by Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, 

MANAS Publications, Feb 2001, Rs 595

(Given below is  a reproduction of our earlier analysis of Adm Bhagwat's book which was finally released with a revised title as shown above on 14 Feb 2001)

New Delhi, 04 January 2001


IDC has had a peek into Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat's forthcoming book being published under the banner of Manas Publications titled "BETRAYAL OF THE ARMED FORCES - A SOLDIER's DIARY. (Price not announced. Launch date Feb 2001)

IDC reliably learns that the manuscript was considered and possibly accepted by Harper Collins and later for reasons unknown returned to the author.

IDC recalls for our esteemed professional site viewers that Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat the 13th Chief of Naval Staff was dismissed, within minutes around 5.20 pm on 30th December 1998 in what was a cleverly executed 'cloak and dagger' operation, by the 13th Defence Minister of India George Fernandes using RAW, India's CIA , whose ARC plane rather than that of the Indian Air Force, was employed to transport the next senior most Admiral, Sushil Kumar in total secrecy to New Delhi to take over from Bhagwat. The nation was taken by surprise by the move and media had field days reporting the events that followed. Now we have some explanations and exposures from the horse's mouth . Bhagwat has at some length and diplomatically written parts of his story which should be "a must read " for those interested in probing the matter. It is a painstakingly and well written book by the Admiral himself, without any rancour. The manuscript contains many nuggets on maritime strategy as it discusses excerpts from a Strategic Defence Review conducted by Bhagwat to serve India's maritime interests, which even the previous Chief Admiral Shekhawat and the Parliamentary Committee on Defence, had lamented were being neglected. Bhagwat also discusses the laudable Maintainer-Operator concept. This was his pet subject and he almost succeeded in employing it in the fine Indian Navy, but it now just breathes. The Navy is a three dimensional force and therefore the most technologically advanced service, and will one day need such a concept for its betterment.

For researchers and senior officers the book will be a delight as it tells the reader how the higher level of India's Defence hierarchy functions, as seen from the perch of the Big White Chair in room 101 of the South Block, which is right next door to the Army Chief's spacious office 末  where sat Bhagwat's course-mate Gen Ved Malik. Some instances of disagreement between the two are quoted. These offices are not far from the powerful Defence Secretary's office, who perforce has to operate as a pseudo CDS in the absence of one. Mr Ajit Kumar the then Defence Secretary took full advantage of this de facto position, even though in precedence he ranks equal to but below the Service Chiefs. As of today the RM has promised changes in the higher defence organisation and creation of a CDS is on the cards. 

When the book's contents are read and juxtaposed with what the media had widely reported, along with the two books written on the subject 末 "An Admiral's Fall " by Wilson John which is visibly biased and has many errors, and "Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat Sacked or Sunk" by Brig R P Singh and Commodore Ranjit Rai 末 as also the jaggedly written Booklet on the episode hurriedly printed in Kotla, and dished out to the MPs by  the MOD 末 many truths, game plans and the concantenation of events that led to the Admiral's dismissal can be pieced together. Service officers especially Naval Officers, and those interested in Military law the world over, should find the book very interesting. The historic sacking was and will remain a milestone event in India's military history. It will one day also re-interest researchers when the official papers are released. It is only then that the manner of this unprecedented action by India's Cabinet; the PM's hand in it; the Attorney General's tendered advice; the Defence Minister's role; and the President's paramount assent 末 who was supposed to have been personally briefed by the RM one day before the sacking 末 and must have approved the action as per the Constitution 末 will become known publicly. In particular there is great interest to find out the manner in which the President approved the removal of his pleasure from Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat under Article 310 of the Constitution when he was serving as the Chief of one of the Indian Armed Forces. Only the President could court-martial him, unlike in the Army and Air Chiefs case, whom the Government can court martial. Doubts exist whether the President approved it verbally, in writing or ex-post facto 末 or was it just a formality once the Cabinet gave its edict. The Cabinet note on the subject would be an interesting document indeed because of the present official version, that releasing state secrets of the ATV was one of the causes.

It is well documented that Article 310 was incorporated in the Constitution only after Pandit Nehru and Justice Shah had clashed on its inclusion and its mode of employment, which is even today unclear. The same article was employed in the Samba case. Its applicability needs an urgent review in today's environment, especially in a democratic society.

As a background, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat whilst in office had the temerity to question the Defence Secretary Mr Ajit Kumar on promotions and the Dhanraj Mahal flats case. He further questioned the Defence Ministry on procurement decisions and the Defence Minister more than once on policy matters, especially operations in the Andamans. He would not brook bureaucratic interference in Naval matters or appointments. When the three starred Vice Admiral Harinder Singh an above average Torpedo and Anti-submarine officer, at present the FOC-in-C South, was Fortress Commander, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, he represented to be made a Principal Staff Officer (PSO) in NHQ as per his seniority, when the vacancy of DCNS arose. Bhagwat demurred and did not relent even to the advice and pressure from the Government and media, as he was clear in his mind that only he had the authority to propose all senior appointments. In fact, in an earlier instance late Babu Jagjivan Ram as Defence Minister had in a note, confirmed that it was the privilege of NHQ as per the regulations to propose appointments and that the Government could not thrust appointments on the Service. Bhagwat went further and seems to have upset the top brass of the MOD.

