Friday, March 30, 2012


An Open Letter To The PM

Dear Mr.Prime Minister,

The Government needs to be complimented for maintaining its cool and dignity in the face of some of the recent ill-advised actions and public comments of Gen.V.K.Singh, the outgoing Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), who will be retiring on May 31,2012. Any hasty action against him or slanging match with him will lower the dignity of the office of the COAS. National interest demands that this dignity of this high office must be maintained in the eyes of the officers and jawans of the Army as well as the public. An Army marches and fights on its pride in itself, in its officers and in its chief and this pride should not be damaged.

2. Whatever be his ill-advised actions and comments, Gen.Singh enjoys a high reputation for his personal integrity and his professionalism. These positive qualities of his have to be recognised and respected. In the Government’s feelings of hurt over his ill-advised actions and public comments, his record as an officer in leading his men and serving the country should not be forgotten.

3. Certain worrisome issues have come to the fore during this controversy. These relate to the slowing down of the procurement process in the Armed Services as a whole which seems to have had an impact on the arms and ammunition and other equipment holdings of the Army and the casual and non-serious manner in which allegations of corruption are handled both in the Army Headquarters and the Defence Ministry. There have been serious sins of commission and omission in both and by both, which have at least partly contributed to the present controversy.

4.Not only members of the public, but also the soldiers and officers of the Armed Forces in their barracks and cantonments would be discussing and analysing the merits of some of the issues raised by the COAS, the validity of which cannot and should not be questioned. These issues have to be addressed seriously and the public and the Armed Forces convinced that the Government has not been and will not be indifferent to the serious and worrisome issues projected by the COAS----whatever might have been his motive in projecting them from the roof top instead of across the table within the confines of the offices of the South Block.

5.The Government should immediately initiate action to address the deficiencies in the state of our defence preparedness pointed out by the COAS. The action has to be two-fold--- immediate procurement on an emergency basis of the various items mentioned by the COAS in his letter of March 12 to you and short and medium term measures for removing the bottler-necks and speed-breakers that seem to have crept into our procurement process during the last 10 years.

6. I would strongly recommend the appointment of an Eminent Chiefs Group of the Armed Forces consisting of one past chief each of the Army, the Air Force and the Navy headed by the nominee of the Army to go into the contents of the COAS letter of March 12 and recommend a time-bound plan of action.

7. While it is important to establish how the contents of the letter leaked to the media and initiate disciplinary action against the person found responsible for the serious breach of security, the Government should not allow its anger and discomfiture over the leak to divert its attention from the need to address immediately the worrisome state of affairs pointed out by the COAS.

8. Another issue calling for action is to go into the procedure adopted by the Armed Forces Headquarters and the Defence Ministry for dealing with complaints of corruption so that the public and the three forces are reassured that there is no attempt to cover them up . This enquiry could be entrusted to an eminent retired Judge of the Supreme Court. He could go into various issues such as the role of the Central Vigilance Commissioner in checking corruption in the Armed Forces and the Defence Ministry, the existing vigilance mechanism in them and the trigger mechanism by which action is triggered when there is a complaint. While it is important to weed out corruption, it is equally important to ensure that motivated allegations and suspicions planted with an ulterior motive do not slow down the procurement process to the detriment of the Armed Forces.

9. During the course of the public debate on the sequel to L’Affaire COAS certain lingering issues from the past have also been raised---such as the non-implementation of the recommendations of the Arun Singh Task Force regarding the reorganisation and modernisation of defence management and an alleged disuse of the past practice of the Prime Minister personally interacting with the three chiefs on various issues relating to the three services and the state of our defence preparedness.

10. Shri Arun Singh is a highly regarded expert on matters relating to the modernisation of defence management and enjoys tremendous respect in the Armed Forces as well as among the civilian bureaucracy. I would suggest that he should be requested to go into this aspect once again and suggest remedial measures. It is important for the Prime Minister to take the initiative for periodically interacting with the three service chiefs.

11. Many countries including Japan and China have the practice of periodically issuing a White Paper on Defence to create greater transparency about defence matters. This is a practice which is worthy of emulation by us. The Government should quickly come out with a White Paper on the various measures already taken or proposed to be taken for the modernisation of the Armed Forces and the defence management.

12. I know personally that some of the allegations being made projecting the civilian bureaucracy as the villain of the piece in the tardy implementation of the recommendations of the Arun Singh Task Force are due to misperceptions for want of transparency and accurate information. The well-informed among us know that the non-implementation of some of the recommendations was not due to any stonewalling by the civilian bureaucracy, but because of a lack of consensus on the follow-up action among the three services.

13. A White Paper and a debate on it in the Parliament and outside would go some way in removing these misperceptions.

With warm regards,

Yours sincerely,

Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India.

Dr.Manmohan Singh,
Prime Minister,
New Delhi.


Esoteric said...

What comments by COAS are ill-advised?

Not sure why a spade cannot be called a spade.Also unable to understand noise about leak.Surely,Pak/China are well aware of India's preparedness or lack of it.The same entities who leaked the letter if they are anti-national would surely have shared it with our enemies,with or without the leak.

On the contrary,its the 'only the Indian public which is surprised by the contents of the letter as they are 'sold stories about how well equipped our defenses really are.Now Indian public knows exactly what outsiders official or non-officials know for a fact.

Substantive issue is independently investigating who offered the bribe and convicting them quickly.

Rascal said...

Maintaining cool and dignity is an apt replacement for "being indecisive and mum", something what has been evident. With what has come out in the open, the dignity of high offices other than the COAS's are at stake, and not what the author portrays.
The suggestion of an Eminent Chiefs Group is a truly bureaucratic approach to problem solving- Groups, meetings, and reports- for dustbin! To figure out what needs to be done to make up the deficiencies is the MoD's job... and its time they get cracking on it, rather than outsourcing the solution.
His views on addressing corruption do not relate to the realities on ground. I would like to draw his attention to PSU's, political funding and middlemen. Most action is needed at MoD, than in the Armed Forces.
The Armed Forces should get over their differences so that the issue o CDS is not used by the bureaucrats to stall urgent restructuring.
My take on this article- Subservient, bureaucratic approach to recommendations and decision making.

Dara said...

1. I fail to understand what another Arun Singh Committee 'once again' going into matters is going to achieve or how the recommendations will be treated any differently again. Isn't the Naresh Chander committee already supposed to be looking into this aspect?

2. Similarly the remedies suggested in this otherwise well presented paper are really just more of the same - more committees and inquiries which will gather dust till another committee is set up.

3. In my opinion we are missing out on a golden opportunity here to really set our house in order or at least make a good beginning, by being honest and courageous enough to face facts openly and not continue to remain in denial. The need of the hour is for bureaucrats and service representatives to do some serious introspection, individually and collectively, under an observant and neutral political umbrella.

4. It is a convenient ruse to blame the Services for non implementation of the Arun Singh and Kargil Committee reports. This is by now becoming a fast thinning smoke screen. The fact remains, at all levels - political, bureaucratic and military there is resistance to implementing. The politician refuses to even come to grips with the problem due to ignorance, the bureaucrat is in fear of losing turf and power, while the three Services cannot get their act together. Unfortunately space would not permit going into detail here. Suffice to sum it all with a quote from that great and respected doyen amongst our bureaucratic community - the late K Subrahmanyam:

“Politicians enjoy power without any responsibility, bureaucrats wield power without any accountability, and the military assumes responsibility without any direction”
K Subrahmanyam