I do NOT regret going to the Supreme Court: Gen V K Singh
The controversies that dogged the fag end of his career didn't take away from his distinguished military service, nor did they detract from the fact that former Army Chief General VK Singh's actions were motivated by national interest.
The recently-retired chief of Army made an exclusive appearance on Rediff Chat on Monday where he fielded wide-ranging questions from his readers about his actions as Army chief, his future plans and much more. Here is the transcript from the chat...
General VK Singh says, Hello dear rediff.com readers, I am General VK Singh here, looking forward to chatting with you all
Pat asked: Dear Sir, What changes you could bring to the army? What steps you have taken by yourself to reduce corruption within army (not the ministry of defence)?
General Singh: Dear Pat, what we have done is to bring in greater transparency and probity in the army. We have also embarked on a structural transformation to make the Army better in operational capabilities. As far as the corruption part is concerned, my view is that transparency and emphasis on probity as well as core values of the army will go a long way in protecting us.
Prabha asked: What do you think the most important step required from our defence minister to boost the morale of the Indian Army?
General Singh: Dear Prabha, the most important step for the defence minister is to ensure that the armed forces are allowed to administer their own affairs without any interference.
It should also be ensured that the armed forces are allowed to go along with their own core values without any fear of interference by any quarters. It also would be good to see that the welfare is looked after by taking out all the anomalies various pay commissions have had and restoring the status of the armed forces in the country.
Annnuujj asked: Sir, why are we so lacklustre in matching to China's military strength, China is way ahead now in building its military, Do you think we can ever catch up?
General Singh: Dear Annnuujj, unusual spelling:-) China is much bigger, both in terms of area, population and military expenditure. It has also pursued military modernisation as part of its four modernisations assiduously.
It will be difficult to match man-to-man because of huge expenditures involved. However, it is the quality that counts; and we have to structure ourselves as per the threat that we see.
To that extent, we have done few accretions and there are some more which are in the pipeline. These would be adequate to meet our requirements. However, what we need is to spend up to 3 per cent of our GDP to ensure that the armed forces have enough money to modernise.
At present we are spending just about 2 per cent of our GDP. We also need to gear up our indigenous capability like China for defence equipment. It is then that we will be able to fully match China.
Ajit asked: What is the preparedness of the Indian Army with respect to any war-like situation with Pakistan with the current state of ammunition?
General Singh: Dear Ajit, our preparation is reasonably good with whatever we have. It would become better if we were to make up all the deficiencies that have been projected. It is my belief that this deficiency will get made up in suitable time so that we will be better prepared. Let me assure you that even with deficiencies, we are ok.
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Image: Former Army Chief General V K Singh during the exclusive Rediff chat
Photographs: Saisuresh Sivaswamy/Rediff.com
'The armed forces are firmly behind the Constitution'
Ashwini asked: Gen Singh, Another question.... While the Navy and the Air force have been very successful in getting defence supplies in terms of aircraft carriers or Rafale aircraft, why has the army not been able to do it? Your letter to the PM pointed out the same too. Respectfully, Ashwini.
General Singh: Dear Ashwini, that is a very good question and a thing which is least understood. The air force and navy are platform-centric, they are small as compared to the army. Their needs are a few platforms which cost a lot of money.
When the proposals go, each of them is a file and a file takes a given time whether it is for Rs 4,000 crore or for 200 crore. In case of the army, all our requirements are costing much lesser, but being a larger force with varied requirements we have too many proposals.
And therefore, we find that the Army generally gets left out in this processing time. We have taken measures to get this sorted out, I am sure the measures that have been agreed to will continue and result in betterment of the procurement system for the army.
13vksingh asked, Sir what is your opinion for using a nuclear device first...?
General Singh: Dear 13vksingh, the nation has a nuclear policy, and the armed forces abide by that. If you have read the policy, you'd be clear as to when the nuclear weapons will be used.
Prab asked, Sir what prompted you to join the army?
General Singh: Dear Prab, that's a personal question you have asked... My three generations have been in the army, but despite that I joined the National Defence Academy as an air force cadet because one of my cousins was a test pilot at that time.
My father couldn't bear the thought that someone from a totally army family was joining the air force and he ensured that in the NDA my service was changed from the air force to army and that's how I landed in the army.
However, the motivation was because of the '62 and '65 wars and all the nationalistic feelings that prevailed in the country.
