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Sustaining Motivation in Sub-Conventional Warfare

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  • March 12, 2010
    Fellows' Seminar
    1030 to 1300 hrs

    Chairperson: Ashok Mehata
    Discussants: Arun Sahgal and N.P. Singh
    Internal Discussants: Rumel Dahiya and S. Kalayanaraman

    Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Ashok Mehta stated at the very outset that India fought its last conventional war in 1971. Since then, it has been fighting only sub-conventional wars. However, the real spurt to sub-conventional wars that India has been fighting came in the 1980s with the surge of Sikh and then Kashmiri militancy. As for the term ‘sub-conventional war’, he said that it simply denotes to anti-terrorist or counter-insurgency operations. He argued that India would continue to fight this mode of warfare for one or two generations more at least. Therefore, he argued, the study done by Col. K. C. Dixit was very relevant from the academic as well as policy points of view.

    Colonel K.C. Dixit, a Research Fellow at IDSA, examined in his paper the issue of how to keep soldiers’ (in Army tradition the word ‘soldier’ is generically applied to officers, junior commissioned officers and other ranks) motivation high in the difficult conditions of sub-conventional war. What makes his paper really noteworthy is that it is based on an extensive field trip and personal interviews conducted by him. He went to Jammu and Kashmir in December 2009 and visited army units where he interviewed 880 soldiers. The interviewees were classified in three categories: officers, junior commissioned officers and other ranks. He asked them 36 questions, which were wide ranging and covered the entire gamut of a soldier’s life. On the basis of responses given to his questions, he arrived at certain conclusions.

    He began by putting forward a simplified version of the definitional aspects of motivation. Then, he dwelt into the peculiarities of the operational environment in sub-conventional warfare, juxtaposing it with conventional warfare. He then elaborated upon the factors affecting motivation in sub-conventional warfare. He recounted the absence of cooperation from the side of civil authority, media propaganda, lack of intelligence resulting in difficulty in identifying militants, pressing demand for quick reaction, problem with soldiers adapting to a new environment, problem of command and control, insistence on use of minimum force, unsatisfactory living conditions, pressures from human rights organizations, as prominent factors affecting motivation of soldiers in sub-conventional warfare.

    After analyzing factors affecting motivation, he brought forward his conclusion that the conditions necessary to keep Indian soldiers motivated are far from being satisfactory. Here, he made some recommendations to improve the level of motivation among soldiers. His recommendations covered areas like training, organizational set up, judicious involvement and participation on the part of soldiers at various levels in decision-making, unit cohesion, making tasks challenging, exciting and meaningful, media management, the handling of junior leadership, delegation of powers, and many others. He finished his presentation by making a passionate plea for improving and sustaining motivation of soldiers in sub-conventional warfare.

    The discussants were unanimous on the fact that the study done by Colonel K.C. Dixit was of immense significance and would surely help improve the working conditions of the Indian Armed Forces and increase their efficiency. However, they and other scholars present during the session made some valid methodological points, which needed to be addressed. Col. K.C. Dixit accepted these points and assured that he would accommodate them in the subsequent and final draft.

    Report prepared by Dr. Prashant Kumar Singh.