Unless the dispute between the government and the Army Chief General VK Singh regarding his correct age is quickly resolved the consequences can be far reaching and very damaging. The morale and unity of the armed forces could be affected creating serious long term implications for national security. It is astounding how this dispute was allowed to fester for so long, and how it was allowed to erupt in the public instead of being quietly settled within closed doors.
Regardless of whether the government was too inept or the General was too rigid this is not the time to start a blame game.
A petition related to the dispute comes up before the Supreme Court on January 20th. It would be highly desirable if the dispute is settled amicably with immediate effect.
General VK Singh has moved the Supreme Court through a petition challenging the government’s decision regarding his age. The government is relying mainly upon an undertaking given in writing by the General that he would abide by the government’s version about his age. According to some army sources that undertaking was qualified and did not indicate blanket acceptance of the government’s decision. The General has his own formidable array or documents to prove his contention about his age. The confusion is compounded by the fact that the records related to the case maintained by the Military Secretary and the Adjutant General differ from each other! All such bureaucratic bungling can be addressed later. The immediate need is to resolve the crisis amicably and swiftly.
How might that be accomplished?
There is only one practical solution that suggests itself. In his petition to the Supreme Court General VK Singh has made clear that he would not take advantage if the Court vindicates him. He would retire as determined by the government later this year. He was concerned only with protecting his honour. In the light of this, after keeping the Prime Minister in the loop, President Mrs. Pratibha Patil as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces should intervene in this matter which affects national security. The President could summon General VK Singh as well as Defence Minister Mr. AK Anthony to settle the issue. The government could be persuaded to accept the General’s age as claimed by him. The Army Chief could seek voluntary retirement and demit office on the appointed date this year. That could defuse the crisis swiftly and amicably. Lessons to be learnt about how and why this crisis was at all allowed to linger on may be drawn later.