OPINION: Dangerous Tussle Between the Army and the Government

How a relentless Army chief suddenly appeared to relent, is worth noticing. Yesterday, March 30th, General V.K. Singh said, “There are some elements in our society which are playing an active role in trying to project a schism between the Honorable Raksha Mantri and Chief of the Army Staff. This is untrue and needs to be guarded against.”

Syed Kashif

His statement does show that a compromise has been made between the defense ministry and Army chief. However, the story does not end here. There are some questions that have gone unanswered.

First, General V.K.Singh said that he was offered 14 crore rupees as a bribe by a retired senior officer for granting the purchase of low grade defense equipment. Moreover, despite his complaint to the defense Minister he (the minister) did not do anything about it.

Minister of Defence, A.K. Antony’s response was that since the complaint was not made to him in the written form he could not act. But, is this argument enough? Should he not have asked the Army Chief to give his complaint in the written form?

Not only that, why did V.K.Singh not do the same when the minister ignored the issue. The story turned into a puzzle when the defense minister in the Rajya Sabha said that General Singh was himself not in favor of taking any action against the retired senior officer against whom he had made the complaint.

The whole issue took a new turn when the letter written to the Prime Minister by General Singh got leaked. In the letter, written on 12 March, the General expressed his regrets about the bad condition of the Army. He said that most of the army equipment was old and there were a serious shortage of arms and ammunition. But the question arises here is that why did he not raise this issue earlier?  Is he doing this in frustration after his defeat in the Supreme Court?

More importantly, whether he gave his consent for the purchase of low grade defense equipment after he was offered a bribe, is yet not clear.

What is clear is that he did not take that bribe, but his letter of sincere regrets to the Prime Minister shows that he did give his consent to the purchase of low standard defense material. This itself is a serious ignorance.

In the whole story the most dangerous thing is the “Army Activism” in a democratic country. The frequent interviews and statements to media by Army do not suit to the world’s largest democracy. The BJP spokesperson Ravi Shanker Prasad has rightly said that in a democracy the Army remains under the control of the civilian government, but the present situation of India does not seem so. Some experts have rightly said that the man who should fight in the battle field is fighting in the media. Thus the development also indicates the failure of government. It does show that there is a lack of understanding and confidence between the Army and the government.

It is more likely that General Singh himself is involved in the leak of the confidential letter. On this very ground some political leaders have demanded the sacking of the Army Chief, which seems like a reasonable demand. Lalu Prasad has also demanded the removal of General immediately. He has asked rightly that if there was a shortage of arms, then why did he not make a demand for it earlier.

Apart from all that, the most important concern is that the hue and cry on the issue is certainly not in the interest of the nation. This controversy will result in a low morale for our soldiers. Along with that it will certainly give courage to our enemies on the border. However, we can not ignore the imperative of standard arms and equipments for our soldiers. The government must ensure that the Army has the best equipment.

About Syed Kashif

Syed Kashif is an MPhil student in the Academy of International Studies. He can be reached via email at: kashifrazasabri [at] gmail.com

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  1. Maneesha Tripathi

    I agree with u on that note that why did Tatra get the deal despite COAS knowing very well they were sub-standard and after being bribed. Moreover COAS is no common man to whom any person can walk up. How did he get access ti Singh. But regarding the letter, it is not unprecedented. There has been instance where the out going COAS wrote to the PM about the situation army just a day before is retirement. The hue and cry is about the leak. And some reports suggest that the leak has been from the PMO

  2. Good article,Kasif,but all this episode is of “media drama”.I think I should share with u people that,When any army regiment or company move in or near NCR,Ministry of Defence should be informed,which Lt.Gen of 50 para regiment at Hisar dint,now according to Govt should have taken stern action against him,which Govt has not done till date,Congress is fighting like an idiot in media with General.How ever I agree with Maneesha that there have been instances when big peole write letters to PM just before retirement,but according to me and by the carrier record of VK Singh he seems to be a honest officer,and what media has done here is that it (read media)has made him hero/villian what ever intellectuals of democracy can call him .

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