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The confrontation between the Army Chief VK Singh and the Government ..




One really does not know what is the truth behind the age of the Army Chief, whether the year of birth is 1950 or 1951. It is also important to see that the army chiefs in the 2 neighboring nations of India and Pakistan are having a skirmish with their civilian superior agencies. However, as of now, the comparison between the 2 countries is not much of a comparison, since in Pakistan, the army chief is having a skirmish with the civilian authorities over their attempt to challenge the hegemony of the army in Pakistani affairs; in India, the army is much more controlled, with no visible action by the army to resent the control of civilians as part of the defence establishment setup.
One is pretty sure that the relationship between the army (or the other defense services) and the Government will not change, with overall civilian control remaining high. The Indian Army continues to be a disciplined force, serving under the control of the Indian Government, and no one envisages a position like what happens in Pakistan. However, there is something seriously wrong here. It has been known for some time that there has been disagreement in terms of the age of the Army Chief, and that the Army Chief remains dissatisfied with the current state of affairs.
I am no legal expert, but that does not stop people in this country from airing their opinion on an issue, so here goes. In the absence of birth certificates in the year of birth, the standard proof of age of birth is the School certificate (typically the 10th standard one). That certificate mentions the year of birth as 1951, and then there is a lot of confusion about the year of birth marked in later records. Apparently, the Government has sought legal advice from the Attorney General of India, and the AG agrees that the year of birth can be treated as 1950.

The bigger issue is about how this disagreement has been allowed to fester and remain in the public domain for so many months. This is not about the disagreement with some regular staff worker; this is the Army Chief we are talking about, the head of an army of 1.3 million soldiers, and the one who has portrayed this as an attempt to malign his honor. The Army Chief is seemingly ahead in public esteem, especially with the Government bumbling of several scams and mis-steps in the previous 2 years.
If there is blame to be laid on the door of anybody, it has to be the minister concerned, AK Antony. The defense minister should have seen to it that such an issue does not reach such a stage where the head of the army goes to the court against the Government. People have argued that it is the right of the General to go to court, but it does not augur well for discipline in any army where soldiers could perceive that their head is not getting justice from the civilians running the defense ministry, or from the upright minister of defense.
This issue should not have allowed to remain open for so long, but now that the matter has gone to court, the Government should not take any hasty step such as sacking the Army Chief (especially since there does not seem to be any ground for such a sacking). The Government has stepped into the court case as expected, but you can expect some more drama on this entire issue before it gets resolved.




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