The customs and traditions of the armed forces are not mere frills; don’t trivialize them

An article in a national daily indicates that the army is seeking to shed its colonial past with regard to uniforms, ceremonies, names of regiments and buildings and other similar aspects dating from before independence . To this end, the agenda cited for a meeting proposed by the Adjutant General at Army HQ was to review customs, old practices, regulations and policies in force with the aim of “moving away from archaic and ineffective practices”! The report also points out that when addressing the Combined Commanders’ Conference last year, the Prime Minister advised the three services to “shed legacy systems and practices that have lost their usefulness and relevance”.

It is difficult to say whether or not the revision proposed by the army results from this directive. What can be said with confidence, however, is that the evolution and changes necessitated by emerging warfare challenges, technological advances and human resource issues are aspects that professional armed forces follow closely. regularly and continuously to remain operationally and militarily relevant. It is therefore clear that these would not be areas requiring special review, suggesting that the focus of the review proposed by Army HQ is customs, traditions, ceremonies, uniforms, etc

One of the important elements in how the military engenders professionalism in their ranks is to instill in them the value and inviolability of customs and traditions, which, although not bound by service laws, are the essence even “esprit de corps” and honorable service. Many of them may seem like mere frills to those outside of the military field, but in reality contribute much to the camaraderie and high moral standards leading to the ethical combat drive of the soldier, sailor, or soldier. ‘aviator. Indeed, many of them have evolved and been refined over the life of the respective arms or units involved and therefore form the very essence of sense of being, pride, morale, spirit sacrifice of the formation and, therefore, of its combat potential. Any effort to trivialize them would strike at the very heart of the military ethos.

The subject of civil-military relations in democracies has been the subject of extensive study by many political scientists, since its essence is that the armed forces operate under civilian control while being free to provide professional advice. Professor Samuel Huntington, in his book The Soldier and the State, puts forward the proposition that the best way to assert objective civilian control over the military in a democracy is to professionalize it. Professor Dale Herspring, in his book “Civil-Military Relations and Shared Responsibility”, approaches the subject from the perspective of military culture, arguing that the optimal form of civil-military relations is one of shared responsibility between the two groups. He argues that civilian disrespect for military culture will antagonize senior military officials and could deprive leaders of professional guidance.

Faced as we are with complex external and internal security challenges, a commitment within our security institutions to a preferred model is long overdue, provided it is set within a framework of mutual faith and trust. institutional and not in an approach of “military submission to civil authority”. . The downside of this latter approach may well be to deprive political leaders of sound professional military advice.

In his book, “Army and the Nation: The Military and Indian Democracy since Independence (2015)”, Steven I Wilkinson of Yale University drew on exceptionally comprehensive data to explore how and why India succeeded to keep the military out of politics when so many other countries have failed. It also identifies issues that make it difficult for India’s armed forces must remain a separate society, among them demands that politicians be seen as dividing the cake of national recruitment between states and communities, disparity in pay compared to many civilian professions, rampant corruption in the officer ranks, an increase in the number of incidents, including fragmentation, suicides and insubordination in units and instances where ambitious or powerful officers attempted to lure allies of social and political organizations into controversies within the army. In addition to this, he said, it is higher levels of education, new ideas about rights and citizenship, mass media and modern communications that are creating challenges to the military’s ability to retain traditional military hierarchies. His conclusion being that “the greatest challenge for civil-military relations no longer relates to the traditional concerns of higher command structures and ethnic coverage, but rather the difficulties the military faces in trying to remain a separate society. . Party pressures, corruption and growing political and societal efforts to interfere in its functioning are threatening its ability to retain its traditional recruitment structures and hierarchies and straining what has so far been one of the India’s main successes – the clear separation between the military and politics. .”

To help the military remain a separate society and to ensure sound professional military advice to political leaders at all times; perhaps it is time for those charged with the daunting task of protecting our nation from the many security challenges we face, to delve into some of the lessons learned from available scientific studies to better understand the complex dynamics of civil-civil relations. -military forces in our democracy and its impact on national security.



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The opinions expressed above are those of the author.



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