Changing Socio-economic Norms and its Impact on India’s Armed Forces
Nitin A. Gokhale*
The Indian Army remains rooted in an outdated, British-inherited system that is struggling to cope with the combination of challenges posed by demands of modern warfare and a society that is undergoing a great churn. The greatest challenge has been to the famous officer–men relationship in the Indian armed forces. In the past decade, the armed forces have faced a new problem: increasing incidents of indiscipline, suicides and fratricide. Are these incidents happening because the traditional bond between officers and men, the bedrock on which the military functions, is fraying at the edges? Are there other external factors impinging upon the armed forces’ functioning and eroding some of its admirable values? The article attempts to focus on these issues and provide some basic answers.
It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who gives us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.1
The last time the Indian soldier featured prominently in the collective consciousness of the nation was when the Kargil skirmish broke out in the summer of 1999. As images of the conflict were beamed directly into our bedrooms for the first time, a patriotic fervour swept the nation.
As the body bags came home, a grateful nation paid rich tribute to the Indian Army and the ordinary soldier.2 For a while, names like Captain Vikram Batra, Havaldar Yogendra Yadav and Captain Anuj Nayyar became household names for their acts of bravery and ultimate sacrifice for the nation.3
Nearly 14 years after that skirmish, Kargil is but a distant memory, an annual ritual to be observed only by the Army at Drass. Since then,...