IN DEFENCE OF GEN. VK SINGH (RETD)

By T.R.Ramaswami

Whatever the controversies during his tenure, the General has taught us a few things that we would
need to remember

‘Thank God he has retired’ echoed from several quarters, including our media, some of whom speculated

whether he would hand over charge! Look at the General’s service record – in 42 years of service, before
becoming Chief, he was in Army HQ for just one posting and that too as a Major. In AHQ you don’t count for
much unless you are at least a Major-General. His successor has had about half a dozen AHQ assignments and
three UN postings. It would be interesting to know how many such postings other chiefs have had. Everyone
knows that HQ tenures help build connections and relationships, even beyond the army, that prove useful later
on. Frequent postings in HQ are also associated with a more “political nature” and “flexibility” of the officer.

Has the government or the Supreme Court established that 1951 is NOT the birth date? All vacillated, beating
around the bush, resorting to semantics like “threshold documents” – the application form and two letters. All
the promotion letters, issued by the same Military Secretary’s Branch right up to the rank of Major-General,
which showed 1951 as the birth date, were conveniently ignored. Were these also not “threshold documents”?
Every third party document – authorized by law as proof of birth – hospital records and the school certificate
– showed 1951. If these are superseded hen why ask anyone for proof of birth? What if the application form
stated 1951 but the school certificate said 1950? Which one would then have been treated as correct?

Ever since he filed the suit in the Supreme Court, the Government would have engaged the IB, CBI and even
the ED, just as in the case of Jagan Reddy – to try and find some hole in his career to nail him. They evidently
failed miserably. You may ask – is there any proof that the Government did this? Answer – is there proof they
did not? Who leaked the letter to the PM? A letter can be leaked only by the author and the recipient. Had the
author been the source of the leak the Government would have trumpeted this from the ramparts of Red Fort.
Silence reveals a truth that is inconvenient. Recall what Sherlock Holmes said – when you have eliminated all
possibilities through fact and logic, whatever remains is the truth.

Why are the contents of the letter secret? Only strategic macro numbers are to be kept secret. But the larger
picture of arms shortages etc. are of vital knowledge to the people whose money is taken to fund the defence
budget. We have the right to know whether that money has gone. In any case there is nothing so secret about
all this – every foreign intelligence agency and arms suppliers, who are also mostly foreign, know the exact
picture of our armed forces, probably better than the babus and netas.

The “scoop” of the “coup” was nothing more than media “poop”. Are we to believe that the government
continued with a chief for 5 months after an attempted coup? What rubbish. Either Gen. Singh would have
become the Chief Martial Law Administrator or gone to jail or even shot for treason. Look at the nadir media
reporting has fallen.

What the General has achieved, for the benefit of the army and succeeding chiefs, given the flurry of
acquisitions, enhancement of financial powers etc, all within six months, is to establish an old Hindi proverb
– lathon ke dev (or is it bhooth?) bathon se nahin mantey. Snuggly cocooned in South Block, the babus have
been taking the netas for a ride. Recall how they managed to scotch the proposal of a former Defence Minister
to send them to Siachen and other hard postings to see for themselves. ‘Ignorance is bliss’ is the credo of the
babulog as it helps in fluffing off responsibility.

We are told that the new chief has a daunting task ahead to set right the civil-military relationships. But is it
his sole responsibility? What about the Defence Minister? Can he make a clear statement that he is the civil
authority to whom the chiefs are answerable and not the babus? Will he have at least that much courage?
Next, can he back up his statement with empirical and visible action? Can he ensure that files from the armed
forces take the route – PSO – Defence Secretary – Chief – Defence Minister? After all the Chiefs are above the
Secretary in the warrant of precedence and should have the last word before matters go to the Minister. This is
true civilian authority.

