Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fighting Insurgency and Terrorists Reducing Army to Policemen and Indiscipline

Take turbulence in the ranks seriously
Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi | Agency: DNA | Thursday, August 23, 2012
Three incidents of collective indiscipline by jawans in the last few months, reflecting a breakdown in the traditionally close officer-man relationship, are a cause for concern, especially as all three of them are related to combat units, where a stable and healthy officer-man relationship is an article of faith.
The Indian Army, with a justifiably proud record of service to the nation, has always placed officers-men bonding at the highest level.
In the past, the army has handled such incidents with compassion and firmness. Such incidents will no doubt happen again. However, there is need for comprehensive remedial actions. We must not succumb to a tendency of being simplistic, like attributing such incidents to recent cases of corruption amongst a few senior officers. Such attributions are obviously absurd, as these are two vastly different issues. The need is actually to focus on command and control, discipline and officer-man relationships.
In combat units, a thorough knowledge of jawans by their officers is a must. Included in this are the jawans’ capabilities and limitations; what enthuses or dampens their spirits; their backgrounds as well as of their families; and whether they are team persons or loners. Earlier, senior unit officers acted as guides and mentors in this respect. Unfortunately, on account of the huge shortage of officers in combat units today, as well as the large number of tasks assigned to the few available officers, it is virtually impossible for them to spare time to do so now.
The main reason for this state of affairs is the prolonged employment in fighting insurgents and terrorists over decades now, which have taken stress and fatigue to extremely high levels. These operations are extremely difficult and full of tension, especially on account of scrupulously adhering to human rights norms.
A major caveat of the army’s secondary role of assisting the civil administration is that it must be released as soon as the task is over, but in counter-insurgency operations there appears to be no end state! There has been no insurgency in the north eastern states for many years now, but neither the states concerned nor the central government want to release the army. In J&K, the situation has improved vastly, but the police forces are not in a position to assume control. The army’s reasoning that the situation will deteriorate rapidly if the army is de-inducted is sound, but why are the police forces not being made capable?
While the government must squarely take the blame for this state of affairs, the army hierarchy also needs to be blamed for not pursuing it relentlessly.
There are also three other issues that need to be tackled by the government. The first is deliberately downgrading the esteem and importance of the military by successive governments. This has resulted in our soldiers becoming greatly disillusioned not only with the government officials but, what is worse, also with their own officers, who are being viewed as devoid of any power, as civil and police officials studiously ignore requests from commanding officers relating to various problems of soldiers projected by them. This is in stark contrast to earlier times when the civil officials responded with alacrity when a commanding officer wrote to them about the personal or collective problems of his jawans. This aspect needs immediate improvement by good governance and by educating the officials.
Soldiers’ lay their lives on the line, not because of the pay or allowances that they get (which in any case are less than what the equivalent civil officials receive) but because of their self-esteem and military √©lan. These need to be nurtured by the civil administration.
The second and related issue is the military intake. Although recruitment rallies draw large numbers, the reason is no longer pride in joining the military but massive unemployment, resulting in inferior manpower joining the military. In the case of officers, young men from traditional military families are no longer enthused with the forces. The main reason is the decline of respect for the military.
The last point is the treatment of the veterans. The government needs to understand that the policy of ignoring those who have served the nation sacrificing their all will be a disaster in the long run. Future generations will not heed the call of the bugle when they see neither respect nor adequate financial benefits being given to the veterans. The present indifference and callousness must end.
Will Delhi wake up?
The writer is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff.
Take turbulence in the ranks seriously

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