The cross-border raid into Pakistan last month has given the impression that things have suddenly improved between the armed forces and India‘s civilian government.But talk to serving and retired defence personnel and you will get a queasy feeling that all is not well.
That there are a number of unsolved and sensitive issues that need to be dealt with if India is serious about having a more assertive approach to dealing with Pakistan and its terrorists.
In fact, our soldiers have not taken too kindly to politicians taking credit for the surgical strikes and arm-twisting film producers into donating money to them as compensation for using Pakistani actors. Many of them feel politicians want to use them for votes but don’t want to resolve their many complex and pending issues.
Everyone seems to have forgotten that just before terrorists killed 18 of our soldiers at Uri, one of the nerve centres of the Indian Army the Western Command had gone without a chief for nearly 50 days.
Lieutenant General KJ Singh retired on July 31 and Lieutenant General Surinder Singh took over on September 17. In between, two officiating officers ran the affairs of the command leading to speculation and heartburn on the reasons behind the delay . Exactly 11days after the new chief stepped in, terrorists struck at Uri.
Although Uri is under the Northern Command, the Western Command is responsible for most parts of the border with Pakistan. Retired army generals say they have never heard of a situation where the Western Command had a stopgap arrangement for such a long period. Traditionally , a new chief is announced months before an incumbent is to retire.
Before we go ga-ga over the surgical strike, it is important to recognise the resentment in our soldiers. They have already expressed their disgruntlement over the 7th Pay Commission and are yet to see the full benefits of OROP.
Today , it is common for senior army officers to talk of merit being ignored while making crucial appointments as they sip on their scotch at dusk. They will talk about how there have been instances of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet being ignored while giving out crucial defence postings.
General VP Malik, the man who led the Army during the Kargil war in 1999, has often spoken of the need for a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to sort out the higher decision-making processes of the forces. Malik and others also say today that before appointing a CDS, more pressing needs should be addressed immediately , including greater interaction between the three service chiefs and the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). At present, the chiefs are called in only during crises.
This desire to have more say in security issues of the country is a long-pending demand of the men in uniform who are more comfortable with political control over themselves rather than bureacratic control.