Further, why should the babus have any role in armed forces promotions? For fairness? Then who ensures
that promotions in the IAS cadre are fair? Why not let the IPS do that role? And let IPS promotions go to the
army to ensure “fairness” all round! If we cannot trust each of the cadre bosses to be fair, then how the hell
did they get appointed in the first place? And what is the “integrity” of the IAS cadre? It was this cadre that
gleefully processed the emergency proclamation. The then Home Secretary, N.K.Mukharji, ICS (later Cabinet
Secretary and the last ICS officer to retire) refused to toe the line. S.L. Khurana, IAS (!) then Chief Secretary
of Rajasthan proved malleable enough and was brought in as Home Secretary. Of course he was later rewarded
with Governorships. The blackest hour in India’s democratic history was initiated by the IAS cadre. And their
willingness to bend or even crawl to the wishes of their political masters, who conveniently choose to remain
ignorant on several aspects of statecraft, ensured rewards. If we have democracy after 1975 it is because of the
armed forces. It is time the Army and other Chiefs start pulling their weight and get meddlesome babus out of
their hair.

Evidently the problems are on account of the sheer lack of knowledge and incompetence of the political class.
And hence they have placed the bureaucracy as armour in front, and this cadre plays its own little games.
Will you trust the Defence Minister to go for a one-on-one talk on border issues with the Chinese Defence
Minister? He will be eaten raw with soya and chilli sauce.

Want civil-military relationship to be put on an even keel? Let the netas learn what it all about. Even though it
will not win elections. Better late than never.

 

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2 thoughts on “IN DEFENCE OF GEN. VK SINGH (RETD)

  1. I just came across your atilcre on the appointment of NN Prasad in WIPO Geneva and hailing appointment of his wife Anjali Prasad in the same slot in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and their projected contribution to the current course of global IP and strengthening of Indian presence in WIPO. Sadly your assumptions are proved wrong:1. Within a short span of NN Prasad’s arrival, India’s dominant position has already been lost in the developing countries block. It is feared India’s bargaining position in IP negotiations is going to be further weakened with the presence of his wife Mrs. Anjali NN Prasad in Geneva.!!2. Indian presence in WIPO is progressively depleted with the active connivance of NN Prasad. It started with the unceremonious ouster of Ram Kishan Singh, a junior official with over ten years of service, as reported by Ravi Kanth in Business Standard dated 21 July 2009. Subsequently Pushpendra Rai (a very senior Indian Government official) was exiled to an insignificant position in Singapore. Narender Sabharwal has already been served notice to pack-up and leave. It is also in the grapevine that the third Indian Official mentioned by you, Guriqbal Singh Jaiya, Senior Director, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises Division, a Division which he has assiduously built up is going to have his wings cut very soon. All of this within a very short span of NN Prasad’s arrival on the spot!!3. It is reported by Joe C Mathew, in Business Standard dated 09 August 2009 that the unethical appointment of NN Prasad in WIPO as Chef de cabinet of Francis Gurry, Director General, WIPO had flouted all the established procedures applicable to foreign postings of Indian Government officials; and the subsequent posting of his wife Anjali Prasad to the slot vacated by him in the Ministry of Commerce is reported to be to help cover up his misdeeds while he was in the Ministry. It is indeed strange that N.N.Prasad’s appointment in WIPO was cleared in haste in the interregnum between outgoing minister Kamal Nath and incoming minister Ananad Sharma. Strange indeed are the ways of Indian officialdom!!4. The added role of ex-Ambassador Swaspawan Singh in these episodes have not been highlighted. It appears for his role in undermining India’s position and interests he has been amply rewarded with a lucrative contract in WIPO for a suspect project with dubious terms of reference. Indian staff in WIPO and the Indian community in Geneva are livid at these developments.5.An urgent inquiry need to be conducted by Minister Anand Sharma and the Parliamentary Committee before a hue and cry is raised in Parliament and since media is already focused on these matters.

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  2. Sir, US President Eisenhover, a retired General himself, used to warn about the dangers of a “military-industry complex” and the resultant
    dangers of corruption. Now India is waking up to the pernicious effect this has in our body politic. General V.K. Singh is to be commended in
    this matter. His association with Anna Hazare is a step in the right direction.

    Referring to the comment by Amelle above- Why is it that the Indian Government not strictly following the rules regarding foreign postings to
    International organizations, UN military missions etc.It is understood that China for example is very strict in this matter. They recall their staff
    once the stipulated time period is over, and give a chance to another Chinese nationals to take up the post being vacated. We must also ensure
    fairness in future assignments. We hope Anna Hazare-Gen. V.K. Singh- Kiran Bedi -Justice Hegde group would look into this matter as well.

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