If government were to be asked one question post Kargil, it is how long does it expect the military to win purely on soldier grit? But then expecting implementation of the Kargil Review Committee recommendations in letter and spirit was naïve in the first place. Failure to take action against intelligence lapse of such magnitude speaks for itself. If we could not detect such mass enemy mobilisation in POK, what use is external intelligence?
The Cabinet Committee on Security should have been briefed biweekly if not daily on Pakistani intrusions and assessment of enemy intentions. Why was the government not shamed when the then Army Chief said, “We shall fight with whatever we have”. We are status quo or worse off – recently leaked letter of a former Army Chief to the Prime Minister. To say that the MoD is not mired in corruption is naïve too – La affaire Tatra says it all and what of the facade of banning whole lot of defence firms on bribery charges?
Such blacklisting is fine provided military needs are fulfilled from elsewhere. Latter is a massive unending void with an excruciatingly unfocused and unaccountable DRDO and PSUs supported by equally wooly and unaccountable polity and bureaucrats, not to mention politics of setting up new military cantonments and defence PSUs with sole criteria being the defence minister belongs to that area.
How come the Prime Minister could not reply to Maniben Naik’s letter saying, “Defence Production (MoD) Joint Secretaries and Secretaries of Defence Ministry are on the Boards of all PSUs – sickest of sick units you can think of who cannot take out one conventional submarine in 15 years …. and bulk of the time we resort to imports out of no choice…”
The alarmingly widening gap between the PLA and our military appears to be of little consequence to the powers that be. Government may appreciate late K. Subramanyam for his remarkable strategic thoughts but never heeded his life-time repeated assertions for chalking out a national security strategy. There has never been a holistic strategic defence review. The higher defence planning set up continues to lie defunct sans requisite military participation.
The V.K. Singh episode and its aftermath gives clear indication of sustained attempts to undermine the institutional integrity of the armed forces, success already having been achieved in other government and non-governmental organisations. The paid media is fully exploited in this vicious drive. Not only is the MoD-MEA construct disjointed, it appears that jointness in the military is deliberately not being encouraged as the divide and rule policy suits both the polity and the bureaucrats completely disregarding grave danger to national security. This is possibly with the perception no matter how many soldiers are killed there will be no dearth of volunteers.
Government response to pay, prestige and other grievances of the military indicates a deliberate effort to drive a wedge between the officers and the soldiers. The government body to look after the veterans has not a single veteran or serving member. The newly appointed committee by the Prime Minister to look into pay and other grievances is not looking into ‘all issues’, does not have a single veteran or serving military member and in fact constitutes the very same individuals because of whom these anomalies occurred and were allowed to linger on.
There is much speculation that Prime Minister may make some announcement in this regard on August 15. That would be surprising as in the last two years he has failed to or deliberately not made ‘any’ mention of the military. More significantly, even if he does make any promises it should not be expected to go beyond a political statement – hasn’t the government already stonewalled many Supreme Court decisions regarding pay and anomalies of armed forces? So, when the civil-military relations are at the lowest ebb and the even the Supreme Commander hostage to politics, where do we go? Politics and lobbies apart, we need to first get the higher defence set up re-engineered post haste, failing which the dark clouds on the horizon will start unloading. 21st century threats cannot be answered purely on soldier grit especially when the grit itself is being undermined. The views expressed herein are the personal views of the author.