Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Reviving the army’s warrior cult



By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, April 28th 2015

Not long ago, army officers were deeply proud to serve in elite units. The tougher the life, the more dangerous the mission, the more they stuck out their chests. When cadets at the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun opted for an arm or service to join, few chose cushy lifestyles, safer assignments, bigger allowances, or promotion prospects. Most of us in my batch of 1979 signed up with combat units that had fought gallantly in the still-recent 1971 war. As officers we leapt at the chance to serve in combat zones. We didn’t feel superior to our fellow officers in peace areas, only sorry for them. Each of us was utterly certain that his own arm or service was absolutely the best. Steadfast infantrymen, flamboyant cavaliers, professionally hard-nosed gunners, engineers, signallers, resourceful logisticians---we all believed in our own nobility, without pooh-poohing others’ roles. Soldiers held up risk and hardship as a badge of honour, not as an accounting tool for better promotions. Sadly, that is no longer the case. Today, the issue of promotions is dividing the army.

A soldier who takes the field can legitimately demand that the army look after his family. He can demand good accommodation; high quality army schools to which his children are assured admission; adequate medical facilities; sympathetic attention to the travails of separated families; and, vitally for morale, the respect and affection of the populace. These are all justifiable expectations.

What he cannot justifiably demand is faster, easier promotions based on frequent field tenures. Yet, generals have prepared just such a specious “deprivation index”, and a string of infantry and artillery army chiefs have showered preferential promotion quotas on their former arms. The result is that an organisation once led by the most meritorious officers is increasingly led by the most deprived.

The defence ministry is now embroiled in a humiliating standoff over this issue. The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) --- the military’s departmental tribunal --- had rightly struck down what it calls a “discriminatory” promotion policy that allows 60 per cent of infantry and artillery lieutenant colonels to be promoted to colonel, while other arms and services languish at 26 per cent. By appealing to the Supreme Court against the AFT verdict, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has backed regimental patronage instead of meritocracy.

That meritocracy has been insidiously undermined over decades, starting in the training academies. Traditionally the top five per cent of each graduating class, a “superblock” of 15-18 cadets, chose which unit to join, while other cadets were distributed among arms and services depending upon vacancies. Cadets competed fiercely to be commissioned into the unit of their choice. In the 1980s, the superblock was reduced to a wafer-thin 2-3 cadets, because too few toppers chose the infantry or artillery. Now chance, not choice, governs which arm or service most cadets will serve in. Years later many of those officers, being evaluated for promotion, discover that this arbitrary allocation reduced their prospects of becoming colonel from 60 per cent to 26 per cent.

This quota system has taken root up the hierarchy, most damagingly at the “general staff” level--brigadiers and generals responsible for shaping the army’s strategic vision.

All successful modern armies since Frederick the Great’s Prussian army in the late 19th century, have selected elite general staff based on ability. The general staff is expected to rise above regimental loyalties. However, India’s infantry and artillery generals, who dominate decision-making, instituted quotas to guarantee that their arms also dominate the general staff. They cornered a disproportionate share of vacancies at the crucial rank of colonel, and then extended this privilege to the ranks of brigadier and major general by reserving vacancies there too, on a pro-rata basis. It is this discriminatory “command exit model” of reserving colonel vacancies that was struck down by the AFT, and that is now before the Supreme Court.

The cabal of generals who rammed this model through speaks volumes. The army chief at the time was an artillery officer, General Deepak Kapoor, currently in the crosshairs of the Central Bureau of Investigation for his flat in the Adarsh Housing Society. His officer management chief (Military Secretary) was an infantry officer, Lieutenant General Avadhesh Prakash, who in 2011 was court martialled for the Sukhna land scam, stripped of his rank and medals and dismissed from service.

These discredited worthies knew that many infantry and artillery colonels who attain their rank through quotas couldn’t compete for promotion with counterparts from other arms and services who endure a gruelling selection process. Therefore, they abandoned the concept of a meritocratic general staff and distributed brigadier vacancies on a pro-rata basis, based on the number of colonels in each arm or service. To solidify this advantage, they also allocated vacancies in the Higher Command (HC) course and Higher Defence Management Course (HDMC), important qualifications for promotion to brigadier, on a pro-rata basis.

In 2008, Generals Kapoor and Prakash, convened a board of (mainly infantry) officers that, despite a strong dissenting note, extended pro-rata to the rank of major general. Strong opposition within the army partly blocked this move, but the generals switched tactics: since it is practically mandatory for a brigadier seeking promotion to attend the National Defence College (NDC), they allocated NDC vacancies on a pro rata basis. The Mandalisation of the army was complete.

To favour quotas over merit is to poison traditional soldierly values. Increasingly cynical officers now play the promotion game. As one infantry officer puts it: “To keep getting promoted, I must keep two things in mind: stay alive; and restrain myself from punching my CO (commanding officer)”. Calculating officers cultivate “godfathers”, rising stars from their own regiment, on whose personal staff they spend years of protected service. Others arrange postings under well-disposed commanders, who duly inflate the “annual confidential reports”, or ACRs, of their protégés. Across the army, commanders with glaring shortcomings are buying off subordinates with inflated ACRs. So puffed up is the grading today that any ACR below “outstanding” jeopardises an officer’s career. A “good” amounts to professional burial. High quality officers increasingly choose to quit, rather than compete at a disadvantage with inferior officers from a privileged service or under a godfather’s protection.

