The Indian and Chinese army have
one thing in common, a shortage of junior officers. The Indian Army is short 24
percent of its officer strength, while China has the numbers, it is seriously
concerned with the quality. Actually, the Indian army has had a shortage of
officers for decades. The air force and navy are also short, but only by 12-15
percent. In China, the problem is growing.
not just officers that are hard to get and keep. Technical specialists are in
short supply, which is a growing problem as the army adds more high tech gear.
The basic problem is that the army must compete with the civilian economy for
highly trained or educated personnel.
army maintains high standards for officers, thus trying to eliminate the
shortages by more aggressively recruiting young NCOs for officer candidate
school doesn't work because too many of the NCOs cannot pass the entrance exam.
The source of that problem is the corruption in the Indian primary school
system. Teaching jobs in many parts of the country are considered political
patronage. These teaching assignments are handed out to political activists,
with the understanding that they are no-show jobs. So, despite a lot of money
being put into primary education over the last half century, the illiteracy
rate is still 39 percent.
military has long been an all-volunteer force, and had no trouble filling the
ranks. But over the last decade, as the government dismantled controls on
business, and privatized many government owned companies, the economy has
boomed. There are not enough qualified technical and management people to fill
all the skilled jobs. India has been
looking at how other nations solve these problems. They have noted American
success (over the last four decades) in outsourcing a lot of support jobs. This
is almost a necessity with some high tech specialties, where even civilian
firms face shortages. Another American technique, cash bonuses for jobs with
shortages, is more difficult for India, which much less money to spend on
similar problems, although there are differences. The Chinese education system is
more efficient, or at least less corrupt. Although China still has
conscription, the armed forces are basically staffed with volunteers. But the three
decade economic boom has made it difficult for the military to get the quality
people it wants. Thus many Chinese officers are, for want of a better word,
losers. The same could be said for many Indian officers, but India, or at least
many parts of India, have a military tradition. There, bright young lads will
forgo higher pay to serve as officers. But that is not as fashionable as it
used to be, and the Indian army wants to double the pay of junior officers to
make it competitive with what civilian employers are offering new college
grads. China recently gave its junior officers a raise.
India has a problem that China does not. India is at war, with troops getting
killed and injured in Kashmir, the northeastern tribal areas, and fighting
Maoist rebels in eastern India. The casualty rate is actually quite low, but
just serving in a combat zone is hard on the nerves, and not attractive to many
educated young Indians. Overall, bright
young Indian men are competing to get into business and technical schools,
while the military academy cannot fill vacancies.
military leaders want officer conscription,
via mandatory officer training and service for university graduates. But
the majority of citizens and politicians oppose this. China has a system
similar to the American ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps), where the costs
of college are picked up by the government for those who study military
subjects in college, and then serve as officers for a few years after they
graduate. China also has more military academies than India, and is also having
a hard time getting young men to attend them. China still gets a lot of
officers via NCOs taking officer training. This provides good military leaders,
but ones lacking the technical skills that are increasingly important.
India nor China have found a solution for their junior officer shortage, and
until there is a solution, the quality of their armed forces will suffer.