Ever since Modi created a new slot of ‘Chief of Defence Staff’ CDS and appointed General Bipin Rawat against this slot the politicization of the Indian army started. It is the incumbent government that created conditions for the negative political reorientation of all three services.
Politicizing Seniority Appointments
When Gen Bipin Rawat was appointed India’s first CDS he was already beholden to the BJP government for superseding two senior Generals in making him COAS. In 2019, setting aside seniority principle Modi had named Vice Admiral Karambir Singh as the next Chief of Naval Staff prompting Vice Admiral Bimal Verma – the officer who had been superseded – to move Armed Forces Tribunal.
Misuse of Senior/ Junior Ranks’ Photographs
For the first time in the history of elections pictures of Director General Military Operations, and the strapping of Sikh Lt Gen Ranbir Singh were emblazoned on banners/ posters alongside pictures of Modi & Amit Shah during the UP election in violation of Election Commission SOPs.Photographs of security forces personnel killed in the February 14 suicide bombing in Pulwama were displayed in the background when Modi delivered a few election speeches.
Exploiting False Flag Attacks
There was an engineered attack (false flag) on the paramilitary force at Pulwama (Feb 2019) in IIOJK with an intent to first blame Pakistan and go vindictive. Thus dropping the pay-load by IAF on a barren mountain peak at Balakot inside Pakistan was politicized for electoral gains (election 2019). Though PAF crushed that so-called Indian gain by bringing down two IAF fighter aircraft including one pilot captured and handed over to India with a bleeding nose. Three years later, Balakot air strikes helped BJP’S 303-seat victory in general elections; Balakot and the politics that engulfed it became folklore. The soldier was inveigled into domestic politics. Sequel to the false flag attack (Sep 2016) on Indian Army Brigade HQ at Uri so–called surgical strike (which never took place) across LOC in September 2016 was hyped by Modi to shore up an electoral edge for BJP in the UP Assembly elections held months later.
Modi ki Sena/ One Rank One Pension Issue
Modi’s party colleagues referred to Army & Air Force as “Modi ki Sena [Modi’s Army]” or “Modi ki vayu Sena [Modi’s Air Force]” during election campaigns. The entrapment of the military and veterans began with an imperfect One Rank, One Pension which is locked in court.
Saffronization of Indian Military
Soldiers started tying Ranks & Diwali sweets are being distributed among the frontline soldiers. Troops reciprocated by carrying yoga mats, constructing over-bridges & clearing garbage from mountains, thereby enabling officers to ingratiate themselves with the political class. At Artillery Regimental Centre in Deolali, arti has been recited (for the first time) on parade with soldiers clapping. Enshrined on a prominent boulder on the parade ground was the symbol Om. In the regimental Centre, the parade would end with the singing of the regimental anthem but now the ceremony ends with ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. As per details only 2% of Muslims serve in the armed forces against the population of 14% with promotions frozen till Colonel. The intelligence community has barely any Muslim representation in a country that portrays itself to be epitome of secularism.
Senior Ranks Activities Smelling Politics
General (R) Bipin Rawat was compliant with the government agenda and remained associated with some events that were clearly political. He even skipped a Navy Day event for such activities. The political ‘tamasha’ at the inauguration of Purvanchal Expressway (in UP) was attended by all three services chief revealing height of brazenness. On 17 Sep 2021, Corps Commander 15 Corps, responsible for operations in the Kashmir Valley, under its Twitter handle – Chinar Corps – tweeted to felicitate Modi on his 71st birthday. The message with three images of Modi in military combat dress showed servility. Tweet was quickly deleted but the screenshot dented the apolitical status Indian army.
Navy & Air Force Chiefs wrote letters to President & PM for maintaining communal harmony in the military following hate speeches delivered at Dharam Sansad (religious assembly) held at Haridwar in Uttarakhand. Writing of letter was unprecedented.
In many 2019, a Leh district election officer complained against a Commanding Officer for being partisan in voting as he was observed persuading armed forces personnel for voting certain candidate. The 60-year-old autonomous Institution of Defence Studies and Analyses was prefixed with the name of former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and for some time, carried Modi’s pictures on flyers. The scams of the Rafael deal and the military housing project also manifested that institutionalized corruption remains a legacy of the Indian armed forces.