It is, what I call, India’s Brahmaastra (the ultimate weapon).
The versatility, adaptability, selfless attitude and resourcefulness of the Indian Army has allowed it to be what it is today: Nation Builders.
And viewed in the context of India’s immediate and extended neighbourhood, its stellar role stands out in stark contrast to its counterparts in other countries.
Remember, Indian and Pakistani Armies originated from the same source, the British Army and yet, six decades since they parted ways, there couldn’t be a bigger dissimilarity in the way the two have evolved.
As they say, India has an Army while the Pakistani Army has a nation!
More importantly, despite India’s increasing dependence on the Army to pull its chestnuts out of fire time and again, the Indian Army has scrupulously remained apolitical.
The contribution of the Indian Army in nurturing and strengthening democracy—with all its faults—can never be underestimated.
It has put down fissiparous and secessionist forces within India with great cost to itself over these 60 years. It has protected India from within and without.
The Indian army also has a unique distinction of helping create a nation (Bangladesh) in the neighbourhood and then quietly walking away to let the people take charge.
By contrast, the Pakistani Army has never really allowed democracy to flourish in its country. Instead, it has created a military-industrial complex that has spread its tentacles in every aspect of governance. Even today, the Pakistani army does not let go of any opportunity to undercut democracy; it nurtures and treats jihadi elements as its strategic asset against India and the United States.
Even in other smaller nations around India—Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh, for instance—the armed forces have had to intervene and run the affairs of those countries at some point.
The nation as a whole and indeed the people at large have the highest regard and affinity for the men in uniform for the yeoman service they render in every conceivable situation, but most mandarins in the Ministry of Defence and some of the politicians do not have the same opinion and are repeatedly trying to run down the military without realising the immense damage they cause to the only available bulwark we have against any attempt to Balkanise India. Now unfortunately, even we in the media seem to have joined these these ill-informed and devious bunch of opportunists.
As former Chief of army Staff, Gen. S. Padmanabhan says in his book, A General Speaks: Even after Independence, India’s political leaders found it convenient to keep the Army, Navy and the Air Force out of the ‘policy’ making bodies. The service HQs were left at the level that the British left them—that of being ‘attached offices,’ of the Ministry of Defence. Even at the level of Defence Minister and Service Chiefs, exchanges on major matters of Defence policy were few and far between…”
Another former Army Chief, Gen. Shankar Roy Choudhury has observed: “It is… essential in the national interest that the armed forces are upgraded and updated on an ongoing basis, something which governments have been traditionally loath to acknowledge and undertake, the Indian government perhaps more so than others in this respect.
”Historically, it is to the credit of the Indian Army that it has fulfilled its role as an organ of the state…It has functioned effectively in every type of role, in spite of the general lack of a supportive government environment by way of adequate finances, resources, equipment, personnel policies, or higher political direction.”
A nation’s military provides what is called a ‘hard-edged’ backup to its international standing. A strong military and especially a powerful, well-trained, fully-equipped army act as a deterrent against adversaries. It is therefore essential that the nation’s decision-makers consciously back the Army and provide it with the support that it needs to meet diverse challenges that exist and are likely to come up in the coming decade.
So far, the Indian Army has fulfilled its role in nation building admirably well. All of us, ordinary citizens, media persons, politicians, bureaucrats, must continue to back the nation’s strongest asset and further strengthen it, if we desire to see India as a global player in the decades to come.