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The Indian media needs to show greater maturity in dealing with the army

Gopal Karunakaran
Retd Colonel, Indian Army

THE NATION has been rocked by recent media stories of corruption in the Indian Army. General Avdhesh Prakash, the Military Secretary to Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor, is under the scanner for allegedly misusing his authority to help a businessman friend to obtain land adjoining the army land near the Sukna Cantonment in Darjeeling district.

Photo: AP

Unfortunately, the media stories on this episode are so concocted, so far from the truth, so sensational, that every Indian who has heard the story is now concerned about the seemingly falling moral standards of the nation’s army. Everyone seems to believe that army land was up for sale through a General’s manipulation.

For the record, so far the army establishment has found evidence of the misuse of authority by the Military Secretary, who was trying to influence the General at Sukna into granting a No Objection Certificate (NOC), so that an educational institution could come up on a piece of land in a tea estate, adjoining and outside the army land.

The army has ordered a court martial to further examine the evidence and pronounce a verdict. However, media stories suggest that the army chief was trying to protect one of his own, and that the Defence Minister had to intervene to punish the General. The army chief had apparently recommended administrative action but no disciplinary action — he, after all, has full jurisdiction on the nature of the action, which should be outside the purview of the Defence Minister. If it is true that the minister has intervened, then that in itself is a serious breach of jurisdiction and a damaging precedent. Interference in the judgement of the chief tantamounts to questioning his ability to take unbiased decisions.

The moot point is — is the media covering India’s major security concerns? The Chinese threat is looming. There have been enough signs of it all of last year. Our eastern borders are undermanned, the infrastructure is poor, and the equipment shoddy. We are shockingly underprepared for even a skirmish in the near future.

The Indian Military doesn’t have a Chief of Defence Staff, an outrageous omission for a modern force. Who will ensure synergy between the Indian Army, Navy, Air Force and even the Coast Guard in the eventuality of a war? A Defence Minster who has little background or idea about military strategy?

The state of our military procurements is so poor that all urgent army purchases are delayed by 5-10 years. The majority of our tanks are outdated and don’t have night vision. This includes the ageing T-72 fleet. Our fighter aircraft are also depleted with only squadrons of Sukhois that can be counted as modern, the majority of the MIGs are long past their use-by-date.

If it is true that the minister has intervened, then that in itself is a serious breach of jurisdiction

Sadly, a defence correspondent won’t get the front page with any of those stories. One would have expected greater maturity from our media in the coverage of security affairs. It must ask itself: Does it have enough knowledge of military affairs to fulfill its role as the fourth estate? Will the increasing trivialisation of news affect our security?

For someone who has spent 26 years in the Indian Army, most of it on its borders, seeing first hand the remarkable commitment to the nation of an overwhelming majority of its personnel, and then having left from the dysfunctional environment of the Ministry of Defence, one is now certain that our country doesn’t deserve this amazing military.

Please leave the army alone, we will correct our flaws, and will do fine without your myopic concerns.

WRITER’S EMAIL: 
gopal.k@cleis.in

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