NEW DEHLI: For what it’s worth, Pakistan may not be the only country plagued with civil-military tensions. In fact, even the largest democracy in the world and our very own arch-rival, India, has not mastered the art of steering clear of strife between generals and politicians.
The row between the Government of India and the military chief raged on for the third consecutive day on Friday over a leaked letter that the latter wrote to the prime minister detailing gaps in the Indian army’s preparedness
On March 30, Indian army chief General VK Singh, who till quite recently was involved in a controversy with the government over his retirement age issue, said that the government should do all it can to find out who leaked the contents of the letter to the media and charge them with “high treason”.
Singh issued a strongly-worded statement saying that there were “rogue elements” who were trying to project a reality in which there was a schism between him and Indian defence minister AK Antony.
As this controversy continues, several leading politicians have made calls for General Singh to be sacked – some of this could well be a fallout of the previous retirement age matter which brought the Indian government unneeded negative publicity at a time when it was dealing with allegations of corruption. Some well-known Indian journalists also commented on the issue on Twitter with one saying that though the age controversy was over, India’s army chief needed to “grow up”.
According to the Times of India, Defence Minister Antony told parliament that the publication of the contents of the letter amounted to a “breach of national security”. The Times of India reported on March 30 that the Pakistani media (it mentioned this newspaper, The News and Dawn specifically) had also prominently covered the issue and quoted an unnamed retired Indian general as saying that the Pakistanis “must be laughing”.
Also, in recent days, General Singh was in the news because of an alleged offer for a bribe he claims was made to him by a defence contractor, a retired three-star general. Once the latter’s name appeared in the Indian media, he said he would sue General Singh for libel. When this matter arose, Mr Antony said that the army chief should have acted on it immediately, questioning why he waited to mention it at this particular point.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2012.