14 August 2013
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India's army has seen its role as the nation’s “ultimate weapon” diminish.
The Indian nation should have been able to look back at the country’s journey from 1947 and justifiably feel proud of the progress it has made so far. Unfortunately, the overwhelming mood in India today is that of gloom, despondency, and low self-confidence.
Institutions have been systematically emasculated, some even destroyed. The country’s economy is in the doldrums. The rupee is in a free fall. Experts say that the economy will improve and the rupee will also recover.
Since I have no expertise in those matters, I am willing to go with the optimism of the sarkari experts. But as a student of India’s armed forces, my worry is more long term and I am going to try and highlight the dangers inherent in this development.
It essential to understand why the soldier (in the broader sense) is pivotal for the wellbeing of a nation-state. Military scholars may quote Sun Tzu often when it comes to military strategy, but my favorite is the worldly-wise Chanakya. Centuries ago he toldthe king of Magadh:
"The Mauryan soldier does not himself the Royal treasuries enrich nor does he the Royal granaries fill... The soldier only and merely ensures that... He is thus the very basis and silent, barely visible cornerstone of our fame, culture, physical well-being and prosperity; in short, of the entire nation building activity.
The Indian nation state has, however, forgotten Chanakya’s advice. The Indian soldier today stands at the crossroads, confused about his status in the society and unsure about his own role in a nation led by “faux peaceniks” who will compromise national security for short-term gains like a Nobel Peace Prize. The havoc wrought by an indifferent polity and insensitive bureaucracy to India’s armed forces and changing societal norms, has hit the ordinary soldier hard.
The society no longer respects the soldier and his work in protecting the nation. They may pay lip service in times of crisis but that’s it. Bihar politician Bhim Singh’s utterly tasteless remark that “people join armed forces to die,” in the wake of the killing of five Indian soldiers on the line of control, is symptomatic of the bitter reality. Although forced to withdraw his remark, the Bihar politician symbolizes how a large section of Indian society view soldiering.