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Leave Army alone

Leave Army alone

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 11, 2008

There are other ways of saving money

For some time now strategic affairs 'experts' and their political mentors, known for their proximity to the Washington establishment, have been peddling the theory that India needs a technology-intensive 'lean-and-mean' Army, not a large force of 11 lakh soldiers and officers. On paper this sounds good. But shorn of hyperbole, it simply means downsizing the Army and thus automatically reducing the deployment of troops, especially along the Line of Control and in Jammu & Kashmir, apart from our frontier with China. This would definitely suit the purpose of those who wish to see India's military might emasculated -- not all of them are based in Rawalpindi and Muridke. Those pushing the 'lean-and-mean' theory will, of course, argue that any reduction in the number of soldiers and officers will be more than made up by the induction of 'high-end technology'. What they do not mention is that the technology will have to be imported at a high cost - both literally and metaphorically -- and supplies can be stopped without either explanation or notice. While we would be left high and dry, the suppliers, who need not be named, would be laughing all the way to their banks. All this and more must have weighed heavily on the Army top brass, which has now decided, as reported by this newspaper on Saturday, that there cannot be a reduction in the size of the Army. For a country with troubled borders, insurgency-affected regions and a population of more than a billion people, ours is not a large Army. Unlike in most countries, especially those who preach the need to trim the size of our military, the Army in India is not restricted to barracks or fighting other people's wars. Our soldiers and officers have to maintain constant vigil in the west and the east; they have to perform security-related duties in Jammu & Kashmir (no, these cannot be left to the State police); they have to hold the peace in the North-East; and, given the wretched state of our infrastructure, for which our political class is to blame, they have to be deployed in sufficiently large numbers throughout the year along the LoC and the frontier with China. Those who argue against this would do well to revisit the incursion by Pakistani troops in the Kargil sector in 1999 because of the hare-brained decision to keep posts vacant during winter.

There is no doubt need to rationalise the present 'field force' and 'non-field force' to the extent that useless flab can be got rid of. But this is an exercise best left to the Generals who alone can assess where cuts can be made to make the Army more efficient without depleting its inherent strength. In any event, there cannot be any roll back in the number of troops deployed at the ground level to secure our borders. To do so would be suicidal -- in the event of an emergency, by the time we move troops it may prove to be too late. Let the Government not eye the Army to reduce its expenditure. If it is truly interested in cutbacks, it should begin by scrapping cockamamie social welfare projects, conjured by barefoot 'economists' and jholawallahs, which are bleeding the public exchequer and enriching corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and contractors, and stop promising freebies to entice voters. Since the people of India do not grudge the Army its expenses, politicians and strategic affairs 'experts' who look West-ward for inspiration and patronage should stop bothering their silly heads about it.

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