Scholar Warrior Ethos of Indian Army - Morals, Ethics and Values

The future battlefield scenarios require that we be competent warfighters, but we cannot be competent fighters unless we are as intelligent and mentally tough as we are aggressive and physically rugged

Issue 6 - 2020 By Major General Yash Mor (Retd)Photo(s): By IAF, ADGPI / Twitter
A special article from a veteran who spent his entire life encouraging high standards of leadership


(Top and Above): There is a need to inculcate a Warrior Ethos in the Army as they are soldiers first and foremost

“The man who enjoys marching in line and file by the strains of music falls below my contempt; he received the great brain by mistake; the spinal cord would be amply sufficient.”
—Norman Dixon, (Psychology of Military Incompetence)

While various transformational initiatives are intended to transit the Indian Army into a modern force that is prepared to fight and win wars of the future, the greatest challenge will be to transform existing mindsets to adapt to this transition. The change must reflect a professional mindset that is in tune and evolving with the times.

The Indian Army has a long and illustrious record; it has excelled both in war and peace; combating and ensuring security against internal and external threats. While we have an enviable record; the future will demand increasingly higher levels of professionalism. In essence, a professional Army should either be at war, or preparing for one. This focus must not be diluted and diffusion avoided. Our functioning should be professional, ethical and transparent. Organisational goals should take precedence over personal ambitions.

While there is much that is good, there is a need to curb the increasing tendency to take refuge behind age-old traditions and customs, to resist change. The inertia of status quo attitude needs to be overcome, so as to adopt modern best practices for a transformed Indian Army.

Morals, Ethics and Values

The defining character of Armed Forces; entrusted with the security of our nation, is built upon an intrinsic value-based system. This value system forms the bedrock of the basic ethos of the Army. Essential qualities of professional commitment, sacrifice, loyalty, mutual trust and ethical conduct are driven by the functional ethos that prevails. Over the years, certain amount of diffusion has set in and needs correction, especially to reinforce the Warrior Ethos, stringent ethical standards and probity, while improving the working environment.

Warrior Ethos. There is a need to inculcate a Warrior Ethos in the Army. We are soldiers first and foremost, and should reflect the ethos of a warrior, which is so aptly enunciated in the Bhagwat Gita, as under:

“I am a warrior; fighting is my Dharma.
I will train my mind, body and spirit to fight,
Excel in all devices and weapons of war,
Always protect the weak,
Be humane, cultured and caring,
Be truthful to the point of bluntness,
Fight and embrace the consequences.
God give me strength that I ask nothing of you”.

Soldier’s Code

It is often said that, “The most powerful tool any soldier carries is not his weapon but his mind.’’ Morale, training and ethos have long been known to result in disproportionate effects on the battlefield. The complex operational environment of the future is unlikely to offer any relief or respite from contact with the enemy, across the spectrum of conflict. Given this reality, all officers should be prepared for close combat - all officers must be warriors first. The Scholar Warrior Ethos is about being a Soldier first. The Indian Army needs to train and motivate each officer to be a Scholar Warrior. Some of the attributes that we need to infuse in the officers and soldiers to turn out scholar warriors are: -

