Where Does Indian Defence Curriculum Stand Vis-A-Vis The World?
Covid-19 unleashed an unprecedented crisis that has nearly shaped a new global order under which India could possibly emerge much stronger. India as a nation needs to shed its complacency if it wants to be considered as a global actor. This entails, among other things, investing hugely in a modern military, strengthening partnerships with other democracies, bolstering the economy and boosting India's democratic institutions. To achieve this feat, we need strong leadership and robust, decisive action, not just appeals to nationalism.
The process needs to take place top-down. One of the major responsibilities of the military leadership is to suggest capabilities and structures to keep up with the changes in warfare and technology, to adapt to the shifting geopolitics, and instil the man behind the machine with the necessary skill-set and intellect so as to stay ahead of the adversaries. This is inevitable if India wants to rapidly move up the strategic value chain transitioning from a regional power to a leading power. Out of all the attributes that a military leader in India must have, the intellectual traits rank the highest.
In India, the first in the series of Professional Military Education (PME) courses is for Majors and the equivalent ranks from other such services at Defence Services Staff College, Wellington
State of Military Education in India
In USA, the senior officer education to qualify for the US Army begins at the colonel level, subsequent to the officers finishing a battalion command or an equivalent assignment scoring at least a star in the examination.
In India, the first in the series of Professional Military Education (PME) courses is for Majors and the equivalent ranks from other such services at Defence Services Staff College, Wellington. Next in hierarchy is the higher command course for Colonels and equivalent ranks, nearly 8-10 years later at the service war colleges with necessary cross-pollination. Last in hierarchy is the NDC course for one-stars and equivalent ranks as the final frontier in defence education. Two-star officers can also opt for a selective joint two-week capsule course which is much similar to an executive programme.
On the surface, the Indian PME programme seems to be balanced. However, it isn't as wide-ranging as the one provided to the military officers in the UK, US, Australia and other such developed democracies. The Indian defence programmes have failed to build the necessary intellectual capital and contribute towards national security policy-making process in an evolving strategic environment.
Addressing the Shortcomings
There are certain major fault lines that exist within India's PME system which need to be addressed urgently. Firstly, there is a need to expand and widen the repository of training institutions, that our officers go to at the colonel & one-star level, to include fellowship programmes imparted at reputed universities in India and abroad.
Areas including writing, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, international relations and public policy continue to be poorly taught at all our institutions. These need to be rectified by devising a system wherein specialised civilian faculty is inducted at all our defence colleges.
We need a far more educated, knowledge-driven and enlightened military which can make significant contributions in achieving core national interests. Hence, the leadership in our government needs to push for raising the intellectual calibre in defence which can bring about sound strategy and policy-making.
We need to steer our defence officers towards the pursuit of study that is closely linked to their profession specifically such as theories of war & conflict, military history, etc. We need to strengthen our institutions so that our officers are introduced to academic pedagogy; become capable of free-spirited innovative thinking; and develop good reading, writing and research skills. The defence academies need a diversified faculty that can foster an understanding of other tools of the statecraft.
It's essential that the quality of defence personnel is refined further. This depends on an adequate modification of the defence curriculum, essential for shaping intellectual capital in a reformed Indian military.