Monday, July 18, 2011

Soldier, Sailor, Rich Man, Thief

The Telegraph 21 April 2011
It is dangerous to ignore corruption in the armed forces, writes Brijesh D. Jayal

Grievances of veterans have been ignored for years even when the Supreme Court has issued favourable judgments. Today, at regular intervals, veterans are returning their medals to their Supreme Commander — who has not once thought fit to meet them. No self-respecting democracy is so callous towards the sentiments of its veterans. This lack of respect is not lost on those serving; it is also received with some glee across our borders. But to our politics and parliament this means little.

The fragility of civil-military relations has other adverse effects. Modernization will continue to be sabotaged by vested interests which will raise the bogey of wrongdoing at critical times in the process of procurement. The lack of consensus on the appointment of a chief of defence staff ensures that we cannot develop an integrated fighting capability so crucial to combating modern security challenges. Inability to set up a national defence university ensures that we are denied the opportunity to educate and train leaders, both military and civil, who will be better prepared for the emerging security challenges.

It is crucial for the nation to decide what place it wants to accord its armed forces in the national scheme of things. This writer had pleaded in these columns (“Through thick and thin”, June 3, 2009) for a Blue Ribbon Commission to make recommendations to Parliament, which could then take a final call.

Now that the debate in Parliament has shown the country how fragmented our polity is and how unreal our priorities, perhaps on the issue of national security and the role of the armed forces there is an opportunity for our polity and Parliament to redeem themselves and display that elusive unity. This is one debate that the guardians of our nation’s borders — the armed forces — will watch with great interest as will our friends and potential foes. But it will need more than poetry and innuendoes.
The author is a retired air marshal of the Indian Air Force

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