Friday, May 09, 2014
The Army Chief Imbroglio –
Speculations and Manipulations
I am flooded with comments on my article ‘Battle of Army Chiefs – Former and the Next’. While the majority of readers have endorsed the views expressed in the said article, there are some who have a different perception of the on-going Army Chief imbroglio. Interestingly, I have received calls from some common friends requesting/advising me to “withdraw or at least revise and soften” the said article. Then there were calls – some from known and some from unknown persons – warning me to “desist from such writing in your own interest or else you’ll repent.” Sadly, my candid and dispassionate analysis of simple facts has been misconstrued to imply ‘defamation’ even as I have equally candidly praised Gen (Retd) VK Singh in the same article in these words, “No doubt, in his (Gen VK Singh’s) rich military experience the next Government might find enough potential to uplift the sagging morale of the Defence Services due to continuing bureaucratic red tape and neglect.” Even today, I believe that there is ample wealth of experience and wisdom in our former Chiefs and senior military veterans, which must be harnessed in formulating national security policies, foreign relations, indigenisation of defence industry and in other areas where their expertise can be of material value. But if such talent comes riding on self-serving and parochial tendencies, it might be rather disastrous for national security than an ignorant greedy politician.
Curious queries as to who would succeed Gen Bikram Singh who hangs his boots on 31 July 2014 are natural and persistent. Will it be the senior most Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag or his immediate junior Lt Gen Ashok Singh or someone else? Guess and gossip are rampant at a time when a government reference to the Election Commission is pending and has made it more tantalising. What is interesting, however, is the fact that while not much is publicly known about the shortcomings of the other contender/s, Suhag's trivial deficiency of not doing 'Staff Course' is now being unfairly traded to portray him in poor light. We all know that the aim of the staff course at DSSC is 'to train potential staff officers', not higher commanders. Also, while qualification on this course carries weightage for promotions up to Col/Brig, it is not even prescribed as an essential criterion for such promotions. Anyone rising higher despite this deficiency is itself an ample proof of his bigger strengths and overriding positive criteria that would have been thoroughly scrutinised through the series of tough selection boards and screening system in place. If 'psc' were so vital a criterion, one should have been stopped at the early stages and not been entitled to command a unit either. Yet, if the suggestion is that even spurious material has been rising to as high levels as Army Commander/Vice Chief, then we should be shocked and have no faith in our system. That would raise serious questions on the quality of our Chiefs and higher military leadership.
Leadership is different from academic excellence. Two personalities of modern India explain it manifestly. India’s outgoing Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has been academically world’s most qualified politician but, at the same time, he has also been called India’s most incompetent, invisible and silent Prime Minister who presided over a dysfunctional government in paralysis. Mrs Indira Gandhi, on the other hand, did not possess even a matriculation certificate. Yet, as a leader, her intellect, shrewdness and cunning compelled many in the world of politics to come around and bow before her.
Careerist mind-set and opportunism are, in fact, the prime culprits that have come to hold sway over our military culture these days. Maturity, vision, capacity to relate with wider spectrum of nation building, unimpeachable character, readiness to sacrifice and courage to put Organisational and national interests ahead of one's own …….are some vital pre-requisites that can give us the right kind of Chiefs. Self-serving indulgence and pursuit of personal ambitions have often exposed some of our Generals in the past.
I have never met or known Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag. On the other hand, Lt Gen Ashok Singh has been an old friend whom I like, respect and admire. His relationship with Gen (Retd) VK Singh notwithstanding, personally I should be rather happy and proud if Ashok became the next Chief of the Army Staff. But that is only if my whims and fancies were to prevail. Ethics and the rule of fair play, however, compel me to respect and support the ‘seniority principle’ in this context.
All army commanders are our top generals who are equally competent and fully fit for the top job. Suhag, however, is the senior most who stands first in this elite group of equally eligible generals. As is well known, he has been cleared by IB, CBI and the CVC. The 'fake-encounter' case recently filed and dismissed in the Manipur HC is curiously reminiscent of a similar case filed in J&K against Gen Bikram Singh to stymie his appointment as COAS to succeed Gen VK Singh in 2012. As shocking as it is shameful!
This sinister game must stop and the perpetrators taken to task. Solidifying the seniority principle at the top stage is the only way to prevent politicisation, manipulation, vendetta and opportunism that are making dangerous inroads in the Defence Forces today.
Modi Sarkar is arriving riding on the popular expectation of 'good governance'. Narendra Modi's proven credentials of honesty, selfless dedication and patriotic vision for a strong unified India infuse hope in the masses and Armed Forces alike. If manipulation triumphed in installing the next Army Chief, it would be the first blot on Modi's spotless reputation of sterling leadership poised to lead India to glorious heights. The moot question is: 'Will he succumb to these wily machinations and palace intrigues?' No; perhaps, NEVER!!