Response to Mr Nitin Pai's Opnion on Politicisation of Armed Forces by Lt Gen P R Shankar (R)

Dear Mr Nitin Pai,

I read with interest your opinion piece in The Print titled Dont Politicise Indian Armed Forces. Just Look at What it Did to Our Police. I agree with your fundamental idea that the Armed Forces should not be politicized. However, the premise that “Deployment of Armed Forces in Jammu & Kashmir over the past three decades is the single biggest factor in politicization of Armed Forces” is incorrect. Also, the conclusion that politicization of Armed Forces will lead them to a state akin to that of the Police forces is also misplaced. This is due to a few basic reasons. While the Armed Forces have been deployed in Counter Insurgency situations in the NE and J&K for long, the personnel are constantly rotated. As a result, none of them have dropped roots in these areas to become politicized. In fact, an outlook, slightly aloof, insulated and remote from local political nuances due to lack of identity with them has enabled Armed Forces to maintain their balance and remain apolitical. In addition, the Armed Forces do not deal with the public as the Police does. The Armed Forces do not have personal stakes in many outcomes unlike the Police who are local to the situation. Hence the Armed Forces will never end up like our police. I have no worries on that.

The real issue regarding politicization is that it is taking place and unavoidable. It will have an adverse affect  in degrading our op preparedness unless certain issues which have caused politicization are identified and addressed. I wrote on the issue of   politicization in my  article  Political crumbling of the Last Bastion. The feedback I got from the environment was revealing. It clearly indicated to me that there are a set of imbalancers which have crept into our system which need rectification. The rectification process must be set in politically. It cannot be done from within the system. The Armed forces cannot be more professional they are and Samuel Huntington’s theories of building expertise, emphasizing responsibility and upholding their corporate responsibility alone won’t help us. I have identified the issues involved in my article  Political Resurrection of the Last Bastion.  Largely, the issues pertain to Procurement, Op Preparedness, Promotions and Postings and Status of Armed Forces. I have also outlined the steps to pull back the system and Rightstream the Armed Forces. these are reproduced for your ready reading  

There are two unshakable strengths.  Firstly, Indian democracy.  Secondly the belief within our Armed Forces that democracy should be upheld at all costs. Build on them. The politician faces the hustings and the soldier faces the enemy. In this canvas it is time for them to face the nation together and ‘Rightstream’ the Armed Forces. The rank and file must be totally insulated from politics. Their loyalty and fealty should be only to the tricolor. Promotions and appointments, specially to higher ranks MUST be on merit without any compromise. Able service personnel should man not only MOD but other ministries and departments in the Center and State. Expose them to public dealing. It will do all round good. Voice and representation of the Armed Forces in the political landscape is missing.  If bahubalis, criminals, suspected terrorists, god men, casteists, retired bureaucrats, businessmen can be elected as representatives of their interests, then there should be representation of Armed Forces also. Capable veterans should enter public life as politicians. It can be a combination of elected and nominated MPs, MLAs and even gram Pradhans. I know a case of a cook in my unit who is today a gram Pradhan in his village in HP. He is doing extremely well. All political parties should seriously look at this issue.  

The next major reform is how to restore the status of Servicemen who the nation expects to sacrifice their lives and fundamental liberties.  The national “Last Bastion” must be put on a pedestal. If not, that is not our “Last Bastion”. Find another. The fundamental issue is – pay as the equator of status. Break this link and device a system where balance can be restored. The imbalanced system cannot continue.  To improve procurement and operational aspects we must reform the MOD. Appointment of a CDS and increased manning of the MOD  by service personnel is mandatory. Surgical strikes must be carried out on our procurement system. These have been outlined again at the cost of repetition for emphasis.

I would like to reiterate that I am prepared to take up this issue along with the other issue which you have articulated recently pertaining to how new military bases can seed new cities to create jobs in any forum, any time and place of your choice.

with best wishes and warm regards

Lt Gen P R Shankar (retired)

3 responses to “Response to Mr Nitin Pai's Opnion on Politicisation of Armed Forces by Lt Gen P R Shankar (R)”

  1. Your contention that the politicization is unavoidable is not only dangerous but implies that you have accepted it. Yes it is taking place more visibly through ESM outfits mushrooming all over. Role of our political masters ruling with majority is deliberate in policitization. You need to take care of this and similar attempts to divide the armed forces.

  2. Very aptly put Sir. Fact of the matter is that while politics in general is about finding functional option which has least resistance, the operational function of the armed forces is about choosing the harder Right, every time. The 'last bastion' can't afford to fail as it may lead to loss of sovereignty and deep gashes on psyche as the war in 1962 left us with. Therefore it is important that while Armed Forces are looked as an arm of state and must be utilised for national effort but every effort must be made by the powers that be, responsible for ordering their employment to maintain in its pristine form and condition so that at the moment of reckoning the cutting edge is always found to be sharp and asymmetric

  3. You have rebutted the thesis of Mr. Pai on Politicisation of army due to the frequent deployment in CI roles ably and aptly. It appears that Mr Pai represents a group of liberal who do not want the core constituency they represent, wither away due to the prolonged deployment of the Armed Forces. He seems to forget that the Armed Forces have a duty to protect the nation from external enemies but also the internal enemies. You are very right in emphasizing that the Indian Armed Forces are not only the defenders of its borders and territorial integrity, but also the democratic way of public life. You are very right about the need for the lateral induction of the retired Armed Forces personnel in civil service of the Union Government and the State Governments. In recent times we had a few retired personnel winning elections and hope more will follow the path. The suggestion that Armed Forces should vacate their current bases to facilitate job creation is like suggesting that existing homes should be burned down to build new ones creating new jobs. This suggestion seems to have been made on behalf of the real estate industry. A good rebuttal.

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