A lot has been written about the controversy surrounding Gen VK Singh's date of birth so there is really no need to get into all that once again. Except perhaps to recount the latest revelation that an MP has written to the Defence Minister citing the General's year of birth to be 1949 and not 1951 as he is claiming or 1950 as is mentioned in some records. And the MP has obtained a birth certififcate from the Kirkee Cantonment as a proof of his assertions.
It is unfortunate for the Army's senior most officer to be embroiled in such a controversy at a stage of his career. It is also unfortunate for the Army as a service to see it's chief being involved in a unsavoury controversy.
The Ministry of Defence is trying to solve this 'age-old' mystery but given its incompetence in resolving it before the Chief came to hold this office, not much speed should be expected from it this time around.
However, General VK Singh has to accept the blame partly for precipitating this crises. It was widely believed that the entire thing had been solved to his satisfaction. And then came the RTI application and the Army's super cleverness in referring it to the Law Ministry. Reminds me of the couplet by Majaz:
"Meri himmat dekhna, meri tabiyat dekhna
jo sulajh jaati hai guthi, phir se uljhata hun main"
If Gen VK Singh had acceeded to the solution found when his predecessor was holding the office then he should step up and say that I am satisfied with the solution found and that I accept it.
If he was unhappy with the solution propounded at the time, he should have made sure it was solved to his satisfaction before he assumed office of the COAS. Now, at this stage, when he is half way through his tenure, to let this crises take over the centre stage when there are more pressing issues at hand, is simply not done.
All he had to do was to have stepped forward and issued a statement saying that he is happy with what the organisation decided for him. But his very silence means that he is not happy and that he feels that he has been wronged. That may well be true, but he should have thought of all this before assuming the highest office of his service. Personal organisational grievances at the level of COAS do not augur well for the image of the service for which he is the custodian.
And if worst comes to worst, what if it is proven that his real year of birth was 1949 and that he was never eligible to become the COAS? Imagine the catastrophe it will be for the service? What disgrace? And what punishment can one inflict upon a COAS who may have indulged in such a thing, even if it was way back in his career?
For all the spin being put out by the official spin doctors of the Army, the Additional Directorate General of Public Information (ADGPI), the Army Chief's image has taken a battering, and so has , by default, the image of the Army.
Had this happened with a junior ranked officer, even if his rank was that of Lt Gen, a court of inquiry would have taken place and a result had withing a span of few days. However, nothing of the sort can be done with the COAS because of his rank. And, ultimately, the call has to be taken by the MoD.
It is very important not to sully the image of the COAS but if there is enough evidence at hand that the office of the COAS has been sullied by an individual, then expemplary action must be taken.
Only Gen VK Singh knows the truth. And if there is not a single shred of evidence against him then he should simply state the facts to the Defence Minister and insist, nay demand, on a quick resolution in interest of the service. But if there is even an iota of truth in the allegations against him, he should quit. This is the least he could do to save the image of the service.