Sunday, April 11, 2010

Soldierly silence?

The Indian Express Posted online: Monday , Apr 12, 2010 at 0056 hrs

Where is India’s navy chief? Even as his army and air force counterparts weigh in on the Naxalite problem, possible responses, what they can or cannot do, what they have or have not been asked to do, surely Admiral Verma is letting his service down by keeping them out of it? There must be some breathless interviewer somewhere willing to ask the admiral if aircraft carriers have been ordered to Chhattisgarh, and whether the admiral thinks that that it is a workable idea. Of course, the navy can breathe a sigh of relief that they are able to stay out of this increasingly worrying spectacle. General V.K. Singh, the chief of army staff, came in for some understandable criticism when he, as the nation and the CRPF were still reeling from the horrific Dantewada ambush, chose to say the CRPF were “deficient”, both in their training and in “other things”, that the army was “that much better” at counter-insurgency. Whatever the chief’s intention, this came across, unfortunately, as both an attempt to evade blame, which nobody at all was assigning in the first place, as well as a tremendously insensitive statement to make of another force, still bereaved and grieving. The CRPF company, even if tragically lax in screening procedure, fell victim to a well-planned, expertly-executed ambush. Has that never happened to an army company?

Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik’s intervention was even more distressing. In several statements, including a lengthy disquisition to a television channel, he said that the Naxal situation has “not reached a stage where armed forces have to be deployed” and that using drones for recon has not achieved “the desired result” elsewhere. Any air marshal should use his expertise and experience to make his case strongly to the strategic authorities. But the media is not the right forum for that. It is unseemly, in that it appears to be putting pressure on political decision-makers to second-guess their foremost airman; and taking out anticipatory bail against failure is bad, too, for morale — if air power is eventually used, how will his servicemen feel if their chief has already declared their uselessness?

The problem is that the civilian authorities, both bureaucratic and political, have for so long treated our military like just another sarkari department that our leading military men have been forced to respond in kind, making points to the political class in full public glare, rather than persuasively, in private, in a forum where their views are fully respected and taken on board. Such was the case in the pay commission, such is the case now. It is time that both the political leadership and the top brass got together to work out how to stop this slide.


Anonymous said...

army chief made irresposnsible statement and made me think that what insensitive he was. what he call the first self created kargil problem than loss of 600 armymen,because of poor training ?loss of 2000 army men to LTTE IN SRILANKA as IPKF becasuse of poor training?

Anonymous said...

It’s very easy to criticize the Army Chief who surely made a statement out of facts. A proper commando training (especially in Gorilla-Warfare) is what was necessary to face such type of (Dantewada) naxal attack. The intelligence had failed completely, which Mr. P Chidambaram too agreed. Gen. Singh is a fine soldier and an honest officer. Perhaps, he needs little more time to understand the politics & bureaucracy of Indian govt……