Continuance of the UPA in power will jeopardize national security, according to Lt Gen S K Sinha, who retired as the Vice Chief of Army Staff. He is referred to as the “Scholar – Soldier”
An email received from Cdr P.P. Batra, describing the lecture by Lt.Gen(retd) SK Sinha, on 03 May 09, at the Constitution Club, New Delhi, is reproduced below the fold.
Addressing a large gathering of senior ex-servicemen at the Constitution Club, Lt Gen (Retd) S K Sinha stated that the return of the UPA to power after the ongoing election will jeopardise the Nation’s security. He said that he was not a member of the BJP and did not agree with it on all issues, but he felt that BJP coming to power will be in the best interest of our national security. Today, the Nation faces the greatest threat to its security since Independence and needs a strong Government at the Centre capable of taking hard decisions. He regarded L K Advani as the tallest political leader in the country, head and shoulders above all other Prime Minister hopefuls.
He traced how successive generations of Congress leaders had not addressed national security problems adequately.
Jawaharlal Nehru was the Nation’s icon for his role in the freedom movement and as the maker of modern India. He laid a firm foundation for democracy in the country. However, his Kashmir and Tibet policies were disastrous for the Nation. We are still suffering from their ill effects. His China policy led to the debacle in the Himalayas and to great national humiliation. [Emphasis added.]
Lal Bahadur Shastri restored the prestige of Indian arms but at Tashkent gave up key tactical features like Hajipir Pass and Point 13260 near Kargil, won at great cost.
Indira Gandhi proved to be a brilliant war leader under whom the Nation won its most celebrated victory of thousands of years in the Bangladesh War. Yet she frittered away the gains of victory at the conference table in Shimla. She allowed herself to be outwitted by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Rajiv Gandhi’s misadventure in Sri Lanka was a total disaster which did not serve any national purpose. The dynasty’s regime for the last five years has exposed India as a very soft State. Thousands of her innocent citizens have fallen victims to Jehadi and Naxal terrorism.
Much is being made out by Congress leaders of NDA’s capitulation at Kandahar and its failure to prevent the terrorist attack on the Parliament. They are trying to extract electoral mileage on the basis of misrepresentation of facts. The NDA did not capitulate to the terrorists at Kandahar but to the popular outcry and sentiments of not only the relatives of the hostages but the sympathy of the entire Nation. The decision was taken for humanitarian reasons and after apprising the Congress leaders then in the Opposition. They did not oppose the decision and their silence was their concurrence. They have now no moral right to raise this issue.
He also mentioned how the Congress then in power had chicken biriyani served to Pakistan terrorists holed up in Hazratbal and gave the terrorists safe passage home. There were no humanitarian compulsions for doing so. It had been done in pursuit of the policy of appeasement.
As for the attack on the Parliament, the NDA Government may have failed to prevent it but it certainly ensured that no harm came to the temple of democracy or to any member of the Parliament. After this incident the NDA Government unlike the UPA Government after Mumbai did not rely on others to pull the chestnuts out of the fire. It ordered Operation Prakram as part of coercive diplomacy. Musharraf who had hitherto always denied that there was any cross border terrorism changed track when he agreed not to allow Pakistan territory for use by terrorists against India. A cease fire was agreed upon in 2003 on the LOC in Kashmir which is still holding.
General Sinha mentioned that the Mumbai terror attack had stunned and outraged the entire nation. It was a national humiliation comparable to the debacle in the Himalayas of 1962. Then the Prime Minister had confessed that he was living in a world divorced from reality and this time the Prime Minister apologized to the Nation.
In 1962 the Defence Minister was sacked and in 2008 it was the Home Minister who had to quit. The similarity ends there. After 1962 the Army Chief and the Corps Commander responsible for the debacle had to quit but in 2008 no head of any official rolled. The National Security Adviser continued in office and the Director Intelligence Bureau who retired after five weeks got re-employed as an Adviser.
Dwelling on the Mumbai attack General Sinha stated that our performance both at the political and professional levels was pathetic. Ministers of the Cabinet could not speak in one voice on such a grave national crisis. The Foreign Minister stated that all options were open to India but the Prime Minister qualified this by saying all options except war. Two Ministers opposed SIMI being banned, one Minister called for all illegal migrants from Bangladesh being given Indian citizenship. Another Minister wanted a judicial inquiry into Batla House incident and Government funds given to the University utilized for defending students accused of terrorist activity. And another Minister insinuated that Hemant Karkare was killed by Hindu extremists. On top of this the Minister who went to the UN for discussion on the Mumbai carnage forgot to mention the atrocities committed on the Jews in Nariman House. Can such a Government with Ministers in such disarray be trusted to fight the Nation’s war against terrorism?
Further he mentioned that soon after coming to power the UPA Government scrapped POTA saying that the ordinary laws were adequate to deal with terrorism. They kept parroting this stand for four and a half years while the terrorists kept attacking one city after another. After the Mumbai catastrophe belated wisdom dawned on the Government and a new law was enacted on the lines of POTA but unlike the latter did not provide for confession before a Police officer being admitted as legal evidence in a court of law. Today Kasab has stated that the Police extracted confession from him under duress and his confession is not admissible as evidence by the trying court.
