Millennium Post

Chinks in the Indian armour

The Indian Military Academy recently celebrated its 80th raising day amid much fanfare. It was a grand two-day event celebrated with military precision and was graced by quite a few previous commandants who graced the occasion. The Academy has come a long way from its initial inauguration by Sir Philip Chetwode. It has trained the best and has occupied center stage internationally in training of officers and aims to do so in the future as well. There are however, chinks emerging in the armour and the Academy is live to them and addressing the same. The challenges are emerging from the changed nature of warfare, and are being tackled on a warfooing. The changed atmosphere has demanded a radical change in the manner of training for the officer being commissioned. The change therefore, is in the molding ability and exposure to the mind of these talented youth.

The other challenge is more domestic and nuanced but not official. As per informal feed back from a large number of commanding officers’ they find that the caliber of officers’ commissioned from the technical stream which is an add-on entry as good if not better than the IMA product. In fact it may come as a bit of a damper to a large number of Ex NDA but the reality now is that most of the appointments too in IMA are coming from the Army Cadet College stream. These entries are gradually gaining main stream. The Ex- NDA has been the main stay of the forces, followed by the direct entry certainly does not behoove well for these prestigious institutions. On the other hand the other institutions doing well is a matter of pride for the system and the final product will be better, but nationally the vision of training at the IMA is to make it a pre-eminent commissioned academy internationally in conformity with historical and cultural values of the Army and our nation.

Forty years ago when one passed out of the Academy it was producing officers for a victorious army. The mood was different and the Academy was the connoisseur as far as officers’ training was concerned. The Americans were licking the wounds of Vietnam and Pakistan was a dismembered state. The seventies and early eighties were iconic years as far as operational thought and plains warfare in the army was concerned. Then came the rebound, death by a thousand cuts by Pakistan, the academy had to modify its curriculum. Counter Insurgency [CI] operations and small unit operations became center staged due to a proactive media, during that stage one was a battalion commander at IMA. The academy responded well with a CI operation capsule and other changes. Suddenly Kargil dawned and the blood and guts story of the academy was high lighted. Its tough physical training had stood the test of high altitude and high endurance, some of the bravest of the brave were just out of the academy our cadets of yesterday are national heroes of today, and the academy had delivered again. Today in our life span the sheer dynamism of war has changed. If we reflect on the generations of warfare than our generation of officers’ has been trained on the second generation model of warfare, to met the challenges of third generation warfare and are now handling four generation warfare and some are even taking of fifth generation warfare. Never has the nature and fluidity of thought hit a couple of generations of officers’ so deeply as ours yet as General Malik said during Kargil we have gone alone and lived up to all the challenges. The alma mater too faces the same if not greater challenges. The future military will need to contend with hybrid warfare and the premier leadership will have to come from the alumni of this academy; the challenge therefore, is daunting?

The nation has disputed borders with multiple threats ranging from the lone gun man to weapons of mass destruction. These hybrid conflicts make it necessary to groom future leaders to understand the vast plethora of threats in a multi dimensional and multi front environment, while the conventional battle field gets more lethal and accurate. In such an environment the military leader needs special skills of a high order.

The material coming in looks at the army as a means of social upliftment; the schooling system with less emphasis on games does not provide very physically fit young men.

The social gap between the leaders and the led has gradually decreased requiring special training in Leadership, Ethics, Morals and Values, as a slew of breaking news by the media regarding the morals of the Army has hit an all time high especially in the last seven to eight years. The Indian Military Academy is also the repository of setting social standards by role model conduct for a life time of dedicated service to the nation. The entire gambit of recruiting needs to be reassessed by all in conformity with the need of the current hour the old archaic system needs a change. Foreign armies are doing a much better job. We too need such a system to attract the best from universities and schools.

The emphasis of training has therefore, shifted to development of military skills, physical fitness which was always a key result area, character and leadership development. Shooting standards remain at par, but the emphasis on reading habits, hobbies and clubs and the manner of assessment have under gone a change for the better, in short the first step of training a soldier are being laid here.

The Academy to most of us is still the premier institution although the technical entry scheme may be posing a challenge, because the intake is of a good caliber, passes out after a years training from the academy, and earns a technical degree thereby enhancing his employment.

The academy by its inherent strength and premier position and ethos will continue to produce the best, such trends notwithstanding. There is also a need for the entire supply chain right from NDA, various Sainaik Schools and the RIMC to reinvent as a chain is as strong as the weakest link.

C S Thapa is a retired brigadier.
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