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Posted at: Dec 8, 2017, 12:40 AM; last updated: Dec 8, 2017, 12:40 AM (IST)

Apolitical armed forces

Introspection best behind closed doors
Apolitical armed forces

The Army chief Gen. Bipin Rawat came out with yet another surprising formulation at a public interaction organised by an Army backed think-tank. In less than a year since taking over as the Army chief, the general has proven to be more garrulous than probably all his predecessors combined. Besides talking up the surgical strikes in Pakistan, which of course was a done thing for the Army after South Block took public ownership of a cross-border operation in peace time for the first time, several of the Army chief's statements have been on the razor's edge where detached professionalism acquires hues of partisanship towards the ruling arrangement. These include the L'affaire Human Shield in Kashmir, lending the army for Yoga Day and acknowledging an Army incursion into Myanmar to neutralise militants.

These were evidently made-for-TV moments and went against the considered past practice of maintaining ambiguity and preserving the army's options. But what the army chief said this time was the right opposite: he spoke of politicisation of the armed forces and hoped the military “should be somehow” kept away from politics. If this is what an Army chief feels in public, then there is something amiss. The principal professional obligation of a service chief is to ensure his force remains resolutely non-political and is steeped in conformity with constitutional principles. That is something that the founders of our republic had ensured while formatting the power arrangement of independent India. 

What exactly was the Army chief trying to convey? General Rawat has so far walked a fine balance: his observations on Myanmar, surgical strikes and human shield have suited the ruling arrangement's political preferences; but he has held his peace on the army being asked to maintain hygiene or being commandeered to construct railway over-bridges. The army may have aggregated a few blemishes for pulling out the politicians' chestnuts out of the fire by endless deployment for internal security operations, but in the main, it has a stellar record of causing minimum collateral damage and discomfort to the civilian population. If the Army chief was rankled by internal conversations, he should have opted to convey his impressions to his crowd under Chatham House rules.


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