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Monday, 13 February 2012

From Today's Papers - 13 Feb 2012
Defusing the age row
Supreme Court’s role very positive

The Supreme Court deserves to be commended for the manner in which it has settled the dispute over the date of birth of the Army chief, General V.K. Singh, in the official service record. With the right mix of judiciousness and well-meaning diplomacy it has disposed of a writ petition filed by General Singh while at the same time taking care not to embarrass him. Yet, Justices R.M. Lodha and H.L. Gokhale exercised a degree of firmness that enhanced the prestige and dignity of the court. The Tribune which had carried a six-part series delving deep into the issue in an incisive and dispassionate way is particularly relieved at the appropriate end to this controversy. Prolonged litigation could well have led to washing the dirty linen in public and would predictably have affected the long-term morale of the armed forces. By its expeditious resolution the apex court has nipped that possibility in the bud.

While making it clear that the question raised by General Singh was not about the determination of his actual date of birth but related to the recognition of a particular date of birth by the Defence Ministry in the official service record, the bench told General Singh unambiguously that while the bench was not questioning the General’s efforts to reconcile the records he would have to abide by his commitment and honour his letters of 2008 and 2009 accepting the date of birth as May 10, 1950. Justice Lodha told General Singh’s counsel that the court could interfere in such decisions only if the order suffered from perversity or it was grossly erroneous. “We don't think in this case we should interfere,” he added.

The bench protected the General’s sense of honour and upheld his integrity when it said “We want to ensure [that] as Chief of Army you continue to serve the country as you did for 38 years. This verdict should not come in your way. Wise men are those who move with the wind. We take pride in having [an] officer like you. Credit must go to you.” Amid speculation, it is now up to General Singh to decide whether he continues in office till the end of his term at May-end or he puts in his papers prematurely. In either case, it would be apt if his decision is duly respected and not dragged into a fresh controversy.
India’s decision on Rafale
Why the combat jet deal causes ripples in Britain
by Harsh V. Pant

First it was the United States that got annoyed and now it is Great Britain’s turn to ask some tough questions about its India policy. Ever since the French Rafale fighter has been declared the lowest bidder in the multi-billion dollar contract to provide a new generation fighter for the Indian Air Force, a debate is raging in the UK as to what has gone wrong with David Cameron’s charm offensive in wooing India. His visit to India in 2010 was widely viewed as highly successful. He made all the right noises in India about Pakistan and terrorism, and the UK-India ties finally turned a new corner. The Cameron government has also decided to give India £1.4 billion between now and 2015, amounting to almost 1 per cent of Britain’s own £159 billion debts. But when it came to the much-sought-after Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) contract, France was the winner and the Eurofighter, produced by a consortium of four nations, including Britain’s BAE systems, the loser. Apparently, saying right things and giving aid doesn’t get you any influence in New Delhi!

From the very beginning, this saga has been rather interesting. Last year in April, India rejected bids by Lockheed Martin and Boeing (along with Russian and Swedish bids) for the $10 billion-plus contract for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft, despite extensive lobbying by the US military-industrial complex, supported by President Barack Obama himself. Nothing works better in New Delhi than a put-down to the US — and that was quite a snub indeed! Instead, New Delhi shortlisted Dassault Aviation's Rafale and the Eurofighter consortium's Typhoon. There were extensive field trials, and technical considerations ostensibly drove the final decision. But the dismay in Washington was widespread and to some extent understandable, given the investment that the US has made in cultivating India in recent years. As if to underscore the importance of this development, the US Ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer, also decided to announce his resignation at the same time when the decision on MMRCA was being made public, though he insisted that his resignation was related to "personal, professional and family considerations".

