Subjects for 2017

Group A : Open to All Officers

Role of the Indian Armed Forces in Strategic Decision Making - Reclaiming the Strategic Space

1. In strategic level decision making especially those related to the nations security, the stakes are extremely high and have long-term implications; but tend to be based on human perceptions and judgements as these have to be taken in an unpredictable environment. Therefore, it is important that all stakeholders are a part of the decision making process. Sadly, one of the SIPRI reports stated that "Indian security for the past 50 years has been marked by defence policy making sans strategic logic, long term planning and a sense of urgency characterised by opacity, ad hoc decisions and general muddle-headedness. The decades old debate on reorganisation of the higher defence organisations and the national security apparatus has made little progress." This is definitely is not desirable.

2. In the present arrangement, the Armed Forces are of out of the government mechanism on strategic decision making. Ignorance of the political leadership coupled with bureaucratic reluctance has ensured the military leaders are left out of the loop and the political leadership are denied strategically sound advice particularly those related to the threats, armed forces transformation, capability development and employment and institutional issues.

3. There is a view that while the military input is essential for and invaluable in deliberations on matters of security; the concept of security today is much wider and hence, the civilian leadership with inputs from the Ministry of Defence can holistically handle it. But the perception is that there is an imbalance in India's civil-military relations brought about by an intervening bureaucratic layer in the Ministry of Defence between the military and the political head. The question to be asked is - Is the "lack of trust" between the civil-military officials affecting strategic policies? Whatever be the case, it is important that the Armed Forces make themselves heard, have greater space in relevant decision-making and seek partnership in national security and defence policy-making, lest we suffer the same fate as was the case in 1962.

4. There is an urgent need for an integrated approach to 'national security' with the political, military, economic and diplomatic aspects meshed together cogently. A democratic nation which is aspiring to be a regional power requires effective and sound advice to be rendered to the civilian authorities who are representative of, and answerable to the Parliament. Integrated approach to strategic decision making helps to build trust, avoids costly delay, avoidable duplication and wasteful expense, and improves operational efficiency. Therefore, there is no doubt that the Indian Armed Forces have an important role to play in strategic decision making related to national security especially on issues that directly affect them such as intelligence assessments, force structures, resource allocation, defence processes and procedures.

5. Effective civilian control over security forces and structures is one critical component. Civilian control not only helps ensure transparency and policy oversight; it can help restore the legitimacy of security institutions among the public. However, it is also important that military viewpoints be effectively represented in decision-making structures.

6. With the above as the background, carry out an analysis of the existing national security decision-making processes and structures and suggest ways and means on how the Indian Armed Forces can play a greater role in the strategic decision making and reclaim the strategic space. The essay should also address the following issues:-

  1. Current strategic environment is too vital a subject to be dealt with in watertight compartments. In what all aspects, do the armed forces need to play a significant role in the strategic decision-making?
  2. Do our civilian authorities-executive and legislative-adequately demonstrate critical understanding of the larger strategic issues and implications of military employment and institutional conduct? Are they adequately conversant with military purposes, capabilities, constraints and effects?
  3. Do the Indian Armed Forces demonstrate critical, creative understanding of the strategic purposes? Does it contribute in strategic level discussions, and explain the consequences of military employment and institutional conduct?
  4. There is a wide range of national security decision-making models available in developing and developed countries. There are similar and dissimilar challenges faced by other armed forces in the world. Analyse these models and highlight those issues that are of relevance to us.
  5. Keeping in view the fast changing strategic environment and trends in warfare, there is an urgent requirement to review our higher defence control system. Do we need changes in the structures, processes, and procedures that create a space for the Indian Armed Force to meaningfully contribute towards efficient and effective decision making at the strategic level?

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Group B : Open to Officers upto 10 Years of Service

Morals and Ethics - How to Teach, Imbibe, Implement and Enforce Desired Standards in the Indian Armed Forces

1. Ironically, the 'profession of arms' is the only undertaking of human endeavour that demands a very high standard of morals and ethics that form its very backbone, whether in peace time or during war. The Indian Armed Forces have been an epitome of this fact. Our countrymen look up to the Armed Forces not only as an instrument of last resort as far as national security is concerned, but also as custodians of finer attributes of human character i.e. integrity, personal courage, selfless service and more. An armed forces' officer is expected to not only provide unfailing leadership at all times but also stand up for what is right and be a role model for the civil society.

2. Lately, the conduct of military leaders has come under public scrutiny and there is a perception of dilution of military's value system. The changing nature of conflict, 24/7 reporting media channels, the change in the battlefield environment due to developments in technology and an increasing role of the military in internal law and order situations and natural calamities have thrown up new and different challenges for the military leaders. Equally important is to factor in the rapid changes in the socio-economic environment in the country in the last decade plus and a general fall in the value system of our society as a whole. Since the armed forces of a nation come from the society that feeds human resource to all the other institutions as well, they may not be insulated from the societal trends. In the words of General Sir John Hacke "When a country looks at its fighting forces, it is looking in a mirror; the mirror is a true one and the face it sees will be its own."

3. Irrespective of the above factors, armed forces cannot afford a dent in their impeccable image that has taken decades to build. A military leader has to tread the moral mine field diligently at all times and come out unscathed. The adage "the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war" holds true with regards to our value system as well.

