Thursday, October 27, 2016
BE A FORCE TO RECKON WITH, SHUN POLITICKING - BY LT GEN BHOPINDER SINGH (RETD)
NEHRU was a utopian idealist with a dim view about the role and relevance of the armed forces, "We don't need a defence plan. Our policy is non-violence. We foresee no military threats. You can scrap the Army. The police are good enough to meet our security needs".
Seen institutionally, as a legacy of the Empire — Nehru suffered the looming suspicion of a potential coup d'état, a la Pakistan in 1958. The debilitating “secondment” of the armed forces started immediately with the banishment of the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces — an earlier avatar of a much-bandied CDS (Chief of Defence Staff) today, who was second in the warrant of precedence.
Today, the Army Chief has been steadily relegated to 12th in the warrant of precedence — an inexplicable slide that ironically followed every major engagement. For example, the 1962 war (saw the COAS go below the Cabinet Secretary), in the 1965 war (went further below to the Attorney General) and the 1971 war (saw the COAS go below the CAG, besides initiating the OROP disparities vis-à-vis other Governmental functionaries).
The damage was systemically infused, with the leftist-internationalist Nehru, disregarding the “security imperatives”, whilst propounding his strategic framework of the policies, for instance the disastrous “Forward Policy”, enforcing a loyalist VK Menon as the Defence Minister to keep the armed forces in “check” and the fracas with General Thimayya.
The military was consistently squeezed for critical equipment and wares, susceptible to political interference and there was the emergence of the “pull" factor in major appointments. The inevitable ensued in 1962. Even the subsequent turn-around with the military glories of 1965 and 1971, did little to change the narrative of a wary political class, milking the armed forces with disdain. Appropriating military success
All political dispensations, without exception, are guilty of appropriating military success for harvesting electoral yield. The "Indira Wave" of 1972 owes its energy to the 1971 victory.
Since then, multiple deployments in counter-insurgency, Siachen, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Kargil etc., have only led to condescending motherhood statements attributed to the armed forces.
The political-civil-administrative nexus of all the political parties has perpetuated the rot — be it George Fernandes insisting that the then Army Chief SF Rodrigues apologise for calling some countries "bandicoot", to the sacking of the Naval Chief in 1999 by the NDA Govt or the debilitating lack of investment by the UPA Govt. Of course, to the now-successful espousal of the concerns of the Armed Forces in the run-up to the 2014 General Election.
However, with the subsequent short-changing and reneging of OROP promises and the inelegant political usurpation of the "surgical strikes", as a demonstration of political brilliance!
The agenda of all politicians, irrespective of the theatrics and shenanigans on the hyper-nationalistic debates in the television rooms, has been guilty of politicising the Armed Forces. This is done while ensuring a parallel run of “secondment” by going back on OROP commitments, and worse, knowingly accepting the deviousness of the 7th Pay Commission which retains the sliding trend.
Our national policies are bereft of adequate security dimensions and appreciation. Therefore, we need more participation of the military or the veterans in the public domain. Unlike China or the USA, the composition of the national security framework is devoid of the military expertise (the NSA of Pakistan is a military veteran).
It does not matter which political party a veteran joins. The more widespread the representation, the better would be the espousal of the institutional cause, perspective and dimension towards political policies. However, the clear usurpation of the military to be an exclusive domain of any one party is a regrettable position and a clear spin in political marketing.
The concerns in the official status, emoluments, equipment and investments in the Armed Forces remains unequivocally unfair. The increased pressure put on the Military to pick up the gauntlet for the other failed Governmental Institutions, has only increased.
The much-required presence of the military men in the television newsroom has unfortunately transgressed from propagating institutional concerns and domain expertise on security matters towards political colouring and a fixation towards certain political parties. For a proudly apolitical profession, which has maintained its operational efficacy —despite the disastrous political interventions and appropriations of the past —care must be taken to ensure the correctness, objectivity and sobriety that is symbolised by the classical image of an "officer and a gentleman".
Recently, the optics of shrill mud-slinging, bombastic bravado and thunderous derision are reminiscent of the political crassness and one-upmanship. The Armed Forces are the only institution that affords the unique dignity of pre-fixing the "rank" to a name. This warrants certain behavioural conduct and restraint, as the words of the veteran willy-nilly tantamount to the institutional position and imagery.
Dangers of overt politicisation of the Armed Forces manifest in the political baiting of the Armed Forces for electoral gratification. Recently, a new low has been touched with the provincial MNS chief using the armed forces as a convenient appendage. The “Rs 5 crore threat” to the pusillanimous and equally condescending Bollywood is an affront of unbelievable proportions to the Armed Forces and to the nation, as a whole. For a politician whose recent love for the Armed Forces was preceded by wont illiberalism and hatred for non-state natives, would never understand how a proud "Maratha" officer, who went up to become the Chief of Army Staff, General JJ Singh was actually a Sikh or how, arguably the finest brain to adorn the Indian military uniform was a "Mahar" officer, General K Sundarji, a Tamilian (if demographic-geographical-historical connect of Maharashtra were to be linked to the Armed Forces).
The country needs more military men in public and political space and not less. However, it is the likes of the rare Jaswant Singh who embellished his political journey with military aplomb, sensibilities and care that brought the much-needed security perspective, élan and institutional concern. Importantly, military men in political fatigues are free to postulate political positions in debates, on matters that are non-military, given their experience and tenure in far-flung areas. On military matters, they owe it to their alma mater and the nation to strip the same of any political colour and denomination.
The influx of political flags and appropriation runs the real risk of the ensuing "secondment" getting accelerated with further fragmentation and division in the ranks — all political classes have used and abused the military for posturing muscular & nationalistic credentials. Politicians do not send their children to the Armed Forces, they are content to soak in the blood-soaked glory of Armed Forces.
Never before, have the veterans been humiliated or had to sit on the footpath of Janpath and face the parallel ignominy of ostensible support to the institution. Ex-military men must join political parties to influence the governance, policies and politics of the politicians.
They must not end up joining the “shouting-brigade” of the wily politicians, who would merrily lap up the spectre of the veterans joining their rank and conduct.
Politicising of the armed forces is in full swing. The onus of seeing through the same and remaining committed to the institution and the nation only, lies on the ex-servicemen only.
(Source- The Tribune)