At a time when the political dispensation in New Delhi was embroiled in a host of corruption-related scandals, it used this decision to insulate itself from charges of favouritism towards America. To its domestic policy critics, the government signalled that despite all that the US military-industrial complex could do, India refused to budge. To its foreign policy critics, there was a signal that New Delhi remained in thrall to no one, not even the US. The UPA government had been viewed as being too cozy with the US and there were signs of discontent within the ruling Congress party itself on this score. Some of the revelations by WikiLeaks about the pressure on New Delhi during the negotiations over the US-India civilian nuclear pact had put the government in a difficult position. The decision on MMRCA allowed the government to make a case that it was its own master.

The focus then shifted to the French-British rivalry over Rafale versus Eurofighter with the French coming out on top. Dassault Aviation, Rafale’s French manufacturer, will be entering into commercial negotiations with India over the next few months before the final deals are signed. But this is a company that has been struggling to get foreign buyers, so it would be keen on signing the contract more or less on Indian terms. Deemed as expensive and not cutting edge, the Netherlands, South Korea, Singapore, Morocco, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland have all turned Rafale down in the last few years. India, in more ways than one, will now be subsidising the French defence sector.

India’s decision was clearly influenced by the price factor as the EADS Eurofighter Typhoon is a much more expensive venture. But technology transfer was clearly another guiding factor with the tender stipulating 50 per cent direct offset obligation for the winning bidder. The Indian Air Force’s familiarity with French Mirage 2000 aircraft would also have helped, as Rafale is operationally and technically similar to Mirage 2000. India would be buying the aircraft over 10 years with 18 Rafale jets being built in Dassault plants in France and 108 will be assembled by Hindustan Aeronautics in India.

Coming just before French elections in which Nicholas Sarkozy is trailing, this decision will boost his campaign. No wonder, Sarkozy was euphoric suggesting that “France is delighted at the decision by the Indian government…It will include important technology transfers guaranteed by the French government.” At a time when major European countries are drastically cutting down their defence budgets, the defence sector needs external help to survive, and the Indian decision will be a big help to France. Dassault was quick to react, saying that it is “honoured and grateful to the government and people of India”. In Britain, on the other hand, there are fears of job losses at the BAE Systems which owns 33 per cent of Eurofighter. The deal has been described a “major win for France, and a major loss for the UK.” The UK government, at least publicly, is still hoping that New Delhi could yet reject the French offer and turn to Eurofighter.

This is India’s largest defence contract at a time when its defence modernisation programme has been attracting a lot of attention. The fighter levels in the IAF have dropped to an all-time low of 32 squadrons compared to an official level of 39.5 and desired 42 squadrons. The IAF is desperate to replace its ageing fleet of MiG-21 fighters.

At one level, the seeming transparency of the process should indeed be heartening to those who have been puzzled by India's inability to get its defence modernisation programme on track for some time now. For a usually lackadaisical Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) this is a welcome change. After years of returning unspent money, the MoD last year not only managed to spend its entire budget but also asked for money to spend on capital procurement. And now with the movement on MMRCA bids, it is clear that the ministry wants to move swiftly on new defence procurement, relegating its ultra-cautious approach to the sidelines.

But there is a larger question that still needs to be answered. Major defence purchases are not an end in themselves. Ideally, they should be a means of helping a nation achieve its strategic objectives. It’s not readily evident what strategic objectives of India are being served by choosing Rafale over Typhoon. One can only hope that the Indian defence establishment is not missing the wood for the trees!n
Assam to house CRPF Cobra Force base for N-E
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, February 12
With Maoists trying to fish in the troubled waters of the North-East, a base of the newly-created elite Cobra Force of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is being set up in Assam to cater to needs of insurgency-hit North-eastern states. The base of the force in the form of a battalion headquarter will be set up in Darrang district of Assam.

The Assam Cabinet will soon take a decision approving setting up of the base of Cobra Force in the state, a home department source said. In fact, Assam government had requested the Centre to set up National Security Guards (NSG) base in the state, but New Delhi instead agreed to post a base of Cobra Force. The base will be a battalion headquarter of the force meant for the entire North-East.

