Indian Army Updates

[op-ed snap] Preventing another scuffle


Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Various Security forces & agencies & their mandate

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Strained civil-military relationship in recent times and need of maintaining good relations between the two


Tensions between civil & military officers

  1. In a disturbing incident in Bomdila, Arunachal Pradesh recently, two soldiers of the Indian Army were arrested by the local police and reportedly beaten up for alleged incorrect behaviour during a festival, which was then followed by alleged retaliatory high-handedness by their Army compatriots
  2. This is an apt example of the leadership on both sides not using their superior skills to prevent the unsavoury happenings and living up to the requirement of statecraft
  3. The term ‘statecraft’ is important because the leadership at every level of the government is a vital cog in maintaining a harmonious relationship with other arms, all the while respecting the other’s domain specialisation

Not the first instance

  1. The Bomdila incident is not the first instance of the civil administration and the military having locked horns
  2. It is just that earlier incidents did not get publicity in the absence of fast communication
  3. Though the issues were “resolved”, tensions have continued to simmer
  4. Social media and near instantaneous communications now amplify the damage

Link between civil & military personnel

  1. There is a delicate thread that links the uniformed and non-uniformed sections
  2. Pride in one’s job should not translate to contempt for another’s job
  3. The civil administration has challenges that no uniformed person ever faces, such as the pressures from social strife, economic hardships, and law and order
  4. The uniformed services, on the other hand, see themselves as protectors of the nation even at the cost of their own lives
  5. So, just as a uniformed force must acknowledge the expertise of the civil administration, so too should the latter respect and ensure that a soldier does feel a bit special

Role of leadership in the military

  1. A commander’s order is sacrosanct and a soldier on the front line follows it unflinchingly despite knowing that he could lose his life the next moment
  2. It is this implicit faith that permeates the psyche of a uniformed person based on the belief that his commander is supreme and will always look after his interests as well as those of his family
  3. This is how the military works, by laying emphasis on the point that military effectiveness requires a military culture that is different from that of a civilian’s
  4. This is the heart of the ‘chip on the shoulder’ feeling that drives a soldier to sacrifice his life at his superior’s command

Important issues in the civil-military relationship

At the heart of civil-military relations are two questions

  1. First, who controls the military and how? Is there civilian control or has it degenerated into civilian bureaucratic control?
  2. Second, what degree of military influence is appropriate for a given society?
  • While direct intervention in domestic affairs is a big no, on the other extreme is the utilisation of the armed forces in happenings that should logically come under the civilian domain
  • The Army is being called in to construct railway foot overbridges in Mumbai and even clear up litter left behind by tourists in the hills of north India. There are pitfalls when lionising translates to deification

Way forward

  1. Deification of the military could lead to resentment among certain sections of society
  2. Using the armed forces very often as a bulwark to sort out civil issues is detrimental to military philosophy
  3. So also is the absence of oversight to prevent civilian bureaucratic control and delays in resolving the problems service personnel face
  4. An unequal civil-military dialogue, wherein a soldier begins to doubt his ‘uniqueness’ (not deification) in society does not bode well for good civil-military relations
  5. Civil-military relations is an art that requires delicate nursing through statesmanship. Good leadership from both sides is the key to preventing new Bomdilas
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