Sunday, May 27, 2012

New Chief and the Challenges

Saturday, May 26, 2012
Of Matters Military: New Chief and the Challenges
by Major General Mrinal Suman
Human memory may be short but institutional memory is eternal and highly sensitive to all issues that affect its health and standing. Therefore, institutional history is most unforgiving and never condones any act of transgression that brings disrepute to its character. Indian army as an institution is proud of its non-partisan disposition and well-evolved merit-based promotion system.
Devious tweaking of the system by a parochial Chief to ensure elevation of his protégé will always be remembered as a black episode in the history of the Indian army. In a hierarchy based organisation like the army, such transgressions have a complex cascading effect – the complete line of succession for higher ranks has been distorted. Many deserving officers have got left out.
End of May 2012 will see a change of guard at the apex of the Indian army. Assumption of the appointment by the Chief-designate will mark the triumph of parochialism over justice. Therefore, he will have to carry the burden of an acute guilt-complex. He knows that the environment is aware of the manipulations that facilitated his rise – the current incumbent has been deceitfully deprived of his full tenure and the careers of many brilliant officers who could have posed a challenge to his advancement were ruthlessly ruined.
To be trusted is the greatest compliment that a leader can earn. It flourishes on the credibility that a leader enjoys in his command. On the other hand, partisanship is an impropriety of the worst kind and erodes credibility of leaders and undermines their standing in the eyes of the led. Being a beneficiary of partisan dispensation, the new Chief will have to work hard to prove his impartial credentials. One wonders as to how he would muster moral courage to exhort troops to trust the organisation and have faith in the justness of the system. For a military leader, it is the most unenviable situation to be in.
Additionally, the new incumbent will be hard pressed to put up with many disconcerting situations. How will he face the outgoing Chief to accept the baton? Similarly, having usurped the appointment that should have rightfully gone to the Northern Army Commander, it will be tough for him to interact with him.
The present Chief will be going out on a moral high. Despite a massive slander campaign launched by the purchased media and some inimical elements, his reputation as an incorruptible leader and a professionally upright commander remains intact. Having faced the wrath of a corrupt, manipulated and prejudiced environment, he will be long remembered for his attempts at cleansing the system. The new Chief will have to contend with his predecessor’s unblemished reputation and live up to it.
Two serious cases are pending finalisation. A writ petition is pending in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court seeking an enquiry into his alleged involvement in a fake encounter that resulted in the death of an innocent person. He is also being accused of command failure during his tenure with the UN peacekeeping force in Congo and a court of enquiry is in progress. Conviction under either of the cases will make his position untenable.
Finally, one wonders if it has ever crossed the mind of the Chief-designate that it would have been far more honorable to retire as an upright Army Commander than to become the Chief through questionable means. History will never forget the conspiracy and the subterfuge that facilitated his elevation – turning the national motto ‘Satyamev Jayate’ on its head. It should never be forgotten that when history judges key players in retrospect, it is always unsparing and ruthless in exposing their misdemeanors.
New Chief and the Challenges
Major General Mrinal Suman
A highly qualified and experienced officer, General Suman commanded an Engineer Regiment in the Siachen Glacier area and was awarded the gold medal for being ‘the most outstanding engineer of the year’. He was the Task Force Commander at Pokharan and was responsible for designing and sinking shafts for the nuclear tests, for which he was duly honoured by the President of India. He superannuated in 2003. He heads Defence Technical Assessment and Advisory Service of CII and has also been directing their much acclaimed Defence Acquisition Management Courses, both in India and abroad. Being the first Technical Manager [Land Systems], he was closely associated with the evolution of the new defence procurement mechanism. Today, he is considered to be India’s foremost expert on myriad aspects of India’s defence procurement regime and offsets. He is a prolific writer and his articles are regularly published in a large number of journals. He is regularly invited to address various chambers, industrial delegations and seminars in India and abroad. He is often consulted by the policy makers. His views are also sought by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence.

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