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Supreme Commanderís Supreme Indifference?
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
The salient facts in the latest development in the controversy related to the Army Chief General VK Singh are painfully clear. The General has revealed that he was indirectly offered a bribe in order to approve the further sale of sub-standard trucks used by the army for the past two decades. He said that this offer was made by a retired senior officer. He said he was flabbergasted and did not know how to react. He immediately went to Defence Minister Mr. AK Antony and reported the incident to him. According to him the Minister was equally shocked and dismayed and said such individuals should not be allowed to enter the army.
Weeks earlier the Army Headquarters had named a former senior General for leaking anti-Army reports to the media and also of having offered a bribe on behalf of Tatra vehicles which have been in use in the Army for the last 26 years. The named officer has denied the allegation and has announced that he will institute legal proceedings. The alleged bribe offer to General Singh was made in 2010. Two months before he is due to retire the Army Chief has made his sensational disclosure. Why did not the General act at the time of the incident? According to one version he complied with Section 317 of the Defence Services Regulations of 1986 by bringing the matter to the notice of his superior. Did he in fact inform Mr. Antony of the incident when it occurred? It is fair to infer that he did. Mr. Antony instead of refuting the General’s claim has only now ordered a CBI inquiry into the incident. Mr. Antony says that the General declined to take action himself. He justifies government's non-action on the ground that the General did not offer a written complaint. But he is silent on the crucial aspect. Disregard for a moment the bribe offer. After becoming aware of the corruption angle did the Minister proceed with the contract or cancel it? If he did not cancel it, why not? Whom was the Minister protecting?
Questions are naturally being raised about the two years delay in ordering the probe and about the reasons for the Ministry’s inaction during all this period. This incident has sharply worsened relations between the Army and the Defence Ministry. A number of retired Army Chiefs and senior officers have expressed conflicting views about the role of General VK Singh. Not surprisingly people are viewing these conflicting views in the overall context of alleged corruption in the army. They are wondering whether views are influenced by the roles played by the retired Generals who comment.
General VK Singh has also claimed that the controversy related to his date of birth was created by the vested interests that are abetting corruption. He has said that the truth about all this will come out soon. How all this is alienating sections in the Army from the Defence Ministry and dividing sections within the Army itself had best be left to conjecture. How it affects the morale of the Army’s ranks may be left to further conjecture.
I had earlier suggested when the controversy related to the Army Chief’s date of birth first erupted that the President as the Supreme Commander should intervene and settle the issue behind closed doors. Allowing the dispute to be aired in public could affect Army morale and national security. I went so far as to recall the dark days of 1962. On 30 January I wrote in these columns: “Sixty years ago a Defence Minister from Kerala had demoralized the army and created a national security crisis which remains a blot on the nation’s reputation to this day. One can only hope that the present Defence Minister from Kerala does not irreparably damage the army’s morale and the nation’s security.”
When no initiative by the President or the government occurred, I again wrote on February 11: “In whatever way this controversy ends, the government’s stupidity to jeopardize national security needs to be viewed in the current overall context.” One reader wrote to express shock that I could lump national security and the situation on our borders with the date of birth controversy. I would ask him and others to reflect. If, God forbid, at this very moment the Army were needed to maintain the fragile peace on our borders, what would be its morale and how would it perform?
According to our Constitution the President is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and can best act to defuse a crisis between the Army and the Union Cabinet. Is the title of Supreme Commander meaningless? Is our Constitution itself meaningless? Nothing untoward may happen because of this growing crisis. But if something dreadful were to happen there is nothing we could do about it.
|More by : Dr. Rajinder Puri|
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Comments on this Article
r k gaur
03/29/2012 21:10 PM
Dinesh kumar Bohre
03/29/2012 02:27 AM
03/29/2012 01:48 AM
03/28/2012 14:05 PM
03/28/2012 06:12 AM
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