‘We Stay Far Away from Politics, Follow Govt's Directions’ - India’s First Chief of Defence Staff

© AP PhotoIndian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat
Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat - Sputnik International
New Delhi (Sputnik): The Indian government’s avowed objective in appointing the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) was to ensure optimum utilisation of defence resources through the integration of tri-service operations and establishment of joint or theatre-specific commands.

The country’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat assumed formal charge of his post on Wednesday and committed to promoting synergy between the Army, Air Force, and Navy, besides ensuring better management of defence resources.

Addressing the media after receiving a guard of honour outside the Defence Ministry, General Rawat refuted allegations of being politically inclined, but added that the armed forces work according to the directions of the government in power.

“We stay far away from politics, very far. We have to work according to the directions of the government in power", news agency ANI quoted General Rawat as saying.

General Rawat, it may be recalled, had drawn criticism when as the country’s army chief he indirectly took a public stand against the ongoing protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed by the Indian Parliament last month.

"Leadership is all about leading. When you move forward, everybody follows...But leaders are those who lead people in the right direction. Leaders are not those who lead people in inappropriate directions, as we are witnessing in a large number of university and college students, the way they are leading masses of crowds to carry out arson and violence in our cities and towns. This is not leadership", General Rawat said at an event on 27 December, four days before ending his tenure as India’s 27th army chief.

Opposition politicians criticised him for that statement, with the Indian National Congress party saying that General Rawat’s decision to speak against the CAA protests was both a violation of the Indian Constitution as well as Article 21 of the Army Act ("no person subject to the Act shall publish in any form whatever or communicate directly or indirectly to the press any matter in relation to a political question'').

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) even sought an apology from General Rawat for his “indiscretion".

In a statement, the party said: “The Polit Bureau urges that the General apologises to the nation for his indiscretion which has extremely adverse ramifications for the Constitutional arrangement in the country. We also demand that the government takes note of such a breach and censures the General".

The army and some others supporting General Rawat said he was well within his rights to speak as a citizen of the country.

On Wednesday, however, moving forward, General Rawat said: “All the three services will work as a team. As per the task given to the Chief of Defence Staff we have to enhance integration and do better resource management".

Before taking formal charge of his office and responsibilities, General Rawat paid tribute at the National War Memorial and was accorded a ceremonial guard of honour in New Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated General Rawat on his assumption of the office of India's first CDS, describing him as an outstanding officer. He also paid tribute to the country's martyred soldiers.

The government announced the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff and the creation of a Department of Military Affairs within the Ministry of Defence on 24 December.

In its notification, the government made it clear that the CDS will not exercise any military command, including over the three service chiefs, but would have the responsibility of being the single point military advisor for the government and initiate procedures for integrating operations of the Indian Armed Forces apart from managing the procurement of weapons.

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