It is time for generals to recognise how badly quotas damage the army. Justifying promotions with a “deprivation index” or a “harsh service conditions” plea breeds a culture of victimisation that is the antithesis of the soldier’s creed. The infantry is forgetting that it needs no help. Few organisations anywhere are quite as formidable as an Indian infantry battalion—a truth recognised on battlefields and United Nations missions the world over. It remains true for the rank and file and junior leadership even today. It is a pity that senior officers, motivated by false loyalty, are replacing the bravura that conquered Siachen with a rather less inspiring attitude of deprivation.



40 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is not unique to the Army, In the Navy and Air Force the 'caste system' is well rooted for a long time. We do still remember the jolt the IAF received when ACM Fali Major became Chief. In the Navy the memory of a Naval Chief who went around all the commands after taking over as chief after a bitter wrangle for the top spot, trying to justify to his officers why he deserved to be Chief is not to far behind in memory. It is long gone that all officers vied with each other to excel professionally. Today the vie with each other in positioning themselves in the lime light. It is true that the most professional officers are sidelined very early on even in the former Major to Lt Col board. Many of those have left and done remarkably well in civy street. The saving grace is that there is still some desire to excel professionally in young officers below Major rank. The quality is very often inversely proportional to the rank the one attains.

Anonymous said...

Sir,
your lat two paragraphs reflect the sad ground reality of the promotion policy.. it is a national security threat..request you to takeup this issue more vigorously

George Ninan said...

# flamboyant cavaliers
cavalier - noun
1 (Cavalier) historical a supporter of King Charles I in the English Civil War.
2 archaic a courtly gentleman, especially one acting as a lady's escort.
• a horseman, especially a cavalryman.
3 (also Cavalier King Charles)a small spaniel of a breed with a long snout.
cavalier - adjective
showing a lack of proper concern; offhand: Anne was irritated by his cavalier attitude.

some time in the 1980s the armoured corps expropriated the imperial state forces memorial at the gates of the former c-in-c residence, now known as teen murthi bhavan. the imperial state forces had sent contingents to serve with the indian army in the 1914-18 and subsequent mesopotamia campaigns. the contingents included pioneers, infantry, cavalry. but the armoured corps turned this into a cavalry memorial because the teen murti are dressed in the uniforms of the mysore lancers, jodhpur risallah and hyderabad contingent. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_Service_Troops
in the 1970s, 80s officer cadets (there are no gentlemen cadets any longer, everybody receives a stipend, kit, provisions from the government while in the bad old days gentlemen cadets at sandhurt, and woolwich had to pay for everything, for the O cadets, from the ranks, the state paid. hence the pejorative term, oscar, or oskie, for those from the ranks. but i digress, in the 70s, 80s the officer cadets preferred the armoured corps, ASC, ordnance and few opted for infantry.
armoured corps units were located in and around babina, jhansi, patiala, pathankot; and with a unit in plains infantry divisions. armoured corps service did not entail the trials of an infantry battalion on the line of control, along the borders with china, in insurgent north east, and now kashmir. generally those who were weak in PT wangled a posting with a tank unit because they were told that BPET could be done without a rifle, carbine and only required a 9mm pistol worn on the waist.
the points about the army looking after the family, good accommodation, assured place at quality army schools, sympathetic attention to travails of separated families; these are the perquisites of commissioned officers. the army includes sepoys, NCO, JCO.
general staff on the imperial german model does not exist in the indian army. we are all familiar with the german general staff in india because of having read panzer leader, or desmond young's account on rommel, etc. what we are ignorant about is the superb quality of the german army's sergeants, the NCO of the wehermacht were its backbone. no indian army officer is even aware of the importance of NCOs, JCO because we have no NCOs only soldiers with stripes. no soldier is in awe of the havildar. in the better, professional armies the sergeants are responsible for discipline, internal economy, officers train and lead the soldiers. young officers on commissioning were taken in hand by kindly sergeants who helped them find their feet, and kept the platoon in line so that they leathery veterans did not take the young lieutenant for a ride. no such culture in india, nothing unusual; have any of us seen a postmaster who runs the post office with complete efficiency, taking responsibility for the postmen, counter clerks. a station master who is the boss of the railway station, a shop floor supervisor who keeps order on the factory, or business floor.

ASHKAN said...

Mandalison in Army should stop immediately. Command exit policy must give way to meritorious officers.

Anonymous said...

Taimur Laang when camped on west of sutlaj was nervous to see huge army of Punjab king on the other side which was many times his own army. He almost gave up the Idea to attack next day. But during evening he was walllking along the banks with his senapati when he saw a number of fires in the enemy camp he inquired the reason for it and was informed that the Hindu army had kitchens based on casts and some upper cast soilder won't eat food made by lower cast soilders. Therefore fires were from multiple kitchens. He then decided to attack next day saying if the can't eat or live together then they can't fight together. No prizes for guessing who one the battle.

Anonymous said...

This is so true. This model has indeed struck the death knell for the Indian Army. It today sits on a time bomb fueled by poor leadership and mandalised generals waiting to explode.

Manish Sarin said...