Professional failure in dealing with the Mumbai terror attack was equally bad. The CIA had warned months earlier about terrorist attack against a prominent hotel in Mumbai across the sea front. RAW had also inputs corroborating this and passed them to the Intelligence Bureau. Neither the National Security Adviser nor the DIB took much notice of this. The available intelligence was not properly analysed nor adequately disseminated to all concerned, so that preventive action could be taken. The Crisis Management Group never met during the crisis.
The NSG took nine hours to move to Mumbai as aircraft was not available. There was lack of proper co-ordination between various agencies at the site of the incident. We took over sixty hours to eliminate ten terrorists. The electronic media inadvertently provided support to the terrorists by screening the progress of operations of the Security Forces. While pointing out these lapses General Sinha paid a tribute to the bravery of the Army, the paramilitary, the Police, and the Fire Brigade. Some of them had made the supreme sacrifice.
Recalling his experience as Ambassador in Nepal and as Governor, first in Assam and then Jammu and Kashmir, General Sinha highlighted the failures of the UPA Government.
Under Rajiv Gandhi Government, Indo-Nepal relations had reached an all time low and India was being accused of imposing a so called blockade on Nepal, a small landlocked country. Relations between India and Nepal were raised to an all time high during VP Singh’s regime and democracy restored in that country. After the massacre of King Birendra and his family, Nepal faced civil war. The UPA Government outsourced India’s Nepal policy to the Communists and the result is there for all to see. The Chinese have now gained influence South of the Himalayas bordering UP and Bihar. Never before has India been in a more disadvantaged position in Nepal as she is now.
In Assam under the NDA Government the ULFA was almost completely wiped out and a change in the mindset of the people achieved briging them back into the national mainstream. With the Congress coming to power first in the State and later at the Centre, vote bank politics again started being pursued. The situation in Assam was allowed to deteriorate undoing the results achieved during the NDA regime.
He mentioned that B K Nehru, a member of the dynasty, when he was Governor of Assam, had proposed action against illegal migration. He was asked by his cousin, Indira Gandhi not to do anything of the sort. In his autobiography he laments that the older generation in the Congress gave priority to national interests over party interests but it was not so now.
In Kashmir again UPA’s policy of appeasement allowed things to deteriorate over a totally non-issue concerning the Amarnath Yatra.
General Sinha praised the Army for its patriotism, discipline and the sacrifice it has been making in the service of the Nation. It was the only apolitical Army of the Third World always executing the Nation’s will but never imposing its will on the Nation. The Army was the most popular instrument of the Government with the people of India, yet the Government had always been treating it so unfairly in terms of emoluments and status. With every Pay Commisiion the emoluments of the Army have been brought down compared to civil officials.
Similarly every revision in the Table of Precedence has lowered the protocol status of the Service Chief and of officers of all ranks.
He advised serving personnel to always remain apolitical and maintain their high standard of discipline. They should have confidence in the system to undo the unfair treatment meted out to them. In this connection he welcomed the stand taken by the BJP on one rank one pension and other benefits for the Services.
He mentioned how unfairly the most distinguished soldier of the Army had been treated. He recalled that as Adjutant General, he had taken up the case for emoluments and status for Field Marshal, when Manekshaw was promoted to that rank in 1973. A Field Marshal was entitled to full pay for life. Pending decision on this, the Government sanctioned Rs 400 a month as special pay plus pension for Manekshaw. It took the Government 33 long years to take a decision and arrears of pay amounting to over Rs 1 crore were paid to him a few months before he passed away.
The recommendation of giving Field Marshal the same status as awardees of Bharat Ratna was ignored. No special place has been accorded for Field Marshal in the Table of Precedence. He is ranked with Service Chiefs and is junior to the Cabinet Secretary and other civil officials.
The funeral of Manekshaw was organised in a very shoddy manner with no Cabinet Minister or top officials attending the function. He compared it with the funeral of Britain’s first Field Marshal in London attended by Heads of State and Heads of Government. The funeral of Manekshaw should have been organised on the same lines at Delhi.
The main reason for the neglect of the Defence Services has been our irrational higher defence organization over which the civil servants have a stranglehold. The NDA Government appreciated this and approved of complete integration of the Ministry of Defenece with Services Headquarters and the appointment of Chief of Defence Staff.
These measures have been scuttled by the UPA Government providing meaningless integration in the Ministry on matters of no consequence and having a headless integrated defence staff.
Concluding his address General Sinha made a special plea to both serving Defence personnel and ex-servicemen. He urged the serving personnel to maintain their apolitical tradition and their high standard of discipline. This did not mean that the serving personnel should forego their fundamental right to vote. He had seen British soldiers in their units in South East Asia voting for the British Parliamentary election of 1945. Recently, he had read of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan voting in their Presidential election. There is no reason why the Indian soldier should not also exercise his right to vote with full freedom to vote for a party of his choice.
The General made a four point appeal to ex-servicemen.
· First, promote awareness in the civil society about national security.
· Second, actively work towards developing a national outlook among the people free from communal, casteist and regional considerations.
· Third, act as spokesmen of the interests of serving personnel.
· Fourth, work for the legitimate rights of ex-serviceman and their welfare.
If the Congress once again gets enough seats to govern through the UPA, very dark days are ahead for India. Abandon all hope for India, in that case.