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Who will be the winner?

An ugly drama is going on at present in the public glare of the world between the COAS VK Singh and the Ministry of Defense. A set of accusations and counter accusations have displayed the lack of unity and cohesiveness of the government-military. The storm was raised when the AC accused an arms lobbyist of military background of offering him 14 crores as bribes.

Whatever may have been the motives of Gen Singh and howsoever ill timed this drama may have been, it has forced several issues out in the public.

1. The extent of the unpreparedness of the military, in today’s time. India has one of the highest defence expenditures in the world but does it match with the quality of the technology/armaments we have? Why are we paying so much for sub-standard equipment?  People who do this, people who put the lives of our soldiers at risk, should be committed for treason. As per the AC, the sub standard vehicles (  Tatra) were already in use over the past years. Why was it not publicised earlier?

2. Why is not there a proper communication system in place between the government and the army to resolve their issues?  What made the Army General resort to media and publicising these issues, however important they may be, ? Was it because, he may have tried the less visible approach and may have been rebuffed? Is it due to frustrations at not being listened to or appreciated or as a consequence of the unfavorable verdict returned over the age row issue? After all, he  is a human.

3. The height and depth of corruption in the armed services. Corruption in defence has been known since the time of bofors. Existence of middlemen and arms dealers. These accusations again point at the extent to which corruption has seeped into the system. How to deal with it and root it out (if possible) would be the chief questions.

But the seriousness of these questions are being deflected, owing to the bizarre situation happening now. The reason being:

1. Army Chief’s claims of bribery ~ why did he wait until now to publicise?

2. Who’s job was it to take action when informed of bribery action? Army Chief or Minister’s? If Def Min knew of this, why did he not take action? It seems he was informed of this two years ago. why did he keep silent?  On friday, an article highlighted that Min of Def Antony, being advised of this matter twice, once by The Army Chief and One by GN Azad in 2010 and 2009 would invite  trouble, due to failure in reporting this. It is a criminal Offence. You need to give a proper reason why you did not inform at the proper time. Both the AC and the Minister would be in a soup over this.

3. Who leaked the Army Chief’s letter? It is impossible to believe that he could have done it. From a man of his stature, this seems a bad move. It could be either friends/bureaucrats/even people with an ostensible view to damage his reputation ( seeing the beating it took on the #agerow issue)

4. Is there a problem  between the Army and the bureaucracy? These moves, seem to hint at  that. Why the AC is directly issuing matters to press and request to CBI to probe  pobe bribe allegations rather than route it through the bureaucracy indicates clearly existence of some issues between bureaucracy and the Army. Is it the high handed attitude of bureaucrats which the Army Chief is trying to highlight through his actions? A serious fact in favor of this view is the statement by Brajesh Mishra, ex NSA chef yesterday, wherein he recommends The Gen to be sent on forced leave for his statements. The pro-bureaucrat attitude is evident as he finds it difficult to believe an y bureaucrat may have leaked info nor does he think that MMS can be culpable of leak. Obviously he is, trying to screen his political masters and the bureaucracy. Even the Minister of Defence, though blamed for not taking action, escapes from further judgement. Why then the Army Chief only?

His language reeks of disrespect towards  AC, who whatever may be his idiosyncracies, is a man with an impeccable background.

5. Enforcing procedures is one thing. But if enforcing procedures in itself becomes a problem and a conduit to avoid further action, can  one blame an Army Chief or anyone else for taking the more open way out? to highlight things? even if it is through the Press?

6. Some people are asking for dismissal of the AC, even without seeing the whole issue resolved.Will dismissal of the Army Chief solve the current issue? Won’t it be demoralising to the Armed Forces to know that they have no say in issues pertaining to them and to the nation and any sort of expression on issues will be  treated abjectly?  Rather, won’t it lead to these issues being buried and forgotten and the people who were involved getting scot free?

7. The DRDO has  come out with a statement where they have denied what the AC  has said on the state of the Tatra trucks. It could be a defence response by the government to protect itself (sic)

8. Lt Gen Tajinder Singh ( the alleged army lobbyist) has denied the AC’s claims and has taken him to court.

Since he is due to retire soon, it is possible that he has taken this risk of exposing the ugly side to Defense, so that these issues are known to all. One can only conjecture till the facts are out.

Till then, though there seems to be signs of some cooling, matters are still in a confused and ugly state.

Whatever be the end result of the story (hopefully, not another burial), let it be a lesson for all involved government, military, and bureaucracy.

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