepared. But unfortunately these remarks were forgotten the moment Kargil war got over.

Deeper Introspection an Urgent Need

Government will have to carry out introspection if there is wilful attempt to erode ethos, delay in restructuring of the higher direction of war, inability of defence PSUs to supply state of the art weapons and equipment and denial of budgetary allocation to impede modernisation. Its baffling that the security environment in neighbourhood is changing, China has embarked upon complete modernisation of its Armed Forces and building capabilities and India on the other side remains at low threshold of modernisation. Infantry soldiers are equipped with obsolete inventory of small arms weapon system and short of bullet proof jackets. Artillery is woefully short of modern guns, inventory of AD is of 1970 vintage and aviation arm of Army is operating helicopters that are obsolete. Air force is down by 10 squadrons of its authorised strength and the delayed LCA project may only give an aircraft that would remain in service for not more than a decade due to technological obsolesce. There are certain projects which have been delayed for decades including ballistic missile defence, armed fighting vehicles, anti-tank missiles and LCH to name a few. Bureaucratic delays, frequent changes in QR and inability of DRDO to produce the systems in a time bound manner is impeding the modernisation of the Armed Forces. Selective leaks of projects, sabotage to prevent development of system to benefit arms dealers, non-implementation of transfer of technology so that import continues without indigenous capabilities and cancellation of finalised projects needs to be critically reviewed.

National security is utmost priority and individuals neither matter nor need to be given due significance. These include, civilian and military bureaucracy, financial advisors (IFAs) and those organisations who have dragged their feet far too long to meet the targets for development and production of weapons and breakthrough technologies. Those who can’t meet the targets must either perform or perish.

Recommendations

There is a need to take hard decisions in the interest of the national security because the emerging security environment has serious consequences and challenges. Thus the armed forces have to be prepared to fight a limited war today, short and intense theatre war in next five years and a full spectrum war in next one decade. If we do not equip and prepare for such eventualities, nation will be forced to pay heavy price. Certain measure which needs to be put in place are as under:-

  1. Identify the roadblock (organisational and individual) remove them unceremoniously to reset the pace of building military capabilities.
  2. If there are individuals who block the projects, files on frivolous reasons, such individuals need to be investigated for the real motives. Because any project if delayed for even six months can have serious consequences for national security and if delayed for couple of years it could be deemed as good as dead. Is there motivated interest or someone is working against the national security?
  3. The term that soldiering is semi-skilled labour is insulting and contemptuous to the elitism attached with profession of arms. There can’t be anything more skilful job then soldiering in the current security environment. A soldier cannot be equated with a police or CAPF, because peace time activity is not the parameter to judge the degree of difficulty or what is expected from soldiers. A police constable no matter how good he is cannot become a Sparta or Vikram Batra (ye Dil mange More fame). Time to remember what Chanakya said While the citizenry of the State contributes to see that the State prospers and flourishes, the soldier guarantees it continues to EXIST as a State”.
  4. He will win who has military capacity and whose military preparations are not interfered with. That is what Sun Tzu said and it is relevant even today. Thus whatever is required to build military capabilities and preparation must be ruthlessly followed and those who come in between nation building should be brushed aside.
  5. Following should be treated as treason:-
  • Any wilful attempt to erode the morale of the armed forces.
  • Wilful delay in projects that restrict military capabilities of the nation and impact defence preparedness.
  • Supply of substandard weapons and war like stores that could lead to military reversals.
  • Selective leaks of important policy matters, operational plans, technical QR of weapons and critical equipment and sharing of vital information with arms dealers and unauthorised persons. The leakage of the letter of former Chief of the Army Staff to the Prime Minster to media is treason of very high order, because it revealed the hollowness of the armed forces and that has certainly helped the adversaries to a great extent. If this offence was committed in any other nation it would have invited minimum punishment of life imprisonment. Even now the person in question should be tried for treason.
  1. There should be timelines and financial cap for development of technologies for future. The R&D projects can’t run for three decades without providing a breakthrough technology. There is a need to monitor the projects and its viability. There are projects going on for decades with thousands of crores already gone down without any visible gains. Similarly Ordinance factories are fast becoming only assembly line and packaging industry without substantial indigenisation of weapons and equipment.
  2. Reset and repair deteriorating civil military relationship. Service Headquarters and MOD are co-equal under political leadership. Master servant relationship as it exists today needs to be removed at priority. The responsibility of bureaucracy is to build capability and prepare armed force for future wars. In fact civil bureaucracy is servant of the soldiers in other words obliged to build and prepare Armed Forces for war.
  3. Initiate the process of integration at all levels.
  4. Civilian bureaucracy can’t understand the working environment of military units in the field and how it hurts when the decisions are taken at leisurely pace. Thus it must be mandatory to attach a bureaucrat on posting to MOD to military units in the field for a duration of minimum one month, this was done by former Defence Minister George Fernandez and had remarkable impact on functioning of MOD. Some of the files which were pending for decades were cleared overnight. Because they realised what damage was being done by delaying the decision purely on the bases of lack of understanding of ground realities. But this attachment should be professional in nature and not an adventure tourism.
  5. Every time there is a failure of equipment, the Defence Secretary should order an enquiry to examine why such equipment has failed? Failure in combat and training cost human lives and can lead to loss of battle. At the moment there is no accountability of those who are responsible to equip the soldiers for war or less than war scenarios.

Conclusion

India is at a juncture where internal and external threats are all time high. China is adopting aggressive posture along Line of Actual Control and Pakistan has increased intensity of proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir. De-incentivising armed forces has severe impact on the morale of the forces and at this juncture it is suicidal Political leadership must be aware that bureaucracy and military do not enjoy a healthy relationship and it is detrimental both for the national security and morale of the armed forces. Civilian control is not bureaucratic control. Thus Modi government would do lot of good in the interest of the nation if it is able to remove master and servant relationship between bureaucracy and military.

There can be no value in ending anything badly and national security has no place for reversal. The leverage a nation has among the global community is its military capabilities and economic power. Both are irreplaceable and needs to be consolidated. If one of them is lost, nation will face irreversible losses. Sardar Patel with the assistance of the Indian Army build this nation and all resistance was laid to rest. 1962 military debacle caused huge national embarrassment and loss of reputation to India as a nation state. But the decisive military victory in 1971 war made India a regional power overnight. It restored the pride of every Indian and every diplomat who represented India among the global community. The foundation of rise of India as regional power was laid on military victory in 1971 and economic revival post 2000. Therefore, national security cannot become prisoner of individual egos and a sense of master and servant relationship. In fact civilian bureaucracy should take pride in enabling armed forces as the armed forces for future, rather than scripting the debacle for future wars that India is likely to fight by keeping it at low threshold of operational capabilities.

Profile photo of Narender Kumar
Brig Narender Kumar is an Infantry Officer with close to 15 years’ experience in counter insurgency and anti-terrorism operations having served in Sri Lanka (Operation PAWAN) J&K and North East. He has been part of UN Mission in North Africa and had a tenure in Indian Training Team in a foreign country. He has served as Brigade Major in Western Theatre, Col Administration of a Division and Brig General Staff of an Area responsible for Northern Border. Commanded a Rashtriya Rifles battalion in J&K and Assam Rifles Sector in North East.