Eradicating Military Traditions

"A strong nation thrives on its history, its past, its successes and failures, its customs and its traditions. Its diversity. So does the Indian Military"

Eradicating Military Traditions

Eradicate poverty, misogyny,  unemployment. Eradicate casteism, religious bigotry, corruption  in the government; eradicate corrupt politicians; eradicate the non-accountability of govt officials in the corridors of power. Eradicate the sickening VIP culture-- this sense of 'entitlement' of the elected representatives of India.

Unfortunately, the leadership at the helm is hell bent on re-writing history and destroying the very fabric which makes a  successful 'nation state'-- a homogenous collection of citizens, ideas, philosophies, religions, colours, ethnicities. A  shared history woven with diverse cultures and languages.

In a mature democracy, you have the freedom to wear what you want. To eat what you want. To drink what you want. And an absolute freedom to believe in what you must. All this, as long as established societal norms are followed. In a true democracy the citizens are guaranteed not only equality before law but also equal protection of laws.

And we are India- not some tin pot state like Iran or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia or Uganda or N Korea. Our state power is meant to look outwards not inwards. And if the major threat is from within; then we too are a failed state and our governance needs a relook. In our misguided quest to rewrite and modify history combined with a misplaced urge to 'undo past wrongs', we are on a national binge to change names of cities, places, roads, buildings and monuments, traditions and culture. Soon we will have it that the British never even came to India! And the 'mughals' were foreigners! And that past governments stood for all that was wrong in India!

A strong nation thrives on its history, its past, its successes and failures, its customs and its traditions. Its diversity. So does the Indian Military. Ever thought as to why some states are able to convert their basic resources and human strengths into credible fighting power despite limited resources. And why do some states perform poorly despite material and equipment advantages? It is because military and thereby  national power, depends on the political culture, the prevalent social structures; beliefs, doctrines, traditions and cohesion of their armed forces. Culture and traditions shape the behaviour of a body of men in peace and war. Camaraderie and brotherhood in uniformed men springs from customs, traditions, shared hardships and legacy. Traditions and unit 'individualities' are the essence of what binds military units together, providing a cohesiveness among the individual members, which allows the unit to function effectively as a collective entity. Those units that foster a sense of tradition, belonging, teamwork and  a sense of collective pride possess a unified strength, which enhance accomplishments, endure challenges and overcome hardships. Because of this, unit cohesion is a powerful mission multiplier that instills soldiers to perform to the utmost of their abilities for the benefit of each other, the unit and ultimately the country.

And now start destroying the 'distinctiveness' of the Indian military system. The ethos, traditions, history, glamour and the 'binding force' of the Indian military-- convert it into another 'CAPF'! A 'numbered' police or CRPF/BSF/ITBP battalion. No traditions to go by, no culture, no pride of 'belonging' -- just a bare  railway waiting room. Enter, while-away your time and leave. Neither will the unit remember you, nor will you ever visit the unit again.
No, they will not climb Tiger Hill again if they belong to a number with no history and tradition.

Cut out the bands, military parades, raising days, fanfare, the aura, the pomp and show which makes the military of any nation a force to be reckoned with. Forget past glories, rich histories. Forget the customs and traditions imbibed over centuries. Forget the battles fought by Indian soldiers/units all over the world, the medals won, the citations given, the battle honours, the war cries, the lanyards. The issue is more of a  'no body' imposing his thoughts on a military system. One man who has come temporarily into the political system and made an offhand (uncalled for) remark about 'sabhyata' has caused turbulence in the entire military environment. A person who is least qualified, a person who has never donned the uniform is today telling the Indian military 'how it should behave and modify its trappings, culture, traditions and ethos'!  The problem lies here.

We forget that motivation, belief, cohesion and traditions maketh an army not just equipment alone. The US had the best equipment and war material in Vietnam and Afghanistan. It failed. Because the soldiers and the country did not have the cohesion, pride and belief in themselves- the leadership and the cause. Ukrainian soldiers have the motivation, the belief, the pride, the cohesion, but for the Russians- its just 'another job'. Motivation comes from ethos, belief, traditions -- naam, namak, nishan. Most people forget that the Indian soldier fights first for the honour and name of his unit and the collective reputation of the soldiers who make this 'unit'-- and then the country. Distinct but interlinked.

Saragarhi was not for India. It was not even in India. Rezang La too was for the Battalion and for that intangible 'unit brotherhood' among those soldiers who decided to give their all; last man last bullet. A brotherhood which had been nurtured as part of unit ethos, a sense of belonging, pride mixed with traditions imbibed over a period of time. For them, after this had  come the thought of the hinterland, motherland and loved ones behind. Nepali Gurkhas too do not die for India. They die fighting ferociously for their unit and the Gurkha tradition.

Tinker with the military now, regret later. Change the tunes (hum honge kamyab) by all means, but do not eradicate the past (auld lang sayne). Why not let the men in uniform decide all this? Why not let the col of the regiment or the military hierarchy take a call on the lanyard or the colour of the belt or whether to retain battle honours or mess/regimental  traditions or the regimentation of the Indian Army or its recruitment/service norms or its dress codes; all hugely successful till today, and since centuries. Whenever a  change was required, it was done by the military machine itself. By competent uniformed men who are most qualified to carry the rank and file with them.

This is a classic case when three and four star generals of all three services can join hands and tell the establishment, 'Lay off-- this is purely our domain'.  
Alas, even Krishna Menon and Nehru will be turning over in their graves.

Brig D S Sarao, is a veteran army aviator who has flown extensively in J&K. He was seriously injured in Op Meghdoot during a casualty evacuation. He is a prolific writer, academic & lecturer.

(Views expressed are the author's own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India)

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