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Loose Cannon

Garrulity is no longer the monopoly of India's politicians. It seems that the contagion has now afflicted the army too. In Bipin Rawat, India arguably has its most loquacious army chief. In his latest bout of commentary, Mr Rawat has described a report by the United Nations alleging human rights violations in Kashmir as being "motivated". On an earlier occasion, the general had courted controversy by stating in public that the influx from across the border in the Northeast was a strategy that had been crafted by two of India's neighbours. Mr Rawat is certainly entitled to his contentious views, even though it must be conceded that the army has often been accused of committing excesses in Kashmir. The problem with a candid general lies elsewhere. Mr Rawat's unreserved comments make him vulnerable to accusations of attempting to encroach upon the domain of elected representatives. In fact, the ministry of external affairs - the appointed authority in a democracy - had already rejected the said report and stated that it was prejudiced. Surely there was no need for the army chief to wade into the matter once the political establishment had communicated its decision. Worse, Mr Rawat is upending a principle that had been established - and respected thus far - with the birth of the democracy. In India, the army is subservient to the government of the day. The need for such a hierarchy was felt keenly by Independent India's first prime minister. The clear separation of power between the civilian authority and the army was the deterrent that India needed to prevent it from turning into a military state, as is the case with its western neighbour. Mr Rawat's verbosity now threatens this arrangement.

The Bharatiya Janata Party evidently appreciates Mr Rawat's talkativeness. Perhaps that is because a voluble general is consistent with the BJP's strategy of milking the image of the army for political gain. As if a forthcoming general is not enough, India is now witnessing the dissemination of surgical strikes by enthusiastic television networks. With general elections looming on the horizon, the BJP is keen to try every trick in the book to shore up its ratings. Given his fondness for public speaking, perhaps Mr Rawat would care to confront the allegations of a dangerous depletion of resources and funds for the army. The nation would really like to know.

Opinion

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