The Army and Navy have turned into battlefields of ambition and lust for power. Senior Generals and Admirals in the Army and Navy are busy in an internecine war to see who reaches the top. While Admiral D K Joshi’s resignation has indicated that the Navy was sailing on choppy waters, the Army is turning into a hostile terrain as the inner conflict for the top post in the wake of General Bikram Singh’s retirement in August intensifies.
According to sources, the tug-of-war that claimed Admiral D K Joshi’s job has been on for six months now. Trouble for Joshi, who is perceived as outspoken and honest, didn’t begin with the INS Sindhurakashak submarine sinking in Mumbai on August 14.
It actually began when Defence Minister A K Antony rapped the Navy for “frittering away nation’s assets” at an in-camera naval commanders conference on November 23 last year.
Joshi was upset that Antony’s comments in a closed-door meet was made public through a Ministry press release and he vehemently defended the Navy on its safety record at the December 2 annual press conference. With that began a series of reports on 10 incidents, which created an impression that the Navy was careless in its operations, Navy sources said.
Joshi had argued with Antony on the day he resigned that even insignificant operational incidents like a boat hitting the jetty while being berthed were “blown out of proportion”. “If you notice, there is a pattern emerging. There are pulls and pressures at work,” a senior armed forces officer, who did not wish to be identified, told Express. “There is a game being played. And it becomes obvious with each passing day,” he added.
What has again triggered a succession battle in the Navy is Joshi suggesting in his resignation letter that Vice Chief Admiral R K Dhowan be made the Interim Chief till a regular Admiral is appointed to the top job. Soon, information began to float that Dhowan was not qualified for the post as he was not the senior-most Vice Admiral and had no “command” experience at any of the three Naval Commands at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam and Kochi.
The senior-most officer is Western Naval Commander Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha. Applying the seniority principle, Sinha qualifies to be the next Chief after Joshi’s resignation. But to scuttle that possibility, questions have now been raised on his moral responsibility, since nearly 10 of the accidents took place under his watch.
The Army Scene
In the Army, General Bikram Singh is all set to retire in August this year and present Vice Chief Lt Gen Dalbir Suhag is tipped to be the next chief.
Now there are efforts to pin responsibility on Suhag for a botched-up intelligence raid in the Northeastern region under his watch as the 3 Corps Commander in Dimapur, with reports of a cold-blooded extra-judicial killing in Nagaland by the then personnel from the intelligence unit, doing the rounds, sources said.
General V K Singh, just before his retirement in May 2012, had imposed a Discipline and Vigilance ban on Suhag being promoted as Army commander for this “lapse” under his 2 Corps command tenure.
General Bikram Singh, on assuming office as Chief in June 2012, revoked the ban, accepting Suhag’s explanation to an earlier notice issued to him.
Lt Gen Dalbir Suhag was promoted with retrospective effect from June 1 that year to take charge as Kolkata-based Eastern Army Commander.
If Suhag fails to get the top post, then Southern Army Commander Lt Gen Ashok Singh, whose son Dr Anirudh is married to General V K Singh’s daughter Yogja, would succeed General Bikram Singh as Chief. He is the second senior-most Lieutenant General.
But sources say that as a counter to the allegations against Suhag, it is being floated around that Lt Gen Ashok Singh was the 1 Corps commander in Mathura and the armoured units under his command rolled from Hissar towards Delhi in mid-January 2012, when General V K Singh had gone to the Supreme Court against the Central Government for getting his birth date restored in service records as 1951 instead of 1950.
That way, both officers would stand discredited and their chances of being the Army chief would be scuttled.