Indian Army chief’s glib talk

The series of remarks on Kashmir, Pak, China are both political in nature and provocative.In his new year eve message to his soldiers, Army Chief, Bipin Rawat called for strengthening the core values of the Indian army and ensuring that it remain apolitical. In the following days, the glib talking army chief did just the opposite in his bouts of trigger-happy and war frenzied moments. He not only made provocative statements, hitting out at Kashmiris,

Pakistan and even China, he digressed from his brief to speak about policy decisions. From speaking about radicalization of schools in Kashmir to calling Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence a bluff to warning China, he has stirred a mixed potpourri of confusing and ambiguous statements, evoking provocation from all sides. While he almost suggested an all out war with Pakistan, averring that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons were a mere bluff and emphasized on the need to call off that bluff by crossing the borders, on another occasion, he spoke about the need for India to shift its military focus from its western border with Pakistan to its northern border with China. He also flexed enough muscles to say that “if China was strong, India was not weak either”. On Monday, when seven Pakistani soldiers were killed on the Line of Control in cross-border skirmish, Rawat’s remarks smacked of belligerence as he spoke about stepping up military offensive.

What is problematic about the Army Chief’s remarks are not just the war mongering quality of the chosen words but also his inter-mingling into politics by invoking the “nuclear bluff” theory and worse still, with respect to China, talking about checking the dragon’s assertive role in South Asian region by forming a partnership with its neighbouring countries. Clearly, Rawat is over-stepping his brief because much of these are policy decisions and are essentially political to the core. They do not add to the prestige of the army as an institution, which is lauded for its by and large apolitical role and its internal discipline. Army general’s role is to maintain that tradition, take decisions on military strategies and as far as possible ensure that strategies are aimed at preventing war and not pushing one in the face of the nation and his own soldiers, much less other countries or people in conflict areas.

The unnecessary loquaciousness of the army chief with respect to Pakistan and China apart, his remarks on Kashmir are worrying because they signify both ambiguity and a deeply politicized military offensive. Talking from both corners of the mouth, the army chief has called for both political and military offensive going hand in hand; and in the next breath spoke about extending the operational area of military crackdowns from south Kashmir to north. He offers no clarity about his visions of a political outreach and his contempt for Kashmiris is not quite a secret. The manner in which he has been lauding army personnel accused of serious human rights violations including the case of the human shield, where he went out of his way to not just shower praise on the officer responsible for the act but even recommended an out of turn award for him, is well documented. But what comes as fresh surprise is his deliberate interference in the education system of Jammu and Kashmir and his objections to curriculum pertaining to the history, maps and geography of the state.

If studying the map of Karnataka, West Bengal or Gujarat is not a problem, why should Jammu and Kashmir evoke so much anxiety? That the otherwise normal differences between different states with respect to academic syllabus are being viewed as part of a radicalization project betray the parochial mind-set of a man heading a prestigious institution. These remarks are not only deeply political, they are inflammatory in an already sensitive state. What adds fuel to the fire is his prescription to the problem as he calls for “control over mosques and Madrasas” and the “education system” to tackle the problem of radicalization. Making such irresponsible and deeply politicized statements is neither his brief, nor does it help in normalizing the situation either in Kashmir or on the country eastern and western borders.

News Updated at : Wednesday, January 17, 2018