Should India have compulsory military service?

2 Dec 2023  Read 8105 Views

India's army boasts over 1.4 million active personnel, making it the second-largest in the world and also the world's largest volunteer army. Some Indians believe that compulsory military training and conscription should be implemented, citing countries such as Singapore and South Korea as examples. 

However, the question remains whether mandatory military service would be feasible or democratic in India. So, it's a hot topic, and opinions are all over the place. 

Let's dig into this discussion about whether India needs compulsory military service & the meaning of Conscription in this context along with the pros & cons of having compulsory military in India.

What do you mean by Conscription?

Conscription, simply put, is a common practice where people were required to join the military during war or crisis. This idea originated during the French Revolution when having a solid military became crucial. However, in the 21st century, many countries have shifted towards having professional militaries with volunteers enlisted to meet the demand for troops. 

This approach highlights the importance of predictability regarding war-fighting needs and the extent of hostilities. Although many countries have abolished Conscription, they still reserve the power to reintroduce it during war or emergencies.

Did India ever have conscription laws?

India has always had a voluntary armed force without any conscription laws. However, the Indian constitution has a provision in Article 23 that allows the government to mandate Conscription in the interest of national security and public welfare. However, India has never applied this provision. 

Read about Right against exploitation (Article 23 & 24 of the Indian Constitution)

Conscription has gained attention in recent years due to reports of recruitment shortfalls, particularly for officer positions, since 2008. This shortfall in recruitment poses a threat to national security.

  • Since India's Independence, there have been several systems of compulsory military training for students in public schools and universities, although Conscription was not mandatory. 

  • The National Cadet Corps (NCC), established in 1948, aimed to generate youth interest in defending the country. In 1962, China invaded Indian territory, leading to the implementation of specific emergency recruitment regulations. 

  • As we might have witnessed in our private schools or colleges during the summer holidays, all the students who joined NCC were required to undergo NCC training, which included handling weapons and ammunition. 

Pros and Cons of Compulsory Military Service

Pros:

There are several benefits of having compulsory military service:

  • Firstly, it ensures a large pool of trained and disciplined personnel, which can significantly enhance the armed forces' effectiveness. 

  • Conscription also promotes national unity and a sense of patriotism as citizens from diverse backgrounds come together to serve their country. 

  • Furthermore, compulsory military service can give young individuals valuable life skills, such as leadership, teamwork, and self-discipline.

Cons:

There are valid concerns raised by critics of compulsory military service, which are:

  • They claim it suppresses individual freedoms and can disrupt young adults' personal and professional plans. 

  • Furthermore, maintaining a large conscripted force can be an expensive financial burden for the government. 

  • Additionally, Conscription may not necessarily result in a high-quality military force, as some individuals may lack the necessary skills, interest or motivation.

Benefits of Having Compulsory Military Service in India

Imagine a diverse group of young citizens coming together through compulsory military service, gaining training in military operations, leadership, and teamwork. So, beyond just strengthening the defence forces, they will also carry these skills into their civilian life, fostering personal and professional growth through discipline and collective responsibility.

  • Implementing compulsory military service in India promises to address critical gaps in the armed forces. By creating a larger pool of trained personnel, the military would become more operationally effective.

  • This move could also nurture a deep sense of national unity and patriotism, rising above diverse backgrounds. 

Drawbacks and Challenges of Having Compulsory Military Service in India

Dealing with mandatory military service in India require addressing the logistical complexities of a sizable conscripted force. It's essential to invest sufficiently in infrastructure, budget carefully, and implement rigorous selection processes. So, striking the right balance among these is crucial.

  • Managing a large conscripted force within the country's vast population poses logistical complexities. 

  • Appropriate infrastructure and resources must be in place to effectively accommodate and train recruits. The financial burden on the government to maintain such a force is considerable and requires meticulous budget allocation.

  • Rigorous selection processes and comprehensive training programs are essential. Additionally, the potential impact on individuals' personal and professional lives must be weighed carefully, as Conscription may disrupt their plans and aspirations. 

  • Balancing these benefits and challenges is crucial in determining the viability of compulsory military service in India.

Is Compulsory Military Service an answer to India's National Security Challenges?

After analysing the situation, it can be said that compulsory military service might solve some of India's national security challenges. It has the potential to create a larger pool of trained personnel, promote skill development among the youth, and foster a sense of national unity. 

However, implementing Conscription in a country as diverse and populous as India would pose logistical, financial, and social challenges. Therefore, it is crucial to carefully evaluate the practicality and feasibility of implementing compulsory military service and consider alternative approaches to strengthening national security.

Countries with compulsory military

RUSSIA

Critics of mandatory military service in Russia argue it could impede personal freedom and disrupt young adults' plans, posing financial burdens on the government. Concerns also revolve around potential variations in motivation and skill levels among conscripts, impacting the overall effectiveness of the military.

SOUTH & NORTH KOREA

For 73 years, South and North Korea, technically at war, intensified military efforts. North Korea enforces compulsory military service at 17-18, reducing it to 10 years for men (from 13) and introducing it for women in 2015. South Korea mandates military service for men (21-24 months) but offers alternatives, and exceptional athletes may be exempt.

ISRAEL

Israel's 1949 Security Service Law mandates military service at 18, except for some groups. Two to eight months of service is required for Jewish, Druze, or Circassian individuals, with exemptions for specific cases. Recent data shows 47% of Jewish Israelis support a shift from mandatory to volunteer military service for the Israel Defense Forces.

BRAZIL

In Brazil, all male citizens undergo 12 months of mandatory military service at 18, with the option to extend for up to 8 years. Refusal may result in the suspension of political rights, impacting voting and candidacy eligibility. Women are exempt from compulsory military service.

IRAN

Iran mandates military service for men aged 18-24 (18-24 months), with exemptions for women and health reasons. Sons over 18 with fathers above 60 may also be exempt. Refusal without valid reasons results in severe consequences, and a recent proposal to let individuals over 35 buy exemptions for $10,000 faced public backlash and was abandoned.

Conclusion

Hence, in India, the decision to serve in the military has always been a matter of personal choice, with no compulsory conscription laws in place. Article 23 of the Indian constitution grants the government the authority to mandate Conscription if needed. However, recent concerns about a shortage of army recruits, mainly those suitable for officer roles, have ignited discussions on the necessity of Conscription. 

As India weighs its options between continuing with an all-volunteer force or implementing conscription, the country is at a crucial crossroads. The future could see a shift from voluntary enlistment to mandatory service, or it could maintain its reliance on the voluntary spirit to safeguard its interests. So, the path ahead presents fascinating opportunities for India's defence landscape. 

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About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 275 Post(s)

She is a Legal Content Manager at Finology Legal! With a Masters in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), a BBA.LL.B from ITM University, and patent analyst training from IIPTA, she truly specializes in her field. Her passion for IPR and Criminal laws is evident from her advanced certification in Forensic Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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