Force Magazine
Guest Column - Force Magazine
Men and Morale
The army has to get back to doing what it was primarily meant to do – protect the nation
Maj. Gen. Sheru Thapliyal (retd)
By Maj. Gen. Sheru Thapliyal (retd)

Events on the Line of Control (LC) in the last few months should give a wake-up call to the serving top brass of the Indian Army on the need to introspect. It is worrisome that the army is seen losing its sheen and questions are being raised on its capability to dominate the LC. Apart from that, we need to ponder as to why the officer–man relationship is under strain, with so many incidents of fracas between officers and men in different units taking place and the famous Chetwood motto being discarded in the process.

The issue is complex and there are many reasons for this undesirable state of affairs. None more so than the fact that there appears to be a role ambiguity. Are we to emphasise our primary role of defence of the nation against external aggression or have we, over the last two decades, become a paramilitary force combating terrorism and insurgency with aid to civil authority taking precedence over operational preparedness? Therefore, instead of cursing the politician and the bureaucrat for all our ills, we need to look within.

The main reason for the erosion of combat efficiency of the army is its excessive involvement in counter terrorist and counter insurgency operations. In the process, we have abrogated to ourselves the role that has always been of paramilitary forces. A large part of the army, over 60 battalions of Rashtriya Rifles, is already engaged in this task. This is over and above the normal deployment of the army on the LC in counter infiltration role.

Apparently, due to excessive importance given to this role, the army has developed a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. In the process, preparations and training for a conventional war have been dealt a body blow. Routine, the bedrock of the army, has been given a go by. Training at unit level which includes physical training; drill; weapon training; maintenance of arms; vehicle; tanks; guns; regular small arms firing; games; night training and tactical training at unit and sub unit level have become perfunctory. There is no time or stress on these activities. Units get inducted into counter insurgency grid and on return to peace stations, can barely settle down when it is time to get inducted again.

Absence of routine and excessive involvement in counter insurgency tasks have also been detrimental to office-man relationship in the army, resulting in increasing incidents of office-men clashes, which were unheard of till a few years ago. The officers need to realise that the jawan today is better educated and better off financially and has, therefore, more aspirations. He wants to be treated with dignity. In this context, there is a need to immediately do away with the sahayak (assistant) system. Nothing lowers the dignity of a soldier more than being asked to do menial jobs. Absence of routine in units and formations is resulting in the dilution of the vital bonding between officers and men. Officers need to shed their ‘Bada Saheb’ mentality and interact with men more regularly. This can only happen if unit routine is restored to its primacy.

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