Indian military trims its flab

The subject of resources for the military is very close to Pragmatic‘s heart and has been covered earlier (here, here and here). It is heartening to observe that the government is waking up now and taking some cautious baby steps to redeem the situation.

So now, the Indian Air Force and Navy are increasingly coming around to the point of view that the future of India as a military power lies in force reduction. But it’s the Army which has had to fight protracted proxy wars which just won’t talk of lesser numbers.

The Government understands, and has sugar-coated the agenda for troop-cut: the requirement for numbers at the moment will be met through officers on a short-service commission, which will also save pension costs.

The regular cadre of the Army will reduce to about 21,000 from the present 35,000.[CI]

If this ‘sugar coating of the bitter pill’ step aren’t followed with more concrete steps soon, it will tantamount to delaying the inevitable – an organisation imploding on its internal contradictions. The restructuring of the military is a sine qua non for the Indian government, and there are valid economic and strategic reasons that drive this reform. A doctrinal change, tri-service jointmanship, changed geo-political situation and adoption of latest technologies should lead to a gradual trimming of the flab .

The reduction of regular cadre in the Army from 35,000 to 21,000 is driven by certain presumptions. Coincidentally, 13-14,000 is a couple of thousands higher than the number of officers deficient in the Indian Army today. Moreover, this announcement is in sync with the enhanced contractual service obligation of 10 (plus 4) years for the short-service officers implemented earlier. In theory, these two actions ought to fit snugly to resolve the vexed problem. The reality, however, is a bit different.

There are certain issues that have slipped from the radar screen. The whole scheme is underpinned on the enhanced attractiveness of the new 10+4 years short-service career in the Army. The proposal to increase the first innings of a 22-25 year old young man’s career, to 10/14 years from 5/10 years earlier, isn’t based on any substantive research or market survey. It is a shot in the dark, borne more out of hope than diligence, to meet the numbers. In effect, vis-a-vis the five years contractual period earlier, the enhanced contractual period reduces the attractiveness for a non-regular officer. Adequate number of applicants for all types of entries in a country has never been a issue, considering the vast population of this nation; the quality of the applicants, however, has seen a perceptible decline. Moreover, the quality of intake of the non-regular entries has always been a contentious issue and enhancing their numbers further is likely to raise the temperature further. Attracting and retaining better talent by offering substantial sops to the non-regular cadre has its own pitfalls; it will breed a sense of jealousy and envy in the regular officers of the same service bracket. In any case, the number of regular officers applying for premature retirement has been on the rise and a differential treatment to non-regulars will queer the HR pitch further. Furthermore, announcing the policy to increase non-regular entries has to be backed by an enhanced training capacity of the military training academies to produce the requisite numbers at an acceptable standard. Even if the deficiencies are made up over a prolonged period, it would strain the existing training facilities to their limit.

Credit should be given where it is due. The Directorate General of Resettlement has made some earnest efforts to assist the retiring officers to transit to a second career. Unfortunately, the six-month certificate programme at various management institutes for retirees hasn’t achieved the desired results. The grapevine has it that the placement curve has flattened out completely after the initial surge and there are no takers for the retiree officers attending these six-month programmes. A noble and well-intentioned step, within the peculiarities of the Indian socio-political and corporate environment, has floundered and is soon going to meet a premature death.

At the cost of repetition of my earlier writings, there are some simple ways in which the Army can redress these issues. Restructuring of the Army to significantly reduce the overall numbers in uniform (backed by doctrinal and technological changes), a cultural change to transform it from a Colonial residuum to an ‘Indian’ army, shorter tours of obligatory contract periods for all entries, no exit barriers for officers desirous of moving on and a substantial increase in the number of officers commissioned from the subordinate cadre. Each of these steps involves a detailed study and a long-term vision with clearly identifiable road map. This will call for accountable and visionary leadership across the service and up and down the chain of command.


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10 Responses to Indian military trims its flab

  1. vikrambakshi67 October 23, 2007 at 1:02 am #

    Unappealing military career

    Dear pragmatic

    1 I don’t know whether you are a disgruntled soul and interested in spoiling a fine army image. You can think twice if you can force your sick logic on the next generation or for that matter allow the present generation to accept it after all ‘freedom of speech’ on net is not your solo right and expect us to take nonsense to an army which we have lived our life for.

    1 All I can say, You are what your deep driving desire is; As your deep driving desire is, so is your will; As your will is so is your deed; As your deed is so is your destiny.

    2 I would rather fail in a cause that will ultimately triumph than to triumph in a cause that will ultimately fail.

    3 ‘’ I have done my best.” As you wouldn’t understand what we stand for. That is about all the philosophy of living one needs and I am sure you have no arguments left so you are yawning and hence can go to sleep now, otherwise I am always game to counter your weirdo logics about Indian defence services anytime.


