When everyone is seeking publicity,political and professional responses get distorted
As someone who has worn a uniform for 40 years and seen casualties and killings in war,on the LoC and in high-intensity insurgency areas,it has been most painful to watch the debate on the recent incident on the LoC in the Poonch sector,in which five jawans were killed.
The dead live forever in the memories of their colleagues and families. It is painful for us,the living ones,to see them die again and again in the public gaze,on television. The jingoistic utterances and public display of agony of young widows and soldiers families do little good,and often becomes a victim of competitive pseudo-patriotism. Announcements are made and forgotten. Television has increasingly indulged in such insensitive displays. The armed forces and the paramilitary operating in Naxal areas have fallen prey to it and adopted a competitive publicity seeking approach,which distances them from their professional ethos.
What is worse is that in such an environment,political and professional responses get distorted and actions in all fields get constrained. The army has well established systems and procedures to deal with such incidents on the LoC and LAC at the local level,both militarily and to contain and defuse situations through sub-sectoral and sectoral meetings between the militaries. After taking action,a situation report or a special report is initiated and sent up the established channels. While fully remaining in the picture and providing guidance if required,a corps or an army commander rarely gets involved,except in an extreme case.
It certainly does not warrant the army chief or even an army commander to rush to the incidents site as that raises the stakes and forecloses a number of options at the political and professional levels,quite apart from eroding the chain of command. The government,for its part,is responsible for political and diplomatic action,in consonance with army action and in consultation with it. Such deliberations and actions are not open to scrutiny or debate,as it is purely in its domain and responsibility. The government,based on its judgement and discretion,may take the opposition in confidence,which should remain private.
I would like to request the retired fraternity in the diplomatic,administrative and intelligence services and the armed forces to refrain from rhetoric and offer balanced professional opinion on television debates. It is also questionable if they expressed their opinions in as uninhibited a manner while in service.
The writer is a retired lieutenant general