Not long ago, army officers were deeply proud to serve in elite units. Sadly, that is no longer the case. But to ascribe this to the promotion policy invoked in the recent past is totally incorrect. A simple analysis of cadets at IMA wanting to join the Infantry will show that this trend has started much earlier than the promotion policy. In fact, the pro rata policy may, in fact, reverse the trend.
Let us not fool ourselves. Yes, cadets at IMA have been choosing cushy lifestyles, safer assignements, bigger allowances and promotion prospects. This is not your generation, Col Shukla, and their aspirations are different. It has its glory and pride, but the Army for them is foremost a career. You yourself say that too few toppers chose Infantry or Artillery. Most toppers opt for a ‘cushy lifestyle’. For an Army where the combat edge is the last choice, this trend is indeed a matter of concern.
Your idea of merit itself is questionable. It appears to put course gradings and performance in discussions over combat and field experience. We had in the recent past a very senior general in an operational command, who focused more on correct saluting than on operational realities. I am in no way questioning the competence of such officers, but mere competence cannot make up for combat experience. And no, one RR tenure, more often than not at battalion HQ, cannot be termed as adequate combat experience.
Our borders are such that all conflicts will be predominantly Infantry. As an organization, the Army needs to ensure that cadets choose the Infantry, and this necessarily means that there have to be enough incentives. There are two ways to achieve this: one, by monetary incentives, and second, by faster promotions. Given the status of issues such as OROP and NFU, I really wonder how much we can push monetary incentives. In any case, it can never be enough to compensate for prolonged separation and hardship. For today’s career oriented youth, it has to be faster promotions.
It is not just quotas over merit. Field experience contributes towards merit and should be given due weightage. As for the argument about Infantry officers not being able to compete for promotion, we must remember that these reports were earned in conditions much tougher than glib arguments in sandmodels. There is a trend of outstanding reports, and we all know where this trend started. The Infantry does not need any help; neither does it need to be patronized. They have the toughest task to perform, and deserve faster promotions.
BUT IN ALL THE ABOVE ARGUMENTS, I MUST BE WRONG. After all, learned members of the AFT have ruled against the pro rata policy. The Supreme Court may also do so. From all the information I have, all I can say is that the Infantry will lose out due to incorrect implementation of a correct policy. Sadly, this is increasingly becoming the case for many Army policies.

KK Raja said...

A well articulated article but highly misleading with selective application of perspectives. More particularly, that of a wounded cavalry man, yearning for the erstwhile privileged order.That of disproportionate cornering of all promotions ( Cols and above) by the very "looking after culture" or unwritten quota raj that the author is denouncing of, by their mai baaps in same arm (cavalry). What Ajai has prominently missed out is the very 1st logic of pro-rata(AVSC) - that is, vacancies now rationalized, directly proportional to the numerical strength of officers in particular arm or service. This is well established policy in any modern armed forces. The "depravity index" referred here is fundamentally combat zone exposure (field areas), and that too applied within the arm cos after deciding pro rata on arms/services, vacancies main competition is within the arm. It is a different matter that infantry with higher strength will throw up more candidates for higher ranks. Vacancies in HC/HDMC logically has to follow same pro rata rationale to feed the further vacancies way up. Invoking "meritocracy" argument is misplaced, if not mischievously misleading. Getting a sword of honour or being in super block is not a life long licence to claim merit. There are other important professional factors that kicks in as one matures and moves along his career. Obviously, a bright young meritorious lad as a cadet joining services or cavalry cannot be preferred over an average cadet who slogged his way up in combat in infantry ,when it is to decide higher operational command responsibilities, in combat zones (incidentally, all our field areas are combat zones). Academic qualifications, prowess in sand model discussions and presentations is one thing, and "been there and seen there" is another thing. Any professional army will prefer the latter over the former, when entrusting command of precious lives in combat zones, in order to fight and win, rather than whine eloquently in retrospect. An average infatarian scores miles and miles of points over his so called "meritorious" counterparts in other arms/services on this one single most important factor. If new system has attempted to achievd anything, it is precisely the "demandalisation" of promotion system that covertly existed then.Hence the old order hath to change, yielding place to new...

Heberian said...

Col. Shukla - Well written article and a good point of view indeed.

Anon@0905 - Are you saying that ACM Major should not have become Chief because he wasnt a fighter pilot? Isnt that sort of against the narrative Col. Shukla presented, about no Mandalisation? Or, are you saying that the AF Chief post only be reserved for the fighter stream?

I can think of recent appointments even in the highly professional and meritocratic US forces where Chiefs of similar backgrounds have ascended.

@ Geory-chayan :


Well thought out and written point of view. Thank you. I agree with how BPET made some cadets choose armored... but I also know several cadets who were toppers and chose the ASC, just as some toppers chose the Paras. May I request that your paragraph/sentence structure be presented in a more easier on the eye manner for ease of reading?

See, I want the easy way out :)

Anonymous said...

