Apparently a National Defence University is soon to be set up near Gurgaon. I wonder if there is a plan to equip our Officers with a suitable qualification that would give them degrees that not only truly reflect what they know, but also create greater respect for the academic excellence that exists within our services. For example, despite the impressive array of training facilities and academic infrastructure that exists in the National Defence Academy (NDA) in Khadakvasla, what is given academically, in the form of a University degree to its cadets, is a Bachelor’s degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). I have often asked: ‘Why a JNU degree?’ While JNU has a global reputation for research, it has little to offer to undergraduate students. Moreover, to add to the irony, while the NDA is an epitome of discipline, JNU is sometimes the hotbed of political dissent! So, the two have little in common.
When I did enquire why the NDA doesn’t consider offering a degree in Military/Defence Studies – say from Pune University next door that has been offering the same – I was once told, that a reason why the NDA preferred to stay with JNU and not align itself to Pune University, was because JNU being far away, would interfere less with the affairs of NDA! But that was a short sighted view. Clearly we must look at equipping our future officers with a degree – not a run of the mill one, but one that not only defines their expertise (as students of matters military) but also spells quality. Moreover, it would be in order here to highlight the fact that India’s higher education system now has the dubious distinction of producing graduates who are more often than not, unemployable! The central question therefore is: “Is the delivery of the degree at the NDA a genuine exercise in enhancing the credentials of its Cadets, or a farce, as is the case with many of our Universities?” I am inclined to believe it is the latter.
What therefore the NDA needs to do, in fact for that matter, so must all our military institutions also aspire to do, is to offer their own qualifications and that too in military management or a related area of military studies. For too long, our armed forces have lived under the shadow of an inferiority complex and in awe of the abilities of Indian academia. In reality, the academic rigour of our military institutions often surpasses that of the best institutions in India and the fierce competition and years of hard work that goes into entering the Staff College at Wellington or the National Defence College (NDC) in Delhi, can be compared to the work required to get past India’s toughest entry exams for our best academic institutions.
But while at Wellington they get the M.Sc in Defence Studies from Madras University (though obtaining a master’s degree in India is not always such a demanding exercise as it is in Staff College); following the NDC our best military minds do not even get a formal qualification. The answer therefore lies in the creation of a National Defence University (NDU) of which the NDA should be the starting point with a B.A/B.Sc degree in Defence/Military Studies, followed by the one year pre-commissioning training (for any of the three services) leading to a post graduate Diploma in Military Management.
Then the Junior plus Senior Command courses (JC + SC) should lead to the award of the Masters in Military Management (MMM). And the Higher Command course can lead to the M.Phil and eventually the NDC course to a doctorate (PhD). If the new National Defence University can take up such an initiative in association with well reputed institutions and offer degrees that have the pedigree and the globally recognized rigour, it would then truly be a leap forward in equipping our officers with the right degree(s).
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