Bipin was my student in the Higher Command course in College of Combat, Mhow (now Army War College). I consider Service Chiefs as an ‘institution’, not individuals. I wrote to Bipin congratulating him. He replied. Institutions must not be commented upon by anyone, hence I will not offer any views on Bipin Rawat, the CoAS.
But without any hesitation I would express my views on Bipin Rawat, the CDS as I have consistently done questioning his wisdom to alter, rather tear the organisational fabric of Indian Military. His premature and ill conceived proposal of Theatre Command structure of Indian Military was neither supported by any logical discussion nor any white paper on the issue.
Those, who propagate Theatre Command concept without understanding/analysing the Administrative, Functional, Logistical and Organisational aspects of change over from extremely robust, time tested and war proven Regional Command Structure as it exists now, will do well to hear the stories of 1971 war, where all three Services integrated and created (not liberated) Bangladesh.
It is ironic that Bipin declined to offer comments/reply to any of my numerous letters sent to him on this issue questioning his wisdom. Last communication was barely a fortnight before he perished in an unfortunate air crash.
Announcement of creation of post of Chief of Defence Staff from the ramparts of Red Fort during 15th August address to the nation was a clear indication of politicisation of the Military.
By accepting the government offer of appointment as Chief of Defence Staff as a ‘FOUR STAR GENERAL’ Bipin (un) knowingly and deliberately chose to relegate the status of Service Chiefs, having been one himself.
Had he insisted on a ‘FIVE STAR STATUS’ as CDS, it would have projected him as a firm and conscientious military officer and a leader. I will avoid commenting on whether or not the powers that be would have accepted his demand. But I can say with conviction that if Bipin had declined to assume the charge of CDS as a FOUR STAR GENERAL, he would have set an example for future military leaders. Alas! He chose the wrong option.
Military status is the most important parameter while talking about civil-military interaction. CDS has been accorded the status of Secretary, Department of Military Affairs, which is lower than Cabinet Secretary. Successive pay commissions have fixed pay of Cabinet Secretary and three Service Chiefs at par, IMPLYING THAT SERVICE CHIEFS HAD THE SAME STATUS AS CABINET SECRETARY. If my memory is correct the basic pay of Service Chiefs and Cabinet Secretary is 2,50,000/-.
By design the three Service Chiefs report to CDS, hence lower in status. Thus current Service Chiefs are lower in status to Secretary, DMA, the CDS. Surely Bipin Rawat had no intention to lower the status of Service Chiefs. Why then did he accept ‘FOUR STAR’ status as CDS?
He spurned God sent an opportunity to decline to accept a ‘FOUR STAR CDS’ appointment thus establishing his legacy, which would have been quoted as the finest example of decision making keeping the ‘SELF’ out of the loop.
Bipin Rawat, the CoAS, might have been alive and enjoying his retirement had he declined the government offer to assume charge as the first CDS as a ‘four star’ and the government not agreeing to grant ‘five star’ status. It is ironic that the appointment of CDS robbed him of well deserved post retirement pleasures.
Bipin’s untimely departure is a personal loss, professional difference of opinion notwithstanding. I remember him with all humility and compassion. Professional disagreements are a part and parcel of true professionals. No ill will on that account.
There is a very famous Persian saying “Murda Ra Babadi Yaad Ma Kun”. Translated into English it means ‘Dead should not be remembered with ill will’.
Lot of articles have started appearing in print obliquely denigrating Bipin Rawat’s political leanings/affiliations. My appeal to such pseudo intellectuals is to stop maligning him. If one had the courage of conviction, one should have questioned his actions while he was alive.
Rest in Peace, Bipin.
P.S. My views on appointing a CDS remain the same. We do not need a CDS. (suggestion for government) If a CDS is appointed, he must insist on ‘FIVE STAR’ status. If not agreed to by the government, he should decline in order to protect the status of Service Chiefs. (suggestion for prospective CDS candidates).
About The Author
Gp Capt. Tej Prakash Srivastava has served in Iraq and is a graduate of both DSSC and AWC. He was Directing Staff at DSSC and Chief Instructor at College of Air Warfare. He Served at Air HQ, commanded a MiG-21 Sqn and headed the IAF establishment of Strike Corps during 'Operation Parakram'. He has authored a book titled 'Profligate Governance – Implications for National Security'. He has written extensively on international and strategic affairs and Defence Procurement Procedures. The IAF officer graduated from the NDA in June 1970 and trained at AFA with 107th Pilots Course. He can be reached at Email: [email protected]
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