AS A TRAINING OFFICER IWAS SURPRISED WHEN CADETS WANTED TO JOIN SUPPLY OR ORDNANCE OR OTHER MONEY MAKING ORGANISATIONS AND DID NOT WANT TO JOIN COMBAT ARMS AND UNITS . THE JOB OF OPS SUPPLY AND ORDNANCE IS NO LESS GLAMOUROUS THAN A INFANTRY OR ARTILLARY OFFICER . IF INFANTRY AND ARTILLARY ARE TO BE REWARDED THE OTHERS FROM 26 % MUST BE RAISED TO 40 % AND THESE FROM 60 % TO 45% . WHAT MESSERS DEEPAK KAPOOR AND HIS LAND SELLING GENERAL WERE TRYING IS TO PERPETUATE A CADRE OF OFFICERS WITH THEIR BACKBONE BROKEN SO THAT THE GENERALS FUTURE AND PAST COULD INSTITUTIONALISE PLUNDER AND GET IT DONE FROM THESE WORTHIES WHO WERE PROMOTED ON COLOR CASTE . CREED , REGIMENTAL AND OTHER LOYALTIES .THE OFFICER CADRES OF THE ARMED FORCES MUST BE INTEGRATED AND COL AND ABOVE FROM ALL THREE SERVICES MUST SERVE IN ARMY NAVY AND AIRFORCE FORMATIONS . THE CORRUPTION INDEX CAN THEN BE REDUCED BECAUSE THE CITY BASED NAVAL OFFICER OR AIRFORCE OFFICER DOESNOT AND WILL NOT FALL IN LINE WITH A STRANGER FLAG RANK OFFICER . CIVILIAN OFFICERS FROM FOREIGN SERVICE IAS AND POLICE MUST ALSO BE MESHED INTO ALL DIV , CORPS , ARMY AND HQS AT DELHI SO THAT WORKING IS TRANSPARENT AND TAXPAYERS MONEY IS NOT WASTED BY THE RED TABS .BEFORE A CDS IS INSTITUIONLISED THE THREE SERVICES AND THE GENRAL STAFFS MUST BE INTEGRATED FIRST

Anonymous said...

This is in reply to Mr Ninan at 13:50

Dear Mr. Ninan,
You suffer from an inferiority/persecution complex vis-a-vis the armoured corps. That is sad. Colonel Shukla is entitled to his opinion, just as you are to yours.
However to put in vituperative and uncharitable definitions of cavaliers, run down an entire body of officers in your desire to show down a particular branch of the army are signs of someone who has never recovered from a body blow so severe that it has warped your thinking permanently I am afraid.
Please offer comments on the issue at hand in a civilised and informed manner, that would do you and this column, which is read by those within and outside the armed forces community, some good. Writing gibberish is unhelpful to one and all.
Best wishes,
An armour officer and proud to be a cavalier (as in the noun) and one who has paid homage to our departed soldiers at the Teen Murti (and not murthi for heavens sake) Memorial.

Insider said...

True Sir ....Avdesh and Kapoor are the men in action but what about their subordinates who are still in the system who mutely aided this decision.

Anonymous said...

Favouritism, Nepotism & lobbyism is a part & parcel of common Indian life & runs in every Indian's blood. This is what we have to get used to it & little can be done to avoid it. This system is here to stay in every field & sector including social, public and private & unfortunately nothing can be done.

Anonymous said...

great article bringing out the truth..."satyemeva jayete"...wishing supreme court takes a high ground and delivers justice...long live india

Anonymous said...

Shuklaji are you aware that it is an unwritten rule that whatever the case may be services officers are never ever graded outstanding or given good grading out of spitefulness by the sick mentality of all these self proclaimed betters so that their promotions are affected throughout their career!Are you aware how these worthies treat services officers like working party commanders everywhere and literally protect their brethren from all duties and give them undue lift everywhere!And they call themselves kings everywhere and do what they bloody well please without any fear of the law for they know they will be supported throughout!And worse saved from all their misdeeds by blaming the weak and the blameless!Only a few dare oppose them for fear of being targeted and worse entrapped in false cases!Today's army is getting sicker and sicker and not worthy being served in!The government needs to address this problem ruthlessly or the army will breakup!

Praveen Choudhary said...

The Generals would teach us the Chetwodian Ethos and we would listen with Awe. They appeared to be Hallowed and Sublime. Little did we know them for their penny worth or even less...

Anonymous said...

All right, let us, for a moment, sustain inf's argument about preferential promotions. Now what about Arty? Any answers pls?

Anonymous said...

SHUKLA SIR , TALENT CAN NOT BE BLOCKED, YOU YOURSELF IS AN EXAMPLE.MY SALUTE TO YOU , I AM AN EX CORPORAL, MUD SLINGING WILL DO NO GOOD TO ARMY. AGAINST YOUR WISH AND KUTARK ( DO NOT KNOW ENGLISH WORD FOR KUTARK IN HINDI) I WISH A EVEN MORE YOUNGER Bn CO.GOD FORBID , BUT DURING A WAR INFANTRY OFFR ONLY LEADS THE FOOT SOLDIER.PLS IR COME OUT OF YOUR NARROW VISION. AND ALSO SAME IS TRUE FOR IAF AND NAVY TOO . YOU CAN NOT COMPAIRE A FIGHTER PILOT WITH AN LOGESTIC OFFR. FORGIVE ME IF I AM WRONG

Anonymous said...

'an average infantarian scores miles.....' bull shit, can't sight a LMG correctly... always looking towards their bosses for support and when given comd to their cdrs.

Anonymous said...

