On all crucial issues, he relies on the collective wisdom of the Vice Chief of the Army Staff, the Army Commanders and his Principal Staff Officers before taking a decision. If the Indian Army has performed its tasks with the singularity of purpose and the professional competence that it has it is mainly: due to the fact that the Army has implicit faith in the wisdom and impartiality of its top hierarchy, expressed through the leadership and directions of the chief.
It is a generally well-accepted fact that if India has survived the tribulations of the first half-century of its existence as an independent country, a large measure of the credit goes to the armed forces, particularly the Indian Army. Despite unstable borders, inherent fissiparous tendencies, secessionist insurgencies, ethnic tensions, religious fundamentalism, communal riots, several revolts by provincial constabularies, frequent law and order situations beyond the control of civil authorities and, lately, the scourge of terrorism, the Army has succeeded in keeping the nation united.
While almost all other institutions in the country’ have inexorably fallen prey to, corruption and nepotism and have degenerated to abysmal levels due to shameless political interference and profiteering the armed forces have by the large retained their pristine purity and today stand as a bulwark against the breakup of India.
The armed forces have achieved their present high status in society by remaining scrupulously apolitical and confining themselves to enhancing their professional competence and preparedness for their primary role. The much written about politician-bureaucrat-police-criminal nexus has to a large extent been counterbalanced by the intrinsic strength of the armed forces. Otherwise, by now India may well have been on the way to becoming a banana republic presided over by political satraps and their armed mafias. If there is one certain way of ensuring that this country goes down the road to disintegration, it is to politicise the armed forces.
While the Kargil conflict was on, the whole nation stood together behind the armed forces. The print, TV and radio media were extremely supportive of the Army at a time of national danger.
It is obvious that the present vilification campaign against the Army by certain sections of the print medium is politically motivated. The issue is not whether the motives are justifiable or questionable. The issue is the enormous harm that is being caused to the warp and woof of the Army’s moral fibre and the blatant undermining of a venerable institution that has stood the nation in good stead. The patent unfairness of targeting the Army establishment, that has no lobbies to counter the pernicious propaganda, is even more deplorable.
The exploitation of a misguided officer’s perceived grievances by politicians for the sake of their own nefarious designs is not only gross Interference in the internal affairs of the Army, it Is also bad politics. For responsible newspapers and magazines to succumb to the temptation and take up cudgels on behalf of political parties against the Army, is even more reprehensible. The Army has a well-established system for the redressal of grievances, including the right to address a statutory complaint to the Government of India. It would have been more prudent for concerned political parties and the media to let the flow of natural justice take its course, rather than jump into the fray and attempt to influence events.
Within the Army, the COAS is an institution. On all crucial issues, he relies on the collective wisdom of the Vice Chief of the Army Staff, the Army Commanders (General Officers Commanding various Army commands) and his Principal Staff Officers (PSOs) before taking a decision. In keeping with the customs and traditions of the Army and the need for firm and resolute action on the battlefield, a decision once made is never questioned. This is the foundation on which the edifice of the Army’s famous discipline is based.
If the Indian Army has performed its tasks with the singularity of purpose and the professional competence that it has it is mainly: due to the fact that the Army has implicit faith in the wisdom and impartiality of its top hierarchy, expressed through the leadership and directions of the chief.
The dragging of the office of the COAS into unseemly media controversies is likely to undermine the status and authority of the institution of the COAS in the eyes of the rank and fife of the Army. Through frivolous opinion pieces and scandalous reporting, incalculable harm and long-term damage is being unwittingly caused to the Army, a national Institution that is the last bastion against anarchy. The nation’s enemies could not have hoped for better.
There is no doubt whatsoever that in this age of glasnost the Army also needs to gradually become more transparent. However, scrutiny over the Army’s functioning needs to be exercised by the political masters, that is by the Cabinet and Parliament and not by fifth columnists in the Fourth Estate on behalf of their political patrons