THE FAITH OF A WAR­RIOR

IN TO­DAY’S WORLD, WHERE ‘PA­TRI­O­TISM’ AND ‘NA­TION­AL­ISM’ ARE USED INTERCHANG­EABLY, DEFIN­ING THESE TERMS IS NO LONGER A SIM­PLE MAT­TER

India Today - - 72 YEARS OF INDEPENDEN­CE - BY LT. GEN. D.S. HOODA

ONE MIGHT THINK THAT EX­PLAIN­ING the con­cept and mean­ing of pa­tri­o­tism would come easy to a sol­dier. Af­ter all, we are the most vis­i­ble sym­bols of a group that dis­plays its com­mit­ment to­wards the coun­try by be­ing for­ever ready to sac­ri­fice lives for the na­tion’s hon­our. How­ever, in to­day’s world, where ‘pa­tri­o­tism’ and ‘na­tion­al­ism’ are of­ten used interchang­eably—and the sub­ject has ac­quired an emo­tive char­ac­ter—defin­ing pa­tri­o­tism is no longer sim­ple. Per­sonal bi­ases may also creep in, and it could be ar­gued that my per­cep­tion of pa­tri­o­tism could be com­pletely dif­fer­ent from an­other sol­dier’s.

A pos­si­ble way around this predica­ment is to look at the is­sue of pa­tri­o­tism from an or­gan­i­sa­tional, rather than in­di­vid­ual, per­spec­tive. The mil­i­tary is not an ad hoc group of peo­ple, but a pro­fes­sion with a unique and dis­tinct char­ac­ter. Mor­ris Janowitz, in his clas­sic work, The Pro­fes­sional Sol­dier, states, ‘[A] pro­fes­sion is more than a group with spe­cial skills, ac­quired through in­ten­sive train­ing. A pro­fes­sional group de­vel­ops a sense of group iden­tity and a sys­tem of in­ter­nal ad­min­is­tra­tion. Self ad­min­is­tra­tion… im­plies the growth of a body of ethics and stan­dards of per­for­mance.’ In a mil­i­tary, in­di­vid­ual in­cli­na­tions are sub­or­di­nate to the group iden­tity and pro­fes­sional ethic of the or­gan­i­sa­tion. It is this pro­fes­sional ethic of the In­dian mil­i­tary and its link to

pa­tri­o­tism that I will at­tempt to de­scribe.

In the mil­i­tary, we are com­pletely com­fort­able with dis­plays of love for our coun­try and our flag. The In­dian tri­colour flies in every unit and over each post on the border and drapes the coffins of our mar­tyrs. The na­tional an­them plays dur­ing all for­mal and in­for­mal events, and we stand tall and proud. We are will­ing to lay down our lives to de­fend In­dia’s ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity, both from in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal threats.

But we also do not see pa­tri­o­tism in merely sym­bolic or geo­graphic terms; it is also in the pro­mot­ing and de­fend­ing of In­dia’s na­tional val­ues.

Wal­ter Berns, in his book, Mak­ing Pa­tri­ots, de­fines pa­tri­o­tism as de­vo­tion not only to a coun­try but also to its prin­ci­ples and, equally im­por­tantly, an un­der­stand­ing of these prin­ci­ples. To this, I could add the prac­tice of the prin­ci­ples as en­shrined in our Con­sti­tu­tion; and this is where the mil­i­tary stands out. Equal­ity, sec­u­lar­ism and fra­ter­nity are es­sen­tial parts of the mil­i­tary’s cul­ture, not merely be­cause they are morally de­sir­able, but be­cause they are in­dis­pens­able to our way of life.

All men in uni­form are equal. There are soldiers of all castes, creeds and colour; Jats,

Brah­mins, Ma­hars, Sikhs, Mus­lims, Ra­jputs, Marathas and Na­gas play to­gether and fight to­gether. What­ever be the caste equa­tions back home, they are left be­hind when a sol­dier puts on his uni­form.