Well, Shukla, a simple enough question. Why did you not stay on in the army? If guts and glory was all that you sought you ought not to have left.Ever. So as far as I am concerned the guys who draw the short straw each and every time should always have it better over the the others. And this is applicable to officers down to the jawans. No argument there. And I have no army bone to pick. I'm a bloody civilian but know well enough that the probability of guys copping it in infantry and cavalry is exponentially more than the chap in ASC. So let's not grudge them these small leeway.

Jean Luc Picard said...

A fine article written by the editor. My sincere congrats.

A few points :

1. Younger does not mean fitter. There are plenty examples of 40is year olds far fitter than wimps in their late twenties.

Its all about physical fitness which is one field the army is going relaxed on. At any cantonment today, many Officers and JCOs in all three services can be seen who are pot bellied, have a poor body composition. who are a disgrace to their fellow service members.

The army does not have a fitness problem, but rather a problem of lack of physical fitness, increase in alcohol consumption among junior cadres both enlisted and officers and a far less physically rigorous life in peace areas with the advent of cars and motorbikes and heavy dependence on junk food.

2. The problem needs to be attacked in its source, i.e. Services Selection Boards. a) the psychological tests are the same from the 1970s when DIPR made them.
b) Coaching institutions are doing a disservice to the nation by helping candidates fool the outdated selection boards.

Not all who get through are bad, but a lot of bad material does manage to get through.

3. The problem needs to be checked at the training institutions. Instead of focussing only on extreme physical fitness. The impetus must also be on mental discipline, moral uprightness.

Relegation rates must go up and zero tolerance must be given on moral infractions. Punishments must not only be physical but rather like a drivers license where points can be deducted and upon loosing too many points the cadet is thrown out. For eg : punctuality.

Physical fitness can be improved in the units that the young officer gets assigned to.

4. Customs and traditions though bizzare in appearance are a great source of espirit de corps in a group and a fun way of instilling discipline in a group. These are no longer being followed. In Many units the Officer mess dress code and decorum is routinely violated. With under breath explanations given such as this is not the British Raj Army this is an Indian army so as to justify violation of norms given by junior officers."

5. In order to rejuvenate warrior culture (a collective occurance) one must focus on the individual, we all know that physical fitness and adventure activities are key to this. Therefore, all serving personnel irrespective of age and rank must be expected to pass PT tests appropriate to the age.

Brigadier level officers and senior JCO level enlisted men must undergo retraining at a boot camp type course where spartan living and hard military routine is reintroduced. In this retraining course, all inductees will be temporarily stripped of rank and privileges.

Not only will this be a good nostalgic event to improve morale it will also keep senior leaders of the organization physcially fit and grounded.

If Fighter pilots in the airforce can fly, why not let the senior officers undergo a "re-boot" camp. where they retrain in basic individual military training. Their performance evaluated and credited in their service record.

If the top remains military like the bottom can be whipped into shape.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Let us first decide what constitutes merit to be a colonel and higher rank officers in the Army ? Or at each level of selection what would constitute merit?

Having done that let the officers of one Arm or Service compete amongst themselves within the Arm or the Service. This can not be done away with. Colonel in command is not a general cadre function but a Special to Corps function. It would not be correct to give command of an ASC battalion to a Cavalier Colonel or vice versa. So what equity is being sought here. A Colonel of Cavalry can command his regiment for three years but the same might not be advisable for a Colonel commanding his battalion on LC or CI environment. Both are not comparable and it is purely a functional necessity. An organisational / operational requirement.

So far ranks from Brigadier and higher are concerned, there should be appropriate balance and mixture of exposure, experience, Corps competencies and skills. One can not suddenly have a sand model expert Cavalry man as a corps commander of a mountain Corps conducting mobile warfare in the mountains of Sikkim high altitude or in the high altitude of Chuna - Lunger Mago or Ladakh a la ...... (no names).. and then fixing the poor infantry man for lack of mobility.

Tactical and operational leadership / direction of combat / war are functions of adequate experience, training and ability coupled with innovations and imagination. It is a function of teamwork rather than asserting ones right to be there as has been happening in the realm of never ever moving mechanised / mobile warfare where the role of Infantry itself gets changed towards self preservation of Cavalry.

Talk of the ethos, ethics and moral courage or such leadership and one comes across leaders ticking off their subordinate for smelling of liquor but serving imported very expensive single malt to their seniors and peers on the grandstand with tanks and BMPs taxing around them in race rather than tactical moves.

Let us first decide what we want the generals to be. Amongst the commentator there are views that the Generals should be athletes, fitter than Milkha Singh, taken straight out of the sports schools or cross country team of the country. There are views on the contrary that the generals of our Army should be better than Milton when it comes to poetry and better in oratory than political leaders.

Merit solely by NDA / IMA / Academy seniority, merits solely based on age, merit solely based on ACRs, merit solely by course grading - what does the Army want? Army must decide for itself rather than Shukla deciding it or demanding it. He of course wants the entire NDC to be filled with Cavaliers. There are many grey areas and unresolved issues facing the Army that are illogical and foster manipulative and unscrupulous practices.

Mud Corps must have their share of the pie and have all the rights to demand it but have no right to demand more than that on grounds of self imagined / designed merit.

Army needs to look at the bigger problems and problems as a whole rather than resolve narrow interests of particular Arm or Service / entry or Schools.

Period.

Anonymous said...

@Jean Luc Picard..

Lets us commission the national Cross country team and top models as Generals.. make virtue out of triviality ... and blow it out of proportion to hide all incompetencies !

