Generally Speaking

I have a feeling that the General may perhaps be airing views his political masters wouldn’t want to directly

M.L. Kotru
Srinagar, Publish Date: Jan 20 2018 11:30PM | Updated Date: Jan 20 2018 11:30PM
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Will someone tell the government in New Delhi that it doesn’t do any good to its image as a functioning democracy, which I hope we still are, to allow its Army Chief  to  discuss  matters of strategy in public, including ones which have a bearing on the country’s relations with neighboring countries.   Generals, as a rule, limit  their loud thinking to war rooms  where  Senior Commanders  work out their plans before putting these across to the political leadership.  Gen. Bipin Rawat, the Army Chief must  indeed be a very able officer, for him to have superseded  one or two seniors, to take over command of  the Indian Army, ranked among the most disciplined larger Armies  in the world.  I am doubtful though  if  the General  is right when he ventures into uncharted political waters in as sensitive an issue as the ongoing conflict in Jammu and Kashmir or on the need to shift the focus from the Western front (Pakistan) to the one in the north (China) when we are simultaneously asked  to believe that diplomatic initiatives are  on the anvil even as Indian and Chinese soldiers are engaged in an eye-ball to eye-ball confrontation in Doklan as India calls it and Doglang  as the Chinese have it.   I  have a feeling that the General  may perhaps be  airing views his political masters wouldn’t  want to directly. And if that  be the case I think the politicians are being less than fair to a professional soldier. Not for the Army Chief to be making political pronouncements with a politically loaded ground reality. On tensions on the northern border a senior Chinese spokesman went to the extent of observing “I hope the Indian side has learned the lesson of history and will avoid a repetition.” (An obvious reference to Chinese invasion of 1962) Of course, the two sides have continued to remain in touch  at  senior  levels even   as they continue  to make provocative  noises. But political sensitivities too are involved. Bravado may not be the quality one’s seeking.  

From the Army  Chief’s  recent remarks in an interview and subsequently  at a discussion sponsored by a private foundation in Delhi Gen. Rawat did repeat his earlier observation that anti-militancy  operations in the valley required the “politics” of the situation to be addressed. He seemed to underline the need for politics (political aspect of the problem) to go hand in hand with the  fight against militancy. I  don’t know what the General does or does not make of the so-called political initiative –the appointment of Dineshwar Sharma as the official interlocutor in Jammu and Kashmir –it has indeed not gone very far in terms of a political solution. Traders and hoteliers don’t make for a political solution and, besides, everyone in the valley, including the ruling party in the State, the PDP  and the mainstream parties, continue to insist on comprehensive dialogue between the stake-holders as a possible way out of the crisis in the valley. New Delhi has obviously decided to battle it out in the valley on its own partisan terms (essentially of the saffron hue) which sadly do not look very promising, given the stated and unstated reservations of the  ruling party in New Delhi regarding Kashmir’s status as the only Muslim majority State in the Union. 

As of now New Delhi has given no indication  that Dineshwar Sharma’s brief includes pro-actively seeking opportunities for a dialogue with the political parties in  the State, the Valley-based ones in particular, given that the BJP, a partner in power in the State, knows what it is after apart  from stripping the valley of the little edge it may have enjoyed a wee bit in the past. Which, truth to tell, doesn’t really amount to much given the miserable times the Valley has passed through, particularly during the last four years of the BJP rule in Delhi and  in Kashmir as well. And if some of the observations of the Army Chief hold a clue to the future it can only be a darker variety f the same. The General may in a moment of candor have spoken of the need to initiate the political process but he has also been a votary of crushing dissent in the State. For instance , he has found fault with the education system  in the valley, madrassas included, he has promised to treat militant sympathizers as enemies, the stone-pelters included, he has found fault with students flaunting two maps –of the Indian Union and of Jammu and Kashmir. Taking the last one first are we to understand that it is a crime to have a map of  individual States  which together comprise the Union of India, I have on many occasions during my travels in India and abroad seen States or  provinces showing off, literally, their own maps and that of the Union that makes for nations like the United of States or the erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR),  or the Union of India or the United Kingdom where  England, Scotland, Wales  and Northern Ireland together answer to the name Great Britain. Army Generals are expected to know better than objecting to Kashmiri students bearing two maps, of their State and of the Union of which the State, it  is officially said to be an inseparable part.  And, pray, if the education system is so terribly corrupted how come a whole string of Valley youth regularly figure among toppers in various competitive exams countrywide. Such pettifogging doesn’t really help in building bridges of confidence. Not that I do for a moment believe that such bridges can be built by stationing large concentrations of Security Forces, the Army included. I would go with the General’s  observation that the continuing anti-militancy operations in the State of Jammu and Kashmir must now go on hand in hand with more serious and creative political initiatives to  resolve the  ongoing crisis there.


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