MEN­TAL BAT­TLE

Army des­per­ately needs an in­tel­lec­tual trans­for­ma­tion

India Today - - THE BIG STORY - ANITMUKHERJEE

AThe writer is a re­search fel­low at the In­sti­tute for De­fence Stud­ies and Analy­ses, New Delhi

t the end of the First World War, the three ma­jor mil­i­tary pow­ers in Europe—the Bri­tish, French and Ger­mans—faced the prob­lem of pre­par­ing for fu­ture un­cer­tain­ties. These three mil­i­taries imag­ined war dif­fer­ently and trained, planned and equipped ac­cord­ingly. In May 1940, the Ger­mans de­feated the French and Bri­tish forces in con­ti­nen­tal Europe in six dev­as­tat­ing weeks and changed the face of war­fare. Un­like what is com­monly be­lieved, there was noth­ing in­evitable about their vic­tory as the Al­lied Forces en­joyed ma­te­rial su­pe­ri­or­ity—in tanks, ar­tillery and in­fantry. The Ger­mans won mainly due to the su­pe­ri­or­ity of their imag­i­na­tion and the vic­tory was, ac­cord­ing to fa­mous his­to­rian and re­sis­tance hero March Bloch, es­sen­tially a “tri­umph of the in­tel­lect”. While his­tory is an in­ex­act sci­ence, it might be in­struc­tive for In­dian mil­i­tary lead­ers, con­fronting strate­gic un­cer­tain­ties of their own, to study this pe­riod and in­ter­nalise the need for an in­tel­lec­tual trans­for­ma­tion. The In­dian mil­i­tary rightly ap­pears to be on course for a hard­ware trans­for­ma­tion to pre­pare for even­tu­al­i­ties aris­ing from chal­lenges such as the rise of Chi­nese mil­i­tary power, a rel­a­tive de­cline, real and per­cep­tual, in US and NATO power, an un­pre­dictable, ap­par­ently ir­rec­on­cil­able Pak­istan and seem­ingly pro­longed in­sta­bil­ity in Afghanistan. How­ever, even more im­por­tant is the need for an in­tel­lec­tual trans­for­ma­tion, the ev­i­dence for which is spotty at best.

One of the big­gest ob­sta­cles to the in­tel­lec­tual de­vel­op­ment of In­dian mil­i­tary of­fi­cers is their in­abil­ity to learn from the past—a pre­req­ui­site for strate­gic think­ing. Mil­i­tary lead­ers will be un­able to name one book on the post-in­de­pen­dence mil­i­tary that re­lies on of­fi­cial doc­u­ments. In­stead, in the ab­sence of a de­clas­si­fi­ca­tion pro­ce­dure, all we have is ei­ther self-ex­cul­pa­tory au­to­bi­ogra­phies or ha­giogra­phies. The im­port of this fact is sig­nif­i­cant: this is a mil­i­tary that can’t hon­estly an­a­lyse its past.

There are at least three other fac­tors that hin­der the in­tel­lec­tual de­vel­op­ment of the In­dian of­fi­cer corps. First, there is al­most no civil­ian in­volve­ment in pro­fes­sional mil­i­tary ed­u­ca­tion. As a re­sult, in­struc­tion at mil­i­tary acad­e­mies usu­ally ends up per­pet­u­at­ing con­ve­nient or­gan­i­sa­tional myths. Sec­ond, there is an overem­pha­sis on reg­i­men­tal spirit that re­sults in a de­sire to cover up and dis­al­lows self-crit­i­cism. Fi­nally, there is al­most no ca­reer in­cen­tive for in­tel­lec­tual study, pub­lish­ing in jour­nals or en­cour­ag­ing study leave to en­hance skill-sets. Un­like other mil­i­taries, the con­cept of schol­ar­war­rior is not em­pha­sised.

Ul­ti­mately, an in­tel­lec­tual trans­for­ma­tion can only be re­alised with the ac­tive en­cour­age­ment of se­nior mil­i­tary lead­ers. Un­for­tu­nately, the vast ma­jor­ity of them are sat­is­fied with the sta­tus quo. While there are re­ports about trans­for­ma­tion stud­ies in the mil­i­tary, se­nior of­fi­cers must re­alise that fun­da­men­tal trans­for­ma­tion be­gins when we think dif­fer­ently. This can hap­pen only if the three Ser­vice chiefs along with other se­nior of­fi­cers iden­tify this as a pri­or­ity. Dis­cussing all these is­sues at the next Com­bined Com­man­ders’ Con­fer­ence, to be held in 2012, might be the best place to start.

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