Surekha asked: Sir, do you regret going to the Supreme Court? What do you mean when you quoted the judge telling you to flow with the situation?
General Singh: Dear Surekha, NO, I do not regret going to the Supreme Court because now I know better about things are. And of course, you'd understand what it means when someone tells you to go with the wind. The Supreme Court unfortunately ducked the question and instead of a judgment asked for arbitration.
KPK asked My due respects to you sir. Why don't we privatise the arms manufacturing in India? This will avoid our dependency on foreign countries on arms.
General Singh: Dear KPK, this is an interesting question. My philosophy is that until the time the private sector does not get involved, we will always have difficulties in indigenisation of our defence production base.
At the moment, the laws made do not permit manufacture of arms and ammunition by the private industry. Also, so far our private industry was not so good but in recent years we have seen that the clout of our private industry has gone up and they can leverage the best of technology if we allow them joint ventures from outside.
SSS KK asked: Sir, tell us frankly, did you plan a small coup? If not, do you think government surely got 'spooked'?
General Singh: Dear SSS KK, our armed forces are firmly behind the Constitution. The thought of a coup will never occur to any right-thinking person in the armed forces. All those who had propagated such a theory need to get themselves checked.
As far as spooking of the government is concerned, somebody could have played mischief by adding and padding the report of a simple exercise to spook some people. I do not think anybody should have got spooked because of a simple, routine movement. It seems that the story put out was totally motivated and fabricated.
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Image: General VK Singh inspecting a guard of honour in New Delhi
'At the moment I am not joining anybody'
bindu1974 asked: Does corruption in the army exists?
General Singh: Dear bindu1974, first of all let us understand what exactly is corruption. If one pays 100 rupees to a peon to get his work done or to get the electricity bill passed, that also is corruption.
Somehow such things have become second nature to us. Hence, you will find some of such things percolating into the army. This was one of the reasons why on taking over in 2010, I said we need to improve the internal health.
We have come a long way, and lots of measures have been taken to ensure that greater positivity comes in this front.
amrish asked: Hello Sir, now that you have retired, what are you planning to strengthen the cause like removing corruption from our system? Do you intend to enter politics? Believe that, people having credibility as of yours will help make system more transparent.
General Singh:, Dear Amrish, there are lot of options open for me. My basic fight against corruption remains. I would work with our retired jawans and officers so that we can come together and work as a team for the betterment of society.
I am a strong believer that the army values instilled in our men make them capable of not only being leaders but to have values which are good for society. And this includes the fight against corruption.
shrish asked: Sir, We request you to join Anna Hazare to fight against corruption. We will be really happy if you joined him.
General Singh: Dear Shrish, a lot of people have been asking me this question, whether I would join Annaji or Ramdevji. I feel personalities are not important, but what is important are the issues raised.
We all have to take on the major issue of corruption as well as all other issues which impact the common man. At the moment I am not joining anybody, but will certainly lend support to anyone, even you if you fight for the betterment of our people.
sameerr asked: General u have lowered morale of the Indian Army...u should be tried for that in court.
General Singh: Dear Sameerr, I think you are mistaken. The morale of the armed forces and the army has not been affected because of the issue that concerned me. In fact, the thought that prevails is that one has to fight for the right thing.
Our country has one rule where age is concerned and that is it is determined on the basis of a matriculation certificate. Therefore, my men understood what I stood up for. And their morale actually went up.
Footsoldier asked: Sir, did you try at the level of PM Singh to sort out problem of the date of birth? Why did it fail?
General Singh: Dear Footsoldier, everything was tried, however there were a lot of people who were looking at this only as a tenure issue and not a DOB issue. That is why it didn't move forward.
ksaravate asked: What is your thought about a 'separate defence budget' just like the railway budget? It will put clear picture in front of the nation.
General Singh: Dear Ksaravate, the defence budget is a separate allocation. It is not presented like the railway budget is presented. However, it is not a planned budget in terms of ensuring that the amount allocated is spent in that year.
That is why we find that when there is a need for funds elsewhere, generally it is taken out from the defence budget. What is needed is that the defence budget should become a planned budget and procedures and rules should be so amended that we are able to ensure that not a single rupee goes out of this budget elsewhere.
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Image: Anna Hazare
'The army decided it was being shortchanged'
armyman asked: Sir, how can the youth be motivated to join armed forces? The educated youth today has a vast opportunity to lead a dream career in IT and other professional services, where they get to go places and earn heft pay packets. In such a scenario, how an educated and talented youth can be convinced to join the armed forces?