You know what Generals are supposed to do ??

Anonymous said...

@Heberian- No I am not saying the ACM Major should not have become ACM what I am saying is that the Brahmin caste of fighter pilots did not appreciate a helicopter pilot becoming the ACM.

Anonymous said...

Col Shukla,
An excellent article with good English but incorrect facts - an ideal way to fool a reader who doesn't have adequate knowledge. I am in strong agreement with the case against command exit model but please don't misrepresent facts by quoting 60% for those two arms vs 26% for others. This is like comparing the upper end of the arms spectrum vs lower end of other arms.
I hope you do clarify on this issue to the readers most of whom would have been fooled by your figures

Jean Luc Picard said...

@Anonymous 08:46 -

Ah, so your argument is that generals should be a group of un grounded, a/c office residing, unfit to the point their wives look more muscular than them, un aggresive, un military like IAS bureaucrats.

Who while mentally very sharp are more interested in the kind of wine glass they have been served alcohol in or what hotels their civilian counterparts reside in or AWWA activities, base beautification projects are more obsessed about the neighbors son's career in the US versus their own.

Pretty much the same kind of interests upper middle class housewives are interested in...

Rather than a commander of men, who obsess over maps and routinely interacts with his troops, who during paradrops jumps with the men under his command, who is a voracious reader of accounts of military conflicts, who loves the outdoors and thrives in it, who has the fighting spirit of the like of patton, whos PT standard serves an example to the senior officers and JCOs he commands.

Who interacts with Junior officers not like a neta at an election but like a Major talking to young LTs about combat and common humorous occurrences in battle drills which happen in the section level.

A Senior officer who is simple and jovial in his off duty hours and a man of depth when on duty.

A general who literally does not mind getting his fatigues and boots dirty. A general who still remebers his personal battle kit and can recognize it in a laid out line.

A general who at parties loves to debate about future concepts of warfare with his officers rather than furniture and real estate business with civilians.

All these come from a love for his old days at the academy and as a young LT and a love for adventure and risk taking behaviour. a part of this comes from testoterone which is generated when the body excersized and under goes hard routine and sleep.

Anonymous said...

@ Jean Luc Picard
Ah, so your argument is that
Sir, I have no argument but to state that the only Sainik School obsessions to do a few flip carts and run like a horse should not be the sole qualification to be a general. I have seen those athletes many a times to be at the backend rather than being in front while facing bullets and when under fire.
generals should be a group of un grounded, a/c office residing, unfit to the point their wives look more muscular than them, un aggresive, un military like IAS bureaucrats.
Simply, lack of experience and exposure. You have simply not seen the brigade headquarters at Poonch, KG or BG or Naushera or Y junction ahead of Tawang or on Sela Top where underground bunkers with OHP is dug out next to commanders tables. Where enemy mortar bombs reach as a matter of routine rather than exception. You visit any RR Sect HQ in J&K and will find that those can be fired upon any thime. Perhaps your exposure is simply limited to a/c fitted Caravans of five star standards.

Pretty much the same kind of interests upper middle class housewives are interested in...
Unfortunately your observation is faulty. With democratisation of officers cadre across the board whether in Armed Forces or bureaucracy, the concerns of our generals and civil beaucrates are of lower middle class. Need for a house, looking after other members of family, need to earn more, need to rise higher and higher, need to prove themselves, low social security, very low economic security and lower social status --- all these have their own pitfalls. It is here that their standards are required to be raised – single malt- way … or Oldmonk way .. appreciating the wine glass or the mug. May be !!

Rather than a commander of men, who obsess over maps and routinely interacts with his troops, who during paradrops jumps with the men under his command, who is a voracious reader of accounts of military conflicts, who loves the outdoors and thrives in it, who has the fighting spirit of the like of patton, whos PT standard serves an example to the senior officers and JCOs he commands.
Yes such generals (like Gen Deshpande of Jaffana fame) is suddenly told one day to go home by the masters. Others suddenly fall in line… I can give many more name like Ian Cardozo etc etc… though name giving is not correct
A general who literally does not mind getting his fatigues and boots dirty. A general who still remebers his personal battle kit and can recognize it in a laid out line.

Not required. You are enamoured by the fiction of Jean Luc Picard. The generals are leaders and should excel in that rather than looking towards his fatigue.

A general who at parties loves to debate about future concepts of warfare with his officers rather than furniture and real estate business with civilians.
I would literally run away from such a boring general who talks shop at a party.

All these come from a love for his old days at the academy
Ah, here you are caught ….. you being an academywala. I suggest one must grow beyond that … that is the biggest shortcoming of our present day generals. That they never grow beyond their squadrons.. or schools

Look at Shukla himself

Anonymous said...

Col do a follow up piece on the progress of the HTT-40. We are interested to know how HAL is performing there. Remember the first flight was supposed to be in Jun? that is just one month away!!

Anonymous said...

Definitely not an overly brilliant deduction. Ajay , as usual has thrown in a mixture of irrelevant information along with certain pertinent points to make his cock-tail more racy!! Whereas, the writer does correctly identify some of the problems facing the Military in matters of CR's, service conditions, parochialism,acquisition / planning processes and inter-arm as well as inter -service rivalry, some of the comments he makes are irrelevant and point more towards an anti Army bias and reflect on a disgruntled mind. We all have been in the Army and all of us know about the ills and good points of the service . Mind you , there is nothing in the Indian Army in matters of promotion and policy which is at a wide variance as compared to any of the progressive Armies of the word, ills are there and always will be. That goes without saying!!

