One has been reading and hearing a lot ever since the Indian Army came into existence about the freedom that should be enjoyed by Professionals as also the Top Brass in the Services when we have to take Military decisions, whatever they be which affects the Countries Security and Administration. We talk about CIVILIAN CONTROL, which to my mind is Bureaucratic control. I concede that as far as the Bureaucrats are concerned they also have a role to play which would restrict them to sharing what has been put up, preparing the file for the Minister and await his Study and Remarks, which can then on file be recorded as the case progresses. This does not mean that Bureaucracy has no role to play but they should certainly be aware of the contents, importance and must be briefed by the Officer dealing with the Subject which should include all angles of the proposal, but the Final decision being taken by the “Political Heads” who are the Elected Representatives of the People and who are wholly responsible for the Governance and Safety of the Country without Bureaucrat interference.
There have been in our History some very serious aberrations that have taken place where some very unprofessional professionals have pushed themselves and their ideas for purely selfish reasons not keeping National interests in view which has brought down the professional conduct and Operations of the Armed Forces. Take the recent case of purchase of Helicopters, Guns, Tanks, Spares and many more other cases. Due to such practices we find today cases where the Chiefs of the Services have got involved because of the lure of advancement after retirement or for monetary gains that may accrue to them. This is a sad commentary and a Black mark on the Armed Forces.
National Security Problems
Years back we had constituted the DCC (Defense Committee of the Cabinet) which was headed by the Cabinet Secretary to discuss all National Security Problems of the Armed Forces and then filter their recommendations to the CCPA (Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs) headed by the Prime Minister, whose Members were the Defense Minister, Home Minister, Finance Minister, External Affairs Minister or any other Minister to be co-opted for discussion on an as required basis.
The point at issue is not whether the DCC or the CCPA are there and remain constituted – the question is whether they are effective and competent to overrule any professional advice as it becomes available to them, stage by stage? Irrespective of the number of Committees – it is the Man who heads them who wears the Crown and it is regrettably seen that most of the time the King now-a-days does not take his own decisions but is invariably swayed by the Advice proffered to him through the various Lobbies, which have changed the course of Indian History. Remember the case where Admiral Bhagwat Chief of Naval Staff had dug his heels regarding Vice Admiral Harinder Singh’s appointment. He was sacked for reasons unknown.
There have been some glaring examples where we have in the past also miserably failed and some where we have brilliantly succeeded in taking advice and sticking to it. The most criticized and printed version of professional advice being thrown in the dust bin was the famous “BOFORS” case.
Tact to Handle at PM and Ministerial Levels
Considering the volatile security environment around us today, I think purely from a Military stand-point, the Nation owes a great gratitude to a former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, for having always shown courage in not accepting the advice of the, then the Chief, of the Army Staff on the Bofors deal! Here was a situation where the Political Head disagreed with the Professional advice rendered without carrying any bias against the Professional. It is safe to assume that had Rajiv Gandhi accepted the advice of Sunderji, he could no doubt have spared himself the Political turbulence which followed, but only at the cost of gravely jeopardizing National Security as could be seen during the Kargil and Siachen conflicts where these guns were operationally deployed and stung the Paki’s.
It may also not be known to the People of India, that it was Rajiv Gandhi who in a display of characteristic, albeit unpublicized firmness, over-ruled and reined in the over enthusiasm of his Generals and some Ministers who wanted to take the Country to the brink of war with Pakistan during BRASSTACKS in 1986 since the Plans were never disclosed or discussed with him.
I would also recall the reaction of Rajiv Gandhi when faced by a conspiracy hatched for his dismissal by the then President Giani Zail Singh which was within the tacit knowledge of the Chief of Army Staff and some of the other senior Generals who may have played a major part in the whole episode for destabilizing the Country.
