17 March 2014
Two years ago, an outraged vice-admiral strode into Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s wood-panelled office on the first floor of South Block. He wanted to know why Antony had signed on a policy that would exclude submariners and aviators from holding the top job in the Navy. It would make submariners and aviators second-class citizens and destroy recruitment, he warned. Antony, the vice-admiral recalls, held his head in his hands and sank into his chair. He later struck the policy down. But he had exposed his embarrassing cluelessness at what he had almost allowed.
As the UPA slips into the twilight of a decade-long tenure, its lead actors examine legacies and worry how historians will judge them. None, with the possible exception of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, will leave a legacy as bitterly questioned as Defence Minister A.K. Antony.
… The divide between the 1.4 million men in uniform and the civilians who run the defence ministry has never been greater. Antony outmanoeuvred those who advocated defence reforms to promote synergy in civil-military functioning by setting up the Naresh Chandra Committee in 2011. “He reiterated the old line of permanent chairman, chiefs of staff, requiring political consensus but has not convened even one all-party meeting in seven years to push for it,” says Anit Mukherjee, a military analyst with the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
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