By Capt. Raghu Raman:
Every once in a while, I come across emphatic suggestions that all Indian’s must have two years of compulsory military service like Israel or Singapore so that our youth will learn discipline, selflessness, patriotism etc. While I am sure that the suggestion is made with the best of intentions, personally I don’t endorse it. The Indian Armed Forces is not a coaching class to teach values that the society should instill in the first place. Israel and Singapore have their own unique security nuances that necessitate conscription whose ancillary benefits are by-products – not the primary objective. But compulsion is not the reason why you should join the largest volunteer army of the world.
Every year, over six lakh young aspirants seek to join the Indian Armed Forces as officers. Of these, a mere 1000 odd, get past the stringent physical, mental and psychological tests that filter out the rest and join the National Defence Academy, Indian Military Academy or the Officer Training Academies. The moment you step into the academy – you join a brotherhood whose bonds are forged under fire and blood. No matter how many years pass and what part of the world you are in, that brotherhood is never broken or diluted. Any call for assistance from a ‘course-mate’ as officers of the same course are known, has to be honoured without question by the rest. You make hundreds of blood brothers in 18 months. That is the reason you should join the Indian Army.
During those 18 months of training, handpicked instructors, each one of them a proven warrior, will teach you, not just how to become an officer but also a gentleman. Every minute of those gruelling months will forge your body, mind and spirit to unleash your fullest potential. At the end of it, you will know how to strip and reassemble a weapon under a minute – blindfolded. You will learn how to plan and execute operations under any circumstances with nothing except your own ingenuity and resourcefulness. You will learn how to survive in jungles, deserts, mountains or any situation that life could thrust you in. In those months you will transform from a gangly young person into a lean, strong, confident leader whom men will follow – if necessary – into certain death. You will meet the limits of your endurance and discover that limits are meant to be broken. That is why you should join the Indian Army.
When you get posted into your units, as a mere lad in your twenties, you will take charge of seasoned, battle hardened troops to exercise your command, to implement what you learnt in training. You will learn to earn their respect, affection and loyalty. Your education will continue for the rest of your career. And you will have some amazing experiences along the way.
As part of the paratroopers, you will see the curvature of our planet as you leap out of aircrafts. As part of the mechanised forces, you will command and ride tanks with far more horsepower than any luxury car. As part of the artillery, you will rain hell on targets several score kilometres away. As part of the Army aviation, you will learn how to fly helicopters in terrain and weather when civilian counterparts wouldn’t dare get out of their homes. As part of the infantry, you will trace the boundaries of India by patrolling its borders across deserts, plains of Punjab, Kashmir valley, the heights of Himalayas and the jungles of the North East. You will safeguard the remote island territories of Andaman and Nicobar and visit those which are out of bound for all civilian eyes. As part of Engineers and Signals, you will be exposed to bleeding edge technology. You will learn how to build communication networks, bridges, barricades and military fortifications. You will also learn how to blow them up. And as part of the cavalry, you will ride a ‘one horsepower’ mount and the whole nation will watch as you escort the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces to the Presidential dais on our Republic Day. That is why you should join the Indian Army!
You will have the honor of wearing “India” on your shoulders when you will represent our country as part of the United Nation’s contingents. You will see the faces of disaster struck countrymen light up as you rescue them during floods, earthquakes and tsunamis. You will get the blessings of riot victims as helpless women and children will kiss your hands when you save them from certain death. You will receive the nod of respect from other soldiers when they see the ribbons on your chest representing the medals you have earned and the places you have served in. When your civilian friends talk about freezing Siachen, burning deserts or sweltering jungles, you would have the stoic poise of someone who’s been there, done that. You would be the last hundred meters of India’s foreign policy. That is why you should join the Indian Army.
You could learn management, engineering or other disciplines from Ivy League colleges, but there is no degree or MBA which can teach you how to lead men into battle – without ESOPs, pay hikes or any other material levers. You may earn millions, own fancy cars and plush apartments but in no other career will you hold the lives of fighting troops in your hands who will lay it down without batting an eyelid on your orders. In no other profession will you be responsible for human lives, the territorial sovereignty and the honor of your country. That is the gravitas of the stars you will wear on your shoulders. And that is the reason why you should join the Indian Army.
Not because it is compulsory!
Raghu Raman is founding CEO of NATGRID and President in Reliance Industries. He tweets @captraman and views expressed are personal.