  • Physically Fit and Mentally Tough. The importance of being physically fit needs no emphasis. What is needed is a method to ensure officers do not end up being unfit during staff and instructional tenures. The future battlefield scenarios require that we be competent warfighters, but we cannot be competent fighters unless we are as intelligent and mentally tough as we are aggressive and physically rugged.
  • Technically and Tactically Proficient. The future will belong to leaders who are innovative and who can exploit the available technology to accomplish the objectives set out for them. The officer will have to have an ability to ‘out think’ and ‘out fight’ any adversary.
  • Operationally Adaptive. As per the service, officers should be able to think and understand ‘Operational Art’. The best time for research and education in this field is the middle years, when officers undergo courses at Staff College and Army War College. Such experiences are critical to the development of the middle and senior level leadership. We need to encourage publishing of thoughtprovoking, sometimes critical articles in our military journals. We also need our officers to develop and refine their communication skills. As officers progress, their ability to communicate effectively-orally and in writing—takes on increased importance. Professional Military Education at each stage of the career of the officers is of utmost importance.
  • Be A ‘Pentathlete’. The Indian Army needs to nurture individuals who, metaphorically speaking ‘can do it all’. We need junior leaders who are comfortable not just with major combat roles but with operations conducted throughout the spectrum of conflict, as well. It is important to get our future commanders and leaders out of their intellectual comfort zones.
  • Bold and Audacious. Risk Taking Capacity. The training and routine in the Indian Army should be adapted to generate ‘thinking’ and ‘dynamic’ leaders who will inculcate a flexible, innovative mind while simultaneously exploit boldness and audacity. The risk-taking ability of Junior leader should not be curbed since they are the backbone of our organisation at the cutting edge. Finally, it is these young officers who deliver in almost all war like situations.
  • ‘Hope of Success’ or ‘Fear of Failure’. As military leaders progress in their careers, it is seen that they have low tendency for risk taking. There are grounds for thinking that incompetent commanders tend to be those in whom the need to avoid failure exceeds the urge to succeed. Risk taking is fraught with dangers and may result in ‘bad report’ if things go wrong. The military leaders should be encouraged to work from ‘hope of success’ as only such commanders can come out with innovative and bold plans, a prerequisite for success in operations.
  • Encourage Dissent. There is a general tendency to discourage constructive suggestions and dissent in military matters. This is true both on the formalised courses of instruction as well as in the units and formations. Constructive suggestions are misconstrued as a zeal to show off, arrogance, dissent, or even insubordination! In tactical matters this approach is fraught with the peril of ensuring mediocrity, predictability and straight-fromthe pamphlet solutions. Professional arrogance based on competence and commitment, rather than a flexible spine - should be credo of the officer corps.

Promoting Ethics and Probity in Military Life

Notwithstanding the erosion of values and standards of ethical behavior in the society, the Army as an institution cannot allow any compromise in its own standards of ethics and probity. The impeccable character and transparency that is expected of soldiers should be constantly reinforced. Therefore, there is a requirement to lay down a code of conduct to ensure a culture of ethical standards and probity. A suggested code is enumerated below, as a guide to be followed and reinforced:-

  • Senior leaders should lead by example and set the standards.
  • Perks, at various levels, need to be codified and not be left to individual interpretations. Misuse/abuse of perks and privileges should not be tolerated. These need to be austere and in tune with modern times.
  • Parochialism threatens to mar the fair and just image of the Army and needs to be curbed at all levels. It’s manifestation in the garb of misplaced sense of espiritde-corps, loyalty and regimentation has to be guarded against.
  • There is no place in a modern Army for turfs based on arms and services and propagation of the ‘lanyard culture’.
  • For a healthy professional atmosphere, a clear distinction between ‘On Parade’ and ‘Off Parade’ is essential.
  • Excessive, organised social activities should be curbed. Social functions, when held, should uphold the dignity of a military function. These need to be brief and austere events.
  • Reduce over emphasis on ceremonials and non-productive spit and polish. These events sap the energy of any organisation and thus must be kept to the bare minimum.
  • Exercise due propriety in the use of public and regimental funds.
  • Adopt a fair and judicious appraisal culture. Encourage honest reporting. Mistakes should be acceptable; provided they are not deliberate or repetitive.
  • Sustain focus on operations and training. Tendency to crowd the calendar is counterproductive and needs to be curbed by senior commanders.

Rework the Working Environment

With infusion of technology and to meet the demands of a dynamic environment, there is a definite need to adopt ‘Directive Style of Command’ at every level. Some of the steps that may be considered are:-

  • Encourage innovative approach and a non-hierarchal generation of ideas and concepts.
  • Encourage genuine dissent to bring out rational, unconventional and bold solutions to military issues.
  • Employment of soldiers on non-professional duties should be avoided. All noncore activities should be outsourced, where ever feasible. The dignity of the soldier should always be kept in mind while assigning administrative duties.
  • We need to adopt network systems and the concept of paperless offices. The security aspects should be resolved so that they do not retard our march towards technology.
  • A renewed effort must be given to playing sports, all units and sub units across all military stations where ever possible must be out in the sports fields. ‘Play the Game’ should be the motto for young officers and solders alike.

It is essential that we nurture junior leaders and soldiers, who are our most important resource. Time spent in training and in caring, is time invested wisely in the future of our Army. Preserve them, nurture them and encourage them. Each senior commander must ensure a tension free environment where each one can serve with dignity and honour. On this Army Day let us dedicate ourselves to; Integrity, competence and commitment.

Jai Hind!