by Brig Arun Bajpai

When BJP came to power almost 4.5 years back and Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of India, he was the first Prime Minster of India to spend his Diwali with the troops in Siachen, a very healthy practice which American president follows on Thanks Giving Day. This practice definitely raised the morale and motivation of the troops. Thereafter once again the PM visited the troops on Diwali day in Ferozpur sector. We should also not forget that Mr Modi had kicked off his election campaign in 2013 from Bhivani, with a mammoth Ex Service men Rally. All was hunky-dory between the Modi Government and the three services of the Armed Forces. But then God knows what has happened that this year, PM Modi and his Defence Minister Nirmala Sitaraman could not find time to attend the customary functions at the residences of Army Chief and Air Force Chief at the Army and Air Force Day functions. This was a pure snub meted out to services.

Prime Minister Modi may be meaning well and may be genuinely wanting to do the best for the armed forces and the troops, but surrounded that he is with the babus whose advise he listens, he does not know that all this talk from his minsters and babus that no previous government has implemented the OROP for last 40 years which his government has done, albeit so called only percentage of the demand, in other words a heavily diluted OROP, the AFs are happy is all bunkum. Being a politician and not familiar with the working of the armed forces, he and his defence minister are surprised that why the troops are not happy and why are they not withdrawing their agitation which is continuing. Now veterans are even returning war medals which they have earned at the cost of their bloodshed on the battle front and a possession so dear to them?

The problem lies with the Babu advice that he and his Home Minister and Defence minister gets. First these Babus advised him that this veteran’s agitation is nothing and has no meaning since the serving forces are happy. That is why this Government used force on veterans at Jantar Mantar where they were doing peaceful agitation, to evict them from there on the eve of Independence Day. The photos of The Delhi police using force against old veterans went viral on the social media and the reaction was of disgust. This brought the Modi government on back foot and its minsters tried to blame Delhi police and its officers for this stupid act but it did not jell because whole world knows that without political sanction this police just could not do such a thing. This fool hardy action, taken on the advice of babus, have permanently dented the relations of the armed forces with the Modi Government.

These babus unlike their own service where there is backbiting prevalent every day ; nothing happens till they please their political masters and once they retire nobody bothers about them, an unbreakable bond exists in the armed forces between the serving and retired officers and men. These babus do not have gumption to understand that 70% of the serving soldiers are the siblings of the retired servicemen. Besides all these babus have their unions while the armed forces are banned from having any such unions. Even the police forces and CPOs have their unions to negotiate their welfare with the Government but not the armed forces. In developed democracies like America they have an autonomous body comprising of ESMs and serving solders who decide the terms and conditions of service of US soldiers. It is not decided with the drop of a hat as done in India .Every chief who gets appointed in India comes with his own baggage of reform policies which are duly forgotten after he retires. Case in point is the current Army Chief Rawat Sahibs new promotion policy where even non recordable punishments given to any officer will affect his promotion. Already one LT General has been denied his promotion to the Army Commanders rank. Surely this is not done. Why tinker with these laid down policies without due debate and thought?

God knows who is advising Modi Government, but there is no denying the fact today Indian Armed Forces are a highly disgruntled lot. In Army alone there are 9000 officers less. Even in recruitment rallies the required capable people are not coming for solders job. Reasons are not far to seek. It is the degradation of Armed Forces by current Government. All roads of 62 cantonments in India, some closed for more than 20 years for security reasons, have been opened. In Pune Cantonment BJP netas organised a victory march. Is this how you cater for the security of separated families of solders who are fighting on the fronts? Can civilian people not take on some detours for the security of their brethren fighting for them in war zones? 48 corers has been spent by Modi Government as fees for lawyers who are fighting cases on behalf of Ministry of Defence to deny legitimate dues of disability pensions and war widows pensions to these suffering solders and their families, is this justice ? Officers entitled peace time rations applicable since 1983 has been arbitrarily withdrawn. Children education allowance to war widows have been denied.

Today state of Indian Armed Forces is pathetic. Indian Air Force which is authorised 45 fighter squadrons keeping in view combined threat of China and Pakistan is down to just 32 fighter squadrons due to lack of fighter planes. Cong led UPA defence minister St Anthony, who remained in chair for 7 long years, just warmed his chair and did nothing. Now Modi Government has made a deal with France in 2015 to buy 36 top of the line Rafael Fighter jets as against 120 earlier that have been scrapped. However it is too little too less. Indian Army has 60% of its weapons and equipment worth keeping in museum. Recently Maj Gen BC Khanduri (Retd), a BJP MP heading the defence committee of Parliament, who was highlighting the poor state of weapons and equipment of Armed Forces, has been summarily removed from his post by Modi Government. The defence budget of Modi Government for 2017-18 is just 1.58% of the GDP, even less than 1962 debacle days, when it should be minimum 3% of the GDP.

Problem with India is that while in all other developed democracies it is the political masters who control the armed forces, in India due to illiterate and clueless netas elected on caste and creed considerations, it is equally clueless Babus who control the Armed Forces on behalf of these netas. Apparently somebody has advised Modi Government that now since India is a Nuclear power so no major war is possible hence no need to enhance conventional capabilities and weapons of Armed Forces. These advisers coolly forget that in 1999 also both India and Pakistan were nuclear powers but India had to fight a major war with Pakistan who had occupied 140 kms of Indian Territory. Recently in Doklam China was threatening us with dire consequences despite both India and china being nuclear powers. US Defence budget for 2018 is 678 billion dollars while China's is 150 billion dollars. Surely they are not fools to go for such high spending on defence. Indian netas must understand that no Kootneeti or Rajneeti will work without military muscle with the country.

Time has come for the Modi Government to implement the CDS system lying sanctioned since 2003 by group of ministers. All three Services must work under one commander the CDS who should also be military adviser to the civilian government of the day. All three services pulling in different directions must end when mantra is jointness. Earlier implemented better it is. Indian defence budget must be made 3% of GDP, no less. Armed Forces must be given their dew in protocol and hierarchy. Babus must be kept one step behind.

Brig Arun Bajpai (Retd) is a distinguished Defence and Strategic Analyst. Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN. IDN does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same