By Tushar Singh
Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat on Wednesday, 6 December 2017, said there was a politicisation of the armed forces and the military “should be somehow” kept away from politics.
Speaking at an event organised by the United Service Institution, Mr Rawat said,”The military should be somehow kept out of politics. Of late, we have been seeing that politicisation of the military has been taking place. I think we operate in a very secular environment. We have a very vibrant democracy where the military should stay far away from the polity.”
The army chief declined to elaborate on the statement, for obvious reasons. As Army chief, he cannot speak out against the government openly. Mr Rawat further said that the norm in the “good old days” was never to discuss women and politics in the forces. The defence forces, he asserted, do best when they don’t meddle in the political affairs of the nation.
Even though Mr Rawat did not elaborate on the statement, his remarks come at a time when many liberal sections of the media have criticised the government for using the armed forces to gain political mileage over the opposition by trying to take credit for some of the work it has done with respect to the armed forces. For example, the government was criticised when it became apparent that the surgical strikes were being used to gain voter sympathy by the ruling party. However, the opposition faced more criticism for demanding proof of the surgical strikes. Many believe that the surgical operation shouldn’t have been made public.
The statement coming in the backdrop of ongoing protests by military veterans against some aspects of the One Rank One Pension (OROP) passed by the government does raise eyebrows. Moreover, ever since coming to power PM Modi has spent every Diwali with the armed forces. This must have inherently led to ‘politics’ being discussed in the armed forces, something which Mr Rawat believes should be avoided.
What is ironic is that Mr Rawat’s appointment as Army Chief last year also became a hot topic for political debate as the norm of seniority—appointing the senior-most Lieutenant General in the army—was broken as two officers senior to Rawat, Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi and Lt Gen P.M. Hariz were not chosen for the top job.
General Rawat’s statements should be seen as a warning rather than a political statement. Notwithstanding the context, General Rawat is right in the absolute sense. Politicisation of the army is never desired in a vibrant democracy unless you want to end up like Turkey.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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