A lot of criticism is being directed at the Indian Army and its Chief by some veterans, media houses and also by some in the strategic community, which appears to be a new trend in this election season. One is not so sure whether the criticism is aimed at the Army or at the ruling dispensation, or even if it is a motivated campaign inspired by forces inimical to the nation. After all, if a deal as transparent as the Rafale deal can rake in so much controversy, despite the deal being discussed and debated in parliament and the Supreme Court too, adjudicating in the matter, it stands to reason that those who are affected by India’s growing military potential will do everything they can to scuttle or downgrade India’s quest for achieving the capability to defend itself against all forms of threats.

While it is in order to focus on the security threats which the nation faces from an inimical China, and a hostile Pakistan, both along India’s land borders and in the India Ocean, and also look into the internal security threats that emanate from terrorism and insurgencies in India’s Northeast, J&K and in areas affected by Left Wing Extremism, the real danger lies within. And this threat comes from a narrative that has been constructed to denigrate the Armed Forces. Many veterans and others too, unknowingly pick up this narrative and spread it, believing it to be the truth. They need to be more circumspect in the matter. Their naiveté and gullibility are being exploited to tarnish the military, which veritably stands as the final bastion of the nation. We simply have to look at the manner in which criticism is directed at the Chief to determine the sinister designs of our adversaries.

The Chief is not above criticism in a democracy, but criticism should be inspired by logic. Why should a media person state that the Chief is under pressure from the government to restructure the Army and optimise its potential? That has been the focus of every Chief, till date. And for the same scribe to assert that the IAF and not the Army should be the lead in modern war denotes an utter lack of understanding of what modern conflict involves. There is certainly a need for synergy in operations in the three services, but the right way to go about it is in creating a CDS—and not by making the IAF the lead agency in war. In any case, while the threat of conventional conflict is a possibility, and has serious implications, the reality of today is that we will be embroiled in what can at best be described as small scale wars, for which the field army is the only organ of the state that can address the issue, without escalating into full-scale conflict. The Doklam imbroglio is a pointer in that direction.

The Chief speaks for the nation and for his Army. His views can be debated in closed door meetings, especially within the Armed Forces, and also within the larger strategic community. But for some to come out openly against the Chief, speaks of more than meets the eye. History bears testament to the fact that great armies have been defeated, not by their military opponents, but by the fifth columnists within. Therein lies the danger. It would behove the media, the think tanks and the veteran community to exercise an element of restraint in their utterances, lest they play into the hands of the enemy. Judas sold his soul for thirty pieces of silver. We need to value our integrity a bit more than that.

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