There are no more or less im­por­tant jobs among soldiers. In bat­tle, in­fantry soldiers al­ways lead the at­tack to rout the en­emy from their de­fen­sive po­si­tions. Be­hind the in­fantry is a group of clean­ers, bar­bers, driv­ers and cooks who con­sti­tute the ‘im­me­di­ate re­plen­ish­ment team’. Af­ter the ob­jec­tive is cap­tured, this team car­ries for­ward the es­sen­tial re­sup­plies of am­mu­ni­tion, wa­ter and food for the in­fantry soldiers and brings back the wounded for treat­ment. Vic­tory de­pends on each and every per­son of a unit work­ing to­gether.

Within the mil­i­tary, there is an easy and equal ac­cep­tance of all re­li­gions. Re­li­gious prac­tices are en­cour­aged and, in a sin­gle class unit, there is gen­er­ally a com­pul­sory mandir, church or gu­rud­wara func­tion on Sun­day morn­ings. As of­fi­cers, we adopt the re­li­gion of the soldiers we com­mand, and it never con­flicts with our own re­li­gious be­liefs. In units with a mixed re­li­gious com­po­si­tion, there is a com­mon prayer hall called the Sarv Dharam Sthal, in which the stat­ues of Lord Rama and Je­sus, the Guru Granth Sahibji and the pho­to­graph of Holy Kaaba nes­tle un­der the same roof. This con­cept of the Sarv Dharam Sthal has now found uni­ver­sal ac­cep­tance through­out the army.

The Con­sti­tu­tion prom­ises each cit­i­zen ‘fra­ter­nity’ in as­sur­ing the dig­nity of the in­di­vid­ual, and the unity and in­tegrity of the na­tion. Fra­ter­nity is a sense of broth­er­hood among all com­mu­ni­ties, and this con­cept has been well known to soldiers through­out his­tory. The mil­i­tary is known as a band of broth­ers, a term used

EQUAL­ITY, SEC­U­LAR­ISM AND FRA­TER­NITY ARE ES­SEN­TIAL PARTS OF THE MIL­I­TARY’S CUL­TURE, NOT MERELY BE­CAUSE THEY ARE MORALLY DE­SIR­ABLE BUT BE­CAUSE THEY ARE IN­DIS­PENS­ABLE

in Shake­speare’s Henry V, in which the king ex­horts his soldiers with these words be­fore the bat­tle of Ag­ni­court in 1415:

“From this day to the end­ing of the world, But we in it shall be re­mem­bered—

We few, we happy few, we band of broth­ers; For he to­day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother”

We are all broth­ers in uni­form; sta­tus, com­mu­nity, wealth and back­ground have no mean­ing. When I was at­tend­ing the Higher Com­mand course, my list of good friends in­cluded names like Xerxes Adri­an­walla, Azad Sameer, Satya and Chacko Ipe. We were all like one big fam­ily, cel­e­brat­ing each other’s suc­cesses and shar­ing mo­ments of grief.

You may well ask why I talk here about the Con­sti­tu­tion of In­dia. It is be­cause every of­fi­cer and sol­dier, when they en­ter ser­vice, takes an oath swear­ing that they will “bear true faith and al­le­giance to the Con­sti­tu­tion of In­dia, as by law es­tab­lished”. We also see the mil­i­tary as a mi­cro­cosm of In­dia, and we feel that it is our pa­tri­otic duty to pro­mote, within our own or­gan­i­sa­tion, the val­ues and prin­ci­ples on which this coun­try was founded.

Wal­ter Berns has de­fined a pa­triot as be­ing “more than a cit­i­zen or mere in­hab­i­tant of a na­tion; he has to be de­voted to his na­tion and be pre­pared to de­fend it”. As soldiers, we are will­ing to lay down our lives in de­fence of In­dia and are thus au­to­mat­i­cally pa­tri­ots. But we do not flaunt this; in fact, any ex­ces­sive dis­play or talk of pa­tri­o­tism is ac­tu­ally dis­cour­aged. One rea­son for this is that a de­bate on pa­tri­o­tism could some­times ac­quire a po­lit­i­cal colour, and pol­i­tics has gen­er­ally been taboo as a sub­ject of dis­cus­sion.

