Date: 09 Jan 2009



1.  Today we have fairly good idea about the direction of the Government’s decision on the recommendations of 6th Pay Commission as applicable to Defence Services. That all those earlier assurances were just to keep the three Services in good humour till the framing, finalisation and notification of the 6th Pay Commission Report. There never was intent to bestow IZZAT, SAMMAN and Dignity that which is enshrined even in the Constitution upon the Armed Forces and the Ex-Servicemen. On the contrary it has been diminished. Therefore it becomes necessary to examine the historical processes at work.

Historical Processes.
2.  What ever I recall of Military History, neglect of Armed Forces coincides with the decay and the decline of a people, a nation, and a civilization. That was true of Pharos, Persians, Romans, Western Europe and now of Russia and USA. At home so was the case of the Greats Ashoka and Akbar. The British Raj’s decline coincided with the onset of decay in Europe due fatigue and the lesson of futility of Wars. Over time a militarily successful nation becomes soft and wants to fight wars by other means but never successfully. When a mighty empire crumbles due to its on weight and follies, the grass begins grow under its feet as the sun’s ray reaches the bottom. Today Europe is taken as impotent by the Americans and does not come into their reckoning. One time sick Turkey is going to be part of sick EU now. But unfortunately, in our case before we could become strong and find our rightful place in the comity of frontline nations as per our destiny, our Leaders thought they could win their peace by means other than being prepared for war.

3.  It is true our freedom was won by Lawyers and Zamindars.  Therein lay our seeds of weakness. It is known many agreed to finance the Congress Party but with some unknown conditions! Almost all our esteemed Political Leaders of the time were holders of law degrees. And our Zamindars financed the Independent movement not entirely for national freedom but they expected their preservation and growth into power after gaining freedom.

4. Here I would like to insert two eminent people’s speak. I casually chanced a TV interview on recent economy scene in India of a Senior Congress Leader who was at one time Minister in late Smt. Indira Gandhi’s Cabinet. Till recently he was Chairman of Committee for Distribution of Congress Tickets for Elections. And I meet him at Indian Society of International Law during lectures and seminars. During the Interview in response to the question he said on attaining Independence there was no Indian who had Rupees one crore in cash so where was the question of Private Sector or Private Capital? That is why the GOI had to turn to the Soviets. And slowly build the Private Sector [by the License Raj]. About the present impasse, he asserted India would muddle through. I thought I knew a thing or two about WTO after my PG Diploma in International Business and Trade Law, the first Course conducted at ISIL in 1998-99. And my thesis for passing was ‘WTO and Its Impact on National Security’. When the concept of SEZs was floating around, I asked him in private since he was in big Zamindars’ league, why they cannot establish SEZs for export of agriculture produce. India’s stand at WTO negotiations was that 60 to 70 percent of Indians dependent on agriculture have to worry about imports and their two square meals. He said let the Government do it [and so it is happening]? On the contrary Poor’s holdings are being acquired disputes not withstanding.

5.  The other eminent person was the American Black Leader, Mr. King. It was published in Papers that he asked to visit to study how Mahatma Gandhi won Independent for India by peaceful means. During his visit he is quoted to have said that Feudal Europe and big Americans converted themselves to Manufacturers when the industrial revolution came but at the cost of poor. There was no Inclusiveness but a beginning of Capital formation. The poor became poorer. And that Our PM had deviated from the economic ideals of Mahatma Gandhi. Private Capital was being developed. And he was diverting resources towards development of nuclear power instead of spending on the upliftment of the poor. A few would comprehend the importance of this outsider’s profound historical observation. Another historical point recently made in the papers was that the present financial crisis and the melt down or the bust of realty bubble is not the defeat of Capitalism but the doom of free markets or the Wall Street in its present format. WTO was also the creation of Private Capitalism and if it does not accelerate it is because Private Capitalism may not find it more useful at this point in time. And that the new think that of coming together of American Capital and Technology, Resources of Russia and Central Asia and the billion plus populations of China and India is the way forward. Please note Capitalism remains intact.

6.  When I was serving at NHQ, two points remain stuck in my mind since then.  I saw from inside the entire process of ship acquision and building. During my 2nd tenure at in 1978-1980, first thing that remained with me was that India’s defeats at the hands of successive invaders were due to the fact that the invaders invariably conquered with superior arms. I would like to believe that Indian Kings did not spend at all or enough on research and development for new arms. I would be less than honest if I would say that things were straight particularly outside the HDQRS, though I can say I did not join them.  It made me surmise that if at all Indians Kings did spend on developing new arms; they must have their side doors opened. I doubt if the things have changed. Or other way, the more things change more they remain the same.

7. We are all familiar with post independent thinking of our political leadership. Our borders have shrunk they are still in legal mode. Our sea areas have been enhanced but notifications did not lead to its defence. Despite 20 years lead time we are still to put our claims before UNO on our continental shelf limits and we are mired in counter claims. We were not prepared for staking our claims to Antarctica based on the model adopted for Artic region along the longitudes of extremes of the countries that encompass it.

