Def-Sec, Army Chief feud calmed

July 09 2018

The long drawn rift between the army chief and defence secretary seems to have thawed, thanks to the intervention by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. Army Chief Bipin Rawat and Doval are very thick. Rawat comes from Doval’s home cadre state of Uttarakhand. After the Kargil War, then PM Atal Behari Vajpayee had upped the seniority of the army chief above that of the defence secretary. Under the Modi dispensation, the war of attrition between the two incumbents peaked to nasty levels, so much so that the defence secretary even refused to visit the army chief’s office. This meant that many crucial decisions were put in the freezer due to this. South Block birds reveal that this originally started over the issue of defence purchases. The army insisted that since it has to do the actual fighting, it knows best what kind of equipment, weapons or ammunition it needs, and this cannot be the sole province of bureaucrats. During his tenure in South Block, Arun Jaitley had allowed the army to take the final decision on the purchase of jeeps, even sanctioning a small amount of Rs 25 crore for this. However, for a long time there was no tender invited, apparently because no senior army man wanted to mess his fingers. It was only after a joint committee of the army and babus was formed that the process got going.

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