A lot of what was said about the Army’s attempted coup was imagined. Being an army child you learn to imagine a few things yourself. Just like the coup that happened never really happened, I have imagined, innumerable times that the government of the day realizes that they have ill-treated the services for far too long. I have also imagined that that this correction has happened retrospectively. But we all know that the only thing the government does with retrospectively is to change laws every now and then.
So, let me offer my two bits about this whole coup business. If you have been reading newspaper articles like this one here, you’d realize that the Chief of the Army Chief Staff (COAS) doesn’t need to mobilize 1400 soldiers to overthrow the government from places like Hissar. 10,000 of his men are posted in and around the NCR at any given moment. Do the math. Now, irrespective of where you stand on this alleged coup, the COAS or the government please take a few things into consideration before you express an opinion.
In the days that followed this allegedly attempted coup the media became obsessed with the COAS writing to the Prime Minister about the state of the nation’s Army. Shouldn’t the harsh truth that our Army isn’t 100% battle ready due to delayed modernization and the lack of equipment worry us more than the manner in which we got to know of this reality? Editors like Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai tweet things like ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ to exonerate their ilk but I’m sorry to say that jokers like him are one of the reasons why the common person is compelled to look at things differently. It’s very easy for millions to think that the Army Chief is putting the government in a ‘spot’. An equal number on the other side of the debate can’t comprehend why is it difficult for the government to stop being so woefully apathetic to an army that selflessly dedicates itself to the nation. But when in a nation millions of common men and women, who spend a better part of their existence making ends meet, choose to listen to people like Sardesai, they momentarily lose their focus. Like him they start asking who leaked the letter, how did such sensitive communiqué between the PM and COAS reach public domain?
I say it’s good that it reached the public domain. I say it’s rather late. The media is so fixated with the COAS writing to the Prime Minister that it has labeled the whole action and its aftermath as ‘unprecedented’. Is it? Is this the first time an Army Chief has written to a Prime Minister? Rather than looking at the how, when, ever before, never again scenarios the simple question that one needs to ask is just why did the COAS write this letter. It speaks volumes about the pathetic state of affairs. An Army Chief has to write to the PM to inform him about the state of the defense preparedness? And all that the wise men and women of media and politics can look at it in the only manner it should be seen in?
Gen Shankar Roychowdhury, the former COAS, expressed sadness and a little anger at the letter entering public domain but like anyone who has ever served in the uniform was hardly surprised or shocked at the contents of the letter. He knows better than feigning an emotion that isn’t true. Every Chief that has ever served the highest office in Indian Army has felt the same anger, the same shock and the same hopelessness as Gen VK Singh. Every Chief of the Indian Army has in his time asked for the same things that compelled Gen Singh to write to the Prime Minister. Since the day he took charge he has been asking the same question; he got tired of a non-existent government that chooses to refuse to understand the threat called China and Pakistan.
Bureaucrats who on their best days can eulogize the finer nuances of Darjeeling tea or Turkish carpets or Saudi dates till the cows come home sit on the Army’s head when it comes to buying defense equipment. They are straddled with the ghosts of the past such as Bofors so they refuse to take a decision and every time the Army suggests something they move files in opposite direction. They also don’t like the idea of FDI in defense equipment on the pretext that this will compromise our nation’s security. Think about it- a foreign manufacturer within your boundary sets up shop to stock your Army, provides employment to thousands of your citizens and then pays taxes as well isn’t preferred over them sitting in their countries and sending vital machinery every now and then. Of course, the same bureaucrats will move the files or give clearances for these parts to reach our Army. Our Army returns the moneyallocated to it under the defense budget for it can’t spend it thanks to the indecision on the part of the government. And while this is happening China’s defense spending has increased steadily from $30 billion in 2000 to almost $120 billion in 2010 and it’ll be $160 billion in 2012.
Spineless and amoral petty thieves run our nation. They sit in the highest offices and question the integrity of men and women who’d die for this nation without blinking an eyelid. What right does someone like Lalu Prasad Yadav, a charge sheeted criminal, have to question the integrity of the COAS. This is the same man who actually told his brethren that they would be fools to trade their freedom if they support the Lokalpal Bill! How dare he of the fodder scams and bleeding a state and the nation dry ask this? Howdare we allow him to ask this?
Do you think the Chief of Army Staff is a job?
The Chief of the Army Staff of India isn’t a naukari. He and the thousands of men and women he leads aren’t there meeting some key requirements or pleasing 790 members of Parliament who have made this nation a joke. Remember the only thing that stands between your freedom, something that you have started taking for granted as if it were on a prepaid plan, and the lack of it is the brave Indian soldier. The next time you even remotely try to be dismissive of the Army, the COAS or the jawan think of standing guard in -50 degrees Celsius for someone like you who aimlessly flips TV channels because you can’t sleep. And yeah, if the COAS or the Army wanted a coup they could have done that before you finished flipping the 100 odd channels you enjoy.
Further reading- The Economist on Indian economy losing its magic.