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Tuesday October 15, 2019

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Founding Editor View on Land Force India

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Everything about the government’s attitude toward its largest armed force is epitomized by its handling over the age matter of the Chief of Army Staff. It is truly bizarre as to the depths of ignorance that the government can sink. And it is downright dangerous the levels that the government can go so as to manipulate its agenda onto the Armed Forces. In this case the army, its largest land force and the true reflection of the Union of India, for it is the union of all communities and regions of this country. And yet the government will not hesitate to mishandle sensitive matters concerning the army.


The one making most news is about the age discrepancies in the records of the Chief of Army Staff. His school-leaving certificate declares his year of birth as 1951, and another document claims it is 1950. The former document resides with the Adjutant General’s Branch and the latter with the Military Secretary’s Branch. In the functioning of the army, rooted in centuries of evolution, trials and errors, the AG’s Branch holds the personal records of the officers, amongst other duties and responsibilities. And the MS Branch makes and implements policies on promotions and postings. Little wonder that an MS Branch posting is regarded as a feather in the cap, a big one at that. But MS Branch does not set policies on personal records and neither does it hold them. The Government of India and its Ministry of Defence insist on going by the record with the MS Branch. In the process, completely ignoring the sanctity of functioning within Army HQs, the traditions and ethos of the army.

This is ample evidence on all that ails the growth and flowering of the Armed Forces and specifically in this case, it is the government that will decide how they should function, even internally. Similarly is the case with the purported contract to purchase light howitzers from the United States of America. Now comes the specious argument that there are problems with the angle of elevation and these howitzers cannot be used against tanks. A lot of weapons cannot be used against a lot of targets.

But when there is a requirement of such weapons in the mountain formations of the army, the science fiction of tanks in the snows just doesn’t buy. The likelihood of facing tanks at those altitudes is even lesser than that of finding water on the moon. And yet the contract is supposed to have been put on hold. Further delaying the modernization of the army.

Most of Indian security concerns are land oriented, be it some neighboring countries or even internal security duties that extract a heavy toll on the army. Despite all the data that shows just how many times the army has pulled political chestnuts out of the fire, there is nothing to suggest that the leadership of this country has learned any lessons. The latest episode certainly proves the point that the country continues to be led by those ignorant in the matters of security, military traditions, ethos and functional sanctity.

 


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