Army chief General Bipin Rawat said there was a politicisation of the armed forces and the military “should be somehow” kept away from politics. The army chief also said the norm in the “good old days” was never to discuss women and politics in the forces. However, these subjects were gradually “inching” their way into the discourse and this should be avoided, the army chief added. “The military should be somehow kept out of politics. Of late, we have been seeing that politicisation of the military has been taking place. I think we operate in a very secular environment. We have a very vibrant democracy where the military should stay far away from the polity,” he said. Rawat was speaking at an event organised by the United Service Institution. Gen Rawat has been one of the most outspoken army generals to head the over 12-lakh strong force. He has commented on a range of issues since taking over as the army chief nearly a year ago.
In May, he had stoutly defended the use of a Kashmiri as “human shield” by a young army officer in Kashmir, saying “dirty war” has to be fought through “innovative” ways. Earlier this year, he had also said that those anti- obstructing the armed forces in anti-terror operations would be treated as overground workers of militant organisations. At a book release function in Pune last week, Gen Rawat had talked about the army’s operation against the NSCN-K militant hideouts in Myanmar. In his address today, Gen Rawat said in the “good old days”, the norm was that women and politics were never discussed in the forces, adding these subjects were gradually “inching” their way into the discourse and it should be avoided. “Whenever (any) issue (of) linking any military establishment or military personnel where political entity comes in then…that is best avoided,” he said.
The army chief declined to elaborate on the statement. The defence forces, he asserted, do best when they don’t meddle in the political affairs of the nation. Responding to criticism over the army being asked to build foot overbridges following the stampede at Mumbai’s Elphinstone railway station in October, Rawat said there is a charter of aid to civilians under which the armed forces help out in times of crises such as floods and earthquakes.
Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, who is also the chairman of the powerful chiefs of staff committee (CoSC), has taken up the issue of capping educational assistance with the defence ministry, he said.
There has been some resentment in the three services of the armed forces over the defence ministry’s decision to cap the educational assistance it gives to children of martyrs or those disabled in action at Rs 10,000 per month. Rawat added that there was a “misunderstanding” on the issue and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had assured that addressing the problem was a priority, Rawat added. The army chief also noted that there was radicalisation among the youth by terror outfits and the issue was being addressed.