4. In view of the above, carry out a study to ascertain if there is a need for the armed forces to introspect into their moral codes of conduct, both at the personal and institutional levels? The essay should also address the following :-

  1. Probable reasons for decline in moral standards in the armed forces.
  2. What kind of values need to be inculcated in the military leaders for them to become role models not only for their subordinates but also for the society?
  3. Suggest practical ways and means to teach, imbibe and enforce the desired standards of ethics and how they can be institutionalised?

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  1. Competition Group 'A' is open to all commissioned officers of the Armed Forces of India, officers of the Territorial Army and the Senior Division of National Cadet Corps, and Gazetted Officers of the Civil Administration in India including retired officers.
  2. Competition Group 'B' is restricted to officers upto 10 years of service.
  3. Essay may vary in length between 3,000 to 4,000 words. The word length should be shown in brackets at the end of the essay. Entries violating the length are liable to be rejected.
  4. Essays should be typed on one side of the paper in double space and should be submitted in TRIPLICATE.
  5. Entries will be strictly ANONYMOUS. No detail pertaining to the officer is to be mentioned on the essay or in the covering letter. The officer is to select a MOTTO (which should not be more than ten words) and type it on all copies of the first page of his essay. One sealed envelope is to accompany the essay with a paper indicating the MOTTO, personal number, rank, name, date of commission, unit, address and e-mail written on it. On the outside of the envelope, only the MOTTO is to be written. These envelopes will be opened during the USI Council meeting, after the judges have given their decision. Essays violating anonymity rule will be rejected.
  6. The essay must be an officer's personal and original effort without plagiarism and cut-paste job. Jointly written essays are not accepted.
  7. Three judges chosen by the USI will adjudicate. Marks will be given on the basis of the following:-

    1. The extent to which the contribution throws fresh light on the subject.
    2. Whether in the whole or in large part it is in a form suitable for publication.
    3. Understanding of the subject.
    4. Thought, logic, development of theme.
    5. Language / expression.
  8. The award of the judges will be final. They may recommend the Gold Medal to the winners and/or a cash prize of Rs.15,000/- as well as cash prize of Rs 10,000/- to the runner-up The names of the winners of the essay competition will be published in the USI Journal. Winning Essay in each Group, if found suitable will be published in the USI Journal.
  9. The Institution reserves the right not to make an award, if none of the essays submitted is of a standard which the judges consider adequate. Cases of plagiarism will invite disqualification.
  10. Copyright of all essays submitted will be reserved by the United Service Institution of India.
  11. All essays should be sent to the Director, United Service Institution of India, Rao Tula Ram Marg, Post Bag No.8, Vasant Vihar PO, New Delhi-110 057, to be received not later than 15 September 2016. The envelopes should be marked as follows:-

    • OPEN TO ALL OFFICERS : Essay Competition Group 'A'.
    • OPEN TO OFFICERS UPTO 10 YEARS OF SERVICE : Essay Competition Group 'B'.

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  1. General

    1. All diagrams, charts and graphs should be referred to as Figures and consecutively numbered. Tables should carry only essential data and should complement the text rather than repeat what has already been said. They should carry a short title, be numbered and carry the source at the bottom.
    2. The paper should have centre, group, paragraph and sub-paragraph headings to make it more reader-friendly.
    3. Use British spellings.
    4. Write dates by beginning with the day followed by the month and the year (e.g. 11 September 2006).
    5. In the text, write numbers in words till the number nine and then in numerals (e.g. two, four, nine; then 10,11,12 and so on).
    6. Write 'per cent' and not % or percent.
    7. Acronyms and abbreviations should carry the full form at the first mention with the acronym in bracket; and thereafter the abbreviated version.
    8. Names of books, journals, newspapers and foreign terms in the body of the text should appear in italics, e.g. : Asian Security in the 21st Century; Strategic Analysis; The Hindu..
    9. While referring to currency, use Rs. 2,000 crores, not 2000 crores of rupees. Similarly, $ 8.5 million, not 8.5 million dollars.
  2. References / End Notes

    1. It is desirable that the author furnishes complete details of the books/journals referred to in the article as end notes. This includes full name of writer of article or book referred to, title of book/article, journal in which published (in case of articles); issue details, and page numbers. Besides end notes, if the author so desires, bibliography may also be included.
    2. While referring to a book, follow the example below:- Lt Gen CK Kapur, Chinese Military Modernisation, (New Delhi: Manas Publications, 2003), pp. 17-18.
    3. While referring to an article in a journal, follow the example below:- Lt Cdr Neeraj Malhotra, 'Pratap Singh of the Indian Legion'. The Journal of the United Service Institution of India, Vol. CXXXIV, No. 556, p.283.
    4. While referring to a website, follow the example below:- "Escalation Control in a Nuclear environment", Report of a seminar organised by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies on 17 November 2004 at New Delhi. Accessed on 08 February 2005.
    5. If two successive citations/references refer to the same source, use Ibid.
    6. If the same reference is to be cited after a few other references or citations, write the name of the author followed by the citation number e.g.: Imran Khan, op. cit.

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52056H, Cdr Pankaj Kumar, IN, Defence Services Staff College, Locker No 623, DSSC Wellington (Nilgiris) Conoor, Tamil Nadu – 643 231, Email :
No Runner Up.
IC – 72277 P, Maj Sushant Rai, Cadets Training Wing, Military College of Telecommunication Engineering, Pin : 908 768, C/o 56 APO, Email :
06159 Y, Lt Ankush Banerjee, IN, Centre of Excellence in Ethics and Behavioural Studies (CELABS), C/o Naval Base, Kochi – 682 004, Email :

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MacGregor Medal