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Most political leaders have a habit of carrying non-performers with them. Rarely has anyone been sacked. A streak of ruthlessness is missing in our leaders to sack their favourites and appoint new faces. It is always safe to hear those who always please and play safe. You know the saying ‘Better a known devil than an unknown one’. Just to remind the readers about the biography of Manohar Parrikar entitled ‘An Extraordinary Life’, in which he attributes the delay in granting One Rank, One Pension (OROP) to the then Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley. Even when the Chairman of Ex-servicemen Movement met him after the 2014 elections and requested him to fulfil the election promise of granting OROP, he said, “You see General, all the assurances that politicians give during elections are not meant to be executed.”  

 

The first strategic blunder by Modi 1.0 was to make Arun Jaitley both the defence and finance minister. Please note that the two important portfolios were given to a man who had lost his elections. Because Amritsar has a number of veterans and serving community, he had expected to win against Captain Amarinder Singh. However, the latter was such a darling of the veterans for his years and years of unstinted support for their cause that Jaitley justifiably lost by more than a lakh votes. Then, he took his vengeance on the Armed Forces. PM Modi always wanted the soldiers to get their dues, but Jaitley would not allow it, putting one spoke after another. 

 

I had written on the issue in my previous articles and my view has been vindicated by no less a person than Parrikar in his biography. Now, please do not pontificate me that the person is dead, and why flog a dead horse? First, the people who harm a cause are accountable even after they are dead. However, independent India is made of different facets and goes about eulogising its oppressors, like naming Aurangzeb Road to keep alive the memories of the bigot. Fortunately, some wisdom has dawned after seven decades of independence to change it. However, Bakhtiyarpur has remained as such to pay our glowing tributes to Bakhtiyar Khalji for destroying Nalanda University. God, save our country!

 

Coming back to Arun Jaitley, I still do not know why he was not sacked when he was not implementing the PM’s decision of granting OROP. Manohar Parrikar was then made the Raksha Mantri. As Sushant Singh Rajput was hounded by Bollywood Mafia, Manohar Parrikar was not allowed to function as Jaitley, as the finance minister, did not cooperate with him. In spite of severe constraints, Parrikar excelled in his functioning and enabled ‘Surgical Strikes’, a completely different nostrum than what the Congress Regime could ever think of in their wildest dreams. At last, due to the lack of support from Jaitley and ilk, he requested the PM and moved out of Delhi. Jaitley, as the Finance Minister, continued to rule the roost and ensured a truncated OROP to the Armed Forces. He also emaciated the defence budget that had an adverse bearing on our fighting capability, and still, he was not sacked. The nation is paying the price for his antipathy to the defence forces to this day.

 

Nirmala Sitharaman, on assuming the defence portfolio, brought no succour to the Armed Forces. She supported Arun Jaitley when he slashed the Defence Budget to pre-1962 days in terms of the percentage of GDP. Just look at this person to whom the defence of the country has been vested with – who raised no alarm; no signs of dissatisfaction; no body language to show her displeasure or dismay. On the contrary, she is ebullient that the budget is compatible with the spending ability of her lethargic ministry! Her statement would have no doubt brought smiles to Pakistan Army Chief and Chairman of Central Military Commission of China. Thereafter, she continues to trash the Armed Forces in her new avatar as the finance minister with measly budget allocations.

 

Now, with China knocking at our doors, we are trying to conclude defence deals with the use of emergency funds. Defence preparedness is not achieved by ‘crisis management’.  It is the relentless pursuit of capacity building over a period of time; a minimum timeline is a decade to achieve marginal capacity building. Don’t the foreign policymakers understand that their diplomatic power stems from economic and military power?

 

Now, let us look at the evolution of our foreign policy. It was initially propped on our two facile principles of ‘Non-Alignment’ and ‘Non-Violence’ – both of which are spineless concepts in the realm of current international geopolitics. Again, even after Nehru was proved grossly wrong with the annexation of Tibet by China, the mandarins of the South Block kept on pandering to the theory that diplomacy will obviate and neutralise any external threat arrayed against India. Even the debacle in 1962 did not mend our diplomats; instead of being silenced, they became more vocal in their ability to make up for our inadequacy in war preparedness with diplomatic platitudes! 

 

The Foreign Secretaries continued to assuage the leadership that there would not be any major wars to be fought by India, as the diplomats would take care of it. This is, at best, hollow and pretentious. A case in point is the 1965 war against Pakistan, in which China had come to the help of Pakistan and had mobilised its forces against us and had warned us to vacate Nathula and Jelepla. We succumbed and the Indian Army was asked to withdraw from these passes. The Indian Army withdrew from Jelepla and the Chinese promptly occupied it and it is with them to this day.  However, General Sagat Singh, then GOC of East Sikkim Division refused to vacate Nathula; fortunately, the pass is held by us. What happened to our diplomacy then? Other than succumbing to threats? India took another four and a half decades to realise the possibility of a two-front war and Antony put it formally in a two-line letter to the Armed Forces in 2008 – prodigious indeed! 

 

Let us look at the absurd decision by PM Vajpayee not to cross the LOC to evict Pakistan’s Northern Light Infantry (NLI), who had crossed it and sat on heights interdicting the strategic national highway in Kargil. The enforced frontal attacks took a heavy toll on our forces. Who advised the then PM? Was it Brajesh Mishra as the National Security Advisor (NSA) or Jaswant Singh, the Foreign Minister? Also, look at the Defence Minister, George Fernandes, who accepted the decision? Sadly, we hero-worship so many of our leaders that we lose the ability to see their faults and learn lessons from them. This is typical of our ethos – we still want to hide the ‘Henderson Brook’s Report’ analysing the 1962 debacle. Please read my articles: ‘Mohandas Gandhi; Unravelled’ and ‘Nehru’s Freefall in History: The Nadir is yet to Come’. In both these articles, we see that even great personalities are not infallible. They continue to be great in spite of their follies.

 

Next, I simply do not trust our Ministry of External Affairs Ministry. They have an embedded deep state that involuntarily makes them buckle down to China. After seven decades of prostrating before the Chinese, when the time has come for them to stand erect, they hit the ground with lesser speed than previously. If not, how do you explain the conduct of the Indian Ambassador to China meeting a ‘Maj Gen’ in the Headquarters of PLA?  I can understand if the Defence Attaché had met him instead. Why was the ambassador meeting him? Is it true that a more senior officer in the hierarchy was not ready to meet him? If that is true, what clout do we have in China?  Who told the ambassador to meet him?  Was it on instructions from the Foreign Minister? Did he meet him on his own initiative? What does it indicate to the outside world – our failing political resolve? 

 

I only hope that my conjecture is proved wrong and I am trolled for a much elaborate and audacious plan, which is incubating and ready to unfold in the days to come? I would love to be proved grossly wrong and tender my unqualified apologies in advance. However, please ensure that China does not get away again with its current incursions at Depsang, PP 17A and Fingers 5-8. If we let it happen, then each year we will have to yield further. The ‘So far and No further’ approach has carried on for the last 70 years.  Each time we have reconciled to its creeping invasion. The time has now come to put an end to it.   

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal.