By T.R.Ramaswami
Whatever the controversies during his tenure, the General has taught us a few things that we would
need to remember
‘Thank God he has retired’ echoed from several quarters, including our media, some of whom speculated
whether he would hand over charge! Look at the General’s service record – in 42 years of service, before
becoming Chief, he was in Army HQ for just one posting and that too as a Major. In AHQ you don’t count for
much unless you are at least a Major-General. His successor has had about half a dozen AHQ assignments and
three UN postings. It would be interesting to know how many such postings other chiefs have had. Everyone
knows that HQ tenures help build connections and relationships, even beyond the army, that prove useful later
on. Frequent postings in HQ are also associated with a more “political nature” and “flexibility” of the officer.
Has the government or the Supreme Court established that 1951 is NOT the birth date? All vacillated, beating
around the bush, resorting to semantics like “threshold documents” – the application form and two letters. All
the promotion letters, issued by the same Military Secretary’s Branch right up to the rank of Major-General,
which showed 1951 as the birth date, were conveniently ignored. Were these also not “threshold documents”?
Every third party document – authorized by law as proof of birth – hospital records and the school certificate
– showed 1951. If these are superseded hen why ask anyone for proof of birth? What if the application form
stated 1951 but the school certificate said 1950? Which one would then have been treated as correct?
Ever since he filed the suit in the Supreme Court, the Government would have engaged the IB, CBI and even
the ED, just as in the case of Jagan Reddy – to try and find some hole in his career to nail him. They evidently
failed miserably. You may ask – is there any proof that the Government did this? Answer – is there proof they
did not? Who leaked the letter to the PM? A letter can be leaked only by the author and the recipient. Had the
author been the source of the leak the Government would have trumpeted this from the ramparts of Red Fort.
Silence reveals a truth that is inconvenient. Recall what Sherlock Holmes said – when you have eliminated all
possibilities through fact and logic, whatever remains is the truth.
Why are the contents of the letter secret? Only strategic macro numbers are to be kept secret. But the larger
picture of arms shortages etc. are of vital knowledge to the people whose money is taken to fund the defence
budget. We have the right to know whether that money has gone. In any case there is nothing so secret about
all this – every foreign intelligence agency and arms suppliers, who are also mostly foreign, know the exact
picture of our armed forces, probably better than the babus and netas.
The “scoop” of the “coup” was nothing more than media “poop”. Are we to believe that the government
continued with a chief for 5 months after an attempted coup? What rubbish. Either Gen. Singh would have
become the Chief Martial Law Administrator or gone to jail or even shot for treason. Look at the nadir media
reporting has fallen.
What the General has achieved, for the benefit of the army and succeeding chiefs, given the flurry of
acquisitions, enhancement of financial powers etc, all within six months, is to establish an old Hindi proverb
– lathon ke dev (or is it bhooth?) bathon se nahin mantey. Snuggly cocooned in South Block, the babus have
been taking the netas for a ride. Recall how they managed to scotch the proposal of a former Defence Minister
to send them to Siachen and other hard postings to see for themselves. ‘Ignorance is bliss’ is the credo of the
babulog as it helps in fluffing off responsibility.
We are told that the new chief has a daunting task ahead to set right the civil-military relationships. But is it
his sole responsibility? What about the Defence Minister? Can he make a clear statement that he is the civil
authority to whom the chiefs are answerable and not the babus? Will he have at least that much courage?
Next, can he back up his statement with empirical and visible action? Can he ensure that files from the armed
forces take the route – PSO – Defence Secretary – Chief – Defence Minister? After all the Chiefs are above the
Secretary in the warrant of precedence and should have the last word before matters go to the Minister. This is
true civilian authority.
Further, why should the babus have any role in armed forces promotions? For fairness? Then who ensures
that promotions in the IAS cadre are fair? Why not let the IPS do that role? And let IPS promotions go to the
army to ensure “fairness” all round! If we cannot trust each of the cadre bosses to be fair, then how the hell
did they get appointed in the first place? And what is the “integrity” of the IAS cadre? It was this cadre that
gleefully processed the emergency proclamation. The then Home Secretary, N.K.Mukharji, ICS (later Cabinet
Secretary and the last ICS officer to retire) refused to toe the line. S.L. Khurana, IAS (!) then Chief Secretary
of Rajasthan proved malleable enough and was brought in as Home Secretary. Of course he was later rewarded
with Governorships. The blackest hour in India’s democratic history was initiated by the IAS cadre. And their
willingness to bend or even crawl to the wishes of their political masters, who conveniently choose to remain
ignorant on several aspects of statecraft, ensured rewards. If we have democracy after 1975 it is because of the
armed forces. It is time the Army and other Chiefs start pulling their weight and get meddlesome babus out of
their hair.
Evidently the problems are on account of the sheer lack of knowledge and incompetence of the political class.
And hence they have placed the bureaucracy as armour in front, and this cadre plays its own little games.
Will you trust the Defence Minister to go for a one-on-one talk on border issues with the Chinese Defence
Minister? He will be eaten raw with soya and chilli sauce.
Want civil-military relationship to be put on an even keel? Let the netas learn what it all about. Even though it
will not win elections. Better late than never.