How do armies outside Europe/North America recruit?
Although Europe and the United States might have their armies all over the world – and if not their armies, they surely use economical “cooperation” and development “aid” backed by their military force to maintain their political and economical influence – they are not the only countries with Armed Forces. In fact, most states in the world maintain Armed Forces. How then do other major military players recruit for their Armed Forces?
China in theory maintains a mixed system of conscription and “voluntary” recruitment. According to the law, “it is the glorious duty of the Chinese citizens to serve in the armed forces and join militia organisations”. The Military Service Law of the People’s Republic of China stipulates that male citizens who reach the age of 18 by 31 December each year are eligible for enlistment for active service. Those who are not enlisted that year remain eligible for enlistment until the age of 22.
The People’s Liberation Army has a peacetime strength of 2.3 million soldiers. However, more than 13 million men reach military age each year. In practice, conscription is therefore almost irrelevant, and military service with the PLA is entirely voluntary, because of China’s large population and therefore the large number of individuals who volunteer to join the regular armed forces. All 18-year-olds have to register themselves with the government authorities. The main exception to this system applies to potential university students (male and female), who are required to undergo military training (usually for the duration of a week or more) before or, more often one year after their courses have commenced (Article 43 of Military Service Law).
India boasts the third largest armed forces in the world, with 1,3 million active troops in the Indian Army alone. While recruitment is voluntary, the economical situation in the country – with more than a quarter of the population officially living under the poverty line – guarantees a high number of potential recruits.
According to information provided by the Indian Army, an infantry private (sepoy) receives a starting salary of between Rs. 3050 and Rs. 4650 (80-120 US$).
The main recruitment method are so-called “recruitment rallies”, held regularly at different cities. And there is no shortage of potential recruits: Twenty-one-year-old Ghulam Ahmed said he had no option but to join the army to support his three sisters and mother after a road accident killed his father. “I’ve no job and this recruitment rally has given me hope,” Ahmed said, struggling to recover his breath after being put through a gruelling physical endurance test by recruiters.
In fact, major problem is not the lack of recruits, but corruption. Potential recruits try to bribe their way into the army, and fake recruiters prey on those desperate for a job with the military.
According to the Annual Report of the Indian Ministry of Defence, “there are eleven Zonal Recruiting Offices, two Gorkha Recruiting Depots and One Independent Recruiting Office in addition to 47 Regimental Centres which carry out recruitment through rallies in their respective areas of jurisdiction. Efforts are made so that each district of the country is covered by recruitment rallies at least once in a recruitment year. During the recruiting year 2005-06, the recruiting organisation has enrolled 27911 recruits for the Army.”
Similar to other countries, India too maintains a National Cadet Corps, covering 8410 schools and 5251 colleges in almost all districts of the country. In total, 1,3 million Indian youth participate in Cadet Corps.
The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers reported in 2004 that joining the Indian Armed Forces is possible from 16 years on. Presently, the website of the Indian Army gives 17 1/2 years as minimum age for certain ranks and professions.
However, while there is no shortage of recruits for non-officer rank, the Indian Army faces a shortage of officers. According to official information, there is a shortage of 11,371 officers in the Army which is mainly in the ranks of Lieutenant Colonel and below. Recently, there has been a debate to introduce conscription for people of higher education or government jobs, but this has finally been ruled out by the Indian government.
While antimilitarists talk about a “poverty draft” when discussing the military recruitment of the USA or Britain, this term is even more appropriate in the cases of China or India. While the political elite of India would presently not allow any antimilitarist propaganda, the problem is different in India. In the land of Gandhi antimilitarism does almost not exist. Potential counter-recruitment activists would face a poverty draft that would make it almost impossible to deter people from joining the armed forces. A clear hint that the development of economic alternatives is crucial in our fight against militarism.