I was aghast at the TV debate that I heard yesterday. I feel differently and aware of the powerful lobbies operating, having been a Deputy Chief. I am told they are even more powerful today, influencing serious decisions of promotions and appointments. Some of you may know more. My take on this whole controversy is given below for whatever it is worth.
NATIONAL SECURITY IMPERILED (The Chief of Army Staff Controversy) By
Lt Gen NS Malik, PVSM (Veteran)
Army is fighting a proxy war with the Pakistani infiltrators across our Western border, at Siachin, the highest battlefield and insurgents in the North East. That was not sufficient to keep the army in good shape or under control, and a war within the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has been waging between the mandarins in the MOD and the Army Chief, now escalating to open war between the government and the Army. It is most unfortunate and directly impinges on our nation’s security.
National security comprises of many facets, but the principal ones are the national economy, social harmony and the Defence Forces, the executive arm that is to remain ever ready to take to the field to defend the nation. To govern all this and to maintain the requisite command and control, the most important element of national security is the national leadership that harmonises all these. It is thus rightly said that National security is the first and most important function of any government. The person responsible for nation’s security is the Prime Minister as head of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), where the Raksha Mantri is the important Minister, besides other ministers. The three Service Chiefs are not members of this august body, and are only on invitation. So if at anytime national security is threatened, the person to answer must be the CCS in general, and Prime Minister and Raksha Mantri in particular
Having said that, now let us look at the controversy that has evolved around the Army Chief, General VK Singh. Three issues came up in a short period of time; Chief’s age controversy, Bribe case and the Letter written to the PM on state of the Army’s preparedness. Looking at these holistically establishes a certain pattern of sinister magnitude that has shaken the nation, jeopardizing its core values.
Age controversy was a non-issue that got blown out of proportion. A man can be born only once and hence cannot have two dates of birth. Such heavy baggage was made of it that it had to go to the Supreme Court, who also failed to deliver a verdict that would settle the issue once for all. But why the controversy? Gen VK Singh had set himself the aim of ridding the army of corruption, which flows through the unbridled arms mafia, and its breeding ground in the South Block, where decisions of immense proportions are made. This lobby is very powerful, reaching to the very top of government machinery and the army brass. Arms mafia continuously strives to buy off decision makers in one form or the other, by bribing or threatening. Bribe was tried earlier, but it did not work and hence the other method of the DOB controversy. Who lost or won is not the point, but in this murky war, the nation lost, saddled with a lame duck Chief.
Bribe bomb as it is called in the media is another one of the same. In this the point to note is that the bribe case was brought to the notice of the RM, who did nothing on it. Was it carelessness, total abdication of duty, or on purpose. A CBI enquiry has been ordered after the story broke. why not then when it was reported. Why the Chief did nothing is a fallout of the army ethos, which is a little different, in that once matter reported to superior authority, its duty is done and do not question the decision of the superior to take action or not. The non action by the RM has been highlighted by the Chief when he gave an interview to a news media. This is perhaps a part of his war on corruption continuing after realizing that no action is materializing even after his having apprised the RM of the arms lobby approaching him. Another factor in this episode is the intimate connection between the MOD and the Def PSU BEML. All purchases of Tatra vehicles are from BEML after they procure them through a UK based firm. The booking price set by the MOD is not only different but vastly different from the actual price. The question CBI should be probing is “Where does this spin-off go?”
The Letter bomb that is supposed to have jeopardized national security. A few pertinent questions arise...
1. Was this state of the army equipment in the know of the PM and the RM? If not why not? Isn’t National security, of which the preparedness of the armed forces is the most important factor, the direct responsibility of the RM and the PM. Were they made aware of this, and if so, what action was taken by them? In this context it is necessary to understand the functioning of the armed forces, where army commanders of all three services meet every six months and the complete preparedness of the armed forces is discussed and the RM and PM briefed.
2. SunTzu, the famed strategist of China had said that “If you know your enemy and yourself, you need not fear the outcome of a thousand battles, but if you know neither, you will be defeated” Are we in the terrible state of not knowing even our own selves?
3. The leak is bad and must be investigated and the guilty punished, but insinuations must stop till the facts are established. Though incorrect, yet the leak has brought to the nation’s notice the state of our armed forces, and hopefully it will spur the government to do something to mend the utterly unacceptable situation as pointed out by the Chief. Another point to be remembered is that it is not these leaks that give away the state of the armed forces to the enemy, all these details are available in any open publications like SIPRI and others where all import, export, equipment held and state is given in great detail
4. The most important thing that flows out of this leak is for the government to seriously undertake modernization of the armed forces and not get cowed down by the mafia. Though a whispering bird tells me that this leak is also organized by one of its minions to force the government hand in
Let me now take you to the Hallowed grounds of the Indian Military Academy Dehradun, where the Gentleman Cadet becomes an officer and takes the final step into Chetwode Hall to imbibe the words of Field Marshal Chetwode that “ The Honour, safety, and Security of your country comes first always and every time”…” of the men that you command next and your own safety and comfort come last always and every time” But even more important is the last step over the “Antim Pug”, which signifies that this is your last step for your own self, thereafter you are for the nation and nothing but the nation. How many thousands have sacrificed their lives for the nation’s security keeping these laudable principles in mind.
Final question is “has General VK Singh lived by this motto?” The answer lies in his zeal to clean the system and fight the mafia, staking his all for it, even to the extent where there is talk of his being dismissed. Could a country ask for more of its Army Chief?
Lt Gen NS Malik, PVSM (Veteran)