8. But the fixation of our political leadership and the courts is that the armed forces be kept in a cocoon lest they stage a coup-de-at and become masters as it happens across the border. That is farthest from the truth as all officers are selected on the basis of their democratic leadership qualities at the Selection Boards. Incidentally the Americans developed the Mathematical format for judging the Intelligent Quotient [IQ] around 1924 and were with a view to keep the Russians out of the elite institutions. The Indian Government has to date not evolved the grand political strategy as our bigger neighbour has done where the supreme political leader is also the Chairman of the Military Commission and together they translate the grand strategy into a realty no matter how many years it takes. It is difficult to understand this self degradation of national military assets both human and materials.

9.  First after the independence, they brought down the pay scales of Armed Forces below the elite ICS and its later avatar the IAS. At the behest of Mountbatten they lowered the total strengths of the both the arms and the force levels. Gradually they kept lowering their order of precedence. Today the 6th Pay Commission has further eclipsed their status to lower than BAABUS in South Block It is no overnight oversight. It may be recalled that before Independence only the Zamindars’ and Royal Families Sons were mostly selected as Officers. Those few soldiers who showed extraordinary bravery were given honorary officers ranks and bestowed Lands in MURAABAAS/ JAGIRS and were required to put soldiers in the Army.  The Princes after little service enjoyed honorary ranks as loyal Princes to the Crown. The ordinary officers selected were mostly in technical and medical branches. By denying the Purses to the Royals or nationalizing of the banks did not end their influences entirely. They slowly converted or are still converting their other fixed assets into Private Capital and still are a force to reckon with.

10.  The Constitution abridged or curtailed the Armed Forces Fundamental Rights. Now their dignity/ IZZAT which is granted to every citizen in the Constitution are systematically being eroded by Pay Commissions every 10 years. Now both by lowering them in the order of precedence and by reduction in pay scales vis-à-vis where are they heading. What possibly is their fear which is so manifest and strong that the Courts, the Political Leadership and the Bureaucracy are bent upon in lowering their esteem and leading them to discomfort during their retired times. It cannot be solely the trends across the borders. It is much deeper. One can only hazard a guess. Of course it has been a historically so. But that too begs the question. They also understand strong armed forces are necessary to provide security, peace and prosperity for them to prosper. I think answer lies in their innate fear that the democratic selected military leadership is the only ones in India who can dislodge them from their perch! So they want to have their cake and eat it too without sharing, even excluding the inclusive ones no matter what the cost to the nation and how small and truncated the State may become.

11.  Ostensibly there are some immediate provocations.  More and more dead soldiers Sons/ Daughters, barring a few, are emboldened by the increasing democracy to wash away the black marks against their Fathers in writing their biographies. We know of the first Chief’s Son’s efforts. We know of some revelations by the YUVRAJ of J&K. There is the autobiography of the Commander of Indian Force in Sri Lanka who set forth his position. We know some body writing a biography about his time in the RAW. I doubt if lowering of the order of Precedence or lowering the Pays and the Pensions are going to curb the Retired Senior Officers to put their perspective about the military history. This is the 21st Century and this process is only going to accelerate.  A time Capsule giving the history of India was buried deep in the times of an earlier PM to be opened 100 years later which would remain unchallenged at that point in time. Indian Nation and the Indian State should be above the Rulers and the Ruling Party/ Parties.


12.  This is the most difficult question to answer. The Pensioners or the Veterans are going to be the most disappointed. As far as the serving armed forces personnel are concerned one thing is certain that all this TAMAAASHA that the 6th Pay Commission and its Patrons have created would make it unattractive for the right caliber of Officers to join the armed forces who are already shying away. They know, no son of any politician of consequence or Judiciary or Bureaucracy joins the armed forces. And what little I know of the serving junior officers’ ranks they have their mind on when to leave the service including some who may have potential to go up the pyramid. Yes, the Government probably thinks that it would not make a material difference as the Mantra of Inclusiveness as in Education would fill in the gap. Or like the Americans and the French who are increasingly outsourcing the recruitment, India can also do so. But they are not winning wars on the battle fronts but buying them out!


13.  Economic strength and military strength run parallel but are not synonymous.  The military leadership is beginning to understand the weight of economic strength but the Political Leadership, the Courts and the Bureaucracy are denigrating the military intentionally despite the weight of the history. I would bet neither the Congress nor the BJP have some capsules on Military history or the military follies included in their curriculum of their training programmes for their cadres or the big guns when being inducted into the party. Unfortunately the same lack of knowledge of military history afflicts our media bigwigs who they think they know all. Sending SMSs, the present trend, to their followers is not the same thing.

14.  It is unfortunate a handful of Retired Defence Personnel or the Veterans have to resort to fast unto death at JANTAR MANTAR. Though some clever ones once again believe in divide and rule and say that only PBORS are being asked to do so and the senior officers are only doing day DHARNAS. That would be more serious provocation if they do, I would like to think. The Service Chiefs are resisting in a dignified manner for the serving armed forces personnel. And the matters as usual would linger on till the next Pay Commission 10 years later. It would be neither here nor there. As one late PM famously said no decision is also decision. And more recently our Ex-MHA did not believe in taking decisions at all and the present incumbent referring to it in the Parliament had to say sorry.

15.  To conclude, do not belittle the serving defence personnel and disgrace the Pensioners into penury. I have trained with fellow officers at NDA and have trained the Sailors in the Navy, never the thought of coup-de-at occurred to me or the others. Our Family system and the values are the strongest guarantee even above the Constitution.

With best regards,
Commander Prem P Batra IN Retd.