Long Live The Army Chief, But With a Caveat
NEW DELHI: Five days have passed since the government announced the appointment of the next Army Chief, by-passing two Cs-in-C in the process. The ire of the nation; the serving and retired community of the armed forces; the intellectuals of the nation; the media; and above all the voluble citizens of the country through the social media; has been expressed forcefully and with effect.
Although the politico-bureaucratic combine has thick crocodile skins, even they must have realized their folly, for if the political leadership cannot carry the nation when they take far-reaching decisions that affect the security of the nation, they must introspect on how they have let down the nation and learn lessons, instead of carrying on as usual.
Now that the die has been cast and hopefully correct lessons have sunk in, it is time to move on. It is unfortunate that many who have vented their anger have targeted the Army Chief-Designate, not realizing that he had no part in the selection. The folly has been by the government of the day and the dramatis personae who have little, if any, understanding of security issues. The excuses trotted out by them, mostly giving overwhelming importance to the army’s secondary task of counter-insurgency are banal indeed and show how vague their knowledge is about the role of the army.
The army is fighting insurgencies because the central armed police forces (CAPF’s), whose task it actually is, are useless, as they are neither well trained nor well lead. They also like to be called by the exalted phrase - para military forces, completely wrongly, as they are neither led by army officers, nor are organized and equipped akin to the army, which are essential ingredients of being called by this phrase. Despite pointing this out many times, even the media refers to them wrongly.
Instead of turning the CAPF into a robust force that delivers, the present as well as the previous governments have taken the easy way out and forced the army to continue with their extensive employment on counter insurgency tasks. This has now permeated even into the selection of the highest military leaders.
Expecting the politico-bureaucratic combine to learn about security strategies in our governance milieu is an exercise in futility, as they seem to be under the impression that they have nothing to learn. It reminds me of that old adage – ‘The Divine Right of Kings’ of yore. Despite 70 years of governing the nation, all political parties elected by the people have let the citizens, the armed forces and the nation down.
When will they grow up and start delivering, instead of interfering with the very few institutions in the country that really still work?
Let me now revert to the next Army Chief. In the muck that the political leaders; security advisers; bureaucrats; and political party functionaries; have created, the sufferers are the army in general and the Chief-Designate in particular. This must stop now. It needs to be remembered that when armed forces officers reach the exalted heights of Cs-in-C, they have decades of professional experience; towering leadership; and character qualities of the highest order; and they are all eligible to be selected for the highest appointment in their service.
They also have no say in their selection; they continue to be apolitical as is the ethos of our armed forces; and above all their focus is only on doing well for the nation and their respective service. The fault lies squarely with our political leaders and their bureaucratic advisers.
Let us then hail the next Army Chief, support him fully and strengthen this great institution, which has not only served the nation loyally but will continue to do so, despite the parochial; political;, electoral; and the DNA of accumulation of power and pelf by the politico-bureaucratic combine that refuses to learn or reform itself.
One last word! I do hope the arrogance of power of our political leaders does not come in the way of fully using the exceptional talents of the two Cs-in-C who have been passed over, for the good of the armed forces and the nation.
(The writer is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff)