By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
The Editor of a national daily published from the national capital started a storm in the tea cup by publishing a make-believe story that the Army had moved troops to areas around Dellhi when the spat between the Army Chief and the Raksha Mantri was snowballing. The story caused a furore and both the Government of India and the Army Chief did a lot of fire fighting to assure the nation in panic that all was well. Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister saw no substance in the story and Shri AK Antony went a step further to rubbish the story. General VK Singh, Chief of the Army Staff said that there was no unwarranted movement of troops and armour from their location to New Delhi The story put out by the national daily’s editor has apparently no legs to stand on.
TRUST DEFICIT BETWEEN ARMY AND MANTRALAY
The said ill-conceived story is an inspired one and it is feared that the source of inspiration to the editor concerned is the vested interest that wishes to drive a wedge between the Army and the political cum bureaucratic set up of the Raksha Mantralaya. As it is the bureaucrats feed a lot of misinformation to a weak Raksha Mantri to set his thoughts against the uniformed service. This is not a new phenomenon. Indeed the distrust of the Army among bureaucrats has been going on since the independence of India. The wily bureaucrats put the fear of an army coup in the minds of the political leadership and achieve their aim of pinning down the army.
The drama being played on the stage of the South Block that houses the Army brass and the political leadership of Raksha Mantralaya plus the bureaucrats notorious for their machinations has been gong on day after day and year after year. Indeed the sordid affair hinders and at times prevents procurement of latest weapon system. Consequently the Indian nation suffers and is vulnerable to military moves of adversaries across the borders. In a nutshell it may be said that those elements that weaken the military might of India or lower the image of the Army and other services in the eye of the common man are certainly anti-national. They must be identified and weeded out as per law of the land.
Unfortunately India has a weak Defence Minister and a weaker Prime Minister. They have little knowledge of the defence mechanism and the winning factor in a war called MORALE of men. If the morale of fighting man is high, the country is sure to win a war. On the contrary when the morale is low, even the best armed army of the world would turn tail in battle. Obviously the Indian Nation does not want that the 1962 war and the resultant shameful defeat must not be allowed to repeat itself.
The Political Will to stem the rot must be developed by the political leadership before it is too late in the day. The top politicians who hold top appointments concerning internal and external security of India that is Bharat should be put through preliminary paces to understand matters military before the make decisions concerning defence that have far reaching implications.
CHIEF OF DEFENCE SERVICES
As of now the Army, the Navy and the Air Force operate independent of each other. Each Service has a Chief who does not take orders from any other Service Chief. With the result there is no coordinated defence of the country. What is worse is the tendency of the bureaucracy to play one Service against the other and rule the roost. Many a time the proposal to have a Chief of Defence Staff who would head the three Services and there would be a unified command under him was shot down by one Chief or the other. No Chief wanted to play a second fiddle to another Chief; they being of equal rank of a four star general or equivalent rank in the other two services. Therefore, the Chief of the Defence Services would be a Field Marshal or a five star general. The concerned proposal to have a CDS in India was put in the cold storage and has not been resurrected thereafter.
The United Kingdom armed forces had a similar problem. Neither the three Service Chiefs agree to the proposal to have a CDS nor the bureaucracy. Consequently the security of the UK was at stake. It was then that the political leadership intervened effectively since they had the political will that they exercised for the good of the country. A Chief of Defence Services was appointed by Her Majesty’s government and since then the new system has been working effectively. Obviously, the reins of defence management in the United Kingdom are in knowledgeable and experienced hands and not in the hands of civilian bureaucrats who do not know even the ABC of matters military.
INDIA MUST OVERHAUL DEFENCE SET UP
It is time the political leadership showed and exercised political will to overhaul the Defence Set up and not let the vested interest or the private arms lobby rule the roost. The procurement of armaments from abroad has been our Achilles heel for a llong time. Since the complaints of receiving a kick back in the purchase of the Bofors howitzers and the consequential fall of the Rajiv Gandhi government under a shadow, procurement of heavy armaments and modern technology has been at a standstill. It is unbelievable but true that the Govt of India has not bought any modern gun for the Artillery in the last quarter of a century plus. Our defence preparedness has suffered but the govt is inactive on this front.
The Armed Forces must be a part of the decision making process of the govt of India. As of now the decision making process comprises the civilian set up alone and the Chiefs of the three services just remain on the periphery. Thus the man in uniform feels slighted that he is out of place in the military management whereas he should be in the forefront. When India has a CDS, perhaps this lacuna will be removed and he will be given a place in the governing body of the armed forces. The Armed Forces must have a say in the procurement of armaments, latest defence technology and in the modernisation of the military machine.
Indigenisation of the weapon system and aircraft or naval craft is the crying need of the hour. There is an ongoing war between the foreign arms lobby and the forces that want the Defence Research and Development Organisation to design, develop and manufacture defence arms and equipment. Indeed the DRDO has to pull up its socks and deliver the goods that the armed forces need and not produce only household goods as was the case under VK Krishna Menon as Raksha Mantri. The scientists have to update their knowledge and be alert about the quality of armaments that must be world class.
Well, we have now acquired a nuclear submarine from Russia on a lease of ten years to augment our Navy’s blue water capabilities but eventually we have to fall back on our own resources.
Be that as it may, the rot that has set into the Defence set up must be cured forthwith and not to be allowed to stage a comeback like cancer lest the developed world starts calling India a banana republic. I am sanguine our leaders both political and military will turn a new leaf, stop the inglorious infighting and make the Republic of India a mighty military power.