By Brig Sanjay Sangwan
‘Tour of Duty’, enrolling people into the military for a short duration of 3 to 5 years, is being hotly discussed for implementation by the government soon. It is expected to make up the shortfall, save precious funds for equipment upgrades of the military and infuse discipline and patriotism in the youth before they get employed in other sectors. While the thought is noble and much desired, it is the execution and impact which merits a greater deliberation.
Militaries down the ages have been raised, sustained and upgraded for the core purpose of providing security to the nation/state/ people. In doing so militaries undertake multiple functions which involve training of youth, indirectly disciplining the society and using fiscal prudence and cost saving measures since militaries have always been expensive to maintain.Over the ages with technological development and new vistas opening up, security too has expanded its scope to become a multi-dimensional extremely complex affairwith cutting edge technology and involving every major department of the state which has escalated the costs involved greatly. Yet, it is also a fundamental need for any nation or state to survive, grow and develop and no price can be pegged at freedom or sovereignty.This also demands that the financial burden of security be shared by all entities enjoying its fruit. Who else would know it better than Indians who faced invasions, loot and dominance by foreigners (including colonisation) for 800 years. The only way those invaders and colonisers could get the better of socio-economically strong India was by striking at our core strength of heritage and various traditional systems. Psychological and emotional dominance through indiscriminate killings and dishonouring of our women was employed freely.
The Indian military has been known for its valour and unparalleled commitment which the British utilised effectively during the two World Wars. Indian units and formations were instrumental in getting them crucial victories in every theatre of war despite not having the best of equipment and arms. Erstwhile British PM Clement Attlee had conceded that the British had left India because of Netaji and the Great War hardened the military of India. Post-independence too it was the valour, camaraderie and bonhomie of our soldiers which made them fight till the last breath and round for the Izzat, Naam and Nishan of the unit. Such bonding takes years of rubbing shoulders together and facing difficulties and adversities together. Op Vijay in 1999 and Galwan last year was a stark reminder of the role of human motivation and determination. This kind of commitment, camaraderie and determination are built over generations joining the same outfit and taking pride in belonging to it. The Ukraine military has very advanced weapon systems and technological support from US and NATO but couldn’t handle the Russian invasion. Even with most advanced technology and weapons, it is the motivation of the man behind them that leads to victory.
On seeing the opto-electric systems inside the turret of a T 90 tank in 2004 and hearing that a JCO and NCO handles all those systems to execute the Hunter Killer concept against three dimensional threats, a pilot officer was left awed as the systems and expertise required were comparable to flying a helicopter entrusted only to officers. Modern technology demands high levels of expertise necessitating 7-8 years of training and experience for the proverbial 10000 hours.
The value systems, priorities, aspirations of the youth have all undergone a major change in the last few decades and the success rates in selection of recruits as well as officer cadets in SSBs have reduced considerably.
India can’t ignore the prevailing political and socio-economic environment wherein global forces contesting India’s resurgence have joined hands and are employing every conceivable tool to weaken India including domestic subversion. Tour of Duty as seems to be unfolding will offer a golden opportunity to these inimical forces to infiltrate subversive elements on grounds of secularism and reservation to weaken the military. The Indian military isn’t fighting on foreign lands for dominance where victory may not be critical but fighting to safeguard our homeland where there may not be a second chance. In India a distinct difference is visible between leaders who have parachuted due to family privileges and those who have struggled their way up. Their values and commitment are on extreme ends of the human spectrum.
Another aspect to be borne in mind is the terrain where we are likely to be contesting external threats. High Altitude areas of Leh, Uttrakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh demand boots on ground and higher force ratios. When an Indian thinks of threat from China, the picture his mind relates to is LAC and not hinterland or high seas. Hence winning the battles at the LAC are more important for public perception.
Three-year tenures would need five cycles of induction and five-year tenures would need three cycles to make up the required numbers. The training duration of 44 weeks for a recruit would remain and hence greater numbers will need to be recruited and trained. Due to overlapping cycles of training, the centres would need additional infrastructure, training resources and trainers which need time and additional resources. Their costs and time impact need to be worked out too to balance out the overall fiscal gain. Weakening the core strength of the Indian Army and its ability to fulfil its primary role will not be worth it, even if it leads to fiscal gains.
Inducting veterans into police forces and other departments like education and state transport can lessen the overall pension burden of the govt while gainfully utilising a skilled national resource and enhancing efficiency. Compulsory NCC training in schools and colleges is likely to inculcate the desired values and patriotic spirit in youth at a much lesser cost with no adverse impact on the military. In fact, these NCC cadets will provide better HR resources for all sectors if vocational training is incorporated in NCC and it is feasible within the current system and infrastructure.
(The author is a veteran of the Armoured Corps with extensive experience of training youth at IMA, in NCC and in schools. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited).