India and Pakistan have competed with each other in every field and have done it proudly. But where India really has an edge over Pakistan is strong democracy which is an identity of India in the whole world. Recently we have always seen Pakistani Army Chief having issues with their Government over the Memo Gate scandal and have gone to the courts giving independent replies at the displeasure of their government but what we never foresee before 16th January 2012 was that Indian Army Chief will also be joining its Pakistani counterpart in seeking justice from its government from the judiciary.
Although, Indian media had kept most of its focused towards events in Pakistan but whatever discussion that took place in India media gives us the sense that there is so much similarity in the way politician has mishandled crisis in their respective countries, the view which former Services Chiefs have in both of the countries regarding their respective issue i.e. Age Row in India and Memo Gate Scandal in Pakistan , the way public thinks regarding the crisis and a complete distrust shown by both Army Chiefs against their Government ability to resolve issue and seeking justice from the Apex Court .
It will be foolish to compare the controversy of Age Row V/s Memo Gate as the reality that persist in India and Pakistan is entirely different from each other even when crises of such nature takes place as India has a strong civilian setup unlike Pakistan but there’s enough to learn from India for Pakistan even with the comedy of similar errors which Indians have committed in this regard.
The common factor in Age Row and Memo Gate Controversy is a piece of Paper. In Age Row, there are two different date of birth of an Indian Army Chief which is mentioned on two different documents. One is in Army Hospital records where records of birth and death are kept by Army itself which shows V K Singh birth date as 10th May, 1951 and second is the application form submitted to the National Defence Academy which states V K Singh birth date as 10th May 1950. Whereas in Memo Gate Controversy an unsigned, un-authenticated document is involved which Military top brass of Pakistan believes sovereignty of the State of Pakistan has been compromised.
Without going into the merits and demerits of Age Row and Memo Gate Controversy, in the rest of the piece I would like to focus myself on the different statements by institutions or arguments made by people from different sectors of the life either on Age Row or Memo Gate as you can almost hear same kind of voices both in India and Pakistan and give my views on it.
Argument # 1: Government should assert itself more.
No one in Pakistan can deny that civil government does needs to assert itself over Army but when same kind of voices come from India , it gives you a sense of feeling that there’s also some tussle in civilian and military government and this public debate over age of Army Chief of India has bring this tussle to the forefront . How much it will cost India in the future remains to be seen but civilian government in Pakistan has always been in loss-loss situation whenever civil military tussle has taken place and whether it will be different for Pakistan with a Judiciary that is viewed as an Independent by most people remains to be seen.
Argument # 2: Army Chief does not have confidence in people superior to him and Ministry of Defense is a terrible organization.
In India, Army Chief is answerable to Ministry of Defense but in Pakistan, President and Prime Minister have been answerable to Army Chief if we look at the history of Pakistan. Anyways let’s get back to the recent controversy where Pakistan military establishment thinks that their President and Prime Minister are behind the controversial Memo and all the explanation by President and Prime Minister have simply not satisfied the Army in Pakistan. Plus we should not forget also that, Ministry of Defense hardly has any kind of role in dealing with Pakistan Army and Minister of Defense seems to be a person totally irrelevant in this whole recent controversy in Pakistan. In India even if MOD has not efficiently handled this proceeding , at least we haven’t seen Prime Minister and President making a fool of themselves by flashing nonsensical footages of Army Chief meeting President or Prime Minister on recent controversy.
Argument #3: Army Chief has acted in his personal capacity.
I find this argument pretty lame for one reason that whether it is an Indian or Pakistani Army Chief, they represent an institution. They are Army Chief 24/7, 365 days in a year and acting in personal capacity as a head of an institution of such nature makes no sense. Either you 1st resign from your post and then go on in court n your personal capacity or simply follow what your government wants from you as an officer that is subservient to the civil government.
Irony in this statement is that whether it’s an Age Row or Memo Gate Controversy, there’s too much similarity in the actions of both Army Chief. Both Army Chiefs have shown distrust in the capabilities of their government to handle the issue. Although I still don’t know how Indian Army Chief has addressed himself in his 66 page petition against Government of India to Supreme Court of India but what I know that the replies submitted in Supreme Court of Pakistan by Army Chief of Pakistan did contained the Signature Stamp of Army Chief and if an Army Chief submits any reply with an official stamp that surely can’t be in a personal capacity and it has to be an institutional reply.
Argument #4: It has always been [an issue] of integrity and honour right from the time the issue came to the forefront, it has always been taken up in organizational interest.
The above statement has been made by Indian Army chief over Age Row. There can be no two views that one does has a right to protect their integrity and honour but if this has the tenacity to hit the organization such as Army , then it surely becomes a National interest as well . Sitting here in Pakistan , I would never have imagine such a thing coming out for a publication of such nature since we have seen what happens to democratic governments in Pakistan after such publications. The silence maintained by Government of India after Army Chief has taken government to court till now has to be commended and more so because in Pakistan rumors factory would have been activated till now and nonstop live transmission would have hit the screens. This silence goes on to show the maturity and seriousness which politician of India are showing in this exceptional circumstances and this shouldn’t be taken as low moral ground for their government as everyone should remember that Pakistan civilian government made irresponsible comments to take pressure off them in Memo Gate Controversy.
Argument #5: It’s an attempt to mess up military chain of command.
Another similarity that can be found in Age Row & Memo Gate is a general feeling that Memo gate was an attempt to mess with the top leadership of Pakistan Army & Age Row is to get rid of current Indian Army Chief by dragging him into controversy. The Age Row does gives an impression that if no amicable solution is achieved it can erupt into the most dreadful crisis Indian democracy would have ever found itself in. You cannot simply shut your eyes when you can easily spot who will benefit if General VK Singh year of birth is accepted as 1950 and you cannot simply ignore the power struggle that could begin in the ranks of Army amongst those who will like General VK Singh to continue till 2013 and those who will be supporting Lieutenant General Bikram Singh, who heads the Eastern Command of the Indian army to succeed General VK Singh in May 2012. The history of Indian democracy has always find a way In whatever crisis they dig themselves in and it will be interesting to see how this situation is tackled in such a way that General VK Singh bows out with his head high along with Indian Democracy once again proving itself.
Argument#6: Army Chief is an institution and one should respect the institution.
There’s no doubt that one should respect the institution and their heads but let’s face it that they should be open to criticism as well since there can’t be any sacred cows governing your institution and where the fault lies one should have the liberty to criticize it if it comes in public domain . The civil government either in Age Row or Memo Controversy should have tried to get their point across to the Army Chiefs before this went on to become the public property for discussion . The statement such as Indian Army Chief is lying and is doing for perks involve in being Army chief or Pakistani Prime Minister going on to make a public statement regarding Army Chief and DG ISI acting unconstitutionally is not the recipe for a win-win formula. You have to act like a true craftsman, take steps or speak words which will lead things towards solution and not disaster.
Argument #7: Looking for Justice from Supreme Courts.
Although I would have never wished to see another civil military in Pakistan and despite by reservation about the way in which Supreme Court of Pakistan has gone on in a hurry to take up this case I still maintain that this has to be a blessing in disguise for Pakistan. Army Chief presenting his view point in court and not toppling government by imposing Martial Law is a health sign. Another thing this controversy can give us is all state institution going on to create a red lines in which they have to operate and don’t try to step in another state institution domain. Whether this happens or doesn’t remains to be seen in Pakistan and only time will tell if Pakistan Army repeats its previous history or not and is willing to work under the umbrella of Constitution of Pakistan.
Since Indian Army Chief has knocked the door of Justice, I really hope and pray he gets one and this issue gets resolve amicably between Indian Government, General VK Singh and Supreme Court of India goes on to facilitate it in a manner that will serve as a Win-Win situation for the plaintiff and defendant.