The Tribune 26 Dec 2016
Selection of India’s Army Chief a sensitive issue
Comments by Simranjit Singh Mann:
Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) states that our party feels that the seniority of the generals should have been kept in place, as the other two were equally good. The armored corp and motorized infantry officers, at that level of army commanders, should not have fallen by the wayside.
Lt. Gen. Rawat had an advantage over the others as he was at headquarters in Delhi as vice chief and had all the time to work around the political and bureaucratic rigmarole. Moreover, he was from the same battalion of the Gorkha regiment as Gen. Dilbag Singh, the army chief. Officers coming from the same regiment have a great camaraderie and an esprit de corps. Therefore Gen. Dilbag Singh obviously favored an officer from the Gorkha’s. That is a bit of good luck for Lt. Gen. Rawat and bad luck for the other two army commanders.
When I was Aid de Camp to Punjab Governor Pavate, Gen. Manikshaw was invited to a luncheon by the Governor. A serving Brigadier who was deprived of his command on the border with Pakistan asked me whether he could travel with me to receive Gen. Manikshaw at the Chandigarh airport. Having received Gen. Manikshaw at the airport I let the brigadier sit with the General in the rear seat. The Brigadier who had lost his post during that war cribbed and told his boss that it was unfair to withdraw him from his post in the middle of the battle. Gen. Manikshaw replied that it was just his bad luck and could anyone have ever wondered whether he (Manikshaw) would ever have reached the top post. It was just luck that propelled him to the top, he emphasized.
Therefore it is also luck that Lt. Gen. Rawat had made it to where he is now. However, it will definitely affect the morale of the officer corp. In future officers vying for the top slots would definitely kowtow to the politician and the bureaucrat. This will make a bad precedent and break the morale of the soldiers.
When politicians and bureaucrats prefer loyalty over professionalism it does not work that way. Prime Minister Bhutto of Pakistan chose Gen. Zia ul Haq over other generals, but Gen. Zia ul Haq took his Prime Minister to the gallows. Similarly, the present Premier Nawaz Sharif in his earlier prime ministership appointed Gen. Musharraf as his army chief. However Gen. Musharraf was a little kinder than Gen. Zia. Musharraf like his predecessor also wanted to show his prime minister the gallows, but Saudi Arabia intervened and asked Musharraf to send Sharif to Arabia in exile. General’s at the top have a queer behavior and to exercise total and absolute power, can undo their creators and benefactors. Anything is possible in the Indian sub-continent.
There is something to say about the Hindu polity. Whether it is the Congress Party or the BJP-RSS. They are both intolerant of the minorities, especially the Muslim’s and the Sikh’s. We have seen when the Hindu’s go on a killing spree of the two minorities; the army stoically remains in its cantonments. However when the Hindu ruling setup wishes to teach a lesson to these minorities the army happily goes into action as was the case in 1984- Operation Bluestar, the atrocious ingress into the Sikh’s holiest shrine the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar and the slaughter of thousands of Sikh pilgrims and the total elimination of the then young and spirited political Sikh leadership. The present scenario in Kashmir is the same as the Sikh’s have been facing since 1984.
It is a shame that the army is shy and cowardly in taking on an opponent its own size. Every time the Chinese cross over the McMahon Line, Gen. Dilbag Singh’s boys beat a quick retreat. Though Mr. Modi states that the next army chief is an infantry officer and knows all the hot spots on the eastern, western and northern borders, it is hoped he will face the challenge and not chicken.
One thing in common with Gen. Dilbag Singh and his successor is that they both come from a martial race. Gen. Dilbag Singh is a Jaat and Lt. Gen. Rawat is a Garhwali. We do hope the new Chief to be will bring his forces out of the barracks when the Hindu’s go on a killing spree.
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