Connecting Regions of Asia.

A Riposte To Turncoat Manavendra Singh

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Manvendra Singh’s recent article in The Print, Gen Naravane’s insensitive remark undermined 40 battalions of Nepalis in Indian Army, hits below the belt and smacks of an agenda based denigration of the Army and its Chief. In doing so, he dishonours and disrespects the entire community of the Gorkha Rifles, serving and retired, in India and Nepal.

The root of the issue sought to being stoked into a controversy is a reply, which the COAS made to a query by retired Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, of the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies Analyses (MP-IDSA) during an online Eminent Persons Lecture by the Chief, Gen MM Naravane. 

The Admiral had asked a very pointed question on whether there was a connection between the ‘…Nepal Kalapani issue and this Chinese scuffle which is happening almost back to back’ as a larger plot of the Chinese. It was in response to this question that the Chief elaborated upon the issue and said what he did. Understandably the Nepalese media has hyped it up, and is towing it’s domestic political agenda. 

But what is not understandable is why an ex-Colonel of the Territorial Army with an impeccable pedigree (he is son of former Finance Minister Jaswant Singh) and apparently a veteran of the Kargil War would seek to interpret it as undermining the 40 battalions of Nepali’s in the Indian Army majority of who form part of the reputed Gorkha Rifles.

         Two issues need to be highlighted. First, the Chief was well within his rights to make the statement that he made. Manvendra Singh writes that the Chief ‘has undermined his own position, waded into a domain that is clearly non-military, and brought unnecessary stress on a relationship unique to the two armies.’ 

This statement reflects Manvendra’s lack of understanding of matters military, despite having spent time in a quasi-military organisation and running a website on defence and security. This is was not the first time India Nepal relations have frayed. 

I recall watching blatantly anti-Indian movies with my officers from all over India officers and our majority Nepal-domiciled Gorkha company as a Company Commander in a post in Field. The practice then was that any soldier proceeding on leave was required to bring a movie CD back for the company to watch. 

Many Nepalese movies then centred around the usual romantic plot set in the backdrop of a hegemonistic India attacking Nepal and so on. The movies were hilarious and the reactions of the soldiers were equally entertaining. The fact is that in the past Indo Nepal relations have gone through these phases which has manifest into anti-Indian sentiments in media in Nepal which has had no effect on relations in the Gorkha units. Politics does not affect the Gorkha soldier in the Indian army because he is here for soldiering , not for politics. 

Even during the 2015 Blockade, there was no major impact barring the inconvenience to troops proceeding to and returning from Nepal. Hence the Chief’s statement, however unpalatable it be to Manvendra and his ilk, will make no difference to the Gorkhas in India, who have the confidence of their organisation with them.

            Manvendra goes on to take it to the next level that ‘No soldier, in India or in Nepal, believes that General Naravane’s inconsiderate remarks have not been instigated by someone within the Narendra Modi government.’ In doing so, he reveals his hand and his political agenda. 

This now takes us onto the second issue to be highlighted. That of the background of the author. A simple Wikipedia search is illuminating. It tells us that he had won from Shiv constituency as a candidate of Bharatiya Janata Party for Vidhan Sabha election, 2013 in Rajasthan. 

However, in 2014 he was suspended from BJP because of his campaign against BJP Lok Sabha candidate from his father’s constituency. Just before 2018 Rajasthan Legislative Assembly elections he quit BJP to join Indian National Congress. Thus the primary motivation of the author now seems to be clear; to curry favour with his political bosses.    

              Interestingly, The Print article, in its body, advertises another June 2017 article entitled TALK POINT: Should Indian military chiefs step out of their professional jurisdiction and talk about politics and diplomacy? 

And in this article, Adm Arun Prakash is quoted as saying that “The world’s oldest democracy has a tradition of military leaders, from Douglas MacArthur (Korea, 1951) to Stanley McChrystal (Afghanistan, 2010), speaking “truth to power”; with some of them paying the price. In India, the government and the chiefs know what they are doing. Carping armchair critics need to hold their peace.”

            Finally this same article quotes a BJP Leader as saying ‘Soldiers and officers are active on social media, and have opinions. Their boss was merely echoing what most think. Indians cannot hope to be on the global high table, and enforce silence on the senior most Army man. Many admire and want to ape the US, but won’t want its work ethic, or its freedoms.’ 

And who was this BJP leader defending the Chief’s right to speak out? It was Manvendra Singh, Editor, Defence and Security Alert magazine and then BJP MLA from Rajasthan! In effect, the good Colonel has sold his soul to the chair that he aspires to occupy.

Arguments change, so do logic, when the color of your political shirt changes . That happens with politicians , not soldiers 

(BHIM BAHADUR SHAHI , A FORMER GORKHA OFFICER IN THE INDIAN ARMY, IS A THIRD GENERATION SOLDIER, WHOSE FATHER DIED FIGHTING THE CHINESE IN 1962 AND GRANDFATHER WON A DECORATION BATTLING ROMMEL’S AFRIKA CORPS IN THE NORTH AFRICAN DESERT. THE VIEWS ARE THAT OF THE WRITER AND THE ARTICLE HAS NOT BEEN EDITED AT ALL).

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