Gen. Singh must go

Army chief's reputation can never be repaired since he crossed wires with the executive and penned that letter to PM Manmohan

The political leadership in any other institutional democracy would have fired General V.K. Singh in the wake of his relentless fusillade of revelations targeting the government -- the latest salvo being the leaked letter to the Prime Minister in which he presented a grim picture of the force's battle-preparedness.

For the first time, the Indian army -- in the shape of its chief -- has openly crossed swords with the executive. In the process, the General has sullied the image of the very institution he heads.
He has reached the point of no return, leaving behind a huge stink and making his position as the man at the helm of one of the largest armies in the world untenable.

Through interviews and letters describing the sorry state of the army, Gen. Singh has shown what frustration can do even to a fine officer

Yet the ruling coalition, in the grip of a severe policy paralysis, failed Indian parliamentary democracy again on Wednesday by mouthing inanities rather than summarily giving General Singh marching orders.

That the country's systemic inadequacies were showcased at a time when Chinese President Hu Jintao was in New Delhi for the BRICS summit was a further blow to the prestige of the largest democracy in the world.

Through a series of interviews and leaked letters describing the sorry state of the army, the General has shown what frustration can do even to a fine officer. But in democratic societies, even a whiff of challenge to the civilian authority needs to be decisively snuffed out.

Witness the pathetic attempts of Defence Minister A.K. Antony to convince Parliament about India's defence preparedness, hours after the army chief's totally contrary views became public knowledge.
'Since this matter has been raised, I wish to assure the House - and through the House the Nation - that the government is determined to continue to do all that is necessary to ensure the security and defence of India,' Antony told Parliament on a wimpish note.

Contrast this with what General Singh said in his leaked letter which, in tone and tenor, suggested it was meant more for public consumption than seeking an official reflection on the army's state of affairs. '…The state of the major (fighting) arms i.e. mechanised forces, artillery, air defence, infantry and special forces, as well as the engineers and signals, is indeed alarming.

The army is devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks, while the air defence system is 97 per cent obsolete and it does not give the deemed confidence to protect. The infantry is crippled with deficiencies of crew served weapon,' the army chief informed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a letter dated March 12, 2012.

He went on to say the elite Special Forces are 'woefully short' of 'essential weapons'
In his letter to the PM, Army General Singh wrote that the army’s entire tank fleet is 'devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks'

The missive conveniently found its way into the front pages of a national daily. South Block officials felt that the army chief, in his last days in office, was leaving the house in complete disarray for his successor, Lieutenant General Bikram Singh, who is scheduled to take over on May 31.

Though General Singh's view about the state of the army was shared by his predecessor, General Deepak Kapoor and former air chief marshal S.P. Tyagi, never has any service chief disseminated facts about India's defence preparedness with such cavalier disregard for the nation's morale or sense of security.

Another case in point was that of Admiral Vijai Singh Shekhawat who, on September 28, 1996, wrote to the PM pointing out vital deficiencies in ship performance levels. Wednesday's development came on top of acrimony between the army chief and the government in the last two days over his media interview in which he had claimed that he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore by a retired Lieutenant General for swinging a sub-standard defence deal.

Even the timing of the leakage of his damning letter was questioned, with parliamentarians asserting that it was linked to his frustration over his age issue. According to Congress leader and overseas affairs minister Vayalar Ravi, the episode was a result of the army chief's 'frustration' and that he had 'crossed a line'.

'The Army is a disciplined force. (General Singh) could not get an extension even by the court. Maybe, a frustrated man suffers,' he said, adding: 'There is a limit. I am saying...whatever he does is the action of a frustrated individual.' Ravi was referring to General Singh's failed attempt to settle the issue of his date of birth.

The Supreme Court had firmly struck down General Singh's contention that his date of birth is May 10, 1951, that would increase his retirement age by one year. The Court agreed with the government that General Singh was born on May 10, 1950.

It is quite apparent now that when General Singh lost the legal battle over his age with the government, he had chalked out a strategy to keep upping the ante as the date of his demitting office drew closer.
The Lok Sabha Opposition Leader, Sushma Swaraj, raised the same doubts: 'What has the army chief been doing over the last two years?

'Why did he not raise the issue earlier or do anything about it (himself)? We want a clear explanation from the government.' But the government was clearly not in a position to explain. Three options were said to have been discussed among ministers and the ruling party members.

The first was that the army chief should be sacked forthwith, the second that he should be forced to go on compulsory leave and the third that he should be tolerated till end of May when his tenure ends.
Reasons such as the BRICS summit being underway and the passage of the finance Bill were cited to explain the indecision over the issue.

Around 11.30 am on Wednesday morning, after the issue rocked both Houses of Parliament, a visibly worried PM went into a huddle with Antony and home minister P. Chidambaram.

© Daily Mail, London

Army Chief replies to CBI, confirms bribe offer

New Delhi: Army Chief General VK Singh on Friday replied to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and confirmed the bribe offer by a lobbyist to clear the supply of a tranche of sub-standard vehicles for the Army. General Singh also says in the response that he will give more details soon.

Surprisingly, no bribe amount has been mentioned in the complaint Singh, who had made the allegation in a media interview that forced the Defence Minister to order a CBI inquiry, told the agency in a letter on Friday that there was a bribe offer from a lobbyist but did not give details of the amount or the name of the person who made the offer, CBI sources said.

A preliminary enquiry or an FIR could be registered soon after completion of the procedural requirements. The Army Chief had claimed in media interviews that an equipment lobbyist had offered him a bribe of Rs 14 crore, a matter which he had reported to Defence Minister A K Antony.

The Ministry had then recommended a CBI probe into the allegation made by the Army chief..
A day after Defence Minister AK Antony extended an olive branch, the Army Chief in a fresh statement earlier on Friday tried to douse the controversy.

General Singh said,"There were rogue elements trying to create a rift between the government and the Army. There was no battle between the armed forces and the Government of India and the Army and the Chief were very much a part of it."

To those questioning the timing of the controversy, he added the bribery row was revived only because the person in question resurfaced in March.

Lt General Tejinder Singh hit back at General VK Singh's allegations and told CNN-IBN,"General VK Singh has regrettably issued a statement insinuating that I have been causing a schism between the Defence Minister and him. The Defence Minister has more than 40 years of service. This is an insult to political leadership of the country that I am creating schism."

Singh added that the statement of General Singh is that of a frustrated man and he is hitting at all and sundry. "I am a soft target and cannot match his resources He has two months left, I pray him peace in these two months," said Lt General Tejinder Singh.

An Army press release on March 5 had claimed that Lieutenant General (retired) Tejinder Singh had tried to influence the Army Chief and offered him the bribe to clear the purchase of sub-standard vehicles for the forces.

"Institutional corrective steps were taken earlier after talks with Defence Ministry AK Antony. Selective leaks culminated in airing the letter to the Prime Minister. We are duty bound to serve country and protect the integrity of the Army even if we sometimes have to look within. We need to look within the confines of the system and law. Frivolous and uninformed comments should not be made on military matters," said General Singh.


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