Army Chief Gen. M.M. Naravane has rendered a signal service to his forces at the very beginning of his term. In emphasising the foundational principle of every solider owing allegiance to the Constitution of India and the values enshrined in its preamble, he has signalled his desire to see his Army stay away from political controversies and do only what a soldier’s career entails.
The Army Chief went even further in laying stress on a soldier needing to defend “justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity” for all citizens. This is a welcome departure from the tone his predecessor had set while flagrantly disregarding the finest traditions of an apolitical Indian Army with a very secular outlook. Gen. Bipin Rawat, currently the CDS, had overstepped his authority as Army Chief in wading into politics and denouncing the leaders of the protests against the CAA and other matters.
The soldier has a job to do defending the borders and the general wants him to do that, rather than be distracted by the political goings-on of the day. True, the Army is in the frontline of the Kashmir situation where it has had to face the civilian population every day. But, even there, soldiers have been professional in carrying out their tasks and earning the goodwill of the people too before they were thrown further into it after abrogation of Article 370. This is a test in which the Army might come out with flying colours if it sticks to the Navarane doctrine and serves without lending thought to politics or ideology.
His predecessor’s departure from the strict protocol of military discipline may even have encouraged other officers to speak out of turn on a number of political matters. Now that the serving Army Chief has defined the course correction, he has to walk the talk and bring all his men in line while restoring the Indian Army's reputation as one of the finest professional forces in the world.