It is also to the immense credit of Rajiv Gandhi then the Prime Minister that he did not allow any such aberrations caused by an overbearing Chief to come in the way of his rational action and thinking. It is a lesson which should be emulated by all our present day Political leaders. Giani Zail Singh later when asked – why he did not ultimately dismiss Rajiv Gandhi. He said, “I thought if I dismissed Rajiv Gandhi and appointed his successor, he might turn out to be a weak person which could have resulted in the transition of power to the Armed Forces and he would not like to be held responsible for demolishing the DEMOCRATIC SET UP OF THE COUNTRY”
In all the above cases what were the options available to Rajiv at that time – Dismiss the Chief of Army Staff by publicly perceiving his acts as one of disobedience, defiance and lies, or defuse a situation in the interest of the Nation while still ensuring the Security Environment in the Subcontinent?
Another PM’s Reaction
On the other hand take the case of the unprecedented decision taken to sack the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) by the then Government in Power where the Defense Minister and the Prime Minister alleged that the Chief of Naval Staff was responsible for a series of Actions in defiance of the established system of Cabinet Control of the Armed Forces and that there was a threat to the established structure of Democracy, traditional neutrality, and objectivity of the Armed Forces, as well as National Security. It was further said there were other Security concerns which led to a very SCARY development which were tantamount to an “ACT”.
The Actual Situation
The only issue of defiance that has appeared openly since then was the appointment of the Deputy Chief of Naval Staff. Does the CCPA believe that the appointment of any individual other than their choice will pose a threat or would lower the Cabinet Control over the Armed Forces?
What we see today is that our Present PM does not appear to even know what is happening around him.
Supreme Control Lies with Whom
Let us be clear about the supremacy of Civilian Control. What is Supreme is the Constitution of India and the laws derived through legislative actions. Even if the allegations of threat to democratic structure and National Security are true, the legal process of removing the Chief of Naval Staff from Service or taking disciplinary action against him should have been followed. The CCPA in this case, threw every rule aside and were acting as per “Divine Laws” revealed only to them. Equally upsetting was the remark by the Defense Minister that against all traditions and customs whereby the senior most Chief takes over as the Chairman of Chief of Staff Committee (COSC), he was considering of appointing some one Junior. George Fernandes said that no authorization had been given by him to the present incumbent – no authorization is required to be given by the Minister as the rotational process goes by tenure/seniority. In this case the Parliament should have been taken into confidence if there was to be a change as the Minister is only the representative of the People and remains so at the pleasure of Democratic functioning. If the Defense Minister was trying to play politics by control or interference, he was playing with fire. It is hoped that our three Services Chiefs will never play the game which Politicians want them to play but remain steadfast even when a grave crisis strikes them in the face in order that the Democratic functioning of our Country continues. To ensure this, it is necessary that we follow rules laid down – even by the Internal Police Agencies such as CBI and others who must be made Independent. (Can we see what has struck us today in the 2G Scam). If we take the CCPA perception of that time which was of grave threat to National Security, Democratic functioning and SCARY conditions, then the point was obviously an attempt by the then Chief of Naval Staff to influence a military take over. If so, was he alone? Who were the other conspirators? Have not the People a right to know, from their Representatives sent to Parliament as to what they were doing?
The People today, not only have a right to know but they must act and not remain passive or show apathy in matters of grave National Security lapses or when the Democratic structure appears to be at risk. Such as the Coal Gate and 2G scams reports.
Remember what Chanakaya said, “More harm is done to the Society by the apathy of Good People than by the evil deeds of the wicked”
Pillars that Standout
The Country is fully aware that there are only three Institutions left with credible integrity: The Parliament, the Judiciary and the Armed Forces. We have paid heavily for leaving the Governance of the Country entirely to the Professional Politicians, without consulting the Armed Forces. Personal ambitions and survival come first to them. The apathy of the Citizens particularly the Elite, who have almost opted out of the Political process because of the Corrupt People who are responsible today for the corruption, incompetence and inefficiency that is so rampant. The various reports by Sarkaria, Rustomji and Dharam Vira Justice Verma and others have also pointed out the disabling influence on the Police Force by undue Control Agencies due to Political interference. This would be the “Last nail in the coffin”, which shows a lack of Appreciation and Will at the level of the present Political Leadership.
