Recently I had been to Burma, now called Myanmar. A fact that stood out was that the Burmese Army had a constitutional role in the governing of the state. I came to know that 30% of the seats in Parliament are reserved for the army and only the remaining 70% is up for grabs. This means the Army controls Burma. In addition to defense, border relations and home affairs remain under the control of the Army. I am deliberately giving the example of Burma which is a Buddhist country and not Pakistan. The matter does not end with Burma and in Thailand also which again is a Buddhist country the Army is in the driver seat.
Thus in Southeast Asia, two of India’s immediate neighbors are controlled by the army. One can safely say that if the army was not in power in these two states, there is every chance that there would be very little progress and the country could have degenerated into a violent place. This fact cannot be denied. Pakistan is the twin of India and one can say that the roots of both nations are the same as both inherited a British Indian Army but in Pakistan after 1957 when general Ayub Khan took over as the President, the Pakistan army has a constitutional role in the Governance of Pakistan. As things stand now Pakistan is beset by extremist jihadists war supported by the Pakistan Taliban and the ISIS. I can safely say if the army was not acting against them, the state of Pakistan would have long ago fallen and become a totally theoretic state.
Many people have asked me about India? Here also fissiparous tendencies are rearing their head and the country despite its massive size unable to exert even against Pakistan which is one fifth the size of India. Even a small country like Sri Lanka captures Indian fishermen from Tamilnadu with impunity and the Indian government keeps sitting on its haunches.
What history says
A look at history will give us some insights into the role of the army in India. During British days the commander in chief of the British Indian Army was the second most important person in India after the viceroy. The Indian Army literally perpetuated the Raj that is the reason that the commander in chief used to stay in Teen Murti house which was later occupied by Pandit Nehru simply because there is a direct route from Teen Murti to the Vice Regal Lodge and the commander-in-chief could easily meet the Governor-general for any policy decision. Without being explicitly stated the Army was part of the governing process in India during the days of the Raj
After independence in 1947 the set of leaders who took power at the helm in India were men with a very little strategic horizon and in any case, knew nothing of power politics or heard the name of Clausewitz. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who took over as PM was very suspicious of the Army and began taking steps to dismantle the control of the army over the country. In this effort, sadly one has to note that the successive chiefs of the Army led by General Cariappa played ball with Nehru. Cariappa set the ball rolling when he along with general Rajinder Singhji agreed for the post of the C-in-C to be abolished. Cariappa was beholden to Nehru as he had been made the chief of the Army when he was not the senior most general. Nehru at that time superseded Lieutenant General Kulwant Singh to make Cariappa the Army Chief. Obviously, he was not in a position to oppose Nehru. This state of affairs started from that time and successive generals including the infamous general Bewoor agreed to a 30% deduction of pensions of the Indian soldiers without a murmur.
Nehru and the Congress Party also set in motion a series of checks and balances by which generals who were forthright or strong never rose up. There are many examples of generals like Bhagat and Sinha being superseded. The Indian Army thus became literally a shadow of what it was during the days of the Raj. The government also ensured that anybody going up the rank of Colonel would be a man who would be compliant to the political leadership. There is nothing wrong with it but the fact is the political leadership had ulterior motives in keeping the Army toothless. This had disastrous effects as India lost a war to China in 1962 as well as losing almost 40000 square miles of Indian territory to the Dragon. India also lost Tibet as a buffer state and due to the vacillations of the political leadership, India lost 40% of Kashmir as well. Unable to realize the gravity of a Maoist revolution the political leadership allowed internal insurrection to flourish and even now this is going on with almost 30% of the land in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand under the control of the Maoists. The political leadership has made a complete mess of Central India. This is not all, as an insurrection is on in Nagaland and the northeast since 1955 and is still Simmering.
Toothless army leadership
All this could have been avoided in case the army leadership had asserted itself and worked out a method by means of which it would have a say in the running of the government. But most of the Army top hierarchy was not interested and their only interest was to get promoted with the result, the Army never pressurized the government for anything. Giving a small example a perk like free rations for the officers was discontinued and the Army chief general Rawat has been unable to do anything about it. If an army general cannot exert himself in such a case one can well imagine what say he will have in matters of policy. The political leadership has ensured that though India may become second fiddle to China, they will not allow the Army any say in the political setup in India. Since 1947 despite lip service, the political leadership from the time of Nehru has been suspicious of the Army
Much of this sorry state of affairs lies with the top brass of the army officers corps. It is very amusing now to read some of the retired general and admirals saying that the constitution is sacred and the army should be happy with whatever they get. They are also opposing a good agitation started by General Satbir Singh for one rank one pension. As yet OROP is not sanctioned by the government and most of these retired worthies are still insisting that there should be no agitation against the government. The reason is that these men when they were in service never exerted themselves as they feathered their own nest and now they feel ashamed of their background and oppose a good cause as being carried forward by Satbir Singh
If India has to move forward there is no choice but for the army to assert itself. Old generals and Admiral talking of the constitution is sacred would mean that a revolution should never take place. These are the man who would even like something like the French Revolution or the Chinese revolution never to take place. This is a great danger to India we cannot accept the status quo which talks of caste divisions and classes of society and divisions on the basis of language and religion. The army must assert itself and be part of a constitutional process like it is there in Pakistan, Burma, and Thailand
I do not see this happening in my lifetime but I am an optimist and I am certain the hour finds the man. There is every chance that in the decades to come to, a Revolution will happen in India it may not be with a gun but if India is to move forward and be one Nation there is no choice but for the army to shoulder and take part in the Governance of this great nation.