India’s democratic structure had ensured that all these years we were witnessing the post of Army chief as a ceremonial figure head—an experienced man gracing military functions and handling defense paper-work and not in the active public domain. That was before the Adarsh housing scam and the recent leak of sensitive documents which not only has put the defense establishment in a spotlight but also struck at the very core of India’s national security in ways much more serious than the Lokpal issue.
It appears as though when Gen. V.K. Singh assumed the post of Army Chief he brought the scandals and controversies along with him. Starting with his age row which probably for the first time saw an Army General taking the Govt. to court to the recent expose of a ‘rouge element’ offering bribe to him, news from the Defense Ministry are refusing to die down. Gen. V.K. Singh lost face in the wake of his retirement age controversy which can be called humorous at the best. One wonders that when all documents proved otherwise, why was the Chief so keen to continue a year more in office when he could have retired gracefully with all the laurels he had earned during his service life.
Matters became even fishier when suddenly just after that court ruling against him, these new scandals surfaced. Gen. V.K. Singh’s allegation of retired Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh offering him a bribe of 14 crores to clear the purchase of Tatra trucks shook the Indian polity. While the matter needs to be investigated at the highest levels, one cannot help but wonder about the timing of his revelation. As Defense Minister A.K. Antony has said that in spite of his recommendation, Gen. V.K Singh was reluctant to pursue the matter further at that time and has only raised his voice now, after a considerable delay. Also the DRDO has reportedly contradicted the Chief asserting that the trucks are fine and have served the Army quite well, which further raises the interest in the case.
But what has been the bone of contention between the Govt. and the Army Chief is the issue of the ‘leaked’ letter which Gen. V.K. Singh had written to the PM a couple of days ago. With its contents swiftly being made available in the public domain one is reminded of a Julian Assange effect albeit in the Indian context. This letter by the Army Chief lambasts the Army establishment complaining to the authorities of large-scale deficiencies in arms and ammunition of the Army. The spilling of the contents of this highly classified document has put question marks upon the entire National security structure. Maybe the only positive coming out of this fiasco is the unanimous condemnation by all the political parties and their full support to the Govt., something which is rarely seen now-a-days.
Amidst calls for sacking of the Army Chief by the BJP for his alleged anti-national activities, the Center is trying to play it cool by re-assuring everyone that ‘none would be spared’. Defense Minister A.K. Antony has also reiterated that spending is increasing every year with 12,000 crore being allocated in the current Budget plan and reminded all that there is a limit to which the country can afford to invest in the Defense sector. Gen. V.K. Singh perhaps had never perceived this show of solidarity by the Opposition to the Govt. and has markedly toned down his criticisms against A.K. Antony in the recent days.
In the wake of this issue, a more serious one seeking to tarnish his reputation, the General has instead blamed elements in the PMO aiming to malign him. While it sure is a definite possibility, there are questions galore in the minds of the public as to whether this was or not an act of vendetta by the Chief. The General’s pride had been hurt badly by the recent court ruling against him and he might have looked at ways to corner the Govt. If that is the case, the uncanny shows of support by the Opposition to the Govt. sure crashed his plans and forced him to back-track and adopt a softer stance. But we should also keep in mind that Gen. V.K. Singh is well-known for his honesty and integrity and it is doubtful whether he would really stoop this low just to score some brownie points over the Govt.
His take on the issue however, if true, is a matter of serious concern about the credibility of the PMO on such classified matters and raises the alarm to detect the mole who has certainly committed an act of treason as soon as possible. The matter concerned here goes beyond the usual realms of corruption for its anti-national flavor and strict disciplinary action is needed to be taken by the Govt. Over and above, we should keep in mind that the Army is just an arm of the Govt. machinery and at no cost should it be allowed to act in an assertive manner. We are a democracy and not a military-ruled country and the Govt. should show the Defense establishment as to where their authority ends and where the Govt.’s begins.
|This is a Guest Post by Manish Parashar. He is a B.E. Mechanical Engineering student at the Manipal Institute of Technolgy, Manipal.|