The Government even today in the 2G and Coal Gate inquiry is trying to hide behind a veil of secrecy making heavy excuses. There has been as per our Constitution a Joint Parliament Committee appointed recently which has left a Question Mark as to their working in secrecy and tampering with evidence. It is time that the People should now have the discretion whether to hold the hearings openly or in camera and give their verdict as to what actually happened. The case today lies with the Supreme Court for Judgement – Parliamentarians must have the courage to admit their failures, or make way for a more competent Governance of the Country if they only go cheating their way thro.
The People of India would today want to Judge whether the actions of the Present Government were backed by rational assessments or not, and for this it is essential to be fully transparent. From the tone of statements made by the Government, it could be a matter of National survival for them. We must act immediately. The present Law Minister should have handed over charge and resigned. The Prime Minister also should be looking for another job and in the interim get someone who can hold fort till Political Parities decide the dates for Elections.
If there even be an Independent “Marg Poll”, may be under the supervision of the Election Commission in this particular case, the Present Government will surely be voted out of existence by the People for total chaos and Non- Governance of the Country for the last 8 to 9 years.
Supremacy of Parliament
Parliament is supreme, but remember who sends the Individual to sit as our Representative – it is the People. So in fact the Power of Parliament is derived from the People of India, have we not got the right to know what is happening around us?
Unfortunately the Government in this case has definitely some thing to hide in the 2G case, as they earlier did not even agree to hold a discussion in Parliament. Mere statements and refusals by the Present Prime Minister do not carry conviction any more with the masses, who have indeed voted him as their Representative to run the Country wisely and not widely.
On the basis of facts available to the Public as of today, the balance of creditability is NOT with the Government. Any conclusion on the JPC report should be subjected to the scrutiny of the Supreme Court who can call upon anyone to give evidence on the subject. Secondly it is in keeping with the Principles of natural justice and basic fair play that the people accused must be given an opportunity to bring forth evidence if they so desire. If these two criterias are taken into account the findings of the Joint Parliamentary Committee will have credibility not only among the Parliamentarians but also in the eyes of the general Public. Who do the people of India turn to at this point of time?
The People of India have great faith in the democratic functioning of Parliament, the Judiciary, the Armed Forces of India and the Media. Let not the People who matter today (the elected Representatives – the Parliamentarians and the Ministers) forget their responsibilities to the People of India. They must wake up and be HONEST within their own inner-selves as no one is going to live forever.
Democracy must be allowed to Function
Let us wait for the Judgement of the Supreme Court. I am sure of the results that will accrue which will NOT be in favour of the Ruling Party. How Sad and What a Shame!!! The situation as it prevails today, affects the Internal and National Security of our Country? Why do we not follow laid down procedures and practices in Parliament instead of each Member who is deliberately stymied by the other Party in Parliament today and so makes it NON FUNCTIONAL!!! Is this Democracy!!!
While fresh efforts are on to end the Parliament logjam, the tussle between the Opposition and the Congress is set to intensify over the draft JPC report on the 2G scam. The Congress says that no record will show any culpability of the Prime Minister or the Finance Minister in the 2G allocation. WAIT AND SEE… THE PEOPLE OF INDIA WILL DECIDE THEIR OWN FUTURE.
The Promises made by the Ruling Party were false – have they not been morally Corrupt? Is this what the Father of the Nation dreamt off? We must droop our Heads in Shame – This is the lowest Performance that India has ever witnessed in every day Governance since 15 August 1947. What with the Rapes, Money Laundering, the Efficacy of Govt Organisations, Morally Corrupt in every way. Shame Shame Shame