We have a rarely witnessed situation today. Chiefs of all three Services are NDA coursemates. The trio have to shoulder the responsibility of national defence jointly. Their having an association since NDA days holds out a big promise. Will Jointmanship in the forces experience an accelerating momentum The credo of the National Defence Academy (NDA) the only institution of its kind in the world where cadets of all the three services train together is Seva Parmo Dharma in Sanskrit which means Service Before Self. This unique institution grooms budding and impressionable cadets the future armed forces officers of the country to always think of their service first and foremost at all times.
When these young cadets pass out of the Academy the Army cadets go to the Indian Military Academy (IMA) as Gentleman Cadets where they imbibe the Chetwode Motto which states that the safety honour and welfare of your country come first always and every time. The honour welfare and the comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease comfort and safety come last always and every time. Similarly the Air Force and Naval cadets go to their respective service academies before getting commissioned as officers. The National Defence Academy over the years has more than proven itself giving the nation scores of gallantry award winners apart from the first Indian cosmonaut and individual Olympic medal winners. The bonhomie and camaraderie built through sweat toil and tears during the three years of rigorous training at the Academy get segued into an unspoken yet unbreakable bond amongst coursemates that invariably lasts a lifetime.
As officers continue to progress through their service careers charting out their path through their own services gaining professional acumen through their various appointments and deployments across the country and the world coursemates often cross each other and bond like those indelible early days reliving the times spent together at the Academy. During the course of their careers the initial years are dedicated towards their Service specific training and the focus invariably is towards your own service and the soldiers under your command. The loyalty towards individual service and men who form the rank and file gets cemented during these formative years. With subsequent growth in their careers officers undergo joint services courses where they learn about the other services and joint warfighting. As some rise to become two and threestar generals air marshals and admirals their horizons are further widened with knowledge experience and exposure to the functioning of the higher defence organisation. Only one amongst the initial batch from across five to six courses makes it to the top commanding the service.
It is a rare occasion when you have more than one Chief from the same NDA course. Having all the Three Chiefs from the same course is even more unique and since the inception of the Joint Services Wing in 1949 and the National Defence Academy in 1954 this has happened only thrice. The very first course from NDA produced Three Chiefs General SF Rodrigues Admiral LN Ramdas and Air Chief Marshal NC Suri who were at the helm of their respective services at the same time in the early nineties. Incidentally the first course also produced three Maha Vir Chakra recipients of the 1971 Indo – Pak war. With the announcement of Lt Gen Manoj Pande as the next Army Chief with effect from 1 May 222 all the Chiefs are going to be from the 61st NDA course. It would also be the first time in history that this would have been in succession as the previous incumbents were also from the same NDA course.
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown this famous quote is from Shakespeares Henry IV Part II. Henry bemoans his position as a King wherein he cannot find a moments peace or repose. This could not be truer for the Three Service Chiefs today as they navigate their respective services in an uncertain and volatile environment. With the increasing clamour on integration and jointmanship the thrust on selfreliance – Atmanirbharta on a nascent and underfunded indigenous defence industry two hostile neighbours that are nuclear powers and in collusion with each other unresolved border disputes and the challenges of a burgeoning revenue expenditure of a manpowerintensive armed forces the Three Chiefs no doubt have an unenviable and humongous task on their hands.