On 15 January 1949, Field Marshal, then General, K. M. Cariappa was appointed as the first Indian Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army. The day is celebrated as Army Day. Post-Independence, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had firmly established civilian control over the military and symbolically converted the residence of the Commander-in-Chief — Flagstaff House — into his official residence-cum-office, rechristening it as Teen Murti Bhavan.
Field Marshal Cariappa, despite being a ‘pucca sahib’, was responsible for ‘Indianisation’ of the Army and laid the foundation for its apolitical character. “Politics in the Army is a poison. Keep off it”— he wrote to all officers, soon after taking over as the Commander-in-Chief.
However, he was indiscreet at times and had once publicly aired his views on India’s preferred economic model for which he was advised in writing by Nehru in October 1952 to give fewer press conferences and stick to safer subjects, implying that he should not play the role of a “semi political” leader.
What was indiscretion on part of Field Marshal Cariappa seems to have become a habit with the military hierarchy today. The Service chiefs and other senior officers have been making public statements with political overtones in favour of the government of the day, and instead of being admonished, they are being lauded and defended by the politicians.
The latest act of indiscretion has come from the Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane, who during his formal speech after the ceremonial parade on the Army Day, said: “Sena ke adhunikaran ke yeh prayas, adarniye Pradhan Mantri ke Aatam Nirbhar Bharat ki pahal ka abhinn hissa hai (The Army’s efforts of modernisation are an inseparable part of the honourable Prime Minister’s Atamnirbhar Bharat initiative).”
On 12 January, during his interaction with the media, General Naravane had said that 80-85 per cent of the contracts for modernisation have been signed with Indian companies as part of the efforts to indigenise, and in keeping with “honourable Prime Minister’s” call for an Atamanirbhar Bharat.