T he sec­ond rea­son is more func­tional. Pa­tri­o­tism, while al­ways present at the back of your mind, is not con­sid­ered a ma­jor fac­tor with which you can mo­ti­vate men who are go­ing into bat­tle. As S.L.A. Marshall points out in his well-known book, Men Against Fire: The Prob­lem of Bat­tle Com­mand in Fu­ture War, ‘It should not be ex­pected that pride in a uni­form or be­lief in a na­tional cause are of them­selves suf­fi­cient to make a sol­dier stead­fast in dan­ger…it is un­wor­thy of the pro­fes­sion of arms to base any pol­icy upon ex­ag­ger­ated no­tions of man’s ca­pac­ity to en­dure and to sac­ri­fice on be­half of ideals alone.’

There have been many stud­ies on what makes men will­ing

to walk into a hail of gun­fire, fully aware that many of them will not be alive to see the next day. Most of these stud­ies point to unit co­he­sion and the qual­ity of lead­er­ship as key determinan­ts of suc­cess in bat­tle. Mil­i­tary val­ues like courage and hon­our also have a pow­er­ful in­flu­ence on how soldiers act when fac­ing im­mi­nent death. ‘When re­wards be­come mean­ing­less and pun­ish­ment ceases to de­ter, hon­our alone re­tains the power to make men march into the muz­zles of can­non trained at them’, writes Martin Van Crevald in his book, Trans­for­ma­tion of War.

There­fore, the mil­i­tary fo­cuses on pro­vid­ing good lead­er­ship and in­cul­cat­ing the val­ues of courage, loy­alty, hon­our, in­tegrity and unit pride among its of­fi­cers and men. A unit that can per­form com­pe­tently in war would be best ac­com­plish­ing the duty that a na­tion re­quires of it. This was clearly re­flected in the Kargil War, where ju­nior lead­er­ship and unit co­he­sion led to vic­tory against seem­ingly in­sur­mount­able odds.

There is a lot of de­bate these days on na­tion­al­ism ver­sus pa­tri­o­tism, on sym­bolic pa­tri­o­tism ver­sus blind pa­tri­o­tism. The ar­gu­ments on both sides are well known, and de­pend­ing on which side of the ide­o­log­i­cal di­vide you sit, you could eas­ily de­fend your viewpoint. How­ever, what is im­por­tant is that no­body should be forced to ad­here to some­body else’s brand of pa­tri­o­tism. As Ge­orge Or­well wrote in his es­say, ‘Notes on Na­tion­al­ism’, ‘By ‘pa­tri­o­tism’ I mean de­vo­tion to a par­tic­u­lar place and par­tic­u­lar way of life, which one be­lieves to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other peo­ple.’

For those of us who are or were soldiers, true pa­tri­o­tism lies in de­fend­ing the in­tegrity of the na­tion and pro­tect­ing the prin­ci­ples and val­ues on which our great coun­try was founded. This is demon­strated not only in the In­dian mil­i­tary’s per­for­mance in bat­tle, but also in the char­ac­ter and pro­fes­sional ethic of our or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Lt. Gen. D.S. Hooda is for­mer Gen­eral Of­fi­cer Com­mand­ing-in-Chief of the In­dian army’s North­ern Com­mand

PA­TRI­O­TISM IS NOT CON­SID­ERED A MA­JOR FAC­TOR BY WHICH ONE CAN MO­TI­VATE MEN GO­ING INTO BAT­TLE; STUD­IES ON WHAT MAKES MEN WILL­ING TO WALK INTO A HAIL OF GUN­FIRE POINT TO UNIT CO­HE­SION AND LEAD­ER­SHIP AS KEY DETERMINAN­TS

Illustrati­on by NILANJAN DAS

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