Saturday, January 21, 2012


ASSUMING there was a succession plan designed by Gen JJ Singh - Gen VK Singh and Gen Bikram Singh seem to be two parts of the same succession plan.
Had any other officer become the Chief instead of Gen VK Singh – Gen Bikram’s chances would have been zilch.
In Gen JJ’s plan, Gen VK Singh was the most critical element – Gen VK Singh (with 1950) had to be the chief to ensure that Gen BiKram Singh takes over in 2012.
It is only with Gen VK agreeing to 1950 as his DOB that Gen Bikram Singh could be considered for the post of chief-

If Gen VK Singh had raised the issue of discrepancy in his DOB in 2006 or 2010 then his chances of becoming the Chief could have been jeopardized.
If Gen VK Singh would not have become the chief then the officer next in line (with date of birth Nov 1950) would have become the COAS and he would have retired in NOV 2012. This would have killed all chances of Gen Bikram Singh becoming the chief (who is due to retire in July 2012)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Is the General willy-nilly dragging the office of COAS to the streets?

Just after the army day celebrations on 15 January 2012 - the Indian Army chief has done a commando action by filing a writ petition questioning the government's decision to treat his date of birth as May 10, 1950 instead of May 10, 1951 as claimed by him on the basis of his matriculation certificate and other documents.

What is the chief trying to achieve through this open display of defiance? The general is flogging a dead horse – the discrepancy in his age did not hold any of his promotions, the government even overlooked it when Gen VK Singh was to become a four star general, the highest that an officer can achieve in his career. Nobody in the army ever raised the issue of him being a ‘fraudulent entry’ on the basis of wrong declaration of age in his NDA entry form. Then, why is Gen VK Singh bent upon following a dangerous course of action?

Is he aware of the fact that his action may help him “restore his honour” but in the process destroy  the basic tenets of the civil-military edifice in the country.What happens if the government sacks Gen VK Singh for defiance? And if this action of the government eventually leads to mass scale discontent in the country, let alone in the army, it may even lead to a regime change in the country! Willy nilly the office of the chief of Indian Army will then be involved in the political change in the country. If such a scenario was to play out on the national stage – it will mark the death of the apolitical character of the armed forces.

And what happens if the chief’s claims about his age are proved wrong? There are sources that state that the Army chief also appeared for the 35th course NDA examination- which he could have done only if his date of birth was 1950, incidentally the same date appears in his NDA entrance form for the 36th course that he actually took admission into. Obviously this is the origin of the age row.

The final question is moral- if the chief would have raised the issue of resolution of his age row at the time of his appointment as corps commander or the COAS - he would have put his own benefits at stake. That would have been honour indeed. But Gen VK Singh backed out then.

In his defence, terms being used are “duress” and “emotional blackmail” to justify his acceptance of 1950 as his date of birth. Do these terms allude to qualities befitting a soldier who the nation can trust for fighting the enemy? The line of succession argument offered by some is flimsy, since all officers at the highest level choose the best out of those who are equally deserving. Of course it is every chiefs prerogative to influence the line of succession and there is nothing unusual if Gen JJ Singh in his wisdom did so. In fact senior officers always influence the promotion of officer’s right from the rank of Cols when the pyramid becomes steep. Gen VK Singh has instead chosen the time to challenge the government at a time when it is going to affect him the least - and his juniors the most.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

India- China (un)pinned!

 The laundry list of cribs against China has a fresh addition - Panging is the new pain in India-China relations - the denial of visa to Arunachal Pradesh born  Sukhoi-pilot Group Captain M. Panging - and the Indian government’s decision to press on with the military delegation’s visit has once again given hate-China brigade a new set of ammunition. According to Tarun Vijay of the BJP, “It’s shocking to know that the government is sending a military delegation to China... This is conceding Chinese claim on Arunachal through the backdoor and demoralizing the Indian armed forces.” An editorial in a leading national newspaper says, “The fact that Panging has been dropped from the delegation is bound to give the impression that India has cowed down to the Chinese belligerence.”

There is no gainsaying the fact that there is an element of arrogance in the Chinese behaviour, the kind that comes packaged with the increase in wealth. But is Beijing’s visa policy a new behavioral trait that the Indians were not aware of? The increased consumption of stapler pins by the Chinese embassy has been agonizing Indians for a long time. In fact, it is despite these pinpricks that the Indian government (MEA) has decided to mend fences with China. It is to make China see the futility of subjecting Indian passports to acupuncture that New Delhi has decided to send a healthy military delegation.

Now with these facts well known - the questions that obviously arise - Why was care not taken to avoid including Group Captain M. Panging’s name in the delegation list to visit China? Did the air headquarters forward his name or was it the ministry of defence that asked for a passport of an officer from Arunachal to be sent along?  Was it a deliberate ploy to use Panging to test the extent that the Chinese would go to welcome the Indian military? These questions beg answer because according to reports, the MoD had failed to seek the mandatory clearances from the committee of secretaries (COS) headed by the cabinet secretary, prior to sending the passports to the Chinese embassy. Whatever, the mess - whether deliberate or lackadaisical on the part of the MoD - the fact is, this stupid ‘smart act’ has unnecessarily sent wrong signals to the officers from North East serving the Indian armed forces. It has also exposed the chinks in India’s foreign policy making process. The service headquarters, MoD and the ministry of external affairs’ (MEA) understanding of national strategic goals seems to be at variance.

The lenses that the three are using to view China seem to be of different make and design. While the MEA sees future opportunities in courting China - the MoD aware of its influence in defence procurement is more interested in the present - day-to-day confrontation with China – and the service headquarters continue to be mired in the past.

The mindset vis-a-vis China needs to change, as home minister P Chidambram says, “We should not fear competition from China. There is no reason to envy China. If at all, we should try to emulate China.”  According to assistant foreign minister Liu Zhenmin, “China is willing to make joint efforts with India to continuously… deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields and properly handle issues concerning the bilateral relationship… China hopes that the two sides will support each other and learn from each other, so as to push for better and faster development of Sino-Indian strategic and cooperative partnership.” The two Asian giants cannot waste their energy in trying to poke each other nor can they afford other countries to guide the agenda of their engagement.

The agenda is clear - the Asian continent has to be war-free - It cannot become a test site for new weapon systems. If America feels that its security is threatened because of Asian instability then all Asian navies must anchor in American waters and provide Washington the ultimate security free of cost.