Monday, October 06, 2008

The Big Chief

The three incumbent armed force chiefs Admiral Sureesh Mehta, Air Chief Marshal Fali Major and General Deepak Kapoor will no longer need to indulge in that one exercise that every Chief probably spends sleepless nights wondering about -- that one deed, that one act that will assure them an enduring place in the narrative of military history.

For, no matter what else the three chiefs are judged on, the last two months will go down as a time when , under the uncannily bold leadership of the Chief of Naval Staff, held the interests of their men and women high, higher than anything else.

Call it circumstance. Call it the opportunity to shine. Call it anything you damn well like. The fact remains that this dark phase of hostility between the armed forces and the political bureaucracy was a time when these three chiefs held their own. And all three are being supremely self-effacing when they say that their actions cannot be described as defiant. Functioning within the system we know so well, one can only empathise with such a view. From the outside -- and indeed from the inside, by almost everyone who puts a uniform on every morning -- these three chiefs are heroes. Make no mistake about that.

Like everything that is great and honourable, there's a delectable irony to how the three chiefs have held up the interests of their ranks. Neither of the three chiefs is especially known for a tough-talking deportment or the sometimes unsettlingly candid manner of, say, a General Paddy or even a Krishnaswamy or Arun Prakash. The three chiefs have unanimously denied all suggestions that their actions were in any way "defiant" of government orders or policy. But even those who advise the Chiefs on every move concede that their deeds exemplify defiance of the most upright, dignified order. The three chiefs' reservations about defining their actions as "defiant" has more to do with a certain indispensable propriety -- obviously they cannot be seen to be basking in the adulation of a media that unanimously considers their act at once defiant, and deeply honourable. That's a dangerous game of perception they knew they couldn't afford to play.

But what the Chiefs say holds good as well. What were they expected to do when faced with an unjust and preposterously lopsided set of pay recommendations? Go ahead and implement them? What other choice did they have than hold out against the government? They made their reservations known to the Defence Minister -- and everything since has been widely and closely reported. But by doing so -- by doing the only thing they knew they could/should -- they also did the only thing that their ranks knew was right, just and honourable. And with that, they have assured themselves an enduring mention in the roll-call of India's military chiefs.

21 comments :

Anonymous said...

hail the three chiefs! yippee doo da!

Anonymous said...

well articulated. good to know you stand with us, shiv. this has cleared up the confusion of the last few posts!!

INDIAN007 said...

The constitution abrogated the Fundamental Rights of those in the Armed Forces with the basic premise that there would be no requirement for the Armed Forces to air their views or show any reservations on issues. But those who drafted the Constitution did not know that a time will come when the masters will become so much self serving that Armed Forces will also have to raise their voice to be heard. That's just what the Armed Forces have done otherwise their objections and observations would have rotted in Anomalies Committee just like those of 5th Pay Commission.
What the Chiefs have done was required to keep the morale of the men they command and lead, high. And today the Armed Forces have been heard because of these "Men of Honour". They do not need to strive to find a mention in the Roll Call; they will always be remembered with a lot of respect.

crusader said...

cdnt agree more with shashi and indian007. we have been forced to reach this state because of the appalling behaviour of beurocracy which actually is the root cause of all the problems in this country.

Ronin said...

Whether the pay parity is justified is another matter, but at least the chiefs have behaved like leaders for a change and not just puppets on strings.
They should be like tigers..and they have only behaved as a tiger does when cornered.
It takes a lot more however to be heroes. I think its an exaggeration to deem their acts heroic. I think they merely did their job, for a change.
Maybe that is why everyone, including the govt., media and the troops have been taken by surprise.

Indian army officer? The group B officer. said...

i do'nt think army chief at any stage gave any statement which says that he favours his subordinates. the only time he spoke when he was asked and that too he said no differences so if there was no difference then how come all this problem croped up.

Anonymous said...

@Shiv.
Changing tracks so fast.Only yesterday you were trying to defend Guptaji for what he wrote,today you are singing praises for the Chiefs.
We expected a more forthright condemnation of irresponsible journalism by "Indian Express" and its editors,instead you tried to portray him as a well wisher of Armed Forces.
Grant us the wisdom to identify our friends or foes.

Anonymous said...

Hey, how did these men become Chiefs? Who was the brainless netaji who cleared them as Chiefs? These guys have guts!

Anonymous said...

Some officer once mentioned to me that after spending 3 yrs at NDA everything now seems like kids play. Why? I asked. He smiled and said he has been to hell and back! Now I recall and understand his off-the-cuff remark.

Anonymous said...

POSITIVE THINKING
WO samajhate hain ki wo mere dushman hain,
jakhmon pe mere namak chidakane aaye hain wo,
Main samajhataa hoon ki Kitana bada hai dil unaka,
dushman hoke bhi mera dard bantane aaye hain wo.

chandrabhan said...

