Reposing trust and faith in the singular leadership of Mr Modi can be shaken unless corrective action is taken for both, restoring the Pride of the Nation as well as the Armed Forces.
By Brig Pradeep Sharma
Unarmed and bludgeoned to death is not just brutal but inhuman. Images of young bodies, wrapped in the Tri-Colour, lives snuffed out much before their time, of young wives, children, old parents, shedding tears yet standing proud will haunt all Indians for long.
They are the lives of our Armed Forces. Can India afford to sacrifice her youth perennially?
The approach of Governments past and the present has been chequered with a blow hot blow cold attitude, mostly cold though. Governments past and present have ignored this important ‘Pillar of National Strength’ in spite of the threats looking us in the face. In fact, successive Governments have only downgraded the Armed Forces are much to our disadvantage.
History is a Tough Teacher! For those who fail to learn their lessons, she repeats them on & on till they either learn or fade away!
I am reminded of 1947 and the efforts of Politicians /Babus to sideline the Army by doing away with the single point military adviser’s post of a Commander in Chief, appointing 3 Service chiefs to report to the Defence Ministry, distancing them from Decision making. 1962, appointing a politician’s relative as the chief( against the advice of Gen Carriappa), loss of face resulted in the sacking of the Chief but not the Defence Secretary or Defence Minister! 1986 Wangdung, the SIB missed patrolling a particular area once, they were reminded by Delhi and sent out the patrol to find Chinese in a log hut, reports went out to Delhi, not the Division co-located and alarm bells rang creating panic,1999 Kargil when graziers reported an intrusion and 2020 despite all the technology at our disposal, a “professional” as the NSA, Satellites and much more with NTRO, UAVs at formations/Units, the Chinese entered to entrench themselves in a sensitive area!
2014, big promises at an election rally, only to be retracted, the case for OROP as well as Status now rest in court! And then the grand announcement of appointing a CDS.
Reduction of the Armed forces to cheap menial tasks like Yoga, Cleaning Waste, Flowers and Band at the cost of detracting from the Primary Task!
Ignoring Intelligence indicators, diverting attention on CAA, Politics and Visits by Foreign dignitaries did not help. 20 brutally clubbed to death by Chinese!
Is National Defence getting the attention it deserves?
Are our Armed Forces sacrificial goats to be killed at the altar of follies of higher leadership, political or military? Can one equate the Standoff today with ’62? Many would not agree, while many others just might!
Lack of authority and direction is reflected not only from the political leadership but also the bureaucracy.
Checks and balances adapted from the white hall system of office management was diluted, circumvented or defaced so that accountability of the politico-bureaucratic edifice was mired in ambiguity and ambivalence.
The President of India is ‘The Supreme Commander of Indian Armed Forces’. However, the constitution does not assign him any specific role.
Do our constitutional provisions hold someone accountable for security lapses? No! The Chiefs are not members of CCS, thus the CCS is not privy to professional advice on Military matters institutionally. First & Second Schedule lay down the framework of Rules of Business to be conducted by Government Departments and distribution of subjects, all the Departments of the Ministry of Defence are headed by secretaries who are bureaucrats. It has to be done through the Departments i.e. Secretaries (Babus) who are responsible to the Raksha Mantri and head the Department of Defence.
The Defence Secretary who is responsible for “Defence of India and every part thereof including preparation for defence and all such acts as may be conducive in times of war to its prosecution and after its termination to effective demobilisation”, does not answer to the Nation for Defence Preparedness or lack of it!
‘Reserved for IAS, it is not possible for ex-forces to become Secretary of Defence. However, ex-forces are eligible to be appointed as National Security Advisor, although such appointments have been restricted to Indian Foreign Service or Indian Police Service cadres in the past. The much talked about nexus between the ‘Babu’ with book knowledge and a Cop who cannot be expected to know what it takes to build Military Power, runs down the Armed Forces through ‘either lack of knowledge or one-upmanship’ either way, it does not serve the Nation well.’
2014 promised a much-required change with the announcements of OROP at the pre-election rally attended by many Veterans. Hopes and aspirations were soon dashed to the ground with the newly elected Government retracting from their commitments and further running the organisation down. Veterans to demonstrating at Jantar Mantar lathi-charged. The case now rests in Court as does a PIL in the Delhi High Court questioning the unauthorized, illegal, continuous and concerted down gradation of the status, and equivalence of Defence personnel viz their Civilian counterparts.
The period from 2014 until now has seen litigation as never before! The Hon’ble Supreme Court has been pleased to impose fines on the MOD for frivolous cases amongst other things.
The image and standing of the Armed Forces was further dented by serious issues piling up, 7CPC, Status down gradation, Opening of Cantonments , Reduction in CSD facilities, Disability Pensions, NFFU , Ill-timed announcement of Make in India further reducing the modernisation inventory.
Distanced from decision making, diverted from their primary role they are made to indulge in physical acts like performing Yoga/Spreading mats, cleaning tourist waste in Leh, showering floral tributes and band displays during COVID to name a few.
The result of reducing the popularity of the Army to such a low has led to a proposal for closure of OTA Gaya due to drop in candidates; OTA Chennai fills only 50% seats.
Media, experts, Army Headquarters under the CDS , Government of the day have been very vocal in running down the pride of the Indian Army.
Let me be blunt in suggesting that the Army is not a Corporate where you can ’Down Size, Right Size, Repackage and Recover Losses’. Our young officers lead from the front, they shoulder the onerous responsibilities for lives and national pride both irretrievable once lost.
Playing politics with the Armed forces amounts to playing politics with National Interest and the ability to safeguard it.
What led to the Stand-Off?
There could be multiple reasons as put across by ‘Experts’. However, it all boils down to a ‘Conflict of Interest’ and China using the Indian dispensation’s ’Blind Eye’ or indifference as well as preoccupation on politics, took the initiative. They now have the 1st mover advantage and refuse to vacate.
Is this Kargil Revisited?
India’s security agencies under the capable NSA apparently missed the inputs. The Defence Secretary took ill and the BJP involved in politics at Bengal and elsewhere!
To cover one lie, a hundred more must be invented! At what cost?
The India of today is respected the world over, apart from economic growth, international relations across the board are healthy, an elected member at the UNSC and heading the WHO are pointers. However, despite even the USA has only expressed ‘Concern and advised restraint’ on the standoff. Do we need to be told that we need a strong military power? Can we accept a loss of our military credibility/strength?
Blood is boiling over the loss of lives, a large crowd gathered at the funeral of a martyr in Patiala, glum, teary-eyed but reflecting solemn resolve for revenge!
The PM’s statement, raised speculations, Armed Forces being given a ‘Free Hand’? What does it mean? Are we going on the offensive? A limited offensive or a riposte? The longer we wait the deeper the Chinese will dig. The question is loud and clear; are we willing to cross the Rubicon if so, let the enemy guess and worry? Reposing trust and faith in the singular leadership of Mr Modi can be shaken unless corrective action is taken for both, restoring the Pride of the Nation as well as the Armed Forces.
Last but not least, does this indicate the need for a review of policies? Of accountability? A Strong Military Force. Need for Citizens & Government alike to Restore the Pride of the Nation and Army?
(The author is an Indian Army Veteran. Views expressed are personal.)