The Assam Government is now required to provide at least 300 acre land free of cost to facilitate the base of the elite force. The training facility in the Cobra Force base could be a boon for Assam Police personnel when it comes to specialised training for combating insurgent Maoists.
Army Chief leaves for UK today

New Delhi, February 12
Army Chief General VK Singh is leaving for the UK tomorrow on a five-day official visit as scheduled that could ward off speculation about his resignation soon after he lost the legal battle on his age row in the Supreme Court.

In the first visit to the UK by an Indian Army Chief in four years, Gen Singh will be interacting with senior military and civilian hierarchy and discussing various defence related issues to strengthen existing defence ties with that country. — PTI
New Delhi:  Army Chief General V K Singh is leaving for the UK tomorrow on a five-day official visit as scheduled that could ward off speculation about his resignation soon after he lost the legal battle on his age row in the Supreme Court.

In the first visit to the UK by an Indian Army Chief in four years, Gen Singh will be interacting with senior military and civilian hierarchy and discussing various defence related issues to strengthen existing defence ties with that country.

A release issued by the Army said Gen Singh's visit will last till Friday. The last visit by a COAS to the UK was in March 2008.

This will be the Army Chief's first visit abroad after the Supreme Court order on his age row on February 10, which said the government decision on his date of birth will apply to his service matters, forcing him to withdraw his petition.

Soon after the order, there was intense media speculation that the Army chief could quit soon even before his term is over as a number of names made rounds for the next COAS. General Singh is due to retire on May 31.

The Army chief plans to return to the country by February 20, sources said today.

India shares good bilateral and strategic relations with the UK that are multifaceted and have been strengthened over the years, with regular exchange of visits at political, diplomatic and military levels.

A strong bilateral relationship is of priority of both countries, for economic, commercial, historical and foreign policy reasons and the large Indian diaspora in UK.

The visit by the COAS will add the necessary impetus to the existing defence relationship and broad-base it, into a mutually beneficial partnership, the release said.

Read more at:
Ex-armyman’s war on illegal posters
MUMBAI: A retired Indian Army colonel, who had earlier tied up with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to pull down illegal posters on city roads, has now moved his fight to Mumbai.

Col (retd) Shivraj (79) has now vowed to rid Mumbai of illegal posters, hoardings and banners.

"I visit my daughter, who lives in Colaba, every year. I was walking down Marine Drive when I noticed the stretch was full of illegal posters. I was appalled at how it marred the beauty of such an important landmark. I decided that I would replicate the Delhi model in Mumbai as well," said Shivraj.

Shivraj is active on social networking sites and has roped in 200 people from across the city who are now actively involved in removing illegal posters and banners. Shivraj has met city bigwigs to attract attention to the cause. In a meeting with local corporators last week, he briefed them on the Maharashtra Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 1995. "It was shocking to know that most of our south Mumbai leaders had no clue about this law and were surprised that putting up posters was a punishable offence. They promised their support in getting the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to take action against offenders," said Shivraj.

However, the volunteers have also faced harassment. Volunteers in Cuffe Parade were roughed up by political party workers in January when they tried to remove their poll posters.

To avoid trouble, Shivraj met joint commissioner of police (law and order), Rajneesh Seth on Thursday. Impressed with his efforts, Seth promised him that the police would remain vigilant and cooperate with his team at all times.
They’re old enough
It is not my intention to cause a sudden dip in morale in the Indian armed forces, a dip so vertiginous that when the Chinese are amassed at the Mehrauli crossing, our soldiers will be able to do nothing. But the crisis that reached its climax last week involving the date of birth of India’s army
chief strikes me as being incredibly banal. How many angels can dance on a pin head being replaced by how many candles should be there on our army chief's birthday cake on May 10?

