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 If these are superseded hen why ask anyone for proof of birth?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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WARS AND NUMBERS

Guest Post by: T.R. Ramaswami

The First World War, called the Great War acquired its premier ordinal global status only in 1939 after WW II started. Similarly when, how and why the Great Indian Mutiny aka Sepoy Mutiny acquired the appellation ‘First War of Independence’ is not very clear. But then, which was the second? Why not call it just the War of Independence? It would appear that the Congress wanted its freedom struggle to be ‘recognized’ as the ‘Second War of Independence’ though all-out wars can hardly last more than a few years. The independence ‘struggle’ proper took more than three decades.

Why did the Sepoy Mutiny fail? Compare the current nation-wide participation in the Anna Hazare campaign. The mutiny had no central leadership, identity or plan. Separate uprisings at various places on hearing of similar events elsewhere pursued their own agenda. But the most critical reason is that there was no means of mass communication. Thus the mutiny could not acquire the critical mass required for success. Telegraph came to India only in 1869. Contrast this with the manner the Anna campaign has all means of internal communications and external publicity. Without this it could have never become what it is. If JP had got this publicity in 1975, history would have been different. No wonder the Government wants to clamp down on electronic media. Let alone India, even the world is watching the Second (or is it Third?) War of Independence – with the Government being a very good comedian. Only the heroine is missing.

 

INTELLIGENCE SNAFUS

Now we are told that intelligence info is not shared with those who should be in the loop. Where does the root of this problem lie? It lies with the netas who have converted intelligence agencies into a party-cum-personal protection agency. Intelligence officers have to keep a track on opposition netas, engineer defections and even provide the cash for this. Read the book “Khakhi” By Mr. E. Rammohan, a former police chief. That’s why the budgets of the intelligence agencies are a big secret. The quality of intelligence shared also depends on factors like whether the state is ruled by the opposition and also the personal equations of various officers in Delhi and the state if they are from the state cadre. Information is also watered down semantically or sent too late so that the other person looks like a fool. Multiple dotted line reporting structures also add to the confusion. Later the excuse of “systemic failure” is trotted out. But these systems are humanly created.

Even now the Mumbai Police has not learnt from 26/11. There was severe criticism whether the DGP or the Commissioner was responsible. Now we have a DG (Operations) in the DGP’s office and the ATS Chief now has to report to him and the Commissioner Mumbai Police. More confusion. The Government has also pulled the wool over the eyes of the public and the Courts by appointing the DGP who failed on 26/11 as Acting DG. Now there is very little difference and he may continue “acting” till his date of retirement in a few months. Now how long can someone “act” – is this the police or Bollywood? Perhaps the media needs to also look at the various police top officials in the Mumbai Police who have nothing to do. There is a DG Home Guards who also has an ADG under him. They have no other officers and only part time factory workers etc who function as guards. Why a DG and an ADG here?
– T.R.Ramaswami

 

TERRORIST IDENTITY

Guest post from T.R.Ramaswami

It is intriguing that terrorists are being identified by too many adjectives – “British Muslims of Pakistani origin”. Now should a terrorist be identified by his nationality or religion? And if it is nationality, should it be the present one or the past or even that of his parents, assuming that he held no other citizenship? Why does the media mix nationality with religion – because it suits the western media and even sections of the Indian media to do so. Why not just say that the terrorists were Muslims – regardless of nationality- or that they are British – regardless of his religion or past nationality? That would be really interesting, provided the media has the courage.
In fact if we carry this analogy a little further – are not all Pakistanis and hence the terrorists who come from there of Indian origin?

TERRORISTS AND RELIGION
Remember the often repeated cliché that terrorists have no religion? Then why should the Government have a cease fire agreement during Ramzan, as reported in the media? Let us tell the Hizbul Mujahideen and other groups that there will be no cease-fire as Muslims themselves have said that terrorists have no religion. Hence Ramzan should not matter to them. If we accede to their request then we are hypocrites. Perhaps there may be more attacks on places of worship of other religions but wouldn’t that tell us who the terrorists are? Will the Government show some spunk at least now?
– T.R.Ramaswami