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Stress Management in Low Intensity Conflict Operations

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“Life is a long sequence of stressors” - Mirza Galib


1. Stress is an inescapable part of modern life. It is the psychological and physiological reaction that occurs when an individual perceives an imbalance between the level of demand placed upon him and his capability for meeting that demand. Stress affects individuals physiologically, emotionally and behaviourally and is linked to responses which in case of stress overloads, often results in rash or irrational behaviour. However, it is not always negative in fact, stress at optimum levels also produces a positive force or stimuli that is dynamic and often aids in tiding over difficult situations.

2. Officers, Junior Commissioned officers and men in the army are by no means insulated to the phenomenon of stress but in fact exposed to situations which tend to become stressful. Understanding of stress, therefore, plays an important role in management of personnel in the army, both in peace and in operational environments.

3. A rigid organizational structure, peculiar environmental factors, extended deployment in Counter Insurgency Operations and Combat situations often compound stress related problems in the army. These, if not tackled at an early stage results in cumulated stress effects which often surpass acceptable limits. The recent spate of suicides, fragging and fratricides provides an urgency to understand at the earliest, the maladies of stress and its effect on men officers of the army.

4. The Penguin Medical Encyclopaedia defines stress as any influence, which disturbs the natural equilibrium of the body and includes within its reference, physical injury, exposure, deprivation and all kinds of diseases and emotional disturbances. The word stress has been borrowed from Physics and Engineering where it has a precise meaning, a force sufficient enough in magnitude to distort or deform when applied to a system. For our studies the apt definition seems to be - the rate of wear and tear of the mind.

5. To quote a formal definition, “Stress is defined as an adaptive response to an external situation that results in physical, psychological and / or behavioural deviations for organizational participants.[1]” It may also be defined as “failure to adapt”[2]

6. Most people view stress in a negative way but as mentioned in the previous paragraph it may be positive sometimes as it provides the extra energy to deal with tough or life threatening situations. Experts therefore agree that some stress is not only helpful but essential to keep it going for us without which we would be vegetables. Stress results from a stimulation of environment , the degree of this stimulation on the stress curve is positive to an extent but thereafter prolonged stimulations of the same kind, for example the operational environment experienced by the soldiers in Low Intensity Conflict Operations leads to manifestation of stress in the form of negative effects on the soldiers mind. High stress levels, besides manifesting in below-par performance standards during discharge of duties, are also the cause of incidents like running amok, fratricides and suicides.



7. To analyse the causes of stress in soldiers of Indian Army in the backdrop of its prolonged deployment in Low Intensity Conflict Operations, its manifestation in various forms and to suggest possible methods of stress management at the national, army, formation & unit levels.


8. Existing op environment in areas where the Indian Army is deployed for Low Intensity Conflict Operations coupled with prolonged deployment of troops in such areas is the main cause of stress in soldiers today which has led to an increased occurrence of stress related incidents amongst the soldiers.


9. India has a 1.1 million-strong army and with 81 suicides[3] in the year 2006 stress has become one of its major worries. s given by The Indian Express show that the number of suicides per lakh personnel in the army stands at 10.8 though this is much lower than 17 for the US Army, 18 for the French and 14 of the Royal Army is still big enough to draw attention. The increasing numbers of suicide cases[4] are a cause of concern (See chart below).This fact has been proven adequately in the research carried out by Dr DS Goel of Ranchi institute of Neuropsychiatry in conjunction with command hospital northern command on “Psychological Effects of Low Intensity Operations”. Extract of the same is attached as appendix A.

10. Another alarming is the 23 cases of fratricide in 2006[5], of these 09cases were reported from Jammu and Kashmir and remaining 14 from the North East, both are areas where army is involved in Low Intensity Conflict Operations. Similar statistics also can be established in suicide cases. Why these cases did not occur in peace stations if the reasons for stress as propounded by some theories are economic growth and rising financial aspirations of the soldier is a moot question and does point to the operational environment of Low Intensity Conflict Operations as the prime reason of stress in soldiers and thus the prime nemesis to be tamed to get down the worrisome numbers of suicides and fratricides. However the effects of personal problems of the soldier causing such incidents is correct, but again if the soldier was located in a peace area he would have been in a better connected place as far as communication with his family is concerned whether it is a case of land dispute or marital discord or his wife not being treated well by her in laws. Most of such cases could be solved merely by the physical presence of the soldier along with his wife or parents as the case may be thus it connects to the prolonged deployment of troops in Low Intensity Conflict Operations which leads to increased domestic problems in a soldiers life.

11. In July 2009 the Honourable RM while answering to a question in the parliament stated that already 48 cases of suicides and one case of fratricide have been reported till June[6], it's anybody's guess what the final for 2009 will be, whatever be the it cannot be denied that the Indian Army today is faced with the demon of stress in its soldiers. The good news is that the army has realised that this is a problem and cannot be wished away and a number of steps are being taken to tackle the issue but till such time the bigger demon of Low Intensity Conflict Operations exists and some holistic measures by the government and the army are undertaken, firstly to improve the operational environment and secondly to reduce or decrease the time which a soldier spends continuously in Low Intensity Conflict Operations areas, this demon will continue to feed on the strength of the Indian Army- the Indomitable spirit of the Indian soldier.


12. The scope is limited to study the following aspects :-

(a) Deployment pattern of Indian Army in Low Intensity Conflict Operations.

(b) Operational Environment in Low Intensity Conflict Operations.

(c) Manifestation of stress and its inter-relation with behaviour/performance.

(d) Management of stress to include present approach its shortcomings and recommendations.


13. Some terms used in this dissertation are defined below:-

(a) Combat Stress[7]. The stress experienced by the soldier during a combat situation. This is a complex form of stress resulting from all the physical and mental strain caused to the soldier during the combat mission, it is cumulative in nature and the number of times the soldier goes through the same situation it causes stress and is accumulated in the mind of the combatant.

(b) Stressors. The factors that cause stress are called stressors; it can be an event or situation which requires a non routine change in the lifestyle or behaviour of a soldier. This causes a felling of conflict with the ideals and values of a person or it may pose a challenge or threat to an individual's sense of wellbeing or self esteem.

(c) Eustress[8]. Stress may manifest sometimes in a positive way, this effect is known as Eustress, which is described by experts as a motivator which drives a person to achieve extraordinary feats under situations of pressure. It is obvious that Eustress is not harmful being occasional.


14. The research work is mainly based on books, journals available in the library, thesis and dissertation work available on the internet as also the study report of the Defence Institute of Psychological Research on the causes of inter-personal violence

in the units deployed in counter insurgency areas and the study report of research carried out by Ranchi Institute of Neurosciences in collaboration with Armed Forces Medical Services, Command Hospital (Northern Command) and Director general Medical Services. Data of twenty units of infantry and artillery was also collected to prove that the existing deployment pattern and troop commitment to Rashtriya Rifles is resulting in prolonged exposure of approximately one percent of soldiers to higher stress prone areas. A detailed bibliography of sources is appended at the end of the dissertation.


15. It is proposed to study the subject in the following manner :-

(a) Chapter I - Introduction.

(b) Chapter II - Deployment Pattern of Indian Army in Low Intensity Conflict Operations.

(c) Chapter III - Operational environment in Low Intensity Conflict Operations Areas.

(d) Chapter IV - Manifestation of Stress.

(e) Chapter V - Management of Stress.

(f) Chapter VI - Recommendations and Conclusion.



“We live longer than our forefathers, but we suffer more from a thousand artificial anxieties and cares. They fatigued only muscles we exhaust the finer strength of our nerves” -Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

1. Infantry Battalions. The infantry battalions are deployed for Low Intensity Conflict Operations typically for a duration of two to three years during what is known as the field tenure, it can either be in the Northern sector (Jammu and Kashmir) or the North Eastern region. After tenure of aforesaid duration when the battalion is de-inducted from such areas to peace locations, a finite number of soldiers are sent to the affiliated Rashtriya Rifles (RR) Battalions to meet the requirement of troop commitment of Indian army to such units (Refer survey in following paragraphs). Thus a number of soldiers who have served for up to two to three years are again posted to operate in a Low Intensity Conflict Operations situation for a duration of two years and furthermore when these soldiers return from this stint it is again time for their battalion to move to field area for Low Intensity Conflict Operations, hence he again undergoes a tenure in high stress environment. In this way some soldiers end up spending up to six to seven years in Low Intensity Conflict Operations which anybody who has been there will agree is a long time.

2. Artillery Units. The case mentioned above is only slightly better for artillery, since the artillery units generally have longer peace tenures than the infantry battalions; hence a soldier after coming back, gets to spend some time in peace locations, however these personnel would have still undergone up to four years of continuous field area tenure.

3. Survey. To establish the facts mentioned in the previous paragraphs, data was collected from ten infantry battalions and ten artillery regiments. The results of the survey are given in succeeding paragraphs.

4. Infantry Battalions. Number of personnel who were dispatched to RR Battalions within one year are given as under, due to security reasons the exact identity of the units is not being revealed:-

Serial Number


Number of Personnel

Junior Commissioned Officers

Other Ranks


A Battalion




B Battalion




C Battalion




D Battalion




E Battalion




F Battalion




G Battalion




H Battalion




J Battalion




K Battalion




5. Artillery Regiments. A similar survey of artillery units revealed the following s:-

Serial Number


Number of Personnel

Junior Commissioned Officers

Other Ranks


No 1 Regiment




No 2 Regiment




No 3 Regiment




No 4 Regiment




No 5 Regiment




No 6 Regiment




No 7 Regiment




No 8 Regiment




No 9 Regiment




No 10 Regiment



Analysis of Data.

6. An analysis of the survey reveals the following:-

(a) In the case of infantry battalions, on an average a total of four junior commissioned officers and fifty three soldiers were found who have had to undergo extended field tenure in excess of six years.

(b) In case of artillery units, it can be seen from the data shown in the, table above that number of such personnel on an average is about is about fifty nine other ranks. Though artillery units are relatively better off due to reasons mentioned earlier, still these individuals still undergo an extended tenure in a Low Intensity Conflict Operations situation, and hence are over exposed to the stressful operational environment of Low Intensity Conflict Operations.

7. A further analysis reveals this to be a repetitive affair since each unit or battalion is responsible for providing relief of its personnel in Rashtriya Rifles (RR) thus when these personnel are reverted a set of similar strength is dispatched, therefore the fifty three soldiers in case of infantry battalions who were sent in the second year of the battalion's peace tenure also have an extended tenure in Low Intensity Conflict Operations area, extending up to an year with Rashtriya Rifles and up to three years with their respective battalions.

8. One more interesting which emerges from the statistics[9] that the number of suicides and fratricides were much higher in Jammu and Kashmir than in the North-East. Why so? There could be number of reasons for this like intensity of operational environment, troop commitment of Army to Assam Rifles (AR) as compared to RR, better management of Low Intensity Conflict Operations due to longer experience of the Indian Army in the North East etc but the operational environment factor emerges as the singular, most differentiating aspects between the two regions. Report of study of Defence Institute of Psychological Research refers as attached as appendix B[10] also corroborates the same.



“It is the man trained to recognize the dangers of the battlefield, understand his fears without surrendering to them and equipped with skills he must have to carryout his task, who can endure the prolonged stress of modern war” -Shelford Bidwell

1. In conventional operations battle lines are clearly drawn, one can identify the enemy easily and thus aggression can be directed unequivocally in his direction. The situation in Low Intensity Conflict Operations is quite the opposite. These are often characterised by limitations of armament being used, Tactics and levels of force applied. They are often protracted and involve military, diplomatic, economic and psychological pressure through terrorism and insurgency. Troops trained in conventional warfare experience significant stress in such operations. Conventional military training makes the soldier think in clear cut extremes of black and white, friend and foe. This tendency often leads to problems in Low Intensity Conflict Operations where the concept of ‘enemy' cannot be applied to one's own population. The contributory factors, which increase the stress level on soldiers participating in Low Intensity Conflict Operations, are the product of complex interplay of the three elements involved - the terrorist, the local population and the soldier.

2. Low Intensity Conflict Operations are continuous; there are no pauses and no time outs or half times. Frustrations mount when there is no breakthrough for months together and while the expectation to perform and produce results are high. The soldiers are caught in the cross fire - moral Vs the immoral - and the dividing lines are blurred. In sum, insurgency imposes severe stress and strain on those engaged in it[11].

3. The operational environment in Low Intensity Conflict Operations is an ideal cauldron for manifestation of stress related problems. Some other factors which affect the soldier in such a situation are discussed in succeeding paragraphs.

4. Boredom and Isolation. The operational environment is characterised by long drawn intense activity. During the periods of lull and inactivity there are times when the imagination could run wild and seriously affect the individual's capacity to think rationally.

5. Hostile Local Population. One of the key factors for fighting and restricting insurgencies is the local populace. Due to a number of reasons such as fear of retribution by terrorists or negative propaganda against the army, the attitude of the locals towards the army is hostile. This causes considerable strain in the minds of the soldier who can't understand as to why the same people are against him to save whom he is risking his life.

6. Long Drawn Operations. These type of operations are long prolonged affair in which the inability to see the end of the tunnel is in itself quite stressful. Fatigue in such situations may be of two types. Firstly, tiring operational work in the form of sitting in long ambushes etc leads to physical exhaustion. Secondly, mental fatigue is caused by the repetitive nature of such physically exhausting missions over a long period of time, with little hope of relief. This condition can result in breakdown or even burning out. Prolonged spells of stress punctuated by quantitatively and qualitatively inadequate opportunities

7. Guilt. In Low Intensity Conflict Operations, the soldier is at a loss to understand the rationale of killing own countrymen, and hence is faced with a factor of guilt, even though he may not accept it openly for the fear of being ridiculed by peers but he sub-consciously feels a sense of guilt.

8. Human Rights Factor. The fear of being prosecuted for Human Rights violations, is always at the back of the minds of commanders at levels and thus percolates down to the soldiers in the form of unrealistic restraints and restrictions while operating in such environment. This too adds its share as stress.

9. Adverse Media Influence. The media in many cases blames the army for any collateral damage caused during an operation or sometimes blows a wrong accusation of Human rights violation against the security forces out of proportion to sell news, this is especially true for local vernacular media. They never highlight the gains of the army but would jump at a single violation, though army is now addressing this issue with its proactive media policy.

10. Separation From Families. Loneliness, domestic worries and a long wait for leave are not singular but inter-related issues all these have mutually related effects on the psyche of the soldier. Domestic worries have an adverse impact, especially so in low intensity situations wherein the soldier is as it is stressed out and is further frustrated since he cannot attend to his family problems in person.

11. Unrealistic Goals and Demands. The matters are made worse when senior commanders lay down unrealistic targets to be met in terms of terrorists killed or captured and weapons captured. The results in low intensity situations are not corporate targets to be met in a month or a quarter or a financial year they come by fits and starts and are not routine, a good month may see a good haul of Kills and there could be a lean period extending months together sometimes. The pressure to achieve results day after day in the end manifests as stress on the soldier.

12. Low intensity conflict operations are full of ambiguity and uncertainty. It should be realized by the government in general and the army hierarchy in particular that prolonged exposure to such situations is likely to make everyone, be it officers or soldiers, susceptible to stress because they are not only surviving there but are working at a faster pace everyday to deal with the uncertainty and constantly changing dynamic situations.


13. Inhospitable Terrain and Climate. The terrain and climate in which the troops are deployed in low intensity conflicts are mountainous terrain sometimes with secondary jungles and have harsh climatic conditions. The cold climate in J & K and the heavy monsoons in North East make normal living in temporary habitats difficult[12]. Under such working conditions whenever there is a lack of motivation due to any reason, there is bound to be general deterioration of morale and discipline amongst the soldiers, thus this factor is an important stressor as far as the soldier is concerned.

14. Fear of Unknown. All soldiers who have been in life threatening soldiers are familiar with this phenomenon. It is the possibility of getting killed which puts a soldier under immense pressure it is omnipresent whether on duty within the company post or on operations outside the company post. It is primarily the fear of death or injury, which makes the low intensity scenario so stressful for the soldier in fact a harassing experience. The soldiers are thus living under tremendous psychological pressure constant fear of losing life does take its toll[13].

15. Lack of Mental Respite. This is not a nine to five job it is continues twenty four by seven days. The terrorists in some way have initiative and can strike at the time of their choosing but the soldier has to be alert at all times, thus requiring a high state of alertness always. This leads to mental and physical fatigue and exhaustion and has a telling effect on his psyche. It is a campaign in which the regular army is pitted against the irregulars or guerrillas[14].

16. Use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), By Terrorists. Use of IEDs gives the terrorists the ability to strike at the soldier without being seen and makes the army deploy a large number of troops for road santisation duties. This is frustrating for the soldier when he is unable to strike back at his attacker and leads to a constant fear of IEDs in the soldier's mind.

17. Constant Re-deployment. Counter insurgency operations demand a dynamic deployment depending upon militant activity and intelligence. Any person after spending some time in a place gets comfortable and starts to feel comfortable there his mind accepts the place as his home, but constant changing of bases as done in dynamic counter insurgency deployment adversely affects the soldiers mind.

18. Inadequacy of Equipment. Lack of special equipment to combat militancy has a demoralising effect on the troops. At times it gives a feeling of being pushed into ‘Counter Insurgency' (CI) operations without being adequately equipped.

19. Prolonged Deployment/Change in Duration of Tenure. Many a times, move is delayed due to local operations causing uncertainties and resulting in building up of stress.

20. Break up of Joint Family System. There has been erosion in this time-tested system and more and more soldiers have now to fend for themselves.