Shiv,
Truth must be upheld at whatever cost one needs to pay for it. I don't think the service chiefs had any desire to be a so called ' HERO', their only underlining thought had been upholding the dignity and honour of men they lead. Otherwise, It will extremely difficult for them to command respect and undermine their ability to lead leading to serious erosion of moral authority but i have full trust on the bureaucracy and our political class to come up with some brilliant formula to try and break this chain of trust and mutual respect.They may agree to few demands for lower rungs and leave the leadership position based demands untouched thus creating a wedge.
I know pranab mukherjee when he was a chest thumping socialist commerce minister in Indira Gandhi's cabinet. I was a kid then but this joker will not change.

Anonymous said...

Wah! Wah! Irshad!

Anonymous said...

sab paagal aa gaye hain yahaan

Anonymous said...

sab paagal aa gaye hain yahaan

Anonymous said...

sab paagal aa gaye hain yahaan

Anonymous said...

whats the story of Ramchand Pakistani? Review please fast and after that ask Sureesh Mehta to give out the recipe of chatpate chhane and lauki halwa

Anonymous said...

I am sending a paper written by Maj Ashish Khanna, SM .

This is a talk that he gave at DSSC few days back.

His thoughts expressed narrate to the present situation in the country and the status of our Armed Forces as they stand today in the political scenario. You may like to send it across to other colleagues.He did convey few words and feelings for his Dear Friends whom he lost so early in life.






MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD
1. Gentlemen & Friends!! I want you to consider what a failed state is? Visualise events which would happen in a failed state and then think about certain events in a country, say 'X'.
a. One state which was limping to normalcy is now entirely divided on communal lines like never before, due to sheer blunders made by X's politicians and bureaucrats. 16 years of the sheer blood price that the Army has paid in stabilising this state has been wasted in one fell swoop.
b. In one state, 25 lakhs have been rendered homeless and on the brink of starvation while politicians squabble over votes and relief rations.
c. In one state, Hindus and Christians are killing each other over the murder of a minor politician who probably never deserved to live.
d. Eight states are helpless in the grip of Naxalites with an inefficient police cowering in their own police stations.
e. Four states have been swamped with forty years of insurgency. The entire demography is being changed forever. Still, major ldrs in power, consider all Bangladeshi immigrants as votebanks to fill their coffers. They refuse to see that if even one in a thousand, decides to plant a bomb in a rickshaw, you will have ten thousand bombs exploding in 'X' country!
f. A recent trust vote in this country called 'X', saw cash thrown in its parliament and politicians being bought like cattle. All for a deal dying its own death in the NSG.
g. Serial bomb explosions in 'X' do not count if there are less than three and if the total killed is less than 30. We move on.
2. What is 'X' today? Where is it shining?? Why has so much rot set in??? If the Defence Services of 'X' were not shedding blood, what would the size of 'X' be after sixty years of independence????
3. We have all fought and risked our lives, lots of times. While I have a family today, I will certainly do it again. At the very least, for the game and to retain the respect of the men I command. I have lost a lot of comrades, some in front of me. Two very dear friends, Paddy and Ganapathy died this very Independence Day, on a daring rescue mission in the North. They were brilliant, decent and brave soldiers, (coursemates of many of us here), who volunteered and died. They left behind three kids, all less than three years old. Paddy's son is one month elder than mine. One day he will grow up to be as brilliant as Paddy was. The only tragedy is that no one, no one except their families will ever actually mourn them. In this, our very own premier Defence Institution, no mention whatsoever was made of this tragic loss and we all went back to our classes and joined the daily grind. Our rat race, to become good staff officers to cdrs, looking for Governor Appointments continues.
4. I have so much more to say about both, but I won't digress. Suffice to say, that in our DSSC context, they did not give the entrance exam last year because they wanted to fly in Siachen as long as they could. Ganapathy was to move out on posting with his family in two days, on 17 Aug. Paddy's posting was due. Yet, they both volunteered leaving behind broken wives to pack their last belongings and children who will never know their father, or what he died for in a thankless service and a callous country.
5. Spare a moment from your mule and VTKM calculations. You could be next! Ask why the Services have been downtrodden over the years. Why was the Northern Army Command not consulted on the ramifications of the Land Transfer Blunder? Why have more great soldiers like Sam Manekshaw, PS Bhagat and Arjan Singh never come out of our great army? If after Vietnam, the US middle level Officer Cadre could force a change in the entire country's war doctrine, why can't we? Who has perpetuated the post colonial myth, that the Army should always remain apolitical, something the British used, so effectively to slaughter our own native revolutionaries? Who answers to the sacrifices made by us, all these years? Who has allowed dirty, stinking politicians and corrupt bureaucrats to decide our own destinies??

