NEW DELHI: Newly-appointed Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat on Wednesday said the armed forces stay far away from politics, and work as per the directives of the government in power, remarks that come amid allegations that he has political leanings.
Former Army chief Gen Rawat took charge as country's first CDS barely days after his criticism of people leading protests over the new citizenship law evoked sharp reactions from opposition leaders, activists and military veterans who accused him of making political remarks, thereby compromising the long-held convention in the Army of not wading into political matters.
In his first media interaction after assuming the position of the CDS, Rawat also said that his focus as the CDS will be to integrate the efforts of the three services and to work as a team.
"I want to assure you, that the Army, the Navy and the Air Force will work as a team. The CDS will keep control over them, but action will be taken through teamwork," said Gen Rawat after receiving a Guard of Honour by the three services.
Asked about allegations that the Army was being politicised and questions being raised by the Congress over the creation of the CDS' post, he said, "We stay away, we stay far away from politics. We work on the directives of the government in power."
Congress leader Manish Tewari on Tuesday had raised several questions over the appointment of Gen Rawat as the CDS, saying the government has started on a "wrong foot".
The Congress, however, on Wednesday apparently distanced itself from the critical remarks of Tewari and party leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on the appointment of Gen Rawat, saying it does not oppose any step taken by the government to strengthen the security of the country.
Gen Rawat had last week found himself in the midst of a massive row after he publicly criticised people leading protests over the new citizenship law, saying leadership is not about guiding masses to carry out arson and violence across the country, following which the then Army chief was accused of having political leanings.
Asserting that his focus will be to ensure best and optimal use of resources allocated to the three services, he said the task cut out for the Chief of Defence Staff is to integrate the three services and enhance their capability and he will continue working towards that.
"The CDS will not try to run a force by his directions. Integration is needed. We have to ensure that 1+1+1 combine of the three services adds up to 5 or 7 and not 3. You have to achieve more through synergy and integration, that is the aim of the CDS," Gen Rawat said.
Apart from giving attention to integration and joint training, he said efforts will be made to ensure uniformity and integrating of systems for procurement so that the Army, the Navy and the Air Force can work in coordination with each other.
Asked about the establishment of theatre commands, Gen Rawat said, "There are methods of doing theaterisation, I think we all are copying western methods and what others have done. We can have our own systems. We will work out mechanisms through understanding with each other and I think it will work."
On the government's timeline of three years for achieving integration between the forces, the CDS said it was possible and he will strive to achieve it.
Asked about the killing of two army personnel in a gunfight with heavily-armed Pakistani infiltrators along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri district, he said he would not like to comment on it.
"Plans are not made open to public. Don't want to comment on that," he said when asked if there were plans of the three services acting on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Gen Rawat also said that he would remain neutral to the three services as the CDS.
"My head is feeling lighter because, I have had to take off that angled Gurkha hat that I have been working with for 41 years, I have come back to this peak cap that I am wearing which is to say that we are now neutral. Will be neutral to all the three services," he said.
Asked about the challenges on the northern border and China's actions there, the general said the Army will continue to work through integrated efforts.
Gen Rawat, with a distinguished career behind him, retired from the post of the Army Chief on Tuesday after a three-year tenure.
On Monday, he was appointed India's first CDS.