October 2, 2022

Revenge of the Mice (Part I)

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

There is always great excitement in India in the run up to elections not only in Parliament but across the board. The sale-purchase of politicians heats up. It may be possible to discover the ‘actual’ figures of unemployment in the country and which guys and gals are earning millions of bitcoins because of which outright ban on cryptocurrency is not possible, but it is impossible to find out which politician is bought at what price or quoted how much. One smartass has already switched two political parties within one month.

This time the election fever is viral more because Uttar Pradesh is ‘still’ considered ‘mother-of-all-battles’ even though the opposition is splintered. Farm laws were repealed after 15 months because vote calculations for Western UP and Punjab went awry. Intense media blitz gives the impression that UP is the only state in India where development is happening. Amit Shah says there is no crime in UP. Akhilesh blames the UP government for the ‘Loot and Hate”. Mamata has cocked a snook at Sonia Gandhi, and Sharad Pawar is showing he can still speak without a ventriloquist. Mayawati croons occasionally sitting smug on her piles of riches and Kejriwal offers free goodies wherever he goes, pollution included.

Elections prod politicians to also show respect to the Armed Forces no matter how temporary and hollow. Amid this showbiz media keeps reminding of the high cost of military’s pay and pensions. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has again reiterated how his party paid the One Rank, One Pension (OROP). But Brigadier Deepak Sinha has exposed the ground truth of OROP and the false narrative in media: (https://www.orfonline.org/research/putting-the-defence-pension-narrative-in-perspective/). Even the five-year revision of OROP promised during the then Defence Minister Arun Jaitley’s time was also dumped.

Sinha also describes the games that the judiciary is playing on the OROP issue. Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar says money is not a problem in giving OROP (admission that it has not been given) but then others too will ask for it. He too needs to read Sinha’s article though he is part of Babu Gang that looks askance at the military. Wonder if Amit Shah has counted votes of the serving soldiers and veterans plus their families and relatives in Punjab?  

But whether elections or not, the babus (bureaucrats and diplomats), who call all governments ‘ayarams and gayarams’, laugh all the way home. They hold politicians to ransom because politicians are more interested in garnering votes and money-making for their political party rather than the job assigned to them, of which many are also clueless. The mantra to politicians by the babus is ‘fauj ko daba kar rakho’ reminding them of periodic military rule in Pakistan and Myanmar.

The Carnegie Endowment wrote in 2016: “India’s economy has grown rapidly in recent years, but the country’s bureaucratic quality is widely perceived to be either stagnant or in decline. While small, India’s elite civil service cadre, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), occupies the nerve centre of the Indian state. Unfortunately, the IAS is hamstrung by political interference, outdated personnel procedures, and a mixed record on policy implementation, and it is in need of urgent reform.”

NC Asthana (former IPS) in his article titled ‘The Civil Services Have Failed to Deliver and It’s Time to Reconsider Their Importance’ published on February 21, 2020, says that the knowledge that once recruited, civil servants are not obliged to prove their competence ever again has disincentivised performance. 

Asthana’s observation is spot and applicable to both IAS and the Indian Foreign Service (IFS). It is on record how the wrong advice by IFS has led to a series of fiascos. The article ‘Duped Diplomats of India’ by Lt. Gen. PG Kamath (https://indusresearch.in/2021/08/09/duped-diplomats-of-india-by-lt-gen-pg-kamath-veteran/) giving following examples exposes how diplomats have failed India:

  • Approaching the UN under the wrong chapter of UN Charter post Pakistani aggression in 1947-48 – not under Chapter VII which gives UN the right to remove the aggression.
  • Ignoring Chinese invasion of Tibet and thensigning Protocol on Trade and Intercourse with China; legitimising Chinese occupation.
  • Despite information, ignoring Chinese road construction in Aksai Chin and subsequent occupation while calling the area “disputed”.
  • Signing Shimla Agreement of 1972 with no strategic gain to India and returning 93,000 Pakistani POWs without getting back own 54 POWs in Pakistani jails.
  • Disallowing crossing the Line of Control (LOC) despite major Pakistani intrusions in Kargil in 1999 which would have minimised own casualties.
  • Surrender to terrorists in the hijacking of IC-814.
  • Series of agreements signed with China about the Line of Actual Control (LAC) despite China not honouring any and keeping the LAC alignment ambiguous.