Don’t get me wrong. The fact that the spat between the ministry of defence and the army chief — which in institutional terms means the hand-to-hand combat between the Government of India and the Indian Army — was played out in public must have been disconcerting for patriots on both sides of the civilian-military border. On following the spat in the Indian media, the aforementioned Chinese must have plied themselves with endless mai tais and gleefully quoted from Du Fu’s ‘Ballad of the Ancient Cypress’, lines that only Vikram Seth would be able to faithfully translate as “If a great hall should teeter, wanting rafters and beams,/ Ten thousand oxen would turn their heads towards its mountain's weight.” That a quarrel had broken out between the army and the civilian government was serious. But what surely can’t be is the reason for this dangerous eyeballing: whether the army chief was bluffing about his age.

Here’s the source of the fracas in a nutshell: General VK Singh insisted that his date of birth is May 10, 1951 — and not May 10, 1950, as according to the service records that Singh had himself provided when he had applied for the National Defence Academy (NDA) when he was 14 (which means that he must have been then 13). I’ve conducted similar age-propping strategies when I was 14 (but was actually 15) to cover up the fact that I had lost a year when getting into school for the first time. I hope to dear god that by constantly repeating my real age for the last decade or so to people, especially to ladies who profess a fondness for older men, I have made amends.

So at best, Singh was guilty of some minor age-shuffling so that he could get into the NDA a year early. Today, that has come to bite him in his rear formation. This, to me, could have been easily sorted out by some clerical whiz in the government, if the civvies in the defence ministry wanted. Instead, it became an infructuous contest which even the Supreme Court labelled as being “a vital matter for the entire nation”. A vital matter for the entire nation. Really?

I’m told it’s about ‘honour’. In August 31, 1959, army chief General KS Thimayya offered to resign after a spat with defence minister VK Krishna Menon over, among other things, the latter’s refusal to consider the chief of army staff’s plans for preparing for a looming India-China conflict — which Menon thought was only gathering force in the brain of a restless military man. Nehru did manage to convince Thimayya to stay on as army chief till the latter retired in 1961 — even as the PM backed the wrong horse Menon into the winter of ’62.

Nehru had told Parliament in September 1959, the House agitated over a army chief-defence minister quarrel, that the issues involved in Thimayya’s attempted resignation were “rather trivial and of no consequence”, and that they arose “from temperamental differences and did not include promotions”. I can bet my 21st battalion that the spat didn’t arise because of promotions etc but because of the matter of Menon shrugging his shoulders each time Thimayya uttered the word ‘China’.

Now that was a spat I can understand where honour must have crept in. What loss of honour was General Singh worried about? That he’s been branded a liar by AK Antony and his para-militaries? But according to his own logic, he must have lied at least once — either when he was 13 or 14, or now when he’s 60 or 61. He told the court that he would resign in 48 hours the moment the government accepted he was 60. The problem for the court was trusting a man’s sense of hours when he’s mixed up 365 days. But, most incredibly, the court said that it was “not concerned with determining his age” and went on to utter something four days before Valentine’s Day about understanding the “pain in your heart of having your date of birth not being corrected”.

I think I just heard a gaggle of tipsy but sure-about-their-ages Chinese generals roll with laughter on the red carpeted floor while quoting one of Sun Tzu’s five dangerous faults that may affect a general — which Vikram Seth would faithfully translate as “A delicacy of honour that is sensitive to shame.”
Race hots up amid buzz that Army chief may resign
NEW DELHI: Eastern Army commander Lt-General Bikram Singh remains the clear front-runner to become the next chief of the 1.13-million strong force. But amid mounting speculation that Army chief Gen V K Singh will resign before his tenure ends on May 31, two other Army commanders, Lt-Generals Shankar Ghosh (Western) and V K Ahluwalia (Central), are also in the reckoning for the coveted post.

While Lt-Gen Bikram Singh of the Sikh Light Infantry passed out from the Indian Military Academy in March, 1972, Lt-Gens Ghosh and Ahluwalia are senior to him, having being commissioned in November, 1971.

The latter two would retire as per schedule, if Gen V K Singh decides to carry on till May 31. While Lt-Gens retire at 60, a military chief can serve for three years or upto the age of 62, whichever is earlier.