General Singh:, Dear armyman, the youth is motivated to join the armed forces. We have a very large number of +2 students who take the NDA and the TES entry exams. We do not find any dearth of candidates as almost 600-700 people qualify the service selection board too.
It is beyond this level, when we look for graduate entries that we find there is a problem because very large number of other options are available. We have looked at various options which will ensure that more number of youth who are graduates come forward to join the armed forces.
These are at the moment with the MoD and let's hope that they get implemented fast enough to make a difference.
MATT asked: So just said matriculation certificate is a proof. Why didn't you object when you were made a colonel, brigadier or even a captain. You could have gone to court then too.
General Singh: Dear Matt, you must know that in the army, the promotions are not based on age or DOB but on merit of your selection and seniority which is fixed at the time you graduate from the academy.
I think the papers have already said so, that right till the time I was selected for lieutenant-general's rank the DOB given in the papers processed for this purpose had the correct date. So I think you are slightly uninformed.
knightridertwofive asked: General Singh, greetings from Bengaluru.... Why did you not blow the lids off the many controversial procurement policies....viz through agents etc... well before your retirement date approached?? Was it because you did not meet success in your DOB problems?? Or you were constrained by more powerful forces than your official capacity?
General Singh: Dear knightridertwofive, all issues had been brought up in 2010 itself and not at the time of retirement. The way things move in the red tape and bureaucracy, it has taken its own time.
BOSS asked: Sir, why did you complain about Lt Gen Tejinder Singh so late? Was it a calculated move?
General Singh: Dear BOSS, the issue of Lt Gen Tejinder Singh was brought to the notice of the Raksha Mantri the very day it happened. So your reading of the whole issue is not correct.
ram_bharadwaj asked: Sir, Do you think the recent statement of the United States of deploying half of its naval might in the Indian Ocean is a threat to India?
General Singh: Dear ram_bharadwaj, what the US has said is that Asia has now become the centre of gravity for strategic purposes. This is on account of the phenomenal economic growth in this area as well as large energy requirements of all the counties in this region.
Thus, the US has interests in ensuring stability in this region. To that extent, they have felt that enhanced naval presence would ensure that some of the smaller countries who have fears of being engulfed by some larger ones are taken care of.
rubal asked: Do you really Believe that Tatra trucks are inferior in quality and not as per standard prescribed by the Indian Army?
General Singh: Dear rubal, the Tatra trucks model that was being marketed by BEML was based on '70s technology. The Czech army itself uses a different model with much better engine and capability. Therefore, the army decided that they are being shortchanged.
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Image: Indian Army soliders during a flood rescue operation in Surat
'There is a trial and selection process in procuring arms'
smanikan03 asked: Beloved General, why do not we make a compulsory tenure in army for every youth as it will discipline him which is the very basis of life. While telling this I also wonder how few humans are being indisciplined even by the most revered institution like the Indian Army.
General Singh: Dear smanikan03, this is a thought that is being debated right from the time that we became independent. I would personally agree with you, that this proposal would ensure lot of good things for the people as well as for the armed forces.
It would also make for better people subsequently in various walks of life in the country. I am sure you know as a voluntary army, we do not have any dearth of manpower opting for the army, especially where our jawans are concerned.
We have a problem where the officers are concerned. And this has to be tackled in a multi-pronged approach targeting the youth so that we can harness the best for the armed forces.
V Prabhakar asked: General I read about the talk you had given at a symposium about the how China is constructing a direct route to Afghanistan as part of your research. Don't you perceive this will reduce our importance towards economically and militarily supporting Afghanistan?
General Singh: Dear V Prabhakar, the Wakhan corridor in Afghanistan is an extension that lends itself for exploitation if somebody was to make a route over the mountains. One has heard of Chinese road network in Sinkiang coming close to the mountain passes on the other side of this corridor.
It has also been reported that there are some plans to probably make a tunnel to connect this road network into Wakhan. This will allow a direct access to China into Afghanistan. At the moment, it is dependent on routes through Pakistan. Thus, you have a merit in saying that it will out-flank India.
firstname.lastname@example.org asked: Respected General, I have the highest regards for the armed forces. I worked for a private company and we were dealing with the military engineering services. The personnel in MES were corrupt and were approving products for purchase at abnormal pricing based on the bribes offered to them.
It is a known fact to most of the suppliers that the MES is corrupt and bribes need to be paid. What is your opinion on MES?
General Singh: Dear Sandeep_v25@rediffmail.com, lot of us share similar views. However, not all in MES are as bad as you have said. However, the old adage of 'one person spoiling the entire flock' holds good.
This can only be sorted out if people like you and the required people in the army stand up together to fight against this.
Rana asked: Sir why didn't we go for US fighters jets which are considered the BEST and TESTED in the world? That deal could have put India in US' good books?
General Singh: Dear Rana, there are a lot of questions flowing in, and if I am not answering any it is only because I cannot physically answer so many. There is no other reason.
To answer this question of yours, I hope you know that there is a process of trial and selection. The air force has lot of parameters on which it selects and subsequently the ministry takes a decision based on these as well as the price tag.
I am sure, based on these they have selected the best for the service. The political consideration is a secondary part and has to be exercised by the political setup in the country.
In this the services do not have any say. Therefore, it is not that the air force did not go for the aircraft from the US because of any antipathy to the US but it selected fighter which met its requirement.
I would also like to tell you that we have maximum difficulties with the US where transfer of technology is concerned and I am not sure you would not like somebody to hold you to ransom when the chips are down.
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Image: The Rafale fighter jet
'Our ethos ensures that we are comparatively subdued'
AKAntony asked: Will we ever be able to get back parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim and J&K that have been occupied by China?
General Singh: Dear AKAntony, only some portion of J&K which is Aksai Chin and a very little portion in Arunachal Pradesh was occupied in 1962. There is no territorial loss in Sikkim. You are aware that there are talks between both the countries to resolve the border dispute amicably. This is an issue which is very complicated and I am sure some solution will be found.
drLungi asked: Sir, Do u think that the terrorist attacks on the Indian soil are nothing just but a proxy war.A war which is economically cheap and has an equal impact?
General Singh: Dear drLungi, you are right, because we have always been saying we are facing a proxy war. The country as a whole needs to respond without looking at narrow interests or getting involved in politics. It is then only that we will be able to thwart the designs of our enemies.
yshenoy asked: I feel sorry for the entire defence forces, which is trained to stand up for everything else, but not for themselves because of the colonial rules and a discipline. the entire defence establishment, at the end of day, runs on promotions and for the sake of promotions, officers and sepoys alike, learn not to stand up for themselves.
You also signed a letter to that effect, how true is the statement?
General Singh: Dear yshenoy, not entirely true. Yes, there are certain restrictions on our fundamental rights when you join the armed forces. In addition, the ethos in the armed forces also ensures that you are comparatively subdued.
But that does not mean that you cannot stand up for what is right. The system is largely fair in ensuring that if you stand for what is right, you will not be persecuted.
sharmagaurav asked: Sir, Jai Hind! My question is what is the basic difference between the Indian and Pakistani armed forces? Both have their history in the British Raj so that means same institutions.
Still, in Pakistan, there've been many coups on minor provocations, whereas in India, an upright general who has led his life by example just gracefully retires even after being publicly humiliated by the members of Parliament and some big hidden PR machinery... So, what's the basic difference between the two armies?
General Singh: Dear sharmagaurav, thank you for your question. The basic difference is in the allegiance one professes for the Constitution of the country. We find that in the last 60 years plus, the armed forces in India have abided by the charter laid down as per the Constitution. On the other hand, that has not been so in Pakistan.
This basically shows the strength of democracy and maturity in our country. We are what we are because of this and we are ensuring that armed forces contribute towards nation-building.
Abhaya asked: Sir, How strong is India's military intelligence...as now days the proxy wars are fought and thus intelligence assumes very importance... (I hope to get this answer from the general)
General Singh: Dear Abhaya, the nation has various intelligence agencies to do various things to safeguard the nation. Military intelligence also has a charter and an area of responsibility.
I can say that they are doing a great job in meeting the requirements of the army. Saying anything more than this would not be in the interests of the army.
Gn. Singh asked: Dear sir, how is life post retirement?
General Singh: Dear Gen Singh, the life post-retirement is good, there is a feeling of freedom and time to attend to lot of things which one didn't before this. There is a lot that one can do in this period. It also allows me to go around meeting people and talking to them to get to know the realities on ground.
General VK Singh says, Dear readers, thank you for being here on rediff.com to chat with me, it has been a most exhilarating experience for me. Thank you all again. Goodbye.
Image: Former Army chief VK Singh
Photographs: Press Information Bureau