27th November 2018
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
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GS III: DEFENCE
Q1. Recently incidences have been witnessed (such as in Bomdila, in Arunacha Pradesh) where there has been a clash between civil and military administration. What needs to be done for avoiding such incidents in the future?
- In a disturbing incident in Bomdila, Arunachal Pradesh recently, two soldiers of the Indian Army were arrested by the local police and reportedly beaten up for alleged incorrect behaviour during a festival, which was then followed by alleged retaliatory high-handedness by their Army compatriots. This is an apt example of the leadership on both sides not using their superior skills to prevent the unsavoury happenings and living up to the requirement of statecraft. The Bomdila incident is not the first instance of the civil administration and the military having locked horns. It is just that earlier incidents did not get publicity in the absence of fast communication. Though the issues were “resolved”, tensions have continued to simmer. Social media and near instantaneous communications now amplify the damage, as seen at Bomdila.
- At the heart of civil-military relations are two questions that Professor Mackubin Owens of the Institute of World Politics, poses in an essay. First, who controls the military and how? Is there civilian control or has it degenerated into civilian bureaucratic control? Second, what degree of military influence is appropriate for a given society? While direct intervention in domestic affairs is a big no, on the other extreme is the utilisation of the armed forces in happenings that should logically come under the civilian domain.
- There is a delicate thread that links the uniformed and non-uniformed sections. Pride in one’s job should not translate to contempt for another’s job. The civil administration has challenges that no uniformed person ever faces, such as the pressures from social strife, economic hardships, and law and order. The uniformed services, on the other hand, see themselves as protectors of the nation even at the cost of their own lives. This requires implicit faith of the soldier, the sailor and the airman in their leadership. A commander’s order is sacrosanct and a soldier on the front line follows it unflinchingly despite knowing that he could lose his life the next moment. It is this implicit faith that permeates the psyche of a uniformed person based on the belief that his commander is supreme and will always look after his interests as well as those of his family. This is how the military works, by laying emphasis on the point that military effectiveness requires a military culture that is different from that of a civilian’s. This is the heart of the ‘chip on the shoulder’ feeling that drives a soldier to sacrifice his life at his superior’s command.
- So, just as a uniformed force must acknowledge the expertise of the civil administration, so too should the latter respect and ensure that a soldier does feel a bit special. ‘Feeling special’ is not the customary platitudes on television, political rallies and slogans in times of conflict, but in finding solutions to the everyday pressures that a soldier and his family face, such as issues of pay and allowances, precedence with civilian counterparts, a lack of good schooling on account of frequent postings, housing issues, land litigation and the like. This results in healthy civil-military relations.
- Deification of the military could lead to resentment among certain sections of society. And here is where the politician comes in: using the armed forces very often as a bulwark to sort out civil issues is detrimental to military philosophy. So also is the absence of oversight to prevent civilian bureaucratic control and delays in resolving the problems service personnel face. The trick is to anticipate and prevent a Bomdila type incident so that ‘superior judgment is not required to firefight something that could have been prevented had those superior skills been used at the right time’.
- An unequal civil-military dialogue, wherein a soldier begins to doubt his ‘uniqueness’ (not deification) in society does not bode well for good civil-military relations. Similarly, the important role played by the civilian bureaucracy in governance should be acknowledged. Civil-military relations is an art that require delicate nursing through statesmanship. Good leadership from both sides is the key to preventing new Bomdilas.