6. The answer is us. This rot is endemic. We have done it in our own system and allowed it in our own callous nation. Make your voice heard. If you just can't, then at the very least say a prayer for Maj Padmnabhan KE, Maj S Ganapathy and all our forgotten brothers. Goodbye my friends. I miss you.

Anonymous said...

It’s the Honor of the Uniform

Letter to the editor of the Indian Express


Dear Mr. Shekhar Gupta,

While your reluctant apology was at best confusing, your tom-tomming the “soldier’s paper” surely cut a sorry figure. I only wish that along the details of generous donations that your employees have made in memoriam of the fallen, you also might have informed the reader of the sons and daughters of IE employees who have joined the Nation's Armed Forces. Anyway, I write to you assuming that you still believe you are a "soldier’s paper". I must admit that I am a diehard fan of the genre of reporting that your paper always stands for.

I am sure the Chiefs understood the import of the option of refusing a cabinet decision before exercising that option including the permanent damage to the forces, unprecedented as it was. Actually, I believe they were indeed thinking of the future when they took the decision! Your analysis of the consequences of not stirring the political executive, I am afraid, was less than enthusiastic if at all.

I also believe the Chiefs’ protest is purely for equivalence and status. Money is something most are ashamed to even suggest let alone protest since bargaining is still considered ‘un-officer like’. Status on the other hand is something for which they may probably do more than merely mildly protest. There are valid reasons for this seemingly peculiar and ‘undisciplined’ behavior.

I will try to explain the centrality of the idea of izzat – that the english word ‘honor approximates. To help me in this endeavour, you may like to imagine having been asked to lead your employees to their probable deaths. I believe the talk of ‘merely a point of order’ in ‘It’s the uniform’ must not be trivialized. And while I have no intention of sounding alarmist, I recount an old episode to try to explain the bottom line of professional soldiering.

Towards the end of the ‘65 stalemate in the Lahore Sector, a correspondent happened to ask the Commanding Officer (CO) of 3 JAT, a unit which had just got the better of a Pakistani battalion in a bloody battle (3 JAT lost 5 officers and 90 men on the night of 21/22 Sep while the Pak battalion lost about 300 dead and rest captured including their CO), as to what made the men fight such a gruesome battle? The correspondent, eagerly, without waiting for an answer hastily added that it must have been the love of their country. Lt Col Desmond Hayde, the CO, pointing to his No 2, said, “You see Major Shekhawat? He fights because he holds nothing dearer than the respect and standing he enjoys in the eyes of his men, family, and community back home. His fear of losing that standing overcomes his fear of death. The men, of course, fight because Major Shekhawat fights.”

The idea, at the core, is therefore rather simple. You place the leader at such a pedestal that losing that place is all that he fears. The followers follow because they see the “highly placed fellow” fighting fearlessly (seemingly, at least).

Now, if you belittle his protests of his degradation of status (and worse - tell him that he is getting paid more than he deserves, worse still - egg him on that he has lost discipline and honour for having the temerity to even protest his degradation, worst of all – deny him any channel and means to protest), then, you are in effect directly and surely denuding the fighting capability of the nation’s Armed Forces. There is no dearth of lecherous (and stronger than India) countries in the dog eat dog world.

Mr. Gupta, I implore you do two things.

1. Read the Chetwode Motto carefully.

"The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time.
The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next.
Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, Always and every time."

Note that the honour of the men comes next to the Nation itself and within the priorities of the men, honour comes before welfare or comfort. Note that the honour of the Gentlemen Cadet being commissioned doesn’t figure anywhere in the motto. So where is the leader’s honour? The motto itself, of course! Is his honour divided between the Nation’s and that of his men? Who fights for his honour? I like to think that people like you, the Cabinet and the people of this country fight for the military leader’s honor.

2. Please read and asses for your self the import of what successive pay commissions have done to that honor? Can we expect some genuine research from a paper famous for it? Can we expect the IE to kick-off a genuine national debate instead of allowing lowly lobbyists to dangerously sensationalize the limited space in print and TV?

With best wishes and a Happy Diwali.

Anonymous said...

Shiv, Shekhar and Shishir(it rhymes!):
Babu's Retribution?!
So what the Babus will get back. If they really want to have it out we can easily oblige. With or without gloves? Come on Sweeties, we are the Kashmir generation, commissioned in late 80's. We are as it is doomed to go to hell after killing so many poor sodding terrorists. Knocking off a few real well paid real enemies in the South and North Blocks may just prompt St Peter to reduce our time in hell!
Buck Up Gentlemen!
Tally Ho!

Anonymous said...

@anon - 1:40

Shiv, Shekar, Shishir, and not to forget SHIT. All rhyme and are as good as each other

Anonymous said...

@Air Mshl Savur
WELL SAID
It was always pleasure to listen you when i worked under you
It is pleasure now to read your such an analytical article
It makes me to keep my head up and look forward towards seniors with pride