From: Col Ashok Kapur email@example.com
Subject: Re: A strategic inoculation
To: "REPORT MY SIGNAL (CS Kamboj)" firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Tuesday, 19 May, 2009, 10:27 PM
Col Ashok Kapur
2623 Clover Highlands
Near NIBM, Pisoli Road
A strategic inoculation
Amid the euphoria of democracy,
we should see that the morale of our armed forces is maintained
By N Vittal
Posted On Monday, May 18, 2009 at 05:34:31 AM
As Indians we can all be legitimately proud of our 60 years of vigorous democracy. The 15th general elections have just been over and we have witnessed the lively game of politics which adds spice to our democracy.
In fact as Indians we have been particularly lucky.
From the mid-twentieth century till the nineties a large number of colonies in Asia and Africa became independent. Unfortunately most of them became examples of poor governance. Many became single party dominated totalitarian regimes. Many went the way of communism and human liberties became a casualty. Many others became dictatorships of army generals and colonels.
Against this dismal record India almost alone emerged as a real democracy. The just concluded general elections is a glorious demonstration of this proud fact.
Our unique and lucky position can be particularly appreciated if we just look around and see what is happening in our neighbourhood. Pakistan is imploding. Nepal is lurching on the edge of chaos. Bangladesh is just recovering from their last elections.
Sri Lanka is struggling with a three decade old insurgency. Myanmar has gone into a deep freeze of democracy under a military junta. Further East, Thailand is facing a crisis between the elected government and the military which has intervened far too often in the government. Indonesia is limping back after a long spell of military dictatorship. China may be a great power but it is certainly not a democracy.
What is the secret of our fortune? It is thanks to the role played by three key institutions of governance. These are the Election Commission, the Judiciary and our Armed Forces. We readily recognise the role of the first two, but we hardly ever recognise the silent contribution of our thoroughly professional and politically neutral armed forces.
This is particularly very remarkable when we just look across the border and see what has happened in Pakistan and Bangladesh. The track record of the Indian armed forces is all the more commendable when we recall that they were all trained by the same British who set up excellent traditions in the armed forces.
As we celebrate the health of our vigorous democracy we should not take our luck so far, for granted. We should particularly nurture our armed forces and see that their morale and commitment to professionalism are maintained.
When it comes to health we are all aware of the fact that prevention is better than cure. The recent scare about swine flu underlined that message and saw many countries co-operating in ensuring that proper precautions are taken and a pandemic is avoided.
For the health of our democracy it is necessary that the new government pays special attention to our armed forces which constitute an important pillar for our democracy. From a broad perspective one thing is important. We must be able to make our defence services an attractive career option for our youth.
One major reason for the lack of attraction of armed forces as a career is a weakening of our sense of patriotism and nationhood. The growth of regionalism and caste based politics has greatly undermined the national sentiment and made patriotism almost anachronistic.
Equally important is the treatment meted out to ex-servicemen and veterans. We have seen the dissatisfaction of the defence services during the implementation of the sixth pay commission. How many are aware of the sense of frustration and the feeling of lack of izzat or respect amongst the retired servicemen on the issue of one rank-one pay?
Unless we take serious note of these signals of hurt pride and wounded morale, there is a danger that our vaunted track record of democracy may be seriously threatened.
When thousands of crores were waived for the agriculture sector and populist measures like free TV have become the norm of politics it is unfair if the reasonable demands of the defence services are not met. No government can invoke the old arguments of budget deficit etc. A strategic inoculation against the loss of morale in the armed forces is an important national priority for the new government.
In the last decade, N Vittal, the former CVC, emerged as the voice of our collective conscience. This is his weekly take on public life in India