‘Be distinct or extinct’ is a well known adage of modern entrepreneurship. However, this I feel is equally applicable in other walks of life also and is especially true of the armed forces in general and the army in particular. Our role, way of functioning, training, operating, war fighting and the very ethos is so different in all its dimensions that it is imperative and crucial that we not only ruthlessly maintain, nurture, preserve and protect our unique identity but also ensure that no one dilutes or appropriates any part of it. It is in this context that I was anguished when at a recent flag march in Haryana the army columns carried placards stating that they were from the army!This is grave injustice not only to the image of the army but also a body blow to the national security paradigm, wherein the last tool of arbitration of the nation state must be clearly recognised for the shock and awe effect. This lack or blurring of distinction degrades and weakens the army’s abilities no end. This sorry state has come to pass because each and every sundry police and paramilitary organisation has been allowed to copy and clone all external aspects of appearances of the army. Thus, to any person, there is no discernible difference among uniformed personnel!
The above state reminds me of an incident which is worthy of recall. Commissioner. In the opening phase of his talk he remarked that the badges of rank worn by officers of the army should never be worn by any other organ of the government. He said that this was to guard against comparisons of equivalence/status being inadvertently and wrongly drawn by looking at similar looking badges of rank. Thus, at the time of independence, the Indian Army’s badges of rank—the Ashoka lion and the stars—should have never been allowed to be worn by any other organisation including the police. This would have ensured that the army remains distinct and the unsavoury rows of rank status and protocol would never have come into play.
To make matters worse and detrimental to national interests, the powers that beallowed segments of the police, BSF and even the CRPF to don army combat uniform or very similar clothing. This was not strongly opposed by the army and over a period of time even the veneer of distinction between army and other services was reduced. Thus, to an ordinary Indian or foreign observer, the police or BSF or CRPF patrolling the troubled streets of Srinagar is all army! Therefore, to the discomfiture of many, we hear of hugely inflated numbers of army troops in J&K being parroted by people inimical to Indian interests. Furthermore, any drop in discipline or standards of operating norms gets perceived and reduced to the lowest common denominator.
The Indian army must demonstrate overtly and steadfastly the very highest standards of distinct dress,weapons,equipment and professionalism if it is to continue to win the respect and adulation of a verygrateful nation. The trust and regard earned by the sacrifice and high standards of our peers must not be be shared by anyone masquerading albeit legally as the army. It is important for us to revisit very seriously and implement the separation of roles between various uniformed elements of the nation and make them distinct from each other,and for each to play be ‘Distinct’ for the sake of the army and our great nation.