Archives


SOURCE: DECCAN CHRONICLE

Nilekani professor of India and South Asian Studies and Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, Steven Wilkinson argues that the Indian army’s non-involvement in politics is a bigger achievement than one may think.

“In late 1930’s, the nationalist leaders engrossed in the freedom movement of India were concerned about the unrepresentative colonial army, which they felt should be changed,” said Wilkinson while explaining India’s civil-military success at the Centre for Public Policy inaugural lecture.

After independence, the founding fathers were worried that the army India inherited posed a threat to democracy, since the troops and officers were drawn disproportionately from a few martial groups.

They were suspicious of the recruitment pattern based on caste and religion as incompatible with their hopes for a new secular nation. In 1929, 54% of the recruits in the British Indian army were Punjabis.

“Unlike Pakistan, the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and other leaders saw military issue as urgent. The civil-military strategies were developed (1947-1955). In September 1946, Mr Nehru wrote to General Auchinleck to stress need for rapid Indianization and recruitment of paramilitary forces to keep army out of domestic law enforcement,” Wilkinson explained.

In 1955, the unified defence command structure was split equally into Army, Navy and Air Force commands. During the same year, the army chief was redesignated from Commander-in-Chief to chief of army staff.

At officer level the recruitment streams were diversified and training centres such as National Defence Academy was set up.

The tenures of officers were also reduced. “Gen K.M. Cariappa retired in 1952 at the age of 53, Gen Shrinagesh at 54 and Gen K.S. Thimayya at 55. As retirement was approaching Gen Cariappa leaked to the press that he would want to serve the nation in some capacity. Mr Nehru sent him to Australia as Indian High Commissioner. “During an interview, Mr. Nehru said that the demotion from Commander-in-Chief to chief of army staff was a deliberate decision,” he said.

According to first Pakistan Commander-in-chief Sir Frank Messervy, Mr. M.A. Jinnah had no interest in the army. General Sir Douglas Gracey, the second Pakistani Commander-in-Chief said that Jinnah and other politicians were ignorant of what was going in the army.

“After the 1971 war, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto tried to follow India by abolishing Commander-in-Chief and replacing it with separate chiefs. Forty five top officers were retired, and civilian review over top promotions was one of the changes brought by him. He mismanaged it. The new paramilitary was used as his personal retainer. Most of the changes were abolished after the 1977 coup,” Wilkinson said.