Lately, politicization of the Indian Army has become the pet subject of discussion and debate amongst those who specialize in matters military and their overall prognosis of the situation presents a rather grim picture. In one such piece titled ‘At the doorstep of Indian military politicization’ (Kashmir Times, June 26, 2019), Ali Ahmed has discussed this issue and concluded that the apolitical character of the Indian armed forces is under serious threat. Whereas the author must surely be having good reasons for his convictions, but the credibility factor of any argument nose-dives the moment one allows unfettered speculation to overwhelm logical assessment.
This is exactly what has happened in this case.
According to the author, the Indian Air Chief “rewrote history” when he spoke about Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighter jets not having crossed the Line of Control (LoC) after the Balakot strike. He goes on to mention how “The air force has gone out of its way to bolster the ruling party head’s questionable claim that some 300 terrorists perished in its aerial surgical strike.” What the author doesn’t realise is that since this attack failed to cause any damage, whether the PAF did or didn’t intrude into Indian airspace has become a non-issue and being irrelevant, even political parties have lost interest in the same.
As far as mentioning terrorist casualty figures are concerned, it needs to be remembered that while the Indian Air Force (IAF) has the ability to carry out post-strike damage assessment of the target by examining the visible impairment, it doesn’t have the electronic and human intelligence capability to conduct internal damage evaluation of its targets. So, since the IAF is merely repeating the casualty figures put out in public domain by the centre, it would be unfair to term this as a motivated act of appeasing the government. Lastly, if the author considers the claim of some 300 terrorists being killed in Balakot airstrike “questionable” and believes that nothing of this sort happened, then he may like to ponder over why did the Pakistan Army delay visit of journalists to the target area by nearly one-and-a-half-month?
The author goes on to note that “the army chief has endeared himself to the government in his leading the army,” and what exactly he’s hinting at initially escapes interpretation. But things become clear when he states that the army chief’s “personal interest is in his justifying to himself – as much as to others – his controversial elevation to the job based on his counter insurgency expertise, and also the government’s line through its first term resulting in over 600 youth dead.” This complex elucidation raises concerns on whether the army chief has in any way violated the constitutional charter of the army by its mis-employment merely to appease the government, and if so, why hasn’t the author quoted specific instances of the same?
The next issue concerns the author’s view that the army chief’s bid to prove his credentials as a counter insurgency expert and toe the government line left “over 600 youth dead.” This is certainly a very serious allegation and that’s why it’s unfathomable why the author has failed to corroborate the same by revealing who these 600 deceased youth were; under what circumstances were they killed and why? Could this be an inadvertent oversight or an intentional omission just to avoid disclosing the fact that most of these were armed terrorists killed in gunfights with security forces?
Passing off the Pulwama car bomb suicide attack on a CRPF bus that claimed 40 lives as a “false flag operation” without even providing an iota of evidence to support this bizarre claim is a highly irresponsible act since it could further traumatize the already grieving kith and kin of those who lost their lives in this attack. If this was indeed a false flag operation (as the author is suggesting), then why hasn’t he explained what made Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) take responsibility for the same and end up landing in trouble with its chief Masood Azhar being designated a global terrorist by the UNSC (United Nations Security Council)? By making his outlandish false-flag allegation, isn’t the author overstepping established norms of civility and showing scant regards for human sensitivities in his bid to sensationalize this humongous human tragedy?
The way things are going, it seems that the day isn’t far when someone will come out with the claim that JeM chief Masood Azhar is actually an Indian ‘mole’ who had been ‘cultivated’ by Indian spy agency R&AW during his long imprisonment in Indian jails. Then, in order to facilitate his ‘seamless insertion’ into Pakistan and avoid suspicion, R&AW setup the entire IC 814 hijack drama that originated in Nepal and ended in Kandahar. The creator of this ‘Kandahar conspiracy theory’ would then claim that Masood Azhar was ‘activated’ by his masters in New Delhi to organize the Pulwama suicide attack with the help of Indian intelligence agencies so that the BJP could extract electoral advantage from this tragedy !!
Giving wings to one’s imagination is fine, but, even the wildest flights of fantasy must have some limits!
The author has come up with specific predictions but the chances of him eating his own words are rather dim because he has balanced the odds very well. Mentioning that the present air chief “is likely lining up for a kick upstairs, as no less than India’s first Chief of Defence Staff equivalent,” he has simultaneously also hinted that the present army chief could also get this job as “the army latest play of music for the ears of its political master has been the rejection of any notion that surgical strikes were also carried out by the opposition when in government.” Similarly, while he uses this surgical strike issue to suggest that the northern army commander is playing hard ball to become army chief, he counter-balances this by talking of “a current frontrunner for next army chief (who) has links with the new ruling party working head, dating to their juvenile friendship.”
So, no matter who becomes what in the days to come, the author’s prognosis will in one way or the other prove to be correct- and that’s exactly what writing on military related issues and being a ‘defence expert’ is all about!