Concerned over the existing state of relations between the civilian bureaucracy and the armed forces, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said his “biggest worry is that discipline gets compromised when non-official channels are used to air serious issues”.
On the suicide of retired Subedar Ram Kishan Grewal over the One Rank One Pension (OROP) issue, Parrikar told The Indian Express Thursday that he was “saddened by the incident” but it should not be politicised. The suicide has led to a political storm in Delhi, pitting the AAP and Congress against the BJP-led government.
He said the issue of pending OROP payments to one lakh ex-servicemen will be resolved within the next two months. “Within 18 months, we resolved the 43-year-old OROP issue to high satisfaction levels, and all pending issues will be resolved shortly,” he said.
“My biggest worry is that discipline gets compromised when non-official channels are used to air serious issues. And discipline is foremost for any uniformed force. I feel pained when social media is used to express concerns, without reaching out to us directly. Our government is sensitive to the cause of our soldiers. The anomalies will be rectified and the forces will get their due,” Parrikar said.
“There are appropriate forums to discuss and resolve serious issues, social media and other non-conventional platforms not being one among them. Most of the pending issues have been inherited by this government. Barring the disability pension, most other issues have their origin in the Sixth Pay Commission, which we are committed to resolve. It is inappropriate to allow vested interest groups to deliberately build a narrative that is factually baseless and devoid of merit,” he said.
“The military makes enormous sacrifices and makes our nation proud. But in a democratic set-up such as ours, the military has to co-exist and work closely with the civilian bureaucracy. Any trust deficit, or lack of respect between them will impair their abilities to serve their mandates and our people,” he said.
Parrikar believes that the current situation on the Line of Control (LoC) is an outcome of the jitteriness in Pakistan following the surgical strikes by the Indian Army on September 29. India, he said, is responding appropriately to ceasefire violations.
“After our action on the 29th (of September), there have been jitters on the other side of the LoC. Pakistan has been trying to flex its muscles, but we won’t take it lying down. Within our restraints, an appropriate response is being given by our forces,” he said.
While the ceasefire on the LoC since November 2003 has officially not been revoked, the two sides have been exchanging fire for the last month, leading to about a dozen civilian and military casualties. Last week, Indian Army said it had destroyed four Pakistan Army posts following an incident in which terrorists killed an Indian soldier in the Machil sector and mutilated his body.
A concrete proposal on creating the post of a single-point military advisor will be taken after studying the report of the expert committee headed by Lt General (retd) D B Shekatkar on ‘Combat Enhancement of Armed Forces’. The report, which was handed to the government last month, is currently being studied by the Defence Minister. The proposal will be accompanied by other proposals for integration of the three services, such that it also leads to a reduction in costs.
“Whether we call it CDS or a Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee is merely a matter of detail. The model is clear in our minds, but the final decision has to be made by the Cabinet. I hope to have a proposal ready soon,” Parrikar said.
He listed the streamlining of the defence acquisition process, taking up of newer acquisitions, pushing forward older acquisitions, issuing a new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), induction of the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft and Dhanush howitzer guns, increased procurement and increased share of work for the MSME sector as his achievements in the last two years.
In the DPP chapter on strategic partnership in defence production, all concerns of the stakeholders will be taken on board and cleared soon, he said.
“The idea of strategic partnership is not to give out defence contracts. It is primarily to build a robust defence manufacturing ecosystem within India, with indigenous R&D, design, production, system integration and maintenance capabilities. All issues in that model have been addressed and most people are now on board,” he said.