  2. Pragmatic October 23, 2007 at 8:29 am #


    It would have been much better, if you would have contested any of the facts raised above. This mudslinging, innuendoes and personal insinuations serve no purpose whatsoever.

  3. vikrambakshi67 October 23, 2007 at 1:59 pm #

    1 Dear Pragmatic, my above reply is to your comments on my contesting on issues raised in ‘Un appealing Mil career’

    2 I was not able to post it in that frum for some technical glitch.

    3 you also be fair and balance in your views and not raise one sided picture about Services in a negative manner

    4 It has to be an honest judgment keeping in mind what conditions the services are contributing to growth of the nation.


  4. Pragmatic October 23, 2007 at 2:28 pm #


    I can understand your POV but I will not agree about the one sided picture. The view is balanced and for a hagiographical coverage, there are government and other poorly informed sites. I am certain you have seen many other posts from me, about Manekshaw & Indira’s cabinet and Cariappa & Gandhiji. They praise where the praise is due.

    What is fair or unfair is not a matter of perception? It is based on facts and is it wrong to question the military. I don’t think so. They are doing a damn good job, with in the constraints (both from within and outside) but they can do better. That is the intent – to seek the answers within rather than blame the outside factors only.

    Do remember that we only criticise those whom we love & want to improve; others we ignore.

  5. vikrambakshi67 October 23, 2007 at 2:54 pm #

    Dear Pragmatic

    i appreciate on your comment ‘They are doing a damn good job, with in the constraints (both from within and outside)’

    i fully agree on self improvement which is everybody aim also.


  6. Pragmatic October 23, 2007 at 6:53 pm #

    Thanks for appreciating the sentiment and the intent.

  7. vikrambakshi67 October 24, 2007 at 6:19 pm #

    Dear pragmatic,
    i am not able to upload a suitable reply to you on

    1 How does it feel of being accused of misguiding youngsters. Same friend is felt when you blame our system unnecessarily on exaggerated issues on account of a few aberrations which is there in every set up and system.

    2 Your anger I can understand, which has been evoked as I questioned your commitment , same is when you question the system for a few individual aberrations and i hope next time you pen words on Indian Army or services, it will be with a responsible attitude ADDRESING ISSUES to Govt /country citizen specifically to help the services in modernization and progression in all aspects.

    3 In house introspections of our working environment , trust us we can do it ourselves in our forum/institutes/ academies and HQs, there is enough research/studies going on and also we all know how to walk our talk, by setting an example. We don’t need nerds from outside to comment on whole system something for which they are not aware of how system works with sufficient checks and balances, ignoring ground reality or background or connected issues and individual accountability.

    3 As far as motivating youngsters, if somebody does not read your yellow comments, it will only strengthen their inner call to join.

    I am switching off now but that does not mean, ‘when Eagles go silent, parrots o fellow journalism again began to jabber’. I understand the value of discourse and have indulged in it in the best way possible and i hope we will maintain for the future.


  8. Pragmatic October 24, 2007 at 7:54 pm #

    As any serious discourse can’t be devoid of facts, I will stick to my earlier reply.
    Enough said! I have neither the time nor inclination to argue about argument. Thanks but no thanks.
    As per my blog policy, I can remove any comments that I deem offensive or impertinent. I haven’t had a chance to enforce that policy so far and I hope that you would not be the first one to provide me with that opportunity.

  9. Yadlapalli November 13, 2007 at 1:11 pm #

    In any well developed advanced nation there will be more attractive options outside the Armed Forces.

    It is a fact of life and we have to accept it.

    Downsizing a force must be done by comparing it with the size of the adversary. In India’s case it is China and Pakistan. It should not be done merely for economic reasons.

    There is a need to greatly increase the technical threshold of the Officers of the forces as the next war will be won the force which has the better technology exploitation.

    The Government must administer its border states better so that the Indian Army is not made to police its own citizens.

    There is a need to synergise the political parties in India so that they have common national core values and also ensure that national well being and not political survival is their motto. They can then implement the concept of CDS, Jointmanship in the Armed Forces.

    The concept of civilian control over the Armed Forces is another reason for its un attractiveness. The MOD thinks that this means control over each and every activity of the forces. Civilian control should be such that the military does not grow in a manner that it threatens political control of the state. It does not mean putting red tapism in every military project and endeavour.


  10. Pragmatic November 17, 2007 at 9:57 pm #


    Thanks for the comments. It is a given that a lot needs to be done by all the stakeholders. In my view, the three services can make a start by cleaning their own stables.

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