Defending the nation against external threat has been a success story that India’s security forces have scripted from 1947 onwards, but recent weeks have highlighted a dire need for their protection. All of the prowess on the battlefield is proving inadequate at shielding themselves from the cancerous politics ~ across all party lines ~ that now threaten to erode the core values of the uniform, which had earned them universal admiration. In an era of “win at all costs”, the apolitical upright soldier now finds himself on the list of endangered species: his “killers” will not plead guilty to the crime, the nation will be condemned to ruination ~ amidst jingoistic chants that reduce the security forces to political playthings. On paper during “election season” the Election Commission would be expected to serve as a bulwark against the unprincipled, but of late Nirvachan Sadan is proving itself to be weak and its “model code of conduct” little more than a joke since morality does not enter the calculus. It is no accident or deficiency in language-skills that the chief minister of UP spoke of “Modi-ji’s Army” ~ the rest of the party leadership virtually applauded him. Even if a few veterans did have reservations over Yogi Adityanath’s terminology, they lacked the courage to admonish him. And the defence minister conveniently abdicated her duty to articulate the military’s case. As in so many other recent instances, the concepts of nation, government and party were permitted to lethally overlap. A few critical political statements were issued, to what gain?
What is disconcerting about the degeneration of the “security debate’ is the comparative silence of the veterans’ community. Only a handful of ex-Generals spoke out against Adityanath’s shameful comment ~ and that too only when “pressed” by the media. The same gentlemen who throng TV studios when Pakistan-bashing ensured lucrative “appearance fees” were too “chicken” to speak out when a military basic was being violated by a showboy of the ruling party. A couple of undistinguished veterans took the line that the previous government’s indifference to the military “justified” their present tilt towards the NDA ~ a tilt that kept their lips sealed over the “Modi-ji’s army” line. Wonder if the uncorrupted youth in the National Defence Academy, Indian Military Academy, Navy and Air Force Academies would admit to aspiring to serve any individual’s force? Nobody should expect serving officers and men to speak up publicly. Yet if they fail to “correct” the political leadership they too will be guilty of contributing to the denigration of the uniform. There is a lesson to be drawn from distant Australia where the defence forces’ chief quietly but publicly asked his officers to step away from the country’s Defence Minister when the latter answered a political question. Even before the present controversy got so heated a former Navy Chief had alerted the Election Commission to the slippery slope the politicians were taking, but the military at large did not endorse Admiral Ramdas’ concerns. A politicised military should send shivers down every Indian spine.