21. Declining Discipline and Values. There has been a recent tendency among officers to over look major breaches of discipline in counter insurgency areas. Such an attitude breeds indiscipline leading to an overall discontentment among the disciplined soldiers.

22. Individual Psyche. The mental makeup of soldiers is different and their adaptability varies. A few individuals are weak and have a very low breaking point. Such persons soon become liability to the unit and are easy victims of stress related incidents.

23. Pressures of Human Rights Violations. The fear of perpetuating a human right violation and judicial harassment puts restrictions on the actions of the men and also make them vulnerable to militants during operations.

24. Lack of Recognition. There is a general feeling that due recognition is not being given for the services rendered by the soldiers in CI operations. The soldier feels that he is giving everything for the integrity of the country, but once he steps in to the civil street, no one has a word of praise for him.

25. Frustration Due to No Results (Numbers Game). The effect of operating in CI operations areas for months without any tangible results is frustrating. No amount of hard work is recognised in these operations unless accompanied by a few dead bodies of militants and some weapons.

26. Conviction towards the Cause. Most of the soldiers deployed in these operations are fighting militancy with no clear conviction towards the cause. In sum, insurgency imposes severe stress and strain on those engaged in it[15].




1. Stress can have serious consequences for both health and performance. In terms of health, the current belief is that 50-70 percent of all physical illness is related to stress. Stress is associated with heart disease, diabetes, ulcers, depression, irritation, anxiety, fatigue, lowered self-esteem, and reduced job satisfaction. Sustained over a long period, stress can lead to attempts to escape through the use of drugs or alcohol and may lead to burn out.

2. The most serious consequence of stress relates to performance. In order to take timely steps to ameliorate stress, it is imperative that commanders at all levels know the symptoms in detail. It should be the endeavour of every leader to ensure that the level of stress in the men under his commands remains within the optimum stress level (OSL) zone. Some individuals are more prone to stress than others. The reason lies in demographic differences and type of personality.

3. Demographic Differences. Demographic differences include age, health, education and profession/occupation. Age affects stress because most people go through life stages during which certain things are expected of them. As one grows in age, the expectations increases and so does the pressure. Thus age does create stress[16].

4 Type of Personality. These are psychological in nature. These include need satisfaction, locus of control and type of personality. People, who have strong urge for need satisfaction, work hard and tend to excel others. This attribute can be basis for overwork and burnout. Locus of control refers to one's feeling of the extent to which one is able to control surrounding world. Greater an individual's perception of control over the environment, lesser is the person prone to stress, and vice versa[17].

Chronic Stress

5. Chronic stress is the outcome of prolonged exposure to stressful situation, as prevalent in the CI operations. It is not so perceptible in the initial stages, but in the longer run it causes lasting and grave damage to the physiology and psyche of the soldiers. It distorts perception and behavioural responses, and slowly but steadily wears down the stress tolerance capacity of individuals, bringing them to a state where they may break down at a critical juncture. The effects of chronic stress generally manifest themselves in the form of psychosomatic disorders, and later in the form of inappropriate behavioural responses[18].

6. Psychosomatic Manifestations. Prolonged exposure to stress results in many psychological/physiological ailments such as headache, insomnia, fatigue, lack of appetite, duodenal ulcers, depression, diarrhoea, dizziness and fainting are some of the symptoms of a person being under chronic stress. Psychosomatic symptoms occur when thoughts and emotional reactions maintain the body in a state of physiological arousal. If this arousal is prolonged, it can lead to pain, infection, and organ breakdown[19].

7. Behavioural Manifestations. Behavioural manifestations of chronic stress are generally in the form of defence-oriented responses. Common behavioural manifestations of chronic stress are as follows: -

(a) Apathy. This is the task oriented compromise reaction of an individual, wherein he shows lack of interest towards his primary role and shows great interest in secondary or mundane duties.

(b) Isolation and Withdrawal. The individual under stress may reduce communicating with others or may totally stop it. The greater inclination towards the religious activities, most commonly displayed in CI environment, is also a withdrawal reaction due to internalisation of stress experienced by an individual.

(c) Leave Requests. Absence without Leave and Malingering incidents are the outcome of unconscious or at times sub-conscious efforts of the mind to avoid facing the dangers of CI environment.

(d) Rationalisation and Interjection. Giving logical and rational sounding excuses for own or sub unit's failure to perform up to the desired level, is in itself a defence oriented manifestation of stress. One form of this stress manifestation is comparing own performance with that of the others, who are not doing well enough, to justify own failures or except lower norms and standards of performance.

(e) Projection. Another form of manifestation of stress is projection of blame for own shortcomings and failures on other colleagues and blaming them, their actions /advice, for own unjustifiable performance or actions. Cribbing and grumbling are also manifestation of stress.

(f) Failures. Frequent failures to perform up to the desired level by same person or a sub unit reflect that the individual or the sub unit as such may be suffering from chronic stress.

(g) Violence and Aggression. Violence against suspects and insurgents and aggressive attitude towards own colleagues are another form of stress expression. Under stress, individual and specially leaders, tend to displace there feeling of chronic stress by arbitrary rudeness towards their colleagues and juniors, suspects and civilian population. Excessive use of violence against captured or trapped insurgents is a common manifestation of stress. It is also believed that the passive and timid person who cannot mobilise and externalise his anger is more vulnerable to external fear because of his impaired ability to react aggressively towards the enemy and thus discharge tension.

8. Post -Traumatic Stress Reactions Post-traumatic stress disorder is a state of anxiety, depression and physiological ‘numbing' that follows exposure to a severe trauma, such as warfare, militant killings, a catastrophe or violent death of a loved one. This appears as a recurrent dream or nightmare in slow motion. Victims complain of tension, insomnia and trouble in concentrating, a feeling of remoteness from others and a feeling that life has lost its meaning[20].