But what could queer the pitch for Lt-Gen Ghosh (Guards Regiment) is a question mark over his medical category since he is suffering from "osteoarthritis of the right hip joint".

The second in the line of seniority, Lt-Gen Ahluwalia (Artillery), can only be considered for the top job, if Gen V K Singh decides to resign in February since the former is slated to retire on February 29.

A top government source said the chapter on Gen Singh's tenure was "finally over", irrespective of whether he decides to resign or completes his tenure. The government is looking ahead and readying succession plan.

"All options are being kept open...but it's not mandatory for the government to pick the seniormost Army commander if Gen V K Singh suddenly decides to put in his papers," said government sources on Saturday. This can mean that Lt-Gen Bikram Singh in all probability will be the next Army chief even if Gen V K Singh decides to hang his boots earlier than scheduled.

Right since the Independence, successive governments have been wary of rocking the seniority boat while appointing military chiefs. The supersession of Lt-Gen S K Sinha by Indira Gandhi to appoint Gen A S Vaidya as the Army chief in the early 1980s has been one of the rare exceptions.

As earlier reported by TOI, Gen V K Singh does not seem to be in favour of Lt-Gen Bikram Singh succeeding him since he believes his date of birth was not corrected despite his repeated attempts since former chiefs like Gens J J Singh and Deepak Kapoor allegedly wanted to fix the succession chain in favour of the present Eastern Army commander.

The Army chief himself spent Saturday closeted with his lawyers and advisers after returning to the Capital in the morning. He had left for Jaipur on Friday afternoon on an official trip to the South-Western Army Command a couple of hours after losing his legal battle in the Supreme Court to get his date of birth changed from 'May 10, 1950' to 'May 10, 1951'.

Defence minister A K Antony and Gen V K Singh are both slated to go abroad on Monday on official tours. While Antony heads for a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, Gen Singh will leave for the UK on a four-day tour. The two have generally avoided each other since the beginning of February. The wide-spread feeling in both military and civilian quarters in South Block is that if the Army chief decides to continue in office, he will be reduced to "a lame-duck chief" due to the "huge trust deficit" between him and Antony.
Defence Ministry forms panel for selecting next army chief

    NEW DELHI: With the Supreme Court holding that 1950 should be treated as Gen V K Singh's date of birth, all eyes are now on who his successor would be for which the Defence Ministry has already formed a panel.

    The ministry panel includes the senior-most Lieutenant Generals for selecting the next army chief, sources said here. The three senior-most officers are Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Bikram Singh, Northern Army Commander Lt Gen K T Parnaik and present Vice Chief of Army Lt Gen Shri Krishna Singh.

    Traditionally, the senior-most officer from the panel is appointed as the army chief. In this case, Lt Gen Bikram Singh is the senior-most and most-likely to be appointed for the top post. Of the remaining two officers, Lt Gen Parnaik is senior to Lt Gen Shri Krishna.

    Sources said in case Gen Singh decides to resign before the end of his tenure on May 31, the government is ready with its contingency plans. They said in case Gen Singh resigns in the next few days, Western Army Commander Lt Gen Shankar Rajan Ghosh can also be considered for the appointment.

    Lt Gen Ghosh is the seniormost officer after the Gen Singh in the Army.

    The apex today court told Gen Singh that he cannot resile on his commitment that he would abide by the government decision to treat his date of birth as May 10, 1950 and rejected the contention of "prejudice" and "perversity".
Pakistan army must be held to account
Army guns down youth in Baramulla
While the army chief was busy “fighting for his honour” in the capital, his troops allegedly shot dead a youth in Laisar village, Baramulla district, sparking massive public protests.

Locals said Ashiq Hussain Rather was killed when the troops of 32 Rashtriya Rifles opened fire last night killing him on the spot. As the news about the incident spread, people took to streets and staged massive protests against the killing.

The villagers refused to bury the body throughout the night. It was only after assurances from the authorities that a probe would be ordered and the guilty punished that the people buried the body amid pro-freedom slogans.

