By Palepu Ravi Shankar
Shri Rajnath Singh
Honourable Raksha Mantri
Government of India
My Dear Raksha Mantri,
At the outset, please accept my sincere congratulations on your appointment as our Raksha Mantri. We wish you the very best in the successful execution of your duties so that Indian aspirations are fully met. I am confident that with your long experience in public life you will take India and its people to safe shores through stronger Armed Forces.
The Indian Armed Forces are the Last Bastion of India and you are its captain. It is the instrument to propel us to our rightful position in the comity of nations. It is also an institution of India that is most trusted to safeguard and protect us so that we maintain our upward trajectory. I am especially striking this note since the Armed Forces and their all-round strength has come into sharp focus recently. When our nation is facing multiple challenges – externally and internally, there is a need to strengthen our Armed Forces to deal with our threats and adversaries effectively.
Many criticalities faced by the Armed Forces have appeared in the media and many thinkers have come out with their 100 day wish lists. These are well known and common knowledge. I would recommend that in the first 100 days of your tenure please ignore all the fixes being advised to you. On the contrary, I would request you to invest your first 100 days in understanding the complex issues facing the Armed Forces. Your clarity in understanding these complex problems and decisions based on the ensuing clarity will be far more valuable to us as a nation. In this connection I would like to highlight a few issues to you.
It is my belief that all of us in the hierarchy of defence affairs exist to serve the man on the front-line. The man in the trench is our first line of defence and is our last bastion. He should be the one to be fully equipped, well paid and kept, honed in prime physical, mental and moral condition; in and out of service. The acid test of the efficacy of your policies, decisions and execution lies in how it affects the soldier, sailor or airman on ground. If you can hear his voice, establish what he needs and give it to him in time, you have won the battle for India. A well-equipped Indian soldier has always brought glory for the nation. The converse is also true as in the case of 1962.
In this process of discovering what the soldier needs, you will have to interact extensively with those who are operating on our frontiers. When you interact with them, you will always be painted a rosy picture at lower echelons. From a morale point of view all soldiers are trained to say that they have everything they need, specially in front of their superior commanders. All problems and criticalities will be posed to you at higher HQs. It is normal for a duality and contradiction to emerge. It will be then up to you to discern the real picture, assign a priority, evolve a policy and get it executed.
A major inhibitor in letting you know the ground situation is the bureaucracy around you. They are good people but come from different backgrounds with huge perceptional variances. As a result, many a times, they are far removed from reality due to lack of knowledge, beyond what is on files and other pressures and considerations. Also, they have greater access to you and hence have the capacity to influence your decisions. A good bureaucracy is a boon to the system and a bad one is a bane. It is up to you to hear the voice of the soldier through this noise and tend to his issues through our bureaucracy who, despite all that is said about them, are fundamentally good.
Many people will come to you with plans pertaining to Modernization of Organisation, Infrastructure, Research and Development and Production. History has shown that most of them are long on promise and extremely short on delivery. Many snake charmers of Delhi will come to you with “Make in India” plans which in actuality are “Fake in India”. In this connection I would like to highlight that there have been great successes due to teamwork. Please identify these successful models and reinforce them. The tried and trusted failures hovering around South Block need to be identified and shunned. India lies beyond Delhi, waiting to be tapped.
In sum, I would say that your hundred-day plan should be to understand the issues at hand, put together a good team and come up with a long-term executable plan. It needs to be pursued relentlessly for the rest of your tenure. Lastly, your efficacy lies in the fact that our present Air Chief or Prime Minister should never ever have to say “Agar Rafale Hota”. At the time of need, we should have, Rafale or whatever else it takes to defeat our enemies, in the hands of our soldiers on our frontiers.
I do hope this simple message of mine reaches you. Once again, I sincerely wish you success in all your endeavors to build a strong India.
With best wishes and warm regards,
P R Shankar
Lt Gen (Retd)
Ex Director General, Artillery
Department of Aerospace Engineering