To add to the above, we made no formal protests against: Chinese occupying major portion of Doklam Plateau after the India-China standoff was called off in 2017; China shifting the LAC westward in Eastern Ladakh in 2020 and denying India access to more than 1000 sq km of territory, and; new Chinese villages established in Arunachal Pradesh.

We made no formal protests against: Chinese occupying major portion of Doklam Plateau after the India-China standoff was called off in 2017; China shifting the LAC westward in Eastern Ladakh in 2020 and denying India access to more than 1000 sq km of territory, and; new Chinese villages established in Arunachal Pradesh.

Ever wondered why ‘only’ External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar stated that Colonel Suresh Babu and his patrol party who were attacked by PLA at Galwan were carrying weapons? Weren’t orders in place not to carry weapons when meeting PLA under the last agreement with China brokered by diplomats? Didn’t video clips of all earlier meetings-tussles with PLA at Doklam, Sikkim and Pangong Tso show that both sides were not carrying weapons? Weren’t orders passed after the Galwan clash for troops to not take any videos? The result was PLA releasing videos of our troops killed and captured by them while India cannot show PLA troops (including a Lieutenant Colonel) taken captive at Galwan.

More recently, India abandoned the embassy in Kabul despite Taliban assurance and diplomats travelling to the airport under Taliban protection – Captain deserting his ship? Was abandoning Indians and Indian supporters in Afghanistan advised by the EAM and the NSA? Now there are indications of government considering reopening the mission in Kabul. What has changed – nod from Uncle Sam? Or is it 50,000 MT wheat aid to Afghanistan even as Pakistan agreed to its transit but now wants transshipment into Pakistani trucks at the border – to facilitate pilferage and quality dilution?  

It was amusing to observe Shakti Sinha (God bless his soul) pen an article about our constraints in Afghanistan – to justify the diplomatic cowardice shown in Kabul? But then covering backs of each other is the speciality of babus, not the preserve of kangaroos alone.

As NSA Shiv Shankar Menon was working for India to vacate the Saltoro Range in Siachen area. He was also instrumental in inserting ‘Balochistan’ in India-Pakistan joint statement at Sharm El Sheikh after prime ministers of both counties had met on July 16, 2009. This notably was not part of the draft statement sent by our High Commissioner in Pakistan. Did Menon realise that Pakistan wanted this to show India meddling in Balochistan in order to justify Pakistan’s proxy war on India?

The present NSA Ajit Doval has been challenged on Twitter why the response to the Pulwama car bombing that killed 40 CRPF personnel was only the Balakot airstrike when he has been threatening Pakistan it would lose Balochistan if another 26/11 happened (https://twitter.com/PatilSushmit/status/1465630768386871296?t=pmFglkxxz0hc1KHyLQQrCQ&s=19). Doval is yet to define a national security strategy for which he was tasked in 2019.

Despite Carnegie Endowment pointing out that the Indian bureaucracy is stagnating or declining and NC Asthana’s valid reasoning thereof, all that the Modi government did was lateral induction of few joint secretaries – obviously on advice from babus knowing full well that a joint secretary under an IAS additional secretary would change nothing. The experiment was doomed to fail from the very start. We need to emulate how New Zealand cleaned its bureaucratic rot a decade after gaining Independence.  

Right now it is amusing to see how political parties and politicians with their ‘cutlery’ in tow are trying to outdo each other for honouring the 1971 war veterans and the Golden Anniversary of the Liberation of Bangladesh. Book releases too are coordinated to target another political party for whatever big or small impact. First was the book ‘Sunrise Over Ayodhya: Nationhood In Our Times’ by Salman Khurshid who equates ‘Hindutva’ with Boko Haram and ISIS.

Now there is ‘India and the Bangladesh Liberation War: The Definitive Story’ authored by Chandrashekhar Dasgupta in which he has sprung some surprises. But deeper examination why Dasgupta is spinning this narrative and why at this juncture, would surprise Dasgupta and his ilk even more, which is covered in the concluding Part II of this series.

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch is a veteran of Indian Army. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of https://strategicaffairsindia.in

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