“A case has been registered (against the army). The army too has ordered a probe. We too will look into it”, said Bashir Ahmad Bhat, district collector, Baramulla.

A defence spokesman at Srinagar said that a column of 32 Rashtriya Rifles established a cordon near a group of houses based on intelligence inputs about the presence of terrorists in the village. “The presence of the army created some panic in a house, which led to an accidental discharge of a weapon in the hands of a Rashtriya Rifles soldier. The single bullet which was discharged hit one of the occupants of the house, Ashiq Hussian, who expired on the spot,” he said.

The defence spokesman said that the general officer commanding 15 corps, lieutenant general SA Hasnain, minister of state for home Nasir Aslam Wani, and Jammu and Kashmir DGP Kuldeep Khoda met a delegation from the village and confirmed that the unfortunate death was by an accidental discharge of a weapon and offered condolences to the family.

“The general officer commanding confirmed the institution of a military court of inquiry while the minister of state for home promised a parallel magisterial inquiry to confirm the chain of events and (to come up with) measures to prevent recurrence of such incidents”, he said.

The defence spokesman said attempts to escalate the situation by some elements were defused by the timely visit of high ranking military, state and police officials, admission of the innocence of the deceased and promise of necessary and timely compensation through ex gratia.
Army chief keeps everyone guessing

New Delhi, Feb. 11: General V.K. Singh returned to New Delhi from Jaipur this afternoon, a day after losing his case in the Supreme Court, wondering if he should take the road to Gurgaon via London.

The army chief has his own simple apartment in Gurgaon, the Delhi suburb about an hour’s drive from Rajaji Marg’s Army House that he currently occupies. But in the event that he decides to defer a decision to resign, that journey could take nine days. He is scheduled for an official visit to the UK from Monday and return to Delhi on the 20th.

Cancelling the tour to UK, in the course of which he has appointments with not only his British counterpart but also the UK defence secretary, may have diplomatic implications.

General Singh was closeted with family and friends at home since his return from Jaipur in the afternoon. There is no word from the army chief on whether he is resigning.

A friend of the General’s said: “Though the court said he is an honourable man, it will be difficult for the army chief and the government to work together not only because of the trust deficit but also because of bad blood.”

His modest apartment in Gurgaon, to which General Singh may retire, has none of the power and pelf of Army House.

Should General Singh decide to resign from service — as most of his friends have been advising him — he will have to address the President, who is the supreme commander of the armed forces, and inform defence minister A.K. Antony.

Despite having offices on the same floor of the integrated headquarters of the ministry of defence in South Block, Antony and the army chief are unlikely to come face-to-face over the next week.

“If I were in his shoes, I would have resigned within an hour of what the court said yesterday,” said Major General (retired) G.D. Bakshi, the officer with the handlebar moustache who is now a familiar face on television channels as one of General Singh’s ardent and voluble supporters.

“He is a General who has seen combat and such officers are held in high esteem by soldiers. But after this (court order) if he continues it will be a fall from grace,” Bakshi added.

Antony is also slated to go overseas on Monday. After inaugurating the 14th Asian Security Conference at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis in Delhi, Antony takes his flight to Saudi Arabia, the first visit by an Indian defence minister to the Islamic state. He will spend two days in Riyadh before returning to Delhi.

Antony will be leading a high-level delegation, including defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma, Vice-Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen. S.K. Singh, Deputy Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Satish Soni and Air Vice Marshal M.R. Pawar.

Since withdrawing his petition in the Supreme Court, the General has gone about business as usual. He left for Jaipur with his wife, Bharti Singh, where he and the South Western Army Commander, Lt General Gyan Bhushan supervised an exercise.

“The Chief of Army Staff interacted with all officers of Jaipur Military Station. During the interaction, he impressed upon them the strengths and core competencies of the Indian Army and enjoined the officers to inculcate the deepest sense of professionalism while working in the interest of the nation,” an army statement said.

