Challenges for Indian Defence Forces from within the Country
NEW DELHI. Independent India was literally born in a state of insecurity given its violent division into two different nations; two nations that had conflicting ideologies. Pakistan, the result of this fracture, sought to annex Kashmir by force and continued its misadventure, even after the Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) signed the Instrument of Accession to India. The Indian Army (IA), supported by the Indian Air Force (IAF), had succeeded in pushing back the Pakistanbacked raiders; J&K would have been cleared of the raiders and there would have been no J&K “problem”, had the IA been allowed to complete the task given to it. Instead, the Indian Government, with a misplaced sense of idealism, unilaterally called a cease-fire, referring the issue to the United Nations (UN) for arbitration. Thus a problem, that would have never been there, had the IA been allowed to complete its task, was created, continuing to remain for 70 years, getting exacerbated with the passage of time. Despite our early experience of an inimical neighbour using force to achieve its objective, again with impractical idealism, our first prime minister (PM) considered the defence forces an anachronism in the post World War II era, believing that a police force was all that India needed! General Cariappa, the first Indian chief of IA, had attempted to caution the PM about the threat that China could pose to India; he was peremptorily told that an army chief had no business to advice the government on politics!! To drive home the point, the post of army chief, hitherto to referred as the Commanderin-Chief of IA, was literally downgraded to that of a staff officer, by re-designating it as the Chief of Staff of the Army (COAS).
Urgent needs of the defence forces, not only of weapons and munitions, but of clothing and equipment were neglected. Chain of command within the forces was interfered with and incompetent officers given assignments beyond their calibre. Military advice by the Eastern Army Commander on where and how to stop the Chinese was over-ruled. The result? The fiasco of 1962, the utter rout, of what was then considered the finest fighting force.
Come 1965, despite being qualitatively (weapon-wise) inferior to the Americanequipped Pakistan forces, and caught offguard by the Pakistani design to cut-off J&K from the rest of India by severing its only road-link, the Indian forces not only checkmated Pakistan, but had captured several key strategic features (HajiPir Pass should ring a bell to readers) in Pakistan-occupiedKashmir (POK). Against military advice India vacated these posts that continue to harass IA positions today.
Indian defence forces’ crowning glory came in 1971 with the liberation of Bangladesh; a resounding victory, acknowledged world-wide as a superlative military achievement; yet we are hesitant to give it the prominence it deserves. A befitting war-memorial, to acknowledge the valour and sacrifice of Indian warriors during war and (so-called) peace, is yet to be established. The military victory, with
93,000 prisoners-of-war (POWs) could have resolved several Indo-Pak issues, had the military hierarchy been brought in to the loop of post-war (Shimla Meeting) negotiations. This look-back in to history has been made to illustrate how the essential needs of the armed forces, to fulfill their tasks, have not been addressed with the seriousness they deserve; professional military advice is either not sought, or is left unheeded.
The situation, instead of improving, has continuously worsened. The National Security Adviser (NSA) office, has never been staffed, leave alone headed by military personnel. Status, pay & allowances of military personnel see a downward trend. Armed forces are compared with paramilitary forces and the police; insensitive statements by politicians seek to label nation’s warriors as mercenaries.
Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is sought to be repealed. Politicians and citizens do not understand and fail to get acquainted with reasons why and how armed forces are required to be employed in internal security. When involved in internal security duties, armed forces cannot and must not operate as para-military do; the military is the last instrument of exercising state power, it must be allowed to act in the way it is meant to and trained for. If its methods are considered too harsh, the state must desist from using it. But even more importantly, citizens have to understand that under no circumstance they can confront the armed forces, for in doing so one becomes an enemy of the state.
Alas, the cussedness of our “shootyourself-in-the-foot” syndrome does not end here: The Supreme Court, suo moto, declares that the guardian of our citizens, the soldier, will be slapped with a First Information Report (FIR) for shooting a person who confronts him. Do their lordships understand the term, “fog of war” to portray the confusion in a war-like situation? Do they know the rules of engagement for American, Israelis, Pakistani or any other nationality soldier? Advanced countries, not only arm and kit their soldiers with greater sophistication, their laws ensure immunity against public litigation. Is the soldier expected to do his duty in the field, or worry about a lawsuit against him? Military courts are meant to try battle-field atrocities; do not take away their function. Are we caring more for an enemy of the state than for the soldier who protects us?!
It is crucial that our law- makers ( parliamentarians), law- interpreters (judiciary), the watchdogs (media), citizens, clearly understand the difference between the armed forces and para-military, central armed police, armed constabulary, police forces. Their responsibilities and their empowerment differ vastly. Possibly because their employments have been over-lapping one another’s fields, a lot of confusion has arisen; our “Tower of Babel” mindless public debates have only convoluted the situation further. Education in this field is essential.
A reason for inability to distinguish between defence and internal security/ law enforcement agencies is the similarity between their uniforms and rank badges. It is important that the armed (defence) forces have uniforms and rank badges that are distinctly different from the others. A warrior’s appearance must have a menacing look to deter anyone from confronting him; other security agencies must not emulate them. The challenges facing our forces are increasing, not decreasing. No state institution or citizen should undermine their power:
STAND FIRMLY BEHIND OUR FORCES, NOT CHASE THEM IN PERSECUTION!!
(Right) Sudan Block at National Defence Academy, Pune