A national recruiting campaign for India's armed forces has virtually drawn a blank, leaving the army short of more than 12,500 officers ranging from captains to majors. The Ministry of Defence is worried that the shortfall - roughly one-third of the sanctioned officer strength - could cause big problems in the event of war, but it does not know what to do to encourage educated men to enlist. Vacancies in the much smaller navy and the air force have risen to 914 and 686 respectively, despite recruitment campaigns. The worst-hit is the army's infantry regiments which are plagued by an acute shortage of lieutenants, captains and majors to lead troops into battle. Experts cite low salaries, counter-insurgency operations, particularly in Kashmir and northeastern India, and policing duties in riot-hit states such as Gujarat as the main reasons why the olive green uniform has ceased to be a major attraction for educated young men looking for a prestigious career. According to Harinder Baweja, a leading defence journalist, there has been a sharp rise in the number of army officers in their early to late 30s resigning to join multinational companies, or to set up their own business. 'I did not join the army to become a policeman,' said Arjun Singh, a 32-year major, who recently resigned. 'I signed up as a soldier to guard the country's borders. And I left because I got tired of assisting the civilian administration.' Retired lieutenant-general V. R. Raghavan said attracting men with the much-touted officer-like qualities was becoming an impossible task as the army had been reduced to a 'constabulary'. Former major-general K. S. Pendse has blamed politicians and bureaucrats for creating a mess and calling in the army at the 11th-hour to tackle any situation. 'Venal politicians and callous civil servants allow problems to simmer and deploy the army when the aggrieved people run out of patience and resort to violence. But soldiers are ill-suited for internal security duties which they resent,' Mr Pendse said. 'They [soldiers] are trained to fight enemy soldiers, not their own countrymen.' Another major grievance is that officers in the armed forces are not as well-paid as those belonging to civilian services such as the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service and the Indian Foreign Service. Despite several directives, the government has done nothing to bring many services on a par in salaries, allowances and perks. One example is that an air force fighter pilot earns about one-third of what an Indian Airlines pilot is paid. Mr Singh asked: 'Why should an army officer be happy with a 14-inch TV set when friends who studied with him in university have the latest 29-inch TV and air-conditioned cars?'