“He also stressed on the rich traditions and the value system base and emphasised the importance to remain focused on the job at hand while preparing for all contingencies.”

In the UK, General Singh is scheduled to visit the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst “the cradle of the Indian Army’s leadership in pre-independence India.” The chief, who a commando (Ranger), is also scheduled to interact with the UK’s special forces.
General VK Singh's age row: The Army must set its own house in order
The army chief's birthday will fade from memory but a host of issues remain. First, the no-love-lost relationship between the armed forces and the Department of Defence (DoD) with the politician usually siding with the DoD. This has a history. The Indian army had no role to play in the independence movement.

In fact, those who fought against the British, of the INA, were court-martialled, dismissed or penalised. If we really had fought for our independence, someone must explain why the 'independent' government needed Britishers to head the armed forces after independence. Had those who really fought for independence become our leaders we would have been a different nation.

The British divided and ruled but we honed it to a finer art after independence. The office of the Commander-in-Chief, the No 2 in India during the Raj, was split into three parts by an ever suspecting political and bureaucratic class.

True, the army is subservient to the civil power but that civil power is the government and not the defence secretary. That none of the netas and babus were ever a part of the armed forces (as in other countries with equally large armies) hardly helps.

Will we ever have the courage to send our defence minister alone for a one-on-one talk on border issues with the Chinese defence minister? Contrast this with the US where under the Goldwater-Nichols Act (1984), all field commanders report only to the defence secretary (equivalent to our defence minister).

Will our political leadership ever become or want to become savvy in defence matters? Or is it more convenient to play the role of the monkey dividing the bread between the DoD and the army? Most defence ministers are more worried as to who the collector and DSP are in his constituency than the army chief.

After all, the army chief is not going to help in winning elections, though it would be correct to state that our democracy today is held up by the armed forces rather than the so-called pillars of democracy.

The sooner the frictional relationships are sorted out the better. For a start let the defence minister decide that files from the armed forces chiefs will not go to the defence secretary. Does the defence minister not trust the chiefs or is he solely enlightened by the defence secretary?

Further, the days of a separate army, navy and air force are over. Vision 2020 demands that we have just two forces - Ground & Tactical Force and the Strategic & Nuclear Force. The first is a combination of the army and the air force and the second a combination of the air force and the navy.

A Chief of Defence Staff - always from the army (even the US follows this in all operations; and our borders are always in operational mode) - is fast required. The defence secretary also should report to him. If the Railways and Atomic Energy Departments can run themselves why not the armed forces?

Had the media asked the right questions then correct answers would have been forced out from both sides. The media was also initially reluctant to go into the issue of the motives behind the controversy and the dramatis personae. That too would have forced the truth to come and let out several meows out of the bag.
Statements in the media that there is a "succession plan" and that even if the chief resigns the vice-chief would officiate till the "anointed successor' could take over actually revealed the true intentions behind the snafu, assuming these were not the media's imagination.

Lastly the armed forces. First, they should shake off the bestowed image that they are the paragon of virtue, integrity and loyalty, an unnecessary "honour" that is handy for the media and the government to make anything that the army or its officers do vis-a-vis the government look bad.

Why should the standards of integrity for the army be higher than that expected of the civilian power that it is subservient to? One can understand that the legislature and executive represent the values of society, but what about the judiciary?

And if the army's standards are to be the highest, then by what moral right does the civil power claim supremacy? All that the armed forces should show is that wrong-doers are quickly and effectively punished. Witness the speed in the proceedings in the Sukhna scam and contrast it with the Aadarsh scam. In the latter the army officers were smart to rope in babus and netas and thus this scam will slowly be allowed to fade from memory. Any bets?

Next, let the armed forces set aside turf battles. There is a joke that when the army is not fighting the country's enemies it fights the air force and the navy! When this not possible, armoured corps fights infantry who fights artillery.

If the armed forces can get their act together - be sure that the babus and netas will go all out to prevent this - then the age of the chief will hardly matter. Now, as the familiar question asks: do they have it in them?

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