By Dr Subhash Kapila
“The present Chief will be going out on a moral high. Despite a massive slander campaign launched by the manufactured media and some inimical elements, his reputation as an incorruptible leader and professionally upright commander remains intact. Having faced the wrath of a corrupt, manipulated and prejudiced environment, he will be long remembered for his attempts at cleansing the system”—- Major General (Retd) Mrinal Suman, May 26 2012, in “Sword and Shield”
Backed by nearly forty years of service in uniform, coupled with years of service as a military diplomat witnessing the workings of the US Army, British Army, Japanese Army and South Korean Army, a veteran’s tribute is in order to the outgoing Indian Army Chief of Army Staff, General V K Singh. This becomes necessary to dispel the haze of manufactured calumny that was let loose against General V K Singh in the wake of his filing the case in the Supreme Court on his age issue.
In this orchestrated campaign to belittle him for daring to step out of line, what stands obliterated are the tremendous and significant contributions made by General V. K Singh to the enhancement of the Indian Army profile in all dimensions.
As a veteran I would desist from touching the issue of General V. K. Singh’s age issue as in essence and at the core lie facts that would make any soldier to recoil in revulsion in the way the Indian Army’s cherished values of honour and integrity were given a go-by not by General V.K Singh but by those who should have had a higher call on the managing of this controversy.
Further, this is not the last that one would have heard over the age row and by delving on it further one would be minimising away from the significance of the contributions made by General V K Singh on which I would like to pay a veteran’s tribute.
Recalling the long line of Indian Army’s galaxy of Chiefs from 1957 onwards when I donned uniform as a cadet, only four Indian Army Chief’s figure significantly in my ‘Roll of Honour’ and they are General K S Thimayya, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, General Sunderji and now General V K Singh. All of them have been real professional soldiers, contributed to raising the operational profile of the Indian Army and transforming it in many ways. All of them were lustrous Indian Army Chiefs and added lustre to the Indian Army.
General VK Singh on assuming the command of the India Army set three or four targets for achievement. These were (1) Operational transformation of Indian Army into a modern, well-integrated force capable of effectively waging net-centric warfare (2) Improving the war-readiness of the Indian Army in view of the enhanced threats from Pakistan and China (3) Improving the ‘moral health’ of the Indian Army.
Never in the history of the Indian Army was a ‘Command-Level’ operational exercise held to test battle readiness and validation of operational concepts newly arrived at. Similarly, the number of Strike Corps operational exercises seems to have gone up. This process not only transformed and honed up Indian Army’s operational readiness to an all-time high but created a sobering impact on Pakistan Army. What else can you expect from a professional Chief?
Improving the war readiness of the Indian Army to meet the pronounced threats to India’s security lies only partly in the domain of the Chief of Army Staff. The major responsibility lies with the Ministry of Defence and the political executive to make required funds available and their personal drive and determination to materialise defence equipment acquisitions so that the Army Chief can focus on his prime focus forging a battle-worthy Indian Army rather than fighting turf battles with the bureaucratic middle-men interposed by India’s first Prime Minister.
Senior Army Officers have averred that the Army Chief informs in writing once every six months or so of the critical voids in Indian Army war readiness inventories to the Defence Minister and Prime Minister so that they could get things moving.
Regrettably, it seems that vested quarters leaked the Chief’s letter and blew out of proportion a routine process and gave it a vicious spin to discredit General V K Singh as having done this out of pique over his unsuccessful age row issue. The Government has yet to pin the blame as to who leaked this Top Secret letter in the public domain.
Anyway whoever leaked it and this cannot be at the middle level, has in its wake unleashed some favourable unintended consequences. The first unintended consequence was that the Country came to know dismal Indian Army’s war-preparedness was and secondly the Parliamentary Committee on Defence was forced to jump-start its focus on both counts.
General V K Singh stood vindicated when the Parliamentary Committee echoed what the Chief was pointing out.
General V K Singh on his third point of improving the ‘moral health’ of the India Army went about it with a messianic zeal. While within the Army he has been successful in implementing it in the higher echelons, he fell foul when this started impinging and overlapping with involvement of political circles and bureaucratic circles due to aberrations of some senior Army Officers.
As a senior veteran of the Indian Army, the concern which has always dominated my thoughts is that the Army should be engaged in a state of constant transformation to fight the next high-technology war. This General V K Singh has succeeded in admirably.
War-preparedness of the nation stood amply highlighted by General V K Singh going by media reports. In the process if he became a victim of manufactured calumny which logically would have arisen from those quarters beyond the Army Headquarters whose tardiness stood exposed. General V K Singh has done his job and if another 1962 is inflicted on the Indian Army, the country would know who is responsible.
In terms of ‘moral health’ of the Indian Army, he could do so only within the Indian Army and as Army Chief he cannot transform the country.
So on all counts General V K Singh, in my estimation as a senior veteran of the Indian Army you stand tall as professionally competent leader, morally upright and as one who went about your ‘transforming mission’ with a messianic zeal.