As CNS he employed the legal power granted to a CNS by the Navy Act 末 to promote any eligible officer to an acting higher rank without financial implications 末 for three months. Bhagwat refused to accommodate Harinder Singh's request; instead he promoted a fine professional officer Rear Admiral Madanjit Singh, who was junior to Harinder and who had commanded the Western Fleet and three ships including India's biggest the aircraft-carrier INS Viraat with 駘an, to the acting unpaid rank of Vice Admiral under his powers, to act as the DCNS pending approval of the Government. This was perfectly legal, but no previous CNS had used this provision so vehemently in the face of MOD痴 disapproval.

In the book Bhagwat has revealed how he met the Prime Minister at the airport and the former had a chat with him on energy security and then the latter met him on 6 Sep 1998 and cautioned him. Vishnu appears to have explained his stance cogently and politely. On 8 Sep 1998 Brajesh Mishra, Principal Advisor to PM met Bhagwat telling him of a letter written by the Defence Minister to the Prime Minister and suggested to him that he get along with the bureaucracy and political masters in the MOD. On 9 Sep the next day, Bhagwat met the Defence Minister George Fernandes and politely inquired why the Minister had not sent for him and discussed the matter before writing to the PM. George Fernandes in turn made it out like a routine letter he was used to writing to the PM and the President, whenever he has been a Minister and told Bhagwat that he was the most cerebral amongst all the Chiefs and was doing well 末 thus putting him at ease. In hindsight, Bhagwat also relates how he met the late P N Haksar and discussed the charge of communalism hurled at him by Vice Admiral Harinder Singh. Readers will enjoy the wisdom of Haksar and his sage advice in which Mahatma Gandhi is quoted.

By now Vice Admiral Harinder Singh had taken the CNS/ Navy to court to press for his appointment as a PSO, just as Bhagwat himself had done ten years ago as a Rear Admiral when he was denied the command of the prestigious Western Fleet, a pre-requisite to attain higher rank, on the ground that his confidential report had been tampered with. This time once again the court case brought in acrimony, politics and sensational media coverage. A media baron from Punjab took interest and both the MOD and NHQ leaked stories. The India Today and Pioneer had exclusives of hitherto secret documents. Another case of promotion of Rear Admiral Suhas Purohit who stands cleared for Vice Admiral for three years and was inquired into by several agencies including the CBI for alleged misdemeanours, was also a sore point between MOD and Bhagwat. Purohit's case is still in court and he may retire before a judgement is delivered.

On procurement, the cost of the carrier Gorshkov is alluded to and how Bhagwat stood up for a senior officer when in the fifth pay commission he was humiliated. Bhagwat explains how files get missing in MOD including the one when an officer of MOD was reported upon for some untoward activities in Russia. He does all this in a matter of fact way and it is education for future service generations to be aware of the pitfalls that can arise when dealing with the MOD and the bureaucracy.

There is also the matter of Bhagwat痴 request to carry out an audit (on the lines it has been carried out for ISRO) of the secret project ATV, India's nuclear submarine, on which tomes have been written in the foreign and Indian press leaving it no longer a secret with so many imports and so much money involved. The PM holds charge of this project with an Apex body under RM. This request for audit was denied but it soured many relations including those with APJ Abdul Kalam. In the book Bhagwat has also related the Defence Minister's views on operation Leach to stop infiltration in the Andamans and arms reaching the Arakan Liberation Army. There is a thread that the Chief of the Army Staff Gen V P Malik let the side down. Vishnu Bhagwat also explains why the three service chiefs and Mr. Vijay Raghavan, Secretary Defence Production and Supplies, found it difficult to work with the Defence Secretary Ajit Kumar, who after his sacking was removed and is now the powerful Finance Secretary. In fact the media had reported that the Chiefs tabled a joint written complaint on this matter 末 something unheard of in India's military history.

In the last major case when General Thimmaya resigned over the treatment meted out by the Defence Minister Krishna Menon, Nehru was able to convince Timmy to withdraw his resignation. Many say Nehru may have had some personal knowledge about Gen Thimmaya which he used to convince the Army Chief not to press for the resignation. In Vishnu's case there does not seem to have been any such effort to mend the impasse and get him to agree to Harinder Singh's appointment. After the September meetings he had with George Fernandes matters appeared to have reached a final point.

In the book there are many nuggets like some references to the Arun Singh Committee and report by the Committee on Defence Expenditure, which professionals will enjoy. The book is undergoing editorial action and IDC recommends it to all when it comes out as essential bedside reading. We also wish the author and publishers well for contributing to India's defence though obliquely. Bhagwat has written a mature manuscript without incriminating any one or himself. In the title the mention of "A Soldier's Diary " is apparently after Napoleon's writing of the same name.

At the present juncture since the new Chief is steering the Navy well and is now also the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Bhagwat matter is literally closed. Hence what he has written is something of archival value for interested readers and researchers, till the official papers are released with exact facts.

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