With seven published books, comprising of insights in the form of over 250 essays from some of the country's brightest military minds, the Victory India campaign, which is the brainchild of Colonel Vinay Baliram Dalvi, a former infantry officer from the Maratha Light Infantry and (Later) Army Physical Training Corps (APTC), has pushed for progressive defence and leadership reforms, since its inception with the book Role Model; A key to character development in 2010.
The decade-old campaign brought out lapses in the current training methodology of officer candidates and has highlighted potential changes which could be undertaken by the training authorities. The movement has sought to be a catalyst in bringing tangible changes in the way gentlemen and lady cadets in the country's various pre-commission training academies are trained. Victory India has received acknowledgement from former defence ministers, commandants of officer training establishments and the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC).
Speaking about the campaign spearheaded by military stalwarts, former Indian Navy Chief, Admiral Arun Prakash, a pioneering member of the veteran-run campaign said, "Victory India; the brainchild of Colonel Vinay Dalvi, has with the enlisted support of a galaxy of military luminaries has been turned into a veritable campaign for introspection and reform.
It has delivered over the past decade five comprehensive compendiums of essays, focusing on every aspect of selection and training of our young combat leadership. The onus for stemming progressive deterioration of 'quality leadership' in the armed forces rests squarely on the senior hierarchy; the Service Chiefs as well as the Commander -in - Chief."
Birth of the Campaign and a need for Change:
Highlighting the genesis of the campaign which is about to embark foray into cyberspace, Col. Dalvi said, "I have been associated with military leadership studies of general nature for past 39 years during my military service from 1969-2008 and seriously for past 12 years, post-retirement. Throughout my military career, especially during my time as an instructor at premier officers training institutions such as the National Defence Academy (NDA), Indian Military Academy (IMA) and the Officers Training Academy (OTA), I saw the need to reform military training and physical training methodology in the services as the current method of training is not only outdated but also counterproductive and is leading to relegations and cadets being boarded out on medical grounds, other than officer candidates sustaining permanent injuries and disabilities."
Speaking about the core aim of the campaign in a 2018 interview, Col. Dalvi had said, "The Victory India Campaign is about improving the quality of our military leadership at all levels by studying, analysing and researching about all our processes of nurturing, selection, training and grooming our military officers from the lowest rank to the highest. In any conflict, proxy war or even peacetime scenario the quality of our leadership, especially in the Army, is of critical importance for success or Victory. The better the quality of leadership at the decisive point or levels better are the chances of Victory."
He went on to say, The campaign was sparked off after the release of my first book 'Role Model' in 2010 and the subsequent articles and debates initiated by me and a fervent plea to our learned veteran fraternity and academicians (who had vast knowledge and experience on several complex subjects of leadership and personality development ) during 2011-12, leading to the compilation of articles, papers, reviews and debates into the first volume. The campaign, per se, took off after the release of this first volume by Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, then Chief of Air Staff (CAS) and Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) in New Delhi during November 2012."
When asked about the reason for writing five volumes, the decorated army colonel and training specialist said, The main reason why five volumes have come up during last 8 years is that the subject of military leadership is vast and unlimited. If the aim of the exercise was to improve the quality of the military leadership at all levels, detailed study and analysis perforce have to be done in all the relevant subjects concerning selection, training and grooming including physical education, fitness/ sports medicine, the relevance of sports competitions, human psychology, training methodology, academics personality development as per qualitative requirements of the three services.
Besides this, other vital issues of assessment and promotion policies of officers, subjects of professional military education, a revolution in military affairs and even military doctrines and national defence strategy were covered by eminent military writers."
Speaking about the finding of the campaign he said, the key findings of experts are that there has been no good review /analysis of our Army centric over 70 years old obsolete systems of selection, training and grooming which are primarily a legacy of the British Army. While the British and the western world have moved ahead and refined all their obsolete systems, we are rigidly continuing to maintain the status quo believing them to be still valid or relevant in this 21st-century warfare.
The prime reason for this is that unlike the western world which has limited manpower we despite our huge manpower base in the required young age group for recruitment have failed to optimally tap the right and most suitable manpower for the military. There is vast scope to improve on this front as amply elaborated in over 200 chapters of the five volumes of our Victory India book series."
Speaking further about the challenges the campaign faced over the decade, Col Dalvi said, "It was a great challenge to pick holes in the image enjoyed by the armed forces. But detailed study and research of the systems of selection and training revealed glaring faults in the existing policies and implementation methodology that was causing great and irreparable harm to the military. My personal findings and suggestions for improving the quality of our military leadership were circulated by me to several senior veterans for comments, validation and authentication besides inviting their personal views and opinions on different subjects / issues."
"This consequently led to several well-considered views and recommendations on almost all complex issues of selection and training, leading to conclusions and even consensus on most issues. These were frequently raised with our apex military hierarchy from time to time." Added the retired officer.
Shedding light on the support and acknowledgement from ministers, the serving fraternity and the veteran community, Col. Dalvi said, "The responses to my endeavour all along have been quite encouraging at all levels. I have received several letters from even Prime Minister's Office (PMO). Letters of acknowledgement and appreciation have been received from four Defence Ministers, several Chiefs of three Services, Army Commanders and Commandants of several officer training institutions."
"These responses over the years have directly or indirectly acted as a catalyst to continue with our mission relentlessly. However, sadly there has been no serious or worthwhile positive action on the ground to transfer our recommendations on the ground to actually improve the future quality of our military leadership. The serving hierarchy, due to several inexplicable reasons, has only been paying lip service to our advice and recommendations and prefer to maintain the status quo."