Lets face it --if all promotions of Col and above were not related to the 'strength' of a particular arm/service (and this has to be to a great extent) -- you would have an almost equal No of Cols ,Brigs and Gens from all services being approved and to adjust them all , an Artillery officer would take over an Inf Bn (because there are more Inf Bns), an Ord offr (because of fewer Ord units and Depots) may have to go to take over an Armd Regt (because there are more Armd Regts) . An ASC officer approved for Gen may have to take over an Artilley Division (because of fewer ASC units and depots and Gen rank vaccancies in ASC). Appreciate--if almost same No of offrs from different arms were to be approved , how would a smaller arm adjust the rank wise influx specific to them .

For eg take the Army Aviation Corps--relatively a small outfit . Give them the same vaccancies of selection grade offrs as say the Inf or the Signals or the ASC --- very soon they will land up to take over Bns /Regts and Brigades in Artillery,ASC,Sigs,Inf and EME --- !! Next question , does taking over an artillery unit /brigade or an armd regt or a EME unit or Shakurbasti Depot--really require any specific to arm knowledge?? Why not have generally a 'General Cadre'-- all officers can take over any type of unit, all promotions will be in equal Nos from all arms . This my friends , will be is actual 'Mandalisation' . I do agree that in some of the current genre of young officers the element of the 'warrior cult' is missing . An easy life is the best life. But then remember , in Kargil and many wars before, it was always the younger lot of offrs who rose to the occasion. All is not lost. (D S SARAO)

Broadsword said...

@ Anonymous 08:27

You should not worry yourself about this debate, you don't have the basic intellect for it. This shows up in the accusations you direct at me, despite not knowing a thing about my career profile or where i have served.

For example, in assuming that I've not seen the brigade HQ in Poonch, you need to know that my unit was in charge of a sector called Surankote in 1998-99, when it was the hottest sector in J&K. We used to go to Poonch for R&R. And when the tigers posted on the LoC would pass through Surankote sector on their way to/from Jammu, they would be an embarrassing shade of pale, expecting to be killed any moment.

That's where my regiment -- an armoured regiment, functioning as infantry, with tanks mothballed in the permanent location for a year --- lived and worked. And we never felt unduly unsafe.

All this is easily checked from army records. As is the fact that 39 faujis were killed while passing through Surankote the year before 4 HORSE (my regiment) assumed op responsibility from an RR battalion. And in the year that we were in charge, NOT ONE SOLDIER was killed.

Keep patting yourself on the back. That won't change the fact that the Supreme Court will shortly administer to you privileged folks a somewhat harder pat, a few vertebrae lower, using its foot.

Anonymous said...

Keep patting yourself on the back. That won't change the fact that the Supreme Court will shortly administer to you privileged folks a somewhat harder pat, a few vertebrae lower, using its foot.

I have seen many Sowars like you in RR .. two officers (for an example) RTU and many other shaking legs never standing firm in their tenure....

The Infantry certainly has seen many pseudos' and cast offs like you before and would continue to caste them off even in future.. even under adverse conditions. I am sure of that..

though I know you personally more than yourselves, I admit I am not yet a cast off to use my name..
It is my pleasure I manage to catch your vitals most of the time and that is why I come to your blog... and you do show the true colours unconsciously most of the time.

Regards.. ... let us see where it ends.

Jean Luc Picard said...

@Anonymous 8:27 :

1.Physical Fitness is not the sole requirement, but it is a very important requirement. Not only for a General but anybody. We all know a healthy mind resides in a healthy body. So why deprive our generals of it. Are you not able to see they are suffering.

PT is not the domain of Sainik School children & those kids study too. if they can do both why not our senior military leadership. Simply by improving the fitness of officers we can retain their effectiveness and have more experience. Rather than Just getting in a younger cadre.

2. I wont talk like about the living conditions of few senior officers in operational formations. The question is not to put them in deliberate discomfort but to rather keep them grounded to the realities of men under their command.

The men's conditions, abilities,difficulties and capabilities. Any army will always have exceptional generals (like you mentioned) but the aim is to improve the larger majority by improving their standard, by way of retraining, policy and harvesting the right material.

The morale, motivation and professional accumen in senior leadership is appearing to dilute. The culture at the top is increasingly resembling the IAS culture who are career administrators and bureaucrats.

The culture needs to be changed to a martial culture.

3. Upper Middle class housewives will never go to combat.Their maternal instinct induces them to ensure their families take no risks and prosper. In ensuring so, they will never put themselves in any risk. Later when the priority shifts from risk aversion it turns to prosperity. Eg - House decoration, bringing up the young, getting them married, engaging in vanity,acquiring wealth and its display, administration of resources & policies (social norms, religion etc) Perhaps at any level the role of the housewives is the same, only difference is that upper middle class housewives engage in sycophancy due to wealth available.

A warrior's culture is quite the opposite. He takes risk, his living is spartan, the unending quest for constant improvement in his abilities, his thirst for acquiring knowledge and tactics, his rigidness of his creed (code). His emphasis of Meritocracy, competition & Results rather than showmanship & nepotism.
Finally his ability to sacrifice.

