A solemn pledge is a statement of sincerity of one’s’ desire to fulfill a promise, which is taken to something considered sacred and marks a sign of verity. It is an invocation of the person taking the pledge to become a guarantor of honesty and integrity in all that he has been entrusted with and for the entire period of his responsibility.
It is not linked to either an event or for a mere period of time of engagement after which it just becomes a story. It is a sworn declaration with the promise to tell the truth and in affect protect all that goes with it even at the peril of the life of the person under oath. Did we not take this pledge at the time of our commissioning and stand by it throughout our military career?
My sudden observation is because of a strange video clipping I saw of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) today. It was a video recording of a pledge being taken by him against corruption and the same rhetoric repeated by the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) at the ongoing Army Commanders Conference in progress at New Delhi.
Such a pledge being taking by the CDS, who was my Gentleman Cadet at the IMA, makes me pause to think and reflect on perhaps inadequacy in my presentation of the basic foundational Chetwodian pledge taken by him at his Alma mater 42 years ago?
‘The Safety, Honour and Welfare of the Country comes first Always and every time’?
Did those words, which brought within us a deep sense of pride once we graduated from the portals of the Indian Military Academy, not resonate with our character of being ‘An officer and a gentleman’? Did we not realize that the Nation’s honour can only be protected and preserved when we ensure a corrupt free military and a corrupt free society from where we draw the youth into the three services?
"The Safety, Honour and Welfare of the Country comes first Always and every time? Did those words, which brought within us a deep sense of pride once we graduated from the portals of the Indian Military Academy, not resonate with our character of being ‘An officer and a gentleman’?"
Did it not holistically dawn upon us to understand that such a need can only be fulfilled when we do not indulge in activities inimical to the very promise made on commissioning? Or was the oath taken as a mere drill and a compliance piece without linking it to issues around corruption, which cannot be tolerated if we are sincere in preserving the honour - the ‘Izzat’ of our country?
If such deep rooted meaning was understood in all sincerity then why should the CDS take a pledge against corruption on ‘Infantry Day’; the day the first batch of troops of the Indian Army landed at Srinagar to save Badgam from the clutches of kabailees, supported by the Pakistan Army?
Was such a pledge taken at the behest of ‘The powers that be’ aligned to a larger political agenda of acknowledging support to a political event - ‘Vigilance Awareness week’ and if the latter then how do we consider ourselves apolitical?
Although I quite understand and agree that in a democratic set up, the Elements of power of a Nation state clearly articulate that ‘Military Element of Power’ will remain subservient to the ‘Political Element of power’, yet I am not convinced of the timing and endorsement of the pledge and its efficacy, when the need is to ensure the fighting efficiency remains at its peak and such endorsement may result in a shift in questioning the uniformed fraternity – ‘Is corruption taking centre stage in the military?’
Such a discourse is certainly discomforting and I often challenge myself within as to how we as a force will stand up to our resolve in times of war when professional decisions have to be taken beyond the call of duty. There is a need for us to introspect and look inward and understand that lives matter as our soldiers look up to the leadership for inspiration and preservation of morale.
For it is in such ethics that we can further develop our principles of remaining relevant in the context to ‘Stand up’ to the principles of good and resolute leadership and not become ‘Stand up comedians’ in times when we need to stay away from politics and politicking.
(Brigadier Rajiv Williams, YSM took premature retirement from the Indian Army in 2005 and has since been engaged in CSR. A Postgraduate from Madras University in International Relations, he is a member of several strategic security related institutions and think tanks. He is presently Corporate Head – CSR with Jindal Stainless Limited, which is part of the OP Jindal Group and is responsible for planning and executing all Group CSR projects across the country.
As a member of the Governing Council of the Global Compact Network, Brig Williams has championed the initiative – ‘The India CEO Forum on Business and Human Rights’. He is a regular speaker / panelist at various forums and seminars and has been invited as a speaker to the United Nations offices in USA and Geneva. He also spoken at the Danish Institute of Human Rights, at Wilton Park, The UK and at seminars organized by Indian Industry Associations, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, GIZ, etc.
He is also a regular invitee to various discussions and consultations organized both by the Government as also by private bodies. A prolific writer, Brig Williams has written several articles on varied topics from conflict prevention & security to matters relating to Responsible Business & Corporate Citizenship. He has co-authored books on IMA and on Siachen, the latter one titled ‘The Long Road to Siachen the Question Why’ having been published by Rupa & Co. in 2011.)