For General Bikram Singh,the primary task will be to repair and to restore
As General Bikram Singh takes over as the new army chief,what should have been a seamless and unremarkable transition is a fraught moment. Events over the last several months have taken their toll on the armys inner equilibrium,and disturbed its poise in the democratic mosaic. There was a PIL against the appointment of Bikram Singh,alleging communal prejudice in high-level appointments. The court dismissed the PIL,but echoes of that shrill campaign have yet to fade. A four-year-old report on Indian peacekeepers in Congo is being flogged although a court of inquiry exonerated all officials of charges of misconduct. There is a showcause notice and a discipline and vigilance promotion ban against Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh,the frontrunner to become the next army chief. Earlier,the sequence of events set in motion by the decision of the outgoing army chief General V.K. Singh to openly confront the government on the date of birth issue saw an unprecedented fraying of civil-military equations. That relationship may not always have been a happy or an easy one. But under V.K. Singhs watch,new chasms opened up between the political and military establishments,shining unflattering light on a lack of judgement and wisdom on both sides. Most disturbingly,the sheen appeared to be taken off one of the settled certitudes of Indias democracy that also contributes to its enduring stability the supremacy of the political-civilian leadership over the military.
The new army chief seems to acknowledge the enormity of his task. In an interview to Sainik Samachar,a journal of the armed forces,the general highlighted the need to strengthen the armys work culture and spoke of its cherished core values. He emphasised that all commanders must endeavour to create a climate during their command tenures that hinges on… professional ethos and is conducive for growth and cohesion. Admittedly,there is work to be done on several fronts. For instance,to burnish the armys operational preparedness and to ensure that the modernisation process doesnt slow down. Yet,for the new chief,the primary task will be to repair and to restore.
What the army needs,most of all,is to get back its ease with itself and vis-a-vis other institutions. The test of General Bikram Singhs leadership of an institution that embodies a shared national purpose in a diverse and argumentative democracy,and one that he has served since he was commissioned as a young officer into the Sikh Light Infantry regiment on March 31,1972,will lie in how he takes up this challenge.