He's spartan because in combat he must not be dependent, he does not involve himself in affairs of the household no matter the temptation as it is a distraction & hinders his ability to sacrifice.

The two culture's cannot hybridize.

I agree that the state must step in & ENSURE the safety & welfare of his family & this must be even after he is not around, only so that his mind can be off of it.

4. The men only respect you once you show them you are capable of doing their job on ground and still shoulder the responsibilities of a general. Otherwise to parade like a peacock in front of them can be done better by Netas and actresses.

5. Talk shop? I am aware of the phrase but all it does is show a lack of interest in the profession, which by the way is supposed to be a passion. If one is not interested, quit.

Future warfare concepts is an interesting topic, its for sure
a topic of interest for young officers. Like money to a businessman, warfare to a general.

5. Its not so much about his academy net but if one does not fondly remember the thrill of his military training then maybe the corporate sector is an option.

Military Service is not, must not be just a career, it is a way of life (soldiering), for a group of people who have similar interests.i.e. Warfare. Everything else is an overhead or extra.

All of the above needs to be injected in our senior leadership today and in our military training & feeder institutions for correct induction of future leaders.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

@Jaun Luc Picard

I wish to tell you and all how much I like your ideas on leadership and general ship. Perhaps I am from a semi - feudal background and all that you wrote is a pleasure for the eyes.

Only that leadership and invariably so General- ship are dynamic in nature in ideas and practice. Depending on one's environment, goals and needs, Arjuna and Duryodhan can exist at the same time and in same battlefield both being leaders and generals. Today a leader can influence many through Facebook and twitter rather than breaking bread with his followers in the squadron lungar.

Your ideas about economics or money making needs a change. Edwin Toffler has very successfully demonstrated that the wars are fought the way money is made. If the money is made the "fourth wave" ways the wars would also be fought fourth wave ways. We have seen many instances of that. Op Barbarossa, Colonial competitions in India, Africa, modern day wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the race to Mars etc are but a few examples of war for economics and money making. So better understanding of it is essential to be a better general. It is continuation of business by other means.

Leave aside Indian elites, the elites world over ( who generally fall into bracket of upper middle class) or as Marx would call them bourgeois are the foundation of the society and provide military leadership in majority. So do have some compromise on your apathy for them. Indian case is a little different where bourgeois has gone comprador.

You will make a good leader if not a general.

Anonymous said...

Col Shukla said to the anonymous @ 8:27

"..You do not have the intellect.."

Sir,

I second that. Clearly evident from his subsequent post at 14:11 i.e. if any confirmation was required at all in first place.

Ignoring such ad hominem attacks is the best snub to such people.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 13:20

Say something rather than being a "Second" fiddle..

Whatever you wrote is confirmation of the theory of "association by closed minds"... be open minded. That will reduce frustration of a wrong choice...

Anonymous said...


http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2015-04-23/news/61457712_1_combat-units-indian-army-army-chief

The bench, comprising Justices TS Thakur and R Banumathi, also referred to a controversy that broke out after the conflict over the purchase of coffins for the Kargil war dead. The court was hearing petitions on Wednesday challenging the army's decision to implement a command and exit policy to promote younger officers to colonel rank.

This is aimed at having younger, fitter and quicker combat units. The services wings have been left out of the promotion policy, leading to distress among officers from these units. Additional solicitor general Maninder Singh referred to the slower response of the Indian Army, prompting Justice Thakur to say: "There was sluggishness at all levels.

Why only hold the officers responsible? Don't call those who sacrificed their lives on the border sluggish. They died, so they were sluggish?" He enlarged on his comments by recalling the coffin purchase deal. "The CBI was probing the case--what happened to it?" Singh said the strategy to lower the age profile was suggested as an improvement by two committees set up in the wake of the Kargil war.

They had suggested that the Indian Army's combat units were older than their Pakistani and Chinese counterparts, Singh said. The Ajay Vikram Singh committee had suggested a command and exit policy to make the army younger, he added. This involved promoting younger officers to colonel rank, where they would stay for two and a half to three years.

After that, they would be parked in additional posts created for them until they were promoted to the next level, Singh said. This would also include more posts at brigadier rank for a younger profile at that rank as well.

Since these were not available, the army chief decided in 2004 to implement the policy on a pro-rata basis initially in the combat units and not the services units. It was decided in 2009 that a switch would be made to the command and exit policy. However, the AFT wrongly presumed that the government had cleared the pro-rata policy and directed the army to go back to this.

Anonymous said...


@Jean Luc Picard..

Someone important has read your pieces on Leadership and General-ship :

North Korea executes defence chief for 'dozing off' at a military event



http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/north-korea-executes-defence-chief-hyon-yong-chol-on-treason-charges/article1-1346615.aspx

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with you sir. But when is the Supreme court going to administer this harder patttt. ..

Jean Luc Picard said...

@Anonymous 13 May 2015 at 08:20 -

I hope you say that in jest !
That's just way too extreme, to kill some one for nodding off at an event !!

He probably was up all night planning the same event.

We must have a retrain policy not policy based on punishment.

saffronbandit said...

Ajai, can we please have an update/follow up article on this promotion issue. I havent seen anything in the press lately. Has the court given any judgement or are hundreds of officers still in limbo ?