Monday, March 17, 2008


General Deepak Kapoor, the Chief of the Army Staff, has kicked up an all too familiar storm after his interview with Karan Thapar. Major Jaswant Singh, former Defence and Finance Minister, has criticized the COAS for his remarks, particularly on incursions by the Chinese into Arunachal Pradesh, and virtually asked the government to gag the Army Chief.

Major Jaswant Singh, who left the Army many decades ago but still wears a safari suit with military type pockets and shoulder flaps, is senior to the Chief in service. That, he thinks, gives him the right to tick off the COAS in public, as if the guy does not know what he is saying. To my mind, all that the General can be faulted for was the diffidence and extreme caution that he showed during the interview with Thapar. The Major has probably forgotten that many of his past and present colleagues in the government, including in the cabinet, not only make a laughing stock of themselves whenever they open their mouths, but show often unbelievable ignorance of matters relating to the ministries which they head.

Many years back, the then COAS, General Rodrigues, had made a statement to the effect that the Army too had a stake in governance. Don’t we all? Then too, all hell had broken loose; bureaucrats were alarmed that the military was getting into the territory that they had skillfully usurped over the years. And, the General was successfully gagged.

This time too, babudom is out in force to gag the COAS and ensure that the military just does not reclaim its place in either policy making or policy voicing again. Blogosphere has become active and some bloggers are going to absurd lengths to denigrate not just the COAS but the whole organization. On one such blog, the intellectual capabilities of the top military leadership are being derided and “policy makers” are sophisticatedly being placed many notches above the military. Generals are also being advised to stay clear of military related policy issues which, many believe, only generalist, inexperienced and ignorant babus are fit to formulate! That post can be found here.

I am posting the comments that I have given on that post below.

Abnormally low level of intellectual capital at the highest level of the Indian Army? Pragmatic, you sound like one more tool of “policy makers”, tasked to run a site to run down the military.

I find it surprising that what was meant to be essentially a generalist, non-specialist staff, clerical and secretarial frame to facilitate functioning of leaders in various fields, including politics, military, industry etc, has been allowed to usurp the leadership role vis-a-vis all except politicians. The Charpoy, as it were, now actually believes that it is the person for whom it is meant!

This situation has arisen primarily because we have had inexperienced and little informed politicians becoming dependent on babus who have kept them away from the real professionals. Add to this the fact that these babus are the instruments through whom politicians operate to get their ever increasing bribes and you have the strange spectacle of a bunch of policy making guys who, till they get into the MOD for a short time, often think that a ‘bunker’ is a guy who bunks classes!

The havoc that the collective ignorance of the so-called policy makers - as the babus like to erroneously call themselves - has caused to the military component of India’s nationhood is incalculable. All because they want to keep, and have succeeded in keeping, professionals military leaders away from policy making. Order of precedence is all that matters, as long as babus, leading a clerk and a half, have a leg over the real experts who are accountable to the country and the men they lead.

The British, whose model they have completely corrupted, always kept the military above them in the loop. Besides, they even ensured that the salaries of military personnel were always kept higher than their only notionally equivalent babus and policemen.

As to the levels of intellectual capital, who does not know that the only capital that the babus possess, or are interested in, is the monetary one! But for their obsession to get into every little hole from which some money can be extorted, this country would have been somewhere else today.

And yes, fewer numbers at intake after one exam for which many cram hard, need not translate into better material. On the contrary, because of the lure of huge sums of underhand money, we are probably getting in more and more people with criminal intent. No accountability, guaranteed high speed elevation, no risk of getting caught, even the incomparable privilege and honour of getting voted as the “Most corrupt IAS officer”; intoxicating stuff which cannot be matched anywhere else.