There is virtually no Governmental organisation apart from the armed forces, at least in India, that demands from their officers a constant level of academic accomplishment and intellectual growth in their entire service career. And as any service officer will know, life in the Services is filled with training courses and a whole lot of events that make considerable intellectual demands on them. However, military men are still seen to be men of brawn and not brains, primarily because they are construed in the words of Samuel Huntington as “Manager of Violence” (as he has elaborated upon in his masterpiece, “The Soldier and the State”).
About two decades ago, a maverick Israeli academic, Martin vanCreveld wrote a more provocative study of why military education was not regarded seriously in civvy street in his book titled: “The Training of Officers: From Military Professionalism to Irrelevance”. To some extent his title in itself, says it all. However, the central point of his thesis was that the extensive academic work done at military training Institutions have often no academic accreditation with a respected University. In the case of such courses being delivered at Mhow, the student Officers do get a qualification from Indore University; but that hardly inspires confidence outside military circles.
Therefore, the hard work put in by service officers on their various courses of instruction carries no recognition in civvy street. And without proper academic accreditation, all the work that our service officers put in during their long and challenges careers, counts for little outside military circles. It might be argued, that the NDA does give a JNU Bachelor’s degree and that the Staff College at Wellington gives a Masters degree from Madras University, but neither is the JNU a sought after under graduate destination nor is Madras University reputed for excellence in strategic studies. In contrast, the British armed forces have all their long term courses validated and their degrees awarded by the globally reputed Department of War Studies, at King’s College, London.
Moreover, the Bachelors degree that is given by the NDA, Khadakwasla, is given to the students who complete the bit of this and the bit of that, in about twenty subjects areas and is designated the BA or BSc on the basis of the student’s academic curriculum. But it would do the NDA cadet and entire Services community a lot of good if they were at the NDA given a Bachelor’s degree in military studies, because it is matters Military that we must prepare those cadets for, and not for a generalist undergraduate degree. That would then make the NDA’s academic curriculum meaningful. There are many popular courses that are offered in military studies in India and abroad. In fact, Pune University itself has a well respected Department of Defence Studies, so why isn’t that considered?
Internationally, Kings College, London offers a very popular set of programmes in War Studies that includes BA/MA and more recently a MA in War in the Modern World, an e-learning programme that is taken up by civilian and service officers from across the world who cannot take time out to study in the UK. These qualifications – despite their clear military connotation – are highly respected and prepare a person for a second career in the media or in strategic studies. Our own service officers would do well to explore such possibilities. Only then could they be favourably regarded as “Defence Experts” in print or on one of India’s many TV channels.