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A one-of-a-kind Army establishment in Pune, the Institute of National Integration (INI), trains religious teachers from different faiths who serve with Army units and formations across the country. This unique training institute has been training religious teachers in various aspects of junior leadership by exposing them to the spiritual, philosophical and psychological facets of religion and training them to be mentors and counsellors for the soldiers of the Indian Army.

They also perform the multidimensional role of Yoga instructors, psychological gatekeepers, mitigators of lifestyle diseases, experts of resource optimisation, and promoters of national integration and religious harmony.

According to the Commandant, Brigadier M M Vitekar, the Institute of National Integration (INI), is a unique and premium establishment of the Indian Army that has been established with the vision to act as the centre of excellence to promote inter-faith harmony amongst Officers, JCOs & NCOs of Indian Army and prepare religious teachers for effective discharge of their prescribed role in units, that is to foster and promote religious harmony and ethos of National Integration.

To date, INI has been effectively discharging its duty towards an integrated and secular Army.

“A need was felt during the past years for the establishment of an Institute with the primary aim of promoting National Integration in the Indian Army and thus positively contributing to nation-building. This concept was proposed by then Chief of Army Staff, Gen OP Malhotra and consented to by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1980,” Brigadier M M Vitekar said.
“The Institute of National Integration (INI) was thus conceived in September 1984, which was formally inaugurated by Padma Bhushan Lt Gen (Dr) ML Chibber, PVSM, AVSM, on February 15, 1985. This was to impart training to selected officers, JCOS and NCOs of the Indian Army, highlighting their rich cultural heritage, and spirit of tolerance, thus giving depth to cohesion and inter-faith harmony already prevalent amongst all ranks,” he added.

Brigadier M M Vitekar also mentioned that INI is the smallest Category ‘A’ training establishment of the Indian Army, with the singular distinction of displaying the Tricolour as the formation sign.

He further added that INI believes in the motto ‘Soldier First’.

“In this, the Religious Teachers (or RT) JCOs first go through a comprehensive Basic Military Training of soldiering and later undergo an advanced training of 11 weeks at INI before commissioning as JCO Religious Teachers. After they pass out from INI, they get posted to their respective units as psychological counsellors and mental health mentors,” Brigadier Vitekar said.

He continued to emphasise that the religious teachers who undergo training from here do not remain just the men of rituals but become an asset to the organisation, capable of playing a vital role in the unit’s battle-winning ethos.

“The training at INI is a well-balanced mix of theory and practical aspects of soldiering, understanding the responsibilities of a religious teacher and being able to fulfil what is expected of them,” he said.

INI became operational and started conducting courses in February 1985. These courses are unique and tailor-made for officers, JCOs and NCOs, including religious teachers. They were not only exposed to our country’s rich culture, heritage and commonalities of teachings in all religions but also to challenges and means to promote national integration.

To date, 118 such courses have been conducted, through which 209 officers, 2205 JCOs and 675 NCOS have been trained.

Another interesting aspect of INI is its “Sarva Dharma Sthal,” a unique concept in the Indian Army, where soldiers from all religions and faiths come together and offer prayers to the almighty.

One such Sarva Dharma Sthal has recently been designed and structured on the INI campus by Lt. Col. Harsh Wardhan Pande, administrative officer at INI.

He has also proposed a unique design for a Model Sarva Dharma Sthal that, if approved, will be developed in Pune alongside the KLP of INI.