V.K. Singh’s role in destroying India’s national security

Posted by Admin On Friday, 27 September 2013 0 comments
V.K. Singh's role in destroying India's national security
Gen (retd) V.K. Singh will go down in history as one of the most controversial Chiefs of the Indian Army. Not only was his promotion to the apex post deterred by his predecessor, Gen Deepak Kapoor, but V.K. Singh actively pursued his own policies and undermined the Congress/UPA government’s control over the Ministry of Defense (South Block) and over the country’s national security policy. He is also perhaps the first military chief in India’s history to have overtly politicized the institution, having nearly forced his way into the Army Chief’s office, having tried to continue his term beyond Constitutional limits by filing a case in the Supreme Court of India regarding his date of birth (and thus his date of retirement), and also doing his best to succeed where his predecessor failed: to foil the chances of incumbent Indian Army Chief, Gen Bikram Singh, in succeeding him. Inevitably, the Indian Army general staff was divided into two cabals even when Gen Deepak Kapoor was Army Chief: one group supported Gen V.K. Singh, while the other supported Gen Bikram Singh. The extent of this politicization remains uncertain even after the ascension of Gen Bikram Singh as Army Chief, since many generals and officers remain loyal to the former Chief, thus continuing the politicized rift in the Indian Army.
This has become certain after he appeared on stage at a rally in Rewari for Indian military veterans hosted by the opposition BJP party. He was accosted by the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, the controversial Narendra Modi, who remains accused of sponsoring attacks on Muslims in Gojra and in other communal attacks in Hyderabad province, of which he is Chief Minister incumbent. The Congress and the BJP are now at loggerheads over why the reports of the TSD had been “leaked”, especially after Singh appeared on the stