the Army and Constitutional Responsibility

Recently I had been to Burma, now called Myanmar. A simple fact that stood out was that the Burmese Army had a constitutional role in the governing of the state. I came to realize that 30 % of the seating in Parliament are reserved for the army and merely the remaining seventy % is up for grabs. This means the Army controls Burma. Besides defense, border relations and home affairs remain under the regulation of the Army. I’m purposely giving the example of Burma which is a Buddhist country without Pakistan. The matter doesn’t end with Burma and in Thailand too which once again is a Buddhist country the Army is in the driver seat.

India’s neighbors

Thus in Southeast Asia, 2 of India’s immediate neighbors are controlled by the army. One can safely say that if the army wasn’t in power in these 2 states, there is every chance that there’d be very the country and little progress could have degenerated into a violent place. This fact cannot be denied. Pakistan is the twin of India and one can say that the beginnings of both nations are the very much like 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 plus the ISIS. I can easily say whether the army was not acting against them, the state of Pakistan would have long ago fallen and become a totally theoretic state.

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Lots of people have asked me about India? Here also fissiparous tendencies are rearing the head of theirs and also the country despite its massive size unable to exert even against Pakistan and that is one fifth the size of India. Even a compact country as Sri Lanka captures Indian fishermen from Tamilnadu with impunity and also the Indian government keeps sitting on its haunches.

What history says

A look at history is going to give us a few insights into the role of the army in India. During British days the commander in chief of the British Indian Army was the next foremost person in India after the viceroy. The Indian Army literally perpetuated the Raj that’s the rationale that the commander in chief used to stay in Teen Murti house which was later occupied by Pandit Nehru simply because there’s a direct route from Teen Murti to the Vice Regal Lodge and the commander-in-chief could easily see 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 little strategic horizon and in any case, knew nothing of power politics or perhaps heard the name of Clausewitz. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who took over as PM was very suspicious of the Army and began taking action to dismantle the control of the army over the land. 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 as 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 spot to oppose Nehru. This state of affairs started from successive generals and that time including the infamous general Bewoor agreed to a 30 % deduction of pensions of the Indian soldiers without having a murmur.

Sidelining army

Nehru as well as the Congress Party also set in motion a series of balances and checks by which generals who were strong or forthright never rose up. There are numerous examples of generals as Sinha and Bhagat being superseded. The Indian Army thus became literally a shadow of what it was during the days of the Raj. The government even ensured that anybody going up the rank of Colonel will be a man who would be compliant to the political leadership. There is nothing wrong with it but the reality 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 in addition to 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 recognize the gravity of a Maoist revolution the political leadership allowed internal insurrection to flourish and even now this is happening with about 30 % of the area in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand under the command of the Maoists. The political leadership has created a complete mess of Central India. This is only some, as an insurrection is on in Nagaland as well as the northeast since 1955 and is still Simmering.

Toothless army leadership

This all might have been stayed away from in case the army leadership had asserted itself as well as 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 the sole interest of theirs was to get promoted with the result, the Army never pressurized the government for anything. Providing a compact 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 can’t exert himself in such a case one may well imagine what say he is going to 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’s so amusing now to view some of the retired general and admirals saying the constitution is sacred and the army needs to be pleased with however much they get. They’re 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 explanation is that these men when they were in service never exerted themselves as they feathered the personal nest of theirs and so they feel ashamed of their background as well as oppose a great cause as being carried forward by Satbir Singh


If India has to move ahead there’s absolutely no choice but for the army to assert itself. Admiral talking and old generals of the constitution is sacred would mean that a revolution should never take place. These’re the male who’d possibly like something similar to the French Revolution or the Chinese revolution never to occur. This is a great danger to India we cannot accept the status quo which talks of caste divisions and classes of divisions and society on the basis of religion and language. The army must assert itself and be a component of a constitutional process like it is there in Pakistan, Burma, and Thailand

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