Since the dawn of civilization, military service in India has always had a place of honour among the vocations. A period of military service is a vital part of a citizen's education for life in a world where disorder is rampant.
Since the dawn of civilization, military service in India has always had a place of honour among the vocations. This is very apt, because no greater honour can be given to any man than serving the cause of freedom in the uniformed services of his country.
In India, there has been a traditional unity of civil and military purposes. No contradiction or separation of purpose has ever become manifest, as in some countries, where armed forces have been an island in themselves. The short history of independent India is rich in examples of retired soldiers doing useful work in private as well as government departments.
Role in Society
The academic circles after debate the question whether armies represent a socially constructive or destructive element in the life of a nation. This is not our exclusive Indian. The place of the army in national life has come in for a great deal of criticism in the USA, as an aftermath of the Vietnam war. The intelligentsia in the Latin-American countries also debate armies are instruments of order or disorder.
One author, who has written extensively on the ideals of military service, has cited the “caricature of the trigger-happy, slaughter-minded, war-mongering officer”. This caricature crops up frequently in the public mind. The military professional, living within his service, knows that he and his associates are not trigger-happy or slaughter-minded. He knows the restraint with which weapons are used and understands and respects civilian authority over the Defence Establishment. He is familiar with the sense of responsibility and social obligation which characterise his profession in this era.
Although there certainly is not a “military mind” in India in the sense of a Prussian -type militarism, there is a professional awareness of the imperatives of duty. Military training in our country leaves a special imprint of responsibility on the citizen in uniform. The concepts of duty, honour and the country are especially important to a democracy in an age when almost all moralists and social commentators agree that values have been gravely eroded, under the pressures of change.
Value of Discipline
The fundamental difference between the military professional and his fellow citizen in civilian life is that the former does not live in a permissive environment. This is an important difference. With the dilution of the stern attitudes of an earlier period, a number of destructive and impulsive tendencies have been noted. Increased crime, social irresponsibility and civil disobedience have become serious problems.
Conversely, the military way of life — which is definitely not permissive — builds into citizens an understanding of disciplined life. Personnel in uniform know that the greatest freedom is in the service to the ideals of one’s country. This is not surprising, for the lessons of the battlefield are the lessons of sacrifice, comradeship and personal responsibility. Military life is a life according to a code in which intelligence and training are related to fundamental social goals.
Those who have handled the most powerful weapons ever known to mankind, have demonstrated the intellectual capacity to prepare for and fight wars with these devices and at the same time, showing moral strength it takes to live with and keep leashed these engines of destruction. They are neither trigger-happy, nor trigger-shy.
Breakdown of Values
A country must have a great deal of social cohesion to survive and to achieve great things. One of the dangers of our time is the loss of this social cohesion. There has been a disturbing emergence of the anarchist spirit and philosophy which suggests that individuals and small groups have no obligations to the larger community. However this anarchism is revealed, ultimately it threatens disintegration of the unit of the nation. When this attitude 1s limited to a few individuals, it is not a menace to public order. But if this anarchist. spirit becomes contagious, then it opens the way for foreign invaders.
To be sure, preserving the cohesion of the nation is partly the task of parents, religion and school. But military service is also a vital part of schooling in citizenship and national values. It is, perhaps, the toughest and most valuable of educational experience in a democracy, for it demands that intelligence be combined with courage and loyalty to ideals — often at the risk of death. A period of military service is a vital part of a citizen’s education for life in a world where disorder is rampant. Many of the young turn to generational strife and civil disobedience because the education they have received has been inadequate. They have had the intellect trained, but their values have not been rooted in a code of life. Military service provides a classical form of education in the duties of manhood and ends the alienation that many a modern youth experiences. In a real sense, therefore, the armed forces can be the last rung of the educational system whereby young citizens are imbued with the qualities essential to a free society.
Professor Muhammder Mujeeb, former Vice Chancellor of the Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi recently analysed the role of armies in history and quoted Warner Sombart, the German economist, who said, “In the beginning was the army.” Professor Mujeeb observed that” on historian could disagree with him, “pointing out that armies have been the principal means of change in “the process of grafting of peoples, cultures, techniques, ideas on to each other to which we owe most of the progress we have made”. Asserting that armed conflict “can be a means of placing social and political systems on trial and of infusing vitality in those that have become petrified,” Professor Mujeed suggests that it is possible to distinguish wars that are in the nature of surgical operations on societies unable to fulfill the conditions of survival and wars that are purely destructive. He says: “Alexander the Great’s imperialist amibitions influenced world history by making the peoples of West Asia and Egypt heirs to Greek culture. On the other hand, the military exploits of Timur the Lame are a record of merciless destruction without any purpose”.
This analysis has value for the military professional, for it is important that we do not accept the stereotype of armies in action as destructive forces. In World War II, the US armed forces not only protected the physical integrity of the United States, but carried out extraordinary measures of pacification and national rehabilitation. US occupation and administration in Japan and Germany must be credited with enormous achievements in rebuilding two advanced nations along constructive lines. While civilians played a part in both administrations the accomplishments were overwhelmingly those of men in the uniformed service of their country.
Nearer home, India’s liberation of Bangladesh was a war of compassion, meticulously planned with professional elan and precision and brilliantly executed with relentless tenacity and determination. This just war, if ever there was one, restored to the persecuted people their freedom and their dreams.
India is a country in which theories of non-violence and non-resistance have had enormous acceptance. The Gandhian doctrines took root among both the masses and the intellectual elite of India. As a result, the Indian military services suffered a low profile in the years following India’s independence. Not until 1962, when Communist China invaded India and shattered the concept of peaceful co-existence in Asia, was there a reversal of the Indian philosophy with respect to military service.
Service in the close companionship of men enthuses tremendous esprit-de-corps and develops the qualities of un-selfishness and compassion and the ability to live in peaceful harmony with one’s fellow beings. The tough life teaches fortitude and forbearance and the honour code instils all enlisted men with immense patriotic fervour.
The soldier-citizens of India blend wonderfully with other citizens to form the warm and woof of the fabric of our national life. Their contribution to national development has been significant and they will continue to enjoy the confidence of the nation. They can be relied upon to perform their duties with dedication and valour, to bring honour and glory to the country.