Saturday, 20 April 2019

Ex-services chiefs deny writing to Prez over politicisation of military

(Left to right) Former Army Chief General SF Rodrigues, Former Army Vice Chief Lt General ML Naidu, Ex-Air Chief Nirmal Chandra Suri, Major General Harsha Kakkar. (Photo | ANI)

New Delhi, April 12, 2019: (ANI) Several senior Armed Forces veterans on Friday denied writing a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind over the alleged politicization of the services with former Army Chief General Sunith Francis Rodrigues calling it “a classic manifestation of fake news”.

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“I do not know what it is all about. All my life, we have been apolitical. After 42 years as an officer, it is a little late to change. We have always put India first. I do not know who these people are and it (the letter with names of officers) is a classic manifestation of fake news,” General Rodrigues said.

Meanwhile, a Rashtrapati Bhavan source said that the President has not received any letter purportedly written by a group of former officers of the army, navy and air force.

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Earlier on Friday, it was reported that 156 Armed Forces veterans — including eight former service chiefs — General Sunith Francis Rodrigues, General Shankar Roy Chowdhury, General Deepak Kapoor, Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, Admiral Arun Prakash, Admiral Suresh Mehta and Air Chief Marshal NC Suri — had written a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind, urging him to urgently direct all political parties to stop using the services to further their political agenda.

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The letter said, “We hereby respectfully urge you to take all necessary steps to urgently direct all political parties that they must forthwith desist from using the military, military uniform or symbols, and any actions by military formation or personnel, for political purposes or to further their political agendas.”

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The veterans expressed concern over “unusual and completely unacceptable practice of political leaders taking credit for military operations like cross-border strikes, and even going so far as to claim the Armed Forces to be ‘Modi ji ki Sena'”.

Air Chief Marshal Suri, one of those who purportedly signed the letter, said, “This is not Admiral Ramdas’ letter and it has been done by some Major Chaudhary. He has written this letter and this was coming on WhatsApp and emails. To put an end to it, I wrote that armed forces are apolitical and support the politically elected government.”

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“My consent has not been taken for any such letter. And I do not agree with whatever has been written in that letter… We have been misquoted by this Major Chaudhary,” he added.

Former Army Vice Chief Lt General ML Naidu, who figured in the purported letter, said, “No, my consent has not been taken for any such letter and neither have I written any such letter.”

However, when reached out, Major General Harsha Kakkar, an ex-officer who was also named, said, “Yes, I had given my consent for being a signatory to the letter. I had given my consent only after knowing the contents of it.”

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Full text of the letter

Dear Shri Ram Nath Kovind Ji,

We, the signatories, are Armed Forces Veterans who have served in the defence of our nation in various appointments, in peacetime and in operational and war zones over the past several decades.

The apolitical and secular nature of Indias Armed Forces has been an article of faith for every soldier, sailor and airman. Indias Armed Forces have loyally upheld the democratic principle of civil control over the military. Their military professionalism on and off the field, combined with the devotion to duty in protecting Indias territorial sovereignty and national integrity, remains widely appreciated.

The soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Armed Forces owe allegiance to the Constitution of India, of which you, as President of the Indian Union, are the legal custodian.

It is for this reason that the President is also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and we serve and execute orders at the will of the President and as decided from time to time by the Executive that is, the Government of the day.

You would be aware that those in active service (men and women of all ranks in the Army, Navy and Air Force) cannot speak out, even on matters which might affect their interests adversely, since they are subject to military law and are governed by the parliamentary Acts of their respective Service.

However, we Veterans being in continuous touch with our own military fraternity, as also with serving personnel at all levels, have a finger on the pulse, so to speak. And it is for this reason that we write to bring to your attention, as the Supreme Commander of Indias Armed Forces, some concerns which have caused considerable alarm and disquiet among both the serving and the retired personnel of our Forces.

We refer, Sir, to the unusual and completely unacceptable practice of political leaders taking credit for military operations like cross-border strikes, and even going so far as to claim the Armed Forces to be Modi ji ki Sena. This is in addition to media pictures of election platforms and campaigns in which party workers are seen wearing military uniforms; and posters and images with pictures of soldiers and especially of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, displayed.

We do appreciate that complaints by some senior retired personnel, including a written submission from a former Chief of the Naval Staff to the Chief Election Commissioner, have elicited a prompt response. Indeed a notification has been issued asking for an explanation from those responsible for these statements, including from the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. However we regret to state that these do not appear to have resulted in any substantive change of behaviour and practice on the ground.

With the General Elections round the corner, and given the prevailing environment where political parties and candidates seem to be acting in total disregard of the declaration of the model code of conduct, we fear that such incidents may only increase as polling day draws near.

We believe that you will surely agree that any such misuse of the Armed Forces established under the Constitution of India and under the supreme command of the President of India, would impinge adversely on the morale and fighting efficiency of the serving man or woman in uniform. It could therefore directly affect national security and national integrity.

We therefore appeal to you to ensure that the secular and a-political character of our Armed Forces is preserved.

We hereby respectfully urge you to take all necessary steps to urgently direct all political parties that they must forthwith desist from using the military, military uniforms or symbols, and any actions by military formations or personnel, for political purposes or to further their political agendas.

This communication is copied to the Chief Election Commissioner of the Election Commission of India for information and action.

We, the undersigned, endorse the above.

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Copy Edited by Adam Rizvi

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