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Welcome General Bikram

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Gen Bikram Singh is no stranger to Army Headquarters, Ministry of Defence and the generally prevailing culture of the South Block-Sena Bhawan area. And he would be the first to admit that he takes over as COAS in possibly the most trying time in the history of India’s Army. It could possibly not have been as divided and factionalised even after the defeat of 1962. Sure there were murmurs against Lt Gen Kaul, some formation and battalion commanders. But that resentment was an expected outcome of an unexpectedly terrible command. These times are, however, different. There is no war, or an operation, that divides the Army, vertically and horizontally. What does cause this split is a more dangerous human weakness than failure and it is called ego. Conflicting egos have torn the Army asunder over the past few years. Gen Bikram’s first and primary task will be to overcome this illness, by a deft touch of leadership and firmness. He will have to ensure that the red and blue corners of a boxing ring are only for inter-battalion competitions, not for those who wear stars on cars.

Sukhna was and should have remained an internal matter. Something that should have been resolved through military procedures alone. Instead it became a national shame, with motivated leaks to the media and pens drawn as sharp as scimitars. Thus allowing the Ministry of Defence to fish in waters that otherwise would not have been turbulent. The Minister of Defence then began to see Army HQs akin to another Police HQs of a state, groups and lobbies vying for influence through peddlers that are a Delhi trademark. And why wouldn’t he when General officers were behaving in a manner not too dissimilar. So Gen Bikram’s task has been cut out for him even before he has put on the fourth star. In terms of operational matters as the new COAS he will have to take a call on the Army’s role in anti-naxal actions. Vacillation on this issue is not good for the country, even as it pays a steadily rising price in terms of lives lost. The efficacy of the CRPF and the various state police forces is seriously wanting when it comes to actual operations. Without a more positive role of the Army there is unlikely to be a turnaround. It is a serious call to take. 

Gen Sundarji was the last COAS to have left a legacy in the Army. Like him or not, agree or disagree, but Gen Sundarji was the last chief to have made fundamental changes to the Army. Since then the Chief’s have either been fire-fighting for their service extensively deployed in counter-insurgency operations, or beating back the Pakistan Army from Kargil. None has been able to positively impact the structure and functioning of the Army even if they wanted to, or were incapable of doing so. So if Gen Bikram is interested in leaving a legacy and giving back to the Army more than he has taken from it, he must ensure that the squabbles of the past years are never repeated again. He can begin by bringing the various branches and directorates of Army HQs onto one channel. Root causes are better nipped in the roots. Force modernisation and such fancy things are of secondary importance right now. In any case the Army is more than capable of thwarting any adversary. All that is required is for its generals to be told that those they take to be adversaries are in fact brother officers. And brotherhood always comes from a father figure, a role Gen Bikram has to accept or reject.


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