"This could be due to several reasons. The problem mainly lies with the Army hierarchy, which is unable to study, analyse our findings and recommendations and reach conclusions or consensus within their own arms and services. The reason for this is the strong regimentation and their traditions followed rigidly by them in their respective arms, services and regiments in this 21st century. Uniform implementation of selection systems and training methodologies have therefore become exceedingly difficult."
"Whenever simple or complex issues were raised with Chief of Staff Committee (COSC) and CISC rather than attempt to understand the technicalities of the issues with an open mind the serving incumbents sadly preferred to avoid or evade the issues by claiming that all was well and claimed the best way forward was to maintain the status quo. Consequently, there has been no good review, refinement or reform on our recommendations."
"It is pertinent to mention that several senior serving officers at apex level have personally confided in me that the issues raised by us were valid and even treated our books as reference manuals and even Bible. But could not officially accept the same as the higher leadership, especially of the Army was not relenting and rigidly defending the indefensible. Today we have a team of eminent veterans who have held some of the highest offices while in service supporting us as part of the campaign."
Other eminent members of the movement cum think tank have also spoken about the need for such a campaign and the burning need for progressive reform to prepare the Indian defence services for future wars and other spectrum of conflict. "The essence of Victory India Campaign has been to transform the Indian Military into a modern, well trained, technologically competent fighting force with superior leadership skills and qualities," said Air Marshal Narayan Menon when asked by the need for such a veteran-run initiative.
Lieutenant General Harbhajan Singh seconded the motion adding, "The Man behind the machine; remains a truism despite warfare being inundated by high technology. This campaign stresses on the officers who lead the soldiers, sailors and airmen and the critical need to comprehensively re-look and renew the selection and training of young officers. With over seven decades of our independence and experience of wars fought, both on Indian and foreign soil, the recommendations of our military experts must be examined with urgency and acted upon."
Stressing on the need for systematic overhaul and reform other eminent military personalities who are now part of 'Mission Victory India' have unanimously cited the need for veterans to use their experience for the betterment of the serving fraternity. "Every organisation generally tends to improve over time. The Armed Forces very survival depends on such improvements. So they do take this aspect seriously. In many exercises with foreign forces, our personnel have done exceedingly well which shows that our selection and training are on the right track." opined Air Marshal PP Raj Kumar
"Evolutionary changes may be indicated, but no revolutionary changes are needed. It is important to pick holes in the functioning of the military to keep them rooted, lest they start believing themselves to be infallible! Criticism is important to progress. Most times it is painful but leads to improvement" added the former flag officer.
Major General VK Madhok opined, "Today the soldier feels abandoned! Senior hierarchies are unable to stand up to political leadership or interact with media. Military leadership stands side-lined. Indian democratic system has yet to perceive the changes and shift from a colonial to a democratic way of command. As nothing can be done about it, the leadership of the Armed Forces must stand firm on the strength of its' character.' The best of Armies will always be led by men of character and not mere knowledge. The Chiefs of Staff must initiate a process to define the type of officer corps they visualise for the 21st century. Based on this and India's defence policy, aims and policies for training and syllabi at military academies should be laid down and cater for wide exposure."
Making Forays into the Online Sphere:
Speaking about the website, Col. Dalvi said, "The Mission Victory India (2020) website has been built on the support provided by five pillars (volumes) of the Victory India Campaign. The foundation of this edifice is the book, "Role Model: A Key to Character Development" (2010) & Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" pocketbook (2012). The five pillars on which 'Mission Victory India' rests are five compendiums: Victory India: A Key to Quality Military Leadership (2013), Quality Military leadership: A Key to Victory India (2014), A Campaign called Victory India (2016), Beyond the Victory India Campaign (2018), Mission Victory India: A Key to Quality Combat Leadership (2019)."
Talking about the aim of the website, he said, "The aim and objective of Mission Victory India Website are to spread the rich wealth of knowledge encapsulated in the seven Victory India Campaign books comprising over 250 articles and debates authored by over 50 military veterans and academicians and numerous reputed military and civil respondents."
"It is our mission to spread the awareness of the rich wealth of knowledge of hitherto untouched and less known subjects concerning Professional Military Education (PME), especially the processes of nurturing, selecting, training and grooming our military leadership at all levels. What was only a limited campaign, over time, became a Mission and encompassed subjects well beyond the campaign and ultimately became Mission Victory India (2020) covering all possible subjects concerning military leadership, military doctrines, national defence & security and Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA)."
When asked by this correspondent about what prompted the team to venture into the online sphere, Col. Dalvi along with other core members unanimously cited, “The tri-services especially the army are hierarchical by design, so it is only when the top brass gets inspired to implement policy changes do things start to develop on the ground. So while our print campaign and books fostered curiosity the limitations of the print platform kept us from reaching out to numbers we were looking to inspire.”
“Now that we are entering the online realm, we will be empowered with a speed of dissemination of professional military knowledge at a rate which was previously unprecedented. We hope to reach the serving fraternity and empower them with insight required to make professional military decisions as leaders. Added Col. Dalvi.
The future and the way forward for 'Victory India.'
When asked about how this portal for scholar warriors will further the mission statement of the campaign, Commander Mukund Yolekkar, a core member, and editor of the seagull journal said, "Candid discussions, earnest introspection about selection and training and a determined effort to forge ahead with a modern mindset will certainly give a fillip to the psyche of officers in the Indian Armed Forces, and this will ensure 'Victory India' in any future conflict."
"The efforts of 'Team Victory India' are actually overdue. This 'Samudra Manthan' is sure to yield the Amrit. The 'Victory India Campaign' is the real battle; forging the sword and shield and keeping them always 'sharp' and 'strong'. Victory, no matter how high the cost, is a sacred mission of the Armed Forces since the stakes are incredibly high: The Honour and Survival of the Motherland," said Air Commodore Suryakant Nijanand Bal (Retd) summarising the campaign.