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Why the Indian Army Must Understand its Angst to Avoid Losing its Mojo

Lt Gen Ghanshyam Katoch writes, military social media is buzzing with the angst of the army over losing its mojo, and their laments appear to be drawing no understanding of their point of view from the anyone who matters. If the army is losing its Mojo, then the army needs to understand why this is happening. To do that it needs to know what gives it, it’s Mojo.The army’s Mojo comes from its organizational culture — and the respect that society holds it in. At the same time, military must come to grips with the realisation that it has to share space with other luminaries.

The Indian Army is losing its Mojo. The social media persists with the angst of the army voiced through veterans. Amongst the triggers of the angst are, veterans being removed from Jantar Mantar, (like other protesting groups); unfairness of the 7th Pay Commission, opening of Cantonment roads and an inadequate defence budget.

Their laments draws little sympathy because of two reasons, firstly, few non-military people are part of military social groups, and secondly because civilians are perplexed as to the reason for the angst. This needs to be understood by the army because it is the largest component of the military which enables the terms “Army” and “Military” and “Armed Forces” to be used interchangeably. And because in the lamenting process the Army is losing its Mojo. A Mojo is a talisman or an amulet. In the present context it refersto the special power or influence of the Army that makes the nation feel secure.

Events like the IED attack on a CRPF Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV) in March 2018 which killed nine CRPF constables and on the Chattisgarh police in May 2018, in which seven policemen got killed, elicit hundreds of statements like “we are with our jawans”, “I salute the martyred jawans” etc. The common citizen sees little difference between army or police jawans. The application of this term to policemen is not surprising because the Central and State police units have become so militarised that it is impossible for the common citizen to differentiate between them and the army.

What traditionally differentiates the army from the police is its ethos of sacrifice which gives the army its Mojo. In case agitations and court cases for issues like “One Rank One Pension’(OROP) or NFU are pursued persistently by veterans some of the Mojo of the military wears off. Repeated references to selfless sacrifice as a debt that the nation owes is soldiers lose their ring.

The German word Schadenfreude means thejoy of seeing others discomfiture. The higher the person is on the pedestal the more is the joy as he falls from grace. It is because of this that misdemeanours which are commonplace in society are highlighted by the media and lapped up by the public whenever the military is on the wrong foot. This makes the military lose its Mojo.

How should the military protect its Mojo?

In the absence of “Big Wars” the military should not let its Mojo wane. “Big wars” are planned to be completed in the shortest time. Complicated “Small Wars” have long time lines.

The beat constable and by extension the police forces, fight crime and disorder. A war which will never have a flatline. Therefore, by ethos and culture the police are more attuned mentally to fight wars without end, a state accepted by society. Conversely, the army engaged in a long war is seen as having failed. ‘Small Wars’ are thankless and cannot be won by the army alone. Brickbats rain for tactical actions which generate strategic political repercussions.

At one time the ex-servicemen were a very large constituency for vote bank politics. The CAPFs now form an equally large constituency. Their large-scale deployment in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations means that they are viewed to be equally involved in the nation’s security.

The OROP agitation by ex-servicemen while justified at one stage appeared to the common Indian citizen to be unjustified after it continued beyond a point. Agitating for acceptance of every last point seemed to carry a whiff of unreasonableness and even greed.

Agitation by the army is a paradox. It conveys that soldiering is not a passion—it is just another profession.

So how can the Army retain its Mojo?

Firstly, a contemporary mission statement will give the army a focussed aim. The Army must ask itself whether to change or remain the same. It must be open minded to accept trade-offs. Change what it can and let go of what it can’t.

Secondly, the thoughts of the serving men and women in uniform are voiced by those out of it. The veterans who agitate must be aware of the point wherefrom their agitation starts diluting the military’s Mojo.

The nature of war has changed. Wars are not being fought on the front line. They are being fought in the hinterland where the police and the citizens have an equally responsible part to play. The Military was a unique institution in the Clausewitzian environment solely responsible to protect the Nation. That gave it is Mojo. The changed unfamiliar environment of the present must be understood by the army to retain its Mojo.

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One thought on “Why the Indian Army Must Understand its Angst to Avoid Losing its Mojo

  1. COL JASBIR SINGH says:

    Dear Gen Katoch,

    Why Army is loosing it’s mojo ? Many factors involved in this. Because of greater involvement of social media in every day life of a soldier, people in general are aware of where we stand ?

    Why Army is being questioned for carrying out a surgical strike inside POK ? Why Army Headquarters is still not able  to justify gallantry awards during OP VIJAY ?

    When you and I were commissioned perhaps we were not allowed to interact with media on any issue concerning army matters. Whereas in these days, our higher echelon feels proud in interacting with Media personal on matters not concerning General Public. Why so ? Because they have bigger post retirement plans in their mind. This needs to be stopped altogether. Here the political bosses should interfere. Rather than showing a cerrat to these Generals for post retirement benefits, they should be told to do something to uplift the  Army status in the eyes of General Public. We shouldn’t therefore fall pray to our Political Bosses who always have bigger game plans.

    Let us see what happens next in days to come ?

    Regards.

    Col Jasbir Singh.

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