9. Burn-out A burn-out is a stress reaction related strictly to work. People who experience a great deal of frustration and very little satisfaction seem especially prone to burn-out. After an excellent performance or achievement over many years, such people may suffer a type of emotional exhaustion. They seem to lose enthusiasm and concern for their jobs and for the people for whom they have been working so hard. Personality factors also play a role. Increasing the opportunity for group cohesiveness and improving the quality of leadership may reduce burnout. Authoritarian or workaholic administrators generate stress while democratic leaders who can pace themselves, lessen it[21].

10. Anxiety Disorders Anxiety is an enduring experience of fear in the absence of a fear eliciting stimulus. If lying in bed at night you suddenly see the face of a stranger in bed you could experience fear but if lying in bed one starts thinking that if he looks towards the window he will see the face of a stranger, you would be experiencing anxiety[22]. Symptoms of anxiety can include such things as heart palpitations, tremors, excessive sweating of the palms, rapid breathing, hyperventilation, faintness, dizziness, headaches, chest pains, digestive upsets and feeling of impending disaster. In addition to the physical symptoms, there may be intense feelings of guilt, and general panic.

11. Substance-use Disorder Some people cope with the problems of life by the excessive use of chemical substances commonly called drugs. The most frequently abused substance is alcohol. Other problem drugs are heroin and cocaine. Other such manifestations are addiction behaviour like excessive smoking, alcohol dependency and eating disorders[23].



“If a warrior is to achieve success at anything, the success will come with a great deal of effort but without any stress or obsession” -Carlos Castaneda

1. Stress cannot be entirely eliminated but it can be controlled or reduced so that its harmful effects are lessened. The management of stress will entail understanding stress, identifying its manifestations, knowledge of various concepts of stress management and its applications. The manner in which an individual perceives the problem situation, the criticality and importance of its outcome and his own ability to tackle the situation determines the level of stress that he would experience in that situation. Therefore, if the perception of the individual could be suitably modified, the level of stress felt by him in that situation could be suitably reduced. A high level of motivation and morale would contribute towards reducing stress. Motivation and morale building are functions of leadership. Some of the major aspects of stress management are discussed in succeeding paragraphs.

2. Leadership Good leadership and training is the real antidote for combating stress both in peace and in a CI environment. Majority of the CI operations are fought at platoon and company levels; hence platoon and company commanders must plan and execute missions by leading from the front and setting personal example[24]. The troops should develop confidence in the professional abilities of their commanders. When the troops move out for operations they must be convinced that the operations they are involved in have been planned and ordered after due deliberations and all assistance for their success provided. During execution of operations, the men must see their commanders facing the same hardship and dangers to life as being faced by them. The living conditions of all ranks should be as similar as possible. Such leadership, if practised, would generate a state of motivation of troops, which would negate all the stress of the battlefield. The Field Marshal Chetwood credo which is inscribed in Indian Military academy and genuine concern by the officer towards his command will go a long way in distressing the environment. The officer should always not only be approachable but also be seen that he is approachable, so that the soldier develops the confidence to confide in him.

3. Training To kill is not the natural behaviour of a human being. To create the killing instinct in a soldier, he has to be trained hard and realistically. Such training would inculcate body reaction and develop in him a second nature whereby he would do the unnatural act more as an auto-reaction leading to success. Success in combat would generate confidence and a sense of superiority, which is essential to combat stress. If men were trained for all possible tasks and situations, the stress of battlefield would reduce to a negligible level.

4. Numbers Game While the task assigned involves numbers game, there is no need to be obsessed with it and consequently drive the men to the state of exhaustion or “burnout”. Efforts should be made to create a good intelligence network at the tactical level and carry out operations based on specific information. This will yield good results as opposed to pursuing the course of searching for a needle in a haystack. It will also result in saving of manpower[25].

5. Casualties The troops are involved in a live conflict. Therefore, if they inflict casualties on the militants, it is obvious that they too will suffer some casualties. They should be mentally prepared to sustain casualties. Imbibing an aggressive spirit will reduce stress levels.

6. Cause There is no need to debate the wisdom (or lack of it) of the political leadership. For the soldiers, the task is quite clear. The militants who have taken up arms and recourse to violence against the legitimate government are antinational and therefore need to be treated as adversaries. It must be emphasised that the elimination of the militants or their apprehension is in our interest.

7. Weapons and Equipment Recognising the fact that the militants are equipped with better small calibre weapons, the strength of our troops lies in better training to use weapons and also the ground effectively. There is a need for us to inculcate the feeling of this qualitative edge in the minds of our men to reduce any such anxiety.

8. Habitat There is no excuse for poor habitat of troops. As Napoleon had said, “Treat your men like horses. Drive them hard when they are out of barracks and groom them well when they are back in the stable”. The men must be provided with adequate shelter, proper clothing and good food. There cannot be any compromise on sound administration.

9. Rest and Recreation This is a concept, which was successfully tried out in Sri Lanka. The formations established a ‘Rest and Recreation Centre' where units came in rotation for two to three weeks. This period was utilised by men to maintain their weapons and equipment, for personal administration and recreation. It made them fresh for undertaking operations for another six months to one year. Flogging troops round the clock and conducting an unbroken series of operations without hard intelligence leads to early burnout[26].

10. Officer and Men Relationship There is no substitute to the officers regularly interacting with their men. Officers must share the hardships and deprivation of their men. Senior officers should remain in constant touch with the units through regular visits to encourage and resolve their problems.

11. Leave There is a tendency to curb leave during counter insurgency commitment. While restricting leave may be justified, denial of leave to deserving cases could only add to the frustration of the men.

12. Battle Fatigue Prevention Techniques It is extremely important for commanders at all levels to know and use prevention techniques to reduce the incidence of battle fatigue. It should encompass good morale, physical fitness, training, unit cohesion and resolution of problems.

13. Need for Mental Conditioning Conduct of counter insurgency campaigns will invariably extend to a number of years. None should attempt to achieve ‘quick-end' results, particularly by resorting to excessive use of force. Excessive use of force is counter-productive and must be avoided. Patience, perseverance, warmth and genuineness must be displayed. At the same time there is no room for ‘Zero Error' or ‘Live and Let Live' approach to the problem.

