The modern world is fast resolving itself into rival camps, armed to the teeth with the sophisticated and deadly weapons of destruction. Almost every country suspects some other country or countries of hostile designs against itself.
Most governments have to spend a large portion of their resources in order to keep their military forces in constant readiness for war. Hence, a trained and well-equipped army is unavoidable even for a country like India, which proclaims its faith in the Gandhian cult of non-violence and universal peace. The question arises- should military services be compulsory?
Should the country go in for conscription i.e. compulsory military training and recruitment?
It is now widely held that preparedness for war is the best guarantee for peace. The duty of defending one’s country belongs to everyone. In this view, military training should be made compulsory for all, and every one should be called up for military service. Conscription would provide a permanent army, ready to take the field at a moment’s notice. In the last war, Germany has a conscripted army, whereas in England and America, recruitment was on a voluntary basis. The result was that it took the latter countries several years to reach the efficiency of Germany.
A compulsory military education also helps make the youth of a country disciplined, dutiful, patriotic and physically fit. They know how to obey and how to command. They are assets in building up a nation. Young men, trained in military discipline, become efficient workers in peacetime too.
On the other hand, such a system might well be a standing invitation to war. Furthermore, a nation will not willingly allow conscription where the people are the masters, where the people own the material resources of the country. For a discontented people, trained in war, might in the end recoil upon the warmongers or in military uprisings.
A large infantry was an asset in olden times when soldiers were mostly used as cannon fodder. But modern war is mechanized war. These days’ countries are reducing their standing army and replacing it by high-powered missiles and a large air force. To go in for conscription now seems to be outmoded.
It is hopped that the horrors of war will cure man’s desire for military conquest. But in the world, as at present constituted, where every day newspapers incite a militant disposition, a conscripted army is necessary for civil defence at least, for putting down internal disorder and militant terrorism. Conscription does make a people fit and well-organized, not necessarily for attack but certainly for self-defence and breeds self-confidence and a sense of security.
Formerly a short course of drilling and training in the use of elementary weapons was sufficient. The NCC training was sought to be made compulsory in colleges to build up services for the second line of defence. But success in modern warfare depends more on weapon and skill than on sheer number as was in the days past.
The militia then was an adjunct to the standing army. But with the growing mechanization of weapons and the possibility of manipulating them from a long distance, i.e. remote control device, a large army will have to be recruited from scientists and technicians trained to wage long-distance warfare.
When war becomes a push-bottom affair, what purpose would be served by huge armies ?India today, however, is forced to encounter a proxy war, started by Pakistan in Northern border of Kashmir as also in the eastern border of Assam and adjoining states. Some big powers, hostile to India, are blatantly aiding and abetting Pakistan. Indian army has to remain in a high state of preparedness.
So military training has to be efficiently conducted in India now and a large peacekeeping army is also necessary.