The letter was a small but significant pointer to the larger malaise of the mounting dysfunctional relationship between the civilian leadership and military. The ongoing internecine warfare between the government and former Army chief General V K Singh, with well-calculated and timed leaks, is just the ugliest manifestation of the plummeting equation. There seems to be little concern, on either side, for the institutions being wrecked in the process, says an insider.
The civil-military divide in the sprawling and monkey-infested corridors of South Block is nothing new. But it has got accentuated like never before in recent years. Civilian primacy over the military has, unfortunately, morphed into bureaucratic control ... the political leadership just twiddles its thumbs in masterly inaction. Ex-servicemen, for instance, have been returning hard-won medals for the last five years but to no avail, says a top general. Responds a senior bureaucrat, Demands of the armed forces, which live in their own fiefdoms, have become highly unrealistic. The government, for instance, has hiked ex-servicemen pensions at least three times since the 6th Pay Commission, including a Rs 2,300 crore package last year.
But pay and pensions is just one of the issues. The armed forces complain of being downgraded over the years, which extends to being kept at an arms length from policy formulation & decision-making. Experts say the huge politico-bureaucratic resistance to critical reforms in country's higher defence management suggested by the K Subramanyam-led Kargil Review Committee and the 2001 group of ministers report on reforming the national security system as well as the Naresh Chandra Taskforce last year is one of the main reasons for the failure to bridge the divide.
Just a few months ago, as was then reported by TOI, the defence ministry quietly rejected most of the key recommendations of the Naresh Chandra Taskforce. Pointing to lack of consensus in the armed forces as well as the need to consult political parties, it shot down the proposal to create the post of a permanent chairman of the chiefs of staff committee (CoSC ). This General No.1,a four star officer like the three Service chiefs with a fixed two year tenure, would have been the principal military advisor to the government and an invitee to the Cabinet Committee on Security. He would have also helped usher in some desperately-needed synergy among the Army, Navy and IAF in planning, procurement, operational and doctrinal issues.
Similarly,another key recommendation that was junked was cross-staffing Z posting of military officers to MoD.