Miscellaneous Aspects

14. Loyalty to Comrades. First and foremost among the positive psychological aspects is one's loyalty to his comrades. One may not bother about causes, country, even kith and kin, but one always cares for his close comrades, their safety and welfare. The spirit of camaraderie transcends all caste, community, race, religion, language and almost all barriers. This should be nurtured assiduously in times of peace, so that it will come in to save the battle in war. This helps in sharing stress.

15. Hope. Hope is the best preservative in war. If a man can look forward to leave, re-uniting with his family or best of all winning a decoration and going back home after the war as a hero, he carries on regardless

16. Ego. Every nation gets the army it deserves. In a nation like ours where there is no conscription, it is the bounden duty of every citizen to show utmost regard and concern at all times for the welfare of the man in uniform. The soldiers' ego should be nurtured. If the soldier feels proud to wear the uniform, he can be expected to live up to the ideals of valour and self-sacrifice in war. In many nations, Kings and national leaders habitually wore the military uniform though quite often they may not have been military men. This is only to give prestige to the military uniform and show the importance of soldier as saviour of the nation.

17. Morale. As Eisenhower had said ‘Attention to the individual is the key to success.' Generally, a soldier who feels that everything possible under the circumstances has been done for him and who trusts his superiors and comrades and believes in the cause for which he is fighting is bound to have high morale. High morale reduces stress to a great extent as it reduces the effect of stressors on the human mind.

18. Reducing Avenues of Stress. This is easier said than done. Though Army Head Quarters had issued certain guidelines on the vital areas to be addressed to reduce stress, not much has moved since the issue of the instructions. Some measures propagated are: -

(a) Education of Officers and Men. Officers and men need to be educated on the causes and ill effects of stress and the requirement to remove potential stress factors.

(b) Increase Communications. One of the important methods of reducing stress is to encourage vertical and lateral communication. Commanders must be open to suggestions and keep their avenues of communication open.

(c) Create Transparency. There is a requirement to have transparency on policy matters such as postings, promotions, and medical category. Medical standards need to be realistic and commensurate with age of the individual and the job requirement.

(d) Reduce Disturbances. While frequent postings and disturbances are inevitable in service life, measures should be taken to improve quality of life, accommodation and allied facilities including schooling and higher educational facilities.

(e) Improve Working Environment. There is a need to create a healthy working environment in every sphere of activity. Working in haste must be discouraged by proper time and thought management.

(f) Introduce Formal Education on Stress Management. Formal education on stress management will go a long way in making troops aware of the dangers of associations with stress which will enable them to find ways and means to overcome various problems connected with this malady.

(g) Educating Spouses. This is an important factor in creating a stress free environment. Not only the officers and men need to be educated on this aspect, but also their spouses. A young bride must be made aware of all to impress upon her that life in the army is totally different and on her adjustment will depend the quality of domestic harmony.

(h) Safeguard the Right of the Jawan. Soldiers face many problems in their hometowns, be it connected with land, property or any other subject concerning their families or relatives. They feel insecure and vulnerable their needs and the civil police often treat soldiers with disdain. Strict rules on the early mitigation of the problems of serving soldiers must be implemented. Increased interaction with the civil administration is the need of the hour.

Coping Strategies for Stress

19. As an individual, one has several techniques available to reduce tension. More prominent among them are time management, physical exercise, relaxation, yoga, social support, situation control and unburdening oneself.

20. Time Management. Most of us are poor in time management. The result is feeling of work overload, skipped schedules and attendant tension. If one

can manage time effectively, he can accomplish twice as much as the person who is poorly organised[27].

21. Physical Exercise. Physical exercise in any form helps people to cope with the stress. It is for this reason that people of all ages are seen taking early morning walk, or engaging themselves in jogging, swimming or playing games.

22. Relaxation Exercises/ Transcendal Meditation. Relaxation through meditation or biofeedback helps in reducing stress. Whatever the method, the objective is that one must have deep relaxation where one feels physically relaxed and detached from body sensations. Maharishi Mahesh yogi introduced transcendal meditation which is quite effective in combating stress[28]. Fifteen or twenty minutes a day of deep relaxation releases tension and provides a person with a pronounced sense of peacefulness. Importantly, significant changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and other physiological factors result from achieving the deep relaxation condition.

23. Yoga. Yoga is probably the most effective remedy for stress. Yoga has been used in our country for centuries. Its usefulness has not been realised with greater enthusiasm in our country and abroad. Studies have revealed that Yoga has cured several stress-related diseases. The practice of Shavasana effectively reduces the blood pressure. Yoga therapy has been found to be effective in controlling asthma and neuroticism.

24. Social Support. People need social support. Applied as a strategy to reduce job stress, this would entail forming close associations (also called networks with trusted and empathetic colleagues who are good listeners and confidence builders. These friends are there when needed and provide support to get the person through stressful situations. The positive role of social support has been proven in a study by De Araujo in 1973[29].

25. Open up to Others. One must give vent to one's feelings, emotions, fears and frustrations in the presence of others who care. This process of unburdening oneself makes the individual feel relaxed and free from stress.

26. Control the Situation. One must avoid unrealistic deadlines. One must do one's best and at the same time be aware of limits. It is impossible to please everyone.

Organisational Strategies

27. As mentioned earlier, organisational factors like task and role demands and organisational structures often cause stress. Management can control these stressors. Additionally, management might want to consider several strategies such as personnel selection and placement, redesigning of jobs, participative decision-making, improved communication and establishment of corporate wellness programmes. Job redesign involves enriching jobs either by improving job content factors (such as responsibility, recognition and opportunities for achievement, advancement, growth etc.) or by improving core job characteristics (such as skill variety, task identity, autonomy, and feedback). Enriched tasks eliminate the stress

found in more routine and structured jobs. Certain jobs are more stressful than others. Individuals too differ in their response to stress situations. Individuals with little experience or an external locus of control, tend to be more stress prone. Selection and placement decisions should take these facts in to consideration.

28. Religion- A Source of Strength Religious fellowship, spiritual principles, and faith in something greater than man can be major sources of strength for daily living and times of crisis. One very important facet in our units' day to day routine is the regular Mandir or Gurudwara Parade in which everyone gets an opportunity to pray and seek solace. This acts as a great catharsis for relieving us of our fears and stresses.

29. Professional Counselling Once a person's level of coping with stress is low and he is being overwhelmed by the stress that he is facing and his day to day activities get hampered then the individual needs expert advice to assist him in ways to cope /overcome his stresses.

30. Meditation It is believed that one of the best forms of treatment of stress is Meditation. The aim is to concentrate on a thought in such a way that the thought itself disappears and the ‘source of the thought ‘is reached. This difficult task can only be achieved by repeating a personal mantra, which helps to drive other thoughts out of the mind, during meditation. The concentration is directed entirely to this mental search but as it involves cutting out all other stimulation, it automatically leads to muscular relaxation, a slower heartbeat and more regular breathing.

31. Psychotherapy Taking treatment is called psychotherapy and though the treatment is both common and popular in Western countries, it is still considered a taboo in India. The word psychotherapy makes hackles rise in the army and since psychiatrists are very few in number, many soldiers are often boarded out due to lack of timely treatment.




1. The conflict situations in insurgency prone areas have posed multi-dimensional challenge to the army in dealing with subversion, terrorism and militancy where the men in uniform have got involved over protracted periods. The armed forces have to fight with virtually their hands tied in view of several immunities to the militants, inadequate support from civilians, adverse media coverage, intelligence vacuum and lack of clear political directive. The complex situations have led to many psychological problems such as a rise in suicides and fragging cases amongst officers and men. In such a hostile and adverse atmosphere, personnel need to be highly motivated and a high degree of man management is required to combat insurgency.

2. Such an environment leads to generating stressful situations, which manifest in varied forms and affect the performance of soldiers. Controlling combat stress is often the deciding factor - the difference between victories and defeat - in all forms of human conflict. Stressors are a fact of combat and soldiers must face them. It is controlled combat stress (when properly focused by training, unit cohesion, and leadership) that gives soldiers the necessary alertness, strength, and endurance to accomplish their mission. Controlled combat stress can call forth stress reactions of loyalty, selflessness, and heroism. Conversely, uncontrolled combat stress causes erratic or harmful behaviour that disrupts or interferes with accomplishment of the unit mission. Uncontrolled combat stress could impair mission performance and may bring disgrace, disaster, and defeat. To win, combat stress must be controlled. In combat, stress is inevitable; incapacitation due to stress is not. While the incidence of stress reaction is highest under extreme conditions, casualties can occur even in units not under direct fire. Units in which cohesion among group members is strong and for whom training gives a realistic perspective on combat, suffer the least number of stress reaction casualties.

Objectives of Stress Control

3. The objectives of stress control could be summarised as follows[30]: -

(a) To keep stress within acceptable limits for mission performance and to achieve the ideal (optimal) level of stress when feasible.

(b) To return stress to acceptable limits when it becomes temporarily disruptive.

(c) To progressively increase tolerance to stress so that soldiers can endure and function under extreme stress which is unavoidable in combat.

Summary of Recommendations

4. Some of the significant recommendations are summarised as follows: -

(a) Training Officers. Officers should be trained on man-management techniques especially related to human relation skills and leadership style based on personal example especially so prior to the deployment with troops in insurgency areas.

(b) Leadership. The senior leaders of the army must ensure that the standards for military leadership are met. A good leadership will prevent combat stress reaction. Senior leaders must provide the necessary information and resources to the junior leaders to control combat stress and to make stress work for us and against the enemy. The role of the leader is to raise the confidence and help resolve the inner conflicts of subordinates.

(c) Unit Cohesiveness Development. Rigorous, realistic training for war must go on continuously to assure unit readiness. Emphasis must be placed on establishing and maintaining cohesive units. Unit training and activities must emphasize development of soldier skills. This development should focus on building trust and establishing effective communication throughout the unit.

(d) Welfare Measures. As personnel in CI operations face constant fear, physical and mental fatigue, loneliness etc. Welfare measures need high degree of attention even on seemingly small matters such as rest, relaxation, accommodation and the quality of food.

(e) Suitable communication mechanism among Officers, Junior Commissioned Officers and Other Ranks needs to be evolved.

(f) An appropriate grievance redressal mechanism needs to be evolved in units deployed in insurgency areas.

(g) Besides the immediate seniors, colleagues and leaders at all level; the Religious Teachers in the units may observe the behaviour of soldiers visiting religious places and any untoward behaviour or alcohol dependence needs to be informed.

(h) Loyalty is invariably expected from down upwards. However, in CI operational areas, personnel need constant reassurance that the superiors would stand by them in the face of odds in order to get the best military spirit from them. Thus, seniors should set standards through personal examples and stand by their men in the face of odds to generate loyalty.

(i) In units like the Rashtriya Rifles, there should be more interaction among personnel. More opportunities should be provided for social get-togethers to minimize the negative effects of heterogeneity and to enhance in group feelings among men.

(j) Soldiers with a reputation of getting violent need to be identified, as they require psychological intervention. Trained psychologist should be attached to each division in insurgency areas for counselling the stress prone soldiers. Regular counselling with positive approach is a must as it allows the person to drain away aggressive energy through catharses that eliminates aggression.

(k) In view of growing incidences of inter-personal violence in armed forces, due weightage should be given to qualities like social adaptability, sense of responsibility, cooperation and mental stamina among officers at the time of selection.

Validation of Hypothesis

5. The stated hypothesis stands validated through the discussion in the preceding Chapters. Thus the hierarchy in the army needs to take a cognizant view of our increased employment in LICO and also to improve the existing operational environment only then it can be hoped to stem the incidents of suicides and fratricides. The survey carried out during this dissertation and the two study reports attached as Appendices ‘A' and ‘B' strongly indict the operational environment and the prolonged duration of deployment for stress among the troops.


6. Stress is generally understood to have adverse effect on soldier's life and organisation's effectiveness. Contrary to this moderate stress is welcome as it increases effort, stimulates creativity and encourages diligence in one's work. But excessively high stress can overload and breakdown a person's physical and mental systems. Performance can suffer as people experience illness brought on by very intense stress and /or react to high stress through absenteeism, turnover, errors, dissatisfaction, and apathy and reduced performance. With regard to satisfaction, it may be stated that people who experience stress find jobs dissatisfying. Even though low to moderate stress has positive impact on performance, stress always has negative impact on satisfaction.

7. There is diminished self-control and general lowering of the individual's resistance to all stress. However, by mastering the art of controlling stress through ‘stress management training' the effects of the adverse psychological factors on the men can be minimised and positive psychological factors optimised. The hard fact still remains that it is the man behind the gun who delivers thus the importance of the individual soldier still remains and attention to the individual is still the key to success. Other things being roughly equal, the side, which looks after its men well and keeps their morale high, will have the upper hand in battle. Thus underlying the need for improvement of living and working environment of the soldier so that our trained assets in the form of our men are not wasted due to stress.

Appendix A

(Refers to Para 9 Chapter I)



1. Low intensity conflicts (LIC) are territorially limited politico military struggles to achieve political, social, economic or psychological objectives. LIC is often characterized by limitations of armaments, tactics and levels of force. They are often protracted and involve military, diplomatic, economic and psychological pressure through terrorism and insurgency. Troops trained in conventional warfare experience significant stress in such LIC operations. Conventional military training makes the soldier think in clear-cut extremes like black and white, friend and foe. This tendency often leads to problems in LIC where the concept of 'enemy' cannot be applied to one's own people. The contributory factors, which increase the stress level on soldiers participating in LIC, are the product of a complex interplay of three elements involved-the militant, the local population and the soldier.] The development of militancy often has its roots in the regional aspirations of a people governed by an insensitive, unresponsive and corrupt administration. Since the violent acts of militancy appear to offer, at least initially, a quick solution to complex problems, they hold a special attraction to the youth who are often unemployed and frustrated. Criminals elements then join in. The local population tends to think that they have been wronged by the administration. They tend to look at the militant as their 'own boy' fighting for a just cause, and the security forces as the long and cruel hand of the administration, particularly when there are human rights violations. Propaganda by neighbouring countries and inter­national agencies may further alienate the local population. In this background the soldier, often from a different cultural milieu, is looked upon as an outsider. The security forces thus end up fighting an elusive enemy, in the absence of any reliable intelligence, and lack of cooperation or even active resentment of the local population. Ambiguity of aim, lack of visible success, high casualty rates tend to erode morale among security forces. Several operational factors such as fatigue, unpredictability of threat, extended tenures of stay, absence of recreational avenues, domestic worries, irregular mail, problems related to leave and railway travel increase the level of frustration. In conventional operations of war, on the other hand, the battle lines are clearly drawn. The enemy is clearly identifiable and aggression can be unequivocally channelled in his direction. Organizational as well as national goals are clear and unambiguous, public support is assured and the soldier comes to regard himself as a living symbol of patriotic pride. Units operate from a firm base where relaxation in a relatively safe environment is readily accessible and lines of commu­nication are secure. Limited periods of intense stress followed by adequate recovery phases do not significantly sap the psychological resources of the soldier in such formal, structured combat scenarios unless the operations are unduly prolonged or are attended by repeated reverses. The situation in LIC is diametrically opposite. Prolonged spells of stress punctuated by quantitatively and qualitatively inadequate opportunities for rest and relaxation impose immense and often unbearable demands on even otherwise robust subjects. This may result in psychological distress, combat stress disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition, overstaying leave, desertion, abuse of alcohol or drugs, suicide, and cases of soldiers running 'amok', shooting at their superiors and colleagues may be symptoms of a serious malady plaguing the troops.

2. Soldiers in LIC environment experienced a number of stressful events including operation stressors, domestic stressors, intra-unit hassles, physical and situation attributes of operation zone, and socio-political stressors. Troops deployed in LIC had significantly higher psychiatric morbidity, alcohol use, unfavourable response to task, diminished efficiency, frustration, maladjustment, tension, isolation, etc. The failure to use standardized psychological scales was a major weakness of these early studies. Chaudhury reported high psychiatric morbidity, depression and alcoholism in soldiers in LIC.

3. A multidimensional approach was adopted to acquire data for the study. There were visits to forward areas to assess ground realities and to interact with officers and troops deployed there. The subjects of the study consisted of 568 officers, junior commissioned officers and other ranks randomly selected from units deployed in LIC. Equal number of age-, sex- and rank-matched subjects posted in nearby locations but not deployed in LIC formed the control group. None of the subjects had a past or family history of psychiatric disorders. All subjects gave informed consent. To ensure confidentiality the subjects were not required to fill identifying personal data in the questionnaire. After explaining the aims of the study and assuring full confidentiality, all subjects were administered a self-made personal questionnaire and the following self-rating scales administered in group setting.

Personal questionnaire

4. Personal questionnaire comprised demographic data, length of service in LIC, operational stressors, domestic stressors, unit stressors, physical environment, living conditions, officer- man relationship and administrative aspects such as leave, welfare, posting/tenures, mail, rest and recreation, etc. It contained 46 structured questions and 8 open-ended questions. The instruments were scored as per the test booklets. Data were tabulated and subjected to statistical analysis using SPSS 13.0 for Windows.

5. The mean age of subjects in LIC and Other areas was 29.89 (SD=5.88; range 21-51) years and 30.37 (SD=6.31; range 20- 50) years, respectively. All the subjects were male. The mean length of service of subjects in LIC and other area was 10.87 (SD=5.54) years and 11.12 (SD=6.03) years, respectively. There were no statistically significant differences between the two groups with regard to age, length of service, duration of stay

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