An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 15 December 2006  

In Kautilya’s Arthashastra it is written, "Teaming up is better than working alone –– this is the key to success when it comes to working on a mission or on a project".

In contrast we see many examples of inter-service rivalry between our armed forces, when in this day and age Jointness is the mantra the world over. This trend is not good at all and needs heeding.

Armed Forces morale, which is a salient principle of war is the serious subject of our analysis and this includes the nation's respect for its departed soldiers, sailors and airmen, who gave their all in war.

India seldom remembers those who gave their lives to save our Tomorrows. India’s tomorrows now look glorious and the Finance Minister's bank is filling up with better tax collections than expected. Corporate results are also very good and the stock market is sustaining a dream bull run with a few hiccups. Yet with all this there has to be a public show by the Government that it honours its dead and the nation must be enthused by memorials and reminders.

The 14 day 1971 War was India's finest hour in battle and victory, but we see no signs of it, but we did see how Mrs Sonia Gandhi's 60th birthday was celebrated and TV channels all aired it and the nation knows all about it, but it has forgotten that 35 years ago we were fighting a war, we proudly won and the three Services were made to fight jointly –– by Mrs Indira Gandhi giving Gen Sam Manekshaw the authority and he could approach her directly without being misunderstood by the astute RM Jagjivan Ram. In the Kargil war the Chiefs dared not approach the PM as a powerful RM George Fernandes had the Chiefs mesmerized. He even sacked a Chief for over stepping.

There are initial indications that the morale aspects of the Armed Forces are being neglected in preferences to sycophancy, huge defence purchases, show at functions, huge spending from the inflated Non Public (non accountable?) Funds accumulated by the services, especially on entertainment.

On the other hand there have been many cases of fratricide in the Army, that MOD has constituted a high-level committee to probe the rising trend of fratricide and suicides in its armed forces. Defence Minister AK Antony confirmed 23 cases in the Rajya Sabha. This shows that the social fabric of the services, economic stress, type of intake and the family problems and associated work stress level has become very high in the Armed Forces.

It all begins at the top. The Top is top heavy because the Police was upgraded and the military had to follow suit, because there is no cohesive single command, to look after collective command at the top and advise collectively. Hence in these circumstances each Service looks after its own interest, as it must. It may be long before the new Defence Minister even understands what we are trying to convey, as he is coming to grips with the day to day questions in Parliament and briefings. Defence of a country with a $20b budget, arms dealers prowling and three services acting independently and terrorism not abating can be quite a handfull.

The Services HQ still work with the Whitehall file system which is top heavy and full of Brass, and while UK had given up the Whitehall system, India has enlarged it –– an officer of Major level rank in HQ in Delhi has become a mere file carrier. His level can seldom take decisions. And the Armed Forces add more Brass almost monthly while there is a large shortage of junior officers, according to media reports.

At the recent Annual London Ship Construction and Repair Conference, we observed all vendors of ships and equipment had explained all the RFIs that MOD had sent. It is good that India's MOD is planning long term, but who is looking at the day to day morale aspects. The Personnel branch of each service is more busy and worried retaining the good manpower and facing challenges of letters of resignation and compassionate cases and legal cases. Many in uniform are planning to leave as they finish 20 years service. Today pilots and technical officers are lapped up by the civil sector. Study leave is given almost compulsorily in the Army. The civil sector knows the Armed Forces produce disciplined, dedicated and honest workers. This is their plus point.

The Committee set up to go into stress and fratricides and suicides is headed by the Director Defence Institute of Psychological Research and it is required to submit its report within two months. “The committee will identify factors which lead to these incidents and suggest remedial measures,” the defence minister told the Rajya Sabha. Hence we hope it sees this analysis.

The RM claimed that he had outlined various other preventive and welfare measures –– including liberal granting of leave to armed forces personnel –– to address the serious issues of suicides and fratricide. This sounds simplistic as no one shoots his superior just because he is not granted leave. The malaise is deeper. It is an issue of low morale.

Mr Antony said most of the 23 cases of fratricide involving three officers and 16 jawans this year had taken place in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast of the country where the army has been engaged in counter-insurgency operations. It may be recalled, however, that India’s Army Chief General JJ Singh had recently told journalists that nearly 100 soldiers committed suicide every year in the Indian army. Last week, for the first time, a senior army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Pankaj Jha, shot himself. He was deployed in sector headquarters in Jammu and Kashmir. It became clear after the incident that the soldiers deployed in Jammu and Kashmir have been living in a high-stress non family environment. Today TV, Bollywood and general latitudes and attitudes in morals have made young wives miss their husbands, and some succumb to temptations as economic conditions of the persons in uniform at all levels compared to civil sector have fallen way back and the 6th pay commission is yet to begin its work.

We do not have all the answers but as we look at the future for the wonderful Armed Forces, we can say that morale of the Armed Forces must be kept up no matter what it costs the Government. If MPs can get a raise every year, the take home pay aspects of the Armed Forces need attention for a start or recruitment will also suffer. We also recommend a Memorial of the stature of India Gate, to honour all those who died in war since Independence and a Memorial Fund to remember and glorify them regularly, with their names etched like the thousands at India Gate. A mere Amar Jawan Jyoti under the British built India Gate is not enough.

Honouring the dead and remembering the valour and sacrifices of the Armed Forces is a sacred tradition in most countries. For the sake of morale of the armed forces, it is a tradition that has to be cultivated and followed religiously in India too, and it is the politicians, bureaucrats and armed forces top brass who must assiduously go about creating it. Celebrating Kargil Divas one year and forgetting about it thereafter is certainly not the way to do it.

Below is an example how the Pearl Harbour warriors now called survivors celebrated the memory of that attack with the slogan ‘REMEMBER PEARL HARBOUR’. Before that the Leaders of countries met to celebrate D-day.


For decades after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, survivors returned to retell their stories and recite their mantra: "Remember Pearl Harbor." Now the people who survived the surprise attack that killed more than 2,400 people and led to America's entry into World War II are in their 80s or older. Dying or too frail to travel, they say this week's reunion will be their last official gathering at the sacred site. "We're getting to be fewer and fewer in numbers," says Lee Soucy, 87, of Plainview, Texas. Soucy recalled treating injured sailors who jumped from flaming ships during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet. He was in Hawaii this week for the last time. "Some of us are dying off and some of us are getting incapacitated," he says.

They have been meeting and swapping stories all week, and will observe an official memorial Thursday. The last reunion at Pearl Harbor was in 2001. About 650 veterans were there. This year, the number dropped to about 450, says George Sullivan, director of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Fund and chairman of the Arizona Memorial Museum Association.


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