ISSN 2330-717X

India’s New Chief Of Army Staff: A Tough Task Ahead – Analysis


Gen. V. K. Singh, who will be retiring as the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) on May 31,2012, will go down in history as a highly competent General, who did not deserve to be the head of the proud Indian Army despite his excellent record in the battle-field against our adversaries.

He proved during the last months of his tenure that to command the Indian Army, one’s professional qualities and battle-field achievements alone are not sufficient. One requires leadership qualities like firmness in man management combined with fairness to subordinates and colleagues, discretion, an ability to win the respect of the colleagues and establish an atmosphere of trust with the political leadership.


India has been a successful democracy. Its success has been due to not only its voters and its electoral system, but also to the responsible behaviour of the heads of its institutional pillars. Our Army has always been one of the important institutional pillars of our nation and democracy.

In our 65 years of history as an independent nation, we have had instances of honest differences of opinion between the COAS and the political leadership and between the COAS and his senior colleagues. They were handled in a way as they ought to be handled in a sensitive institution like the Army— with a sense of balance, with mutual respect despite the differences, with discretion and away from the glare of publicity. We, the people, became aware of such instances long after the COAS concerned had gone into superannuation.

It went to the credit of those chiefs that they saw to it that their differences did not damage the trust of the political leadership and the public in our proud Army. An Army marches on its pride and its image in the eyes of the public. If the pride and the image are damaged, even the best of weapons and training will be of little avail in maintaining the battle-hardiness of the Army.

In his last months as the chief, Gen.V.K.Singh played to the gallery and exhibited in public a viciousness towards some of his senior colleagues, the like of which will not do credit to any institution, particularly the Army. We have had instances of viciousness in leadership in other institutions of the Government of India dealing with national security, but such viciousness was never exhibited in public and did not make the institutions the laughing stock of the public.

Firmness and fairness in man management is the most important quality the heads of the Armed Forces should have. The esprit de corps, which keeps them fighting fit all the time and under all circumstances, depends on those qualities.

Gen.Singh showed himself to be lacking in those qualities. The Indian Army, that has never been accused or suspected of factionalism, became a breeding ground of factionalism. The relationship of mutual trust and mutual respect between the political and military leadership which has been the bedrock of our successful democracy stands eroded.

Over the years, there has been a demand from strategic analysts in the country for giving our Armed Forces a greater role in decision and policy making in national security matters on par with practices in Western democracies. The Government of Dr.Manmohan Singh had initiated a major exercise to see how this can be done.

Any decision to give the Armed Forces a greater role in decision and policy-making in defence and national security related matters has to be that of the political leadership. It would depend on its confidence in the sense of balance, discretion and responsibility of the military leadership.

That confidence is likely to have been eroded by the way Gen.Singh conducted himself in his sunset months as the COAS. A major casualty of his behaviour could be the exercise to associate the military leadership with policy and decision making in an increasing measure.

The last months of Gen.Singh as the COAS were a bad dream for the country. It is hoped that his successor will repair the damage quickly and make the Army once again one of the important institutional pillars of our democracy and re-establish its esprit de corps.

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B. Raman

B. Raman (August 14, 1936 – June 16, 2013) was Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies.

15 thoughts on “India’s New Chief Of Army Staff: A Tough Task Ahead – Analysis

  • May 28, 2012 at 9:06 am

    I think the arms lobby forced him to do that. I feel he has done good to expose them. Nowadays I feel whoever talks against the general is linked to the arms lobby, including the author of this blog.

  • May 28, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Gen. V. K. Singh was very sincere and tried to bring transparency in ARMY. There was many dubious politician and Army officier who felt uncomfortable because they were not allowed to loot the defence money. So these people created lot of problem and controversy to defame the Gen. V. K. Singh. There were many analyst which wrote many article to defame him.

  • May 28, 2012 at 9:29 am

    So Mr Raman, whatever our Army chief did was wrong and whatever PMO did was fair enough rite, he exposed TATRA case, he tried bring transparency in weapon buy, else we wud have still flying the coffins and using bofors guns…Mr Raman enough of hoodwinking the people and playing like puppets under the shaodws of congress leaders,,,I am proud of my Army chief,,,he did the right thing and I am sure he would be retiring as a proud army chief unlike you buereucratsds who still yearn for pennies by writing cloumns like this…and i am very proud of my army chief tooo

  • May 28, 2012 at 9:33 am

    I do not agree with the author Mr. Raman.

    I still have full faith in our Army and I still consider the Army chief did his job with perfection.

    I am still as much proud of the Army as I was few months or years ago.

    Having said that, I do agree that General V K Singh sis speak about corruption in the ARMY. But certainly somewhere it should have started. He did speak publicly, may be because he does want things to change and not just put things on record.

    As I know the Tatra deal was objected to months back, then why was action taken only after it went public.

    The thing is if corruption is involved at this level, the army chief has to depend on ministry and bureaucracy for action to be taken. And our Ministry and Bureaucrats only acts when public pressure is put on them.

    As an Indian, I will rather like things to change for the better by whatever means then to get caught in the so called pride and protocol issues.

    Jai Hind
    Jai Army

  • May 28, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Is B Raman beyond controversy…. Its too premature to judge him… let history decides on the fate of V.K singh…..

  • May 28, 2012 at 9:35 am

    The reason why Gen V K Singh was made to resign is because he did not want to associate with corrupt Congress and UPA

  • May 28, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Dear Mr. Raman,

    Just read your article on the out going chief.

    In reply let me highlight the following:

    A.Indian Politics have never been so corrupt.

    B.The Army ( Airforce and Navy too)itself has been extreamly corrupt.

    C.I have personally seen a number of people from armed forces. Seeing their greed and ambition left me wondering the internal state of our forces. Since long I knew it was time bomb waiting to explode.

    You may be right in saying he did not deserve to be army chief. Not for all wrong reasons but for his honesty.

    D. In the name of democracy this country is ruled by one family. Its dynastic rule can not wash away its hand from the present state of affairs in the country.

    E. The PM and the Presidents of India have never been so weak remote controlled by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi.

    F. Time never remains same Mr. Raman. So dont dig out the past and crucify the present. In the prevailing circumstances he has done a great job.


  • May 28, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Dear Raman,

    From your profile and the way you wrote the article it’s quite clear for us why this article is written in first place. Every whistle blower is silenced by authorities in the same manner. The article is quite one sided and does not speak anything about how else he should have handled the situation. It doesn’t even accept any realities that Gen V.K.Singh pointed out.

    On the name of dignity and pride or fear of loosing public trust, if such crucial and important matters are pushed under carpet, it could cost horribly one day. Even if we assume that the General did all this for his personal fame, why don’t you accept or reject his claims?
    India is lot better than all those nations where every now and then military takes shape of dictator ship. On the name of democracy political system has been feeding dirt to it’s people. It’s time for few good men to open their mouths now.

  • May 28, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Another article to defame Army Chief.
    Army Chief has done well to expose the Tatra and BEML Corruption. Exposed first time in the history the role of Defense ministry Babus in the manipulation of records, corruption, leakage of sensitive documents and witch hunt through media.
    Exposed how Supreme Court judges become mediators instead of doing their duty as Judges.
    We need more people like Army Chief like Gen VK Singh in all departments.

  • May 28, 2012 at 11:01 am

    With all due respect to the learned Author of the article and high functionary.

    The very fact that this article has been written by you an ex-establishment person, puts into doubt the credibility of it.

    Further while i am to low a commoner but do have common sense and read and write english.

    From what i gather from news after my humble analysis is that Gen Singh has exposed the rot which was already there in the system. I would say he to a smaller manner acted like Gorbachev.

    my two bits as a very small fry… i hope not to have offended any one.


  • May 28, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Not sure why u didn’t like him , but we as indian dont want beurocrats to interfere in army works.

  • May 28, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Mr. Raman is a respectable commentrator. I don’t underrstand the merit of his arguement. Whether the burden of preserving the virtues of Indian democracy and Indian army should lay with poor General, whereas the Civil governments should pervert the institution and go scot free. What type of arguement was it? It is mid-way reading of constitution? Since when, Mr. Raman, Dates of Birth have come to be determined by verbal or written commitment between the superior and subordinates and not on the basis of statutory proof/ School certificate/Date of Birth certificate. Appatrently Gen Singh was asked to accept a date by the then Gen. in lieu of clearing his file for promotion. Does Mr. Raman consider it a fair play and a virtue of democarcy. Going by SC’s view, which Mr. Raman is upholding, a HC judge may be asked to change his DoB before he is cleared for SC. Mr. Raman, line of succession were determined by the Nawabs and Badshahs and not in a bureaucratc institutionalised set up. Whether Govt. liked it or not, Gen. Singh was born on a certain date, even SC can not change that fact. It is not open to any judicial interpretation. Period

  • May 28, 2012 at 11:51 am

    A full time bureaucrat in B Raman can not, but be expected to write such a one sided article on the institutional and systemic rot that stands exposed – thanks to the brave efforts of Gen VK Singh. It is Raman’s colleagues and he himself, who are the rot at the roots. The bureaucracy can not stand the discipline and public affection for the Army. The corrupt babus sit in plush offices, make money in a arms deals, collude with politicians and then pontificate after retirement. Shame on you Raman to write such article in public domain. India requires fearless leaders like VK Singh to stem the rot by people like you.

  • May 28, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    While I agree to the author’s views on “Civil -Military relationship”; It ought to a two way traffic, How long will the politicians and civil servants ride rough shod on the Armed Forces.The armed forces are a reflection of the society at large.

    N.B. I said civil servants.

  • May 30, 2012 at 6:57 am

    Mr Raman is very right. Gen VK Singh’s tenure as COAS was like a nightmare for army. I think he got so obsessed with his date of birth that he forgot he was head of an institution with a fantastic record of valour, correctness and high professional standards.

    His put up show in fighting corruption was really a fig leaf to divert public’s attention from his somewhat irresponsible behaviour. His hobnobbing with politicos and some dubious characters calling themselves as civil society, gives a clear indication that the good general had a definite personal agenda in mind that is not necessarily good for the long term health of the Indian Army


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