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Saturday, October 28, 2017
The Sanctity of the Military Ranks Beyond Equivalence.......
Former President of US, Mr Barack Obama once saw police officers in Ferguson armed with military grade weapons. He asked the Homeland security who authorised these weapons to the police. As a result, he, as the President of United States, issued an executive order in 2015 prohibiting the transfer of a host of equipment, including armored vehicles, grenade launchers, high-caliber weapons and camouflage uniforms over the "militarization" of the police. He was aware of the significance to maintain sanctity of military status as highest in the state.
It is blasphemous to compare soldiers with another profession because the soldiers earn the glory for the nation by spilling their own blood. Soldiers in battle never seek a written order to lay down their lives in the line of duty.
Sanctity of military ranks and placing them above all services is not a creation of rank conscious Indian military but a convention that has become a law across all nations. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself recognized that power of Pontius Pilate “which has been given from above” (Jn. 19:11): the power of the sword, to kill and to defend a state from its enemies rests with the soldiers.
The legislation, Govt, judiciary and the farmers can function if the state is defended by powerful armies. That is why the profession of arms was considered the most valued profession by almost every scripture- Gita, Bible and Quran; and a soldier was placed at highest pedestal in a state and society.
Not many people know that the military ranks have been sanctified by tens of names of martyrs and hundreds of nameless martyrs. These ranks have not been picked up at random but from those who laid down their lives in defending their respective nations. Idea was that every time you address a solider by his rank you actually honour the martyr by remembering him. The respect given to the profession of arms was such that no one could become a king or shepherd of a church without serving in the military. The importance of serving in the military was so significant that those who refused to serve in the military could never become part of the body of the Church and member of the court of the king. Thus the profession of the arms was and will continue to remain above all other professions in spite of the fact that there has been constant conspiracy to erode it.
Even today the British Crown Prince is required to serve in the military.
A court official no matter how high he was not given the power to kill but it was and is vested with the soldiers. In the battlefield a soldier could kill, injure or even spare the life of an enemy and the authority rests with the soldier to decide as per his conscience. All other Govt functionaries can be prosecuted for killing another human. Supremacy in status was accorded to military personnel not only in Hindu scriptures but across all religions, faith and empires from Europe to Asia.
In the recent past a debate has been raging about the status of the soldiers and their leaders. One has to be completely out of sync to believe that a bureaucrat or file pusher can be equated with the soldier. How can a support staff be superior to the one whom they are supposed to be supporting? It means that the support staff in an operation theatre is even more important than the surgeon who conducts the operations over the patients. Try and tell the surgeon that henceforth he would follow the command of the man who is responsible to maintain the operation theatre and its cleanliness. Will the surgeon take orders from the support staff to conduct surgery? It is completely absurd to even imagine that sectorial or support staff as equal or even superior to the military whom they are employed to support.
What makes a soldier sacrifice his life in the line of duty? It is sense of honour and dignity of being the elite and chosen one. Why the two professions cannot be compared is because a civilian can work at leisurely pace without any irreversible loss to the self and the nation. But if a warrior does things at a leisurely pace he will not only lose his life but will also lose honour of the nation and the loss could be irreversible.
Churchill had said that the military must not suffer fools or those who are incapable of understanding the art of war. Patton said while addressing the political leadership, either lead me or get out of my way to let me do things as per my ability.
Civilian control is not bureaucratic control and military must resist to become subordinate to bureaucracy. It would be great disservice to the nation if the military allows itself to become subordinate to bureaucracy. If the military starts behaving like the bureaucracy, the first casualty will be warrior ethos of ‘sweat together to bleed together’ and second will be the moral contract to ‘train together to fight together”.
A General must have courage to say no to the unjust orders especially that affect morale, national interest and erode the elitism among the soldiers.
There is a need to look at the larger picture. There seems to be a systematic approach to keep military engaged in fighting with the system so that it is unable to focus on maintenance of morale and its ability to prepare to fight future wars.
If a Chief and his DGMO are fighting bureaucracy to protect the rank and status of soldiers, who do you think will plan for military operations at a juncture when the Indian Army was almost forced to go to war over border standoff with China? The Indian Army does not need Doklam to go to war. There is Doklam happening every day in the form of status of the forces, unresolved pay anomalies of 7 CPC, NFU, OROP and modernisation of the army.
Chanakya had said, to defeat a big army fight it from within and you need no enemy to defeat biggest of the armies. Imagine the impact of the equation and reduction of the status of armed forces with the support and secretarial staff on the officers and men? So far every officer and soldier is told there is no one equal to you in status and that’s why you are chosen to lead your men unto death.
The President of India is the Supreme Commander and a soldier serves with the pleasure of the presidential decree. No other services enjoys such a status but the question is whether the Supreme Commander should continue to remain silent over the issues that are ultimately eroding the morale and operational edge of the armed forces or use his executive powers to thwart any attempt to dilute the status of the armed forces vis a vis civilian counterparts and secretarial staff.
In fact if the rank and the status of the military is reduced, it is an insult to the office of Supreme Commander under whom the armed forces are supposed to function and the Warrant of Precedence is issued.
Political leadership should judge whose interest it will serve if the morale of the military is eroded by creating internal dissensions. Thus it is time to identify those who are acting as enemy to fight from within the system against the last pillar of the state. Current and future governments have to decide whether they want an Army that is capable of winning future and current wars or an army that is weakened by constant attack on its stature?
The current trajectory appears to be going in a direction that may create insubordination in the services headquarters because it will put military officers subordinate to support and secretarial staff. But if the Govt wants to use the lowering of states of armed forces officers to group B to deflect the ire of the court against the denial of the NFU and declare Armed Forces as group B services than there cannot be greater misfortune where a Govt will engage and fight against its own armed forces.
No matter what happens to the overall debate, one thing is sure that the military is conscious of its rank not because it gives them status but because the rank carries the names of known and unknown martyrs. System and bureaucracy may attempt to insult the martyrs but the men who carry their ranks can’t afford to insult those who laid down their lives to protect the honour of the nation.
I had written in an earlier article that the significance of salutation and what it means to a soldier when he salutes his superior, it means “sir I am ready to carry out your command” and an officer returns the salute by acknowledging that “I will lead you till last breath”. That is why an old soldier never saluted a civilian irrespective of his position because a civilian cannot lead a soldier to war and he is in no way equal to the profession of arms.
If the services chiefs accept willful erosion of status of military vis a vis support and sectorial staff, they will not only do injustice to past, present and future generation of soldiers but will also insult martyrs.
Soldiers do not fight for cash awards but take and give lives for the flag and colour of the ribbon.
One may recall that first thing soldiers did on reaching Tiger Hill was not to wash their wounds and count their martyrs but raised the Tri Colour under the barrage of enemy artillery fire.
That is why soldiers cannot be compared to any other profession because they seek glory under the shadow of the swords.