The relationship between the armed forces and civilian bureaucrats in the defence ministry has not been satisfactory for many years. One reason for this is the status of superiority of the civilians over the service officers. This relationship has been deteriorating year after year. When Pranab Mukherjee was defence minister, he had tried to satisfy the armed forces officers, who were agitated after the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations. He had assured them that the working relations between the two — the armed forces officers and civilian bureaucrats — would not change. The particular letter (referred to the Hindustan Times report), after the report of the Seventh Pay Commission, is going to have an adverse impact on the morale of the service personnel.
The impression one gathers from this is that the government is deliberately trying to lower the status of the armed forces officers vis-a-vis those of the civil services officers. This is one of the issues raised by the three chiefs when representing against the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations. It is sad that such a letter, which will have a serious impact on the armed forces at a time when all other Indians are praising the armed forces, has been issued by the defence ministry. On the one hand, the Prime Minister is praising the armed forces, and on the other hand the ministry of defence has issued a letter lowering the status of the armed forces officers and their functionality, thus affecting their morale.
From my own experience I can say that the armed forces personnel are always more conscious of their social status and it is society and the backing of the government that make them give their best in war and peace.
I hope that the defence ministry and the Prime Minister realise the serious adverse impact it will have on the morale of the armed forces. It is going to impact the functioning and working relationship both between the armed forces headquarters and the ministry of defence as well as within the armed forces headquarters.
Gen. VP Malik is a former chief of the army staff
The views expressed are personal