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Millennium Post

Morale boost need of the hour

The Chief of the Army Staff has clearly stated that the formation of commanders on the line of control has to be aggressive and this will raise everyone’s morale, as a lot of comments were being made by people not alive to the ground realities.There is tension at the borders and our hearts go out to those men who in this biting cold are defending the nation’s borders. Pakistan as usual has been in denial mode and statements coming from the neighbouring country have further escalated the tension. The current tension at the border comes after mutilated bodies of Indian soldiers were found, thus maintenance of morale is crucial. The forces need to handle this situation deftly. Whatever may have been the environment, mutilation is not accepted, that is the national and international verdict.

A lot has been said and spoken about the chain of events, but a few issues need to be debated. How will this action impact the morale of soldiers and national will, and secondly who is responsible for soldiers at the line of control? Does the army have its own methods or has over media transparency impeded the task of the forces. When mutilated bodies of soldiers reach home will it send a message to the civilians, who volunteer to join the forces, to not send their kith and kin as this is the fate that awaits them? Protecting the citizen is a national duty and if the state permits its soldiers’ heads to be cut off will it affect national will or on the other hand will it build national resolve. As soldiers we understand such issues but what about parents and children. There need to be more deliberation on the issue and if the nation has to take a stand it must take the sensibilities of the grieving families  into account. This issue of sending home badly mutilated bodies without proper sensitisation certainly needs a re-look.

The maintenance of morale is a function of the command chain which is directly responsible for the same.   Morale is an intangible that works wonders and turns zeroes into heroes. A unit is a cohesive force and looks up to its commanding officer for directions. It is an entity in itself, and the state of the morale in an unit is defined by the commanding officer’s actions. He has absolute control and the men will follow him through thick and thin, they simply intuitively know the right decision. Unit morale is essential and such adverse instances if not properly handled lead to poor morale.  The role of the commanding officer and his men therefore, come under acute scrutiny. With live media discussing the issue day and night, beaming into the soldiers’ bedrooms and expert advice freely available, is media activism infringing on the chain of command which is not capable of handling this transgression? Its impact needs to be accessed and a clear line needs to be drawn in favour of the services.

What is the border milieu in which the soldier is conditioned?  The pre-2003 environment does not apply because of the ceasefire agreement. Today India is faced with a hybrid threat and the response has to be in consonance with the diversified fronts on which we face security threats - pakistan, China and militancy. The threat is going to increase with the American draw down with only three, six or nine thousand troops being left in Afghanistan. The response therefore must take into account the post 2014 environment also. Reaction to the various threats should come automatically, without the nationa having to grope in the dark for a suitable reaction to the problem . In an army where reputation and such scars carry on as part of history, such an act if not properly handled carries lifelong scars. In an atmosphere of peace if such a grave act is not given a befitting reply is there a guarantee that such an act will not take place again.

The supreme interest and the final say is that of the nation, especially when faced by multi-front hybrid warfare threat. There needs to be unity of purpose and a singular aim - with all divergent views, thought through - clearly spelt out, such that the soldier does not have to reinvent the wheel under duress. As officers the second Chetwode credo becomes significant ‘The Safety Honour and welfare of the men that you command comes next always and every time’.

As officers we are directly responsible for the safety of our men. There is a need to introspect why the border is active and if the answer is the act was unprovoked the action is simple ‘unit morale must be quickly restored’. The Army does not need to look over its shoulder to manage its security and unit morale, that too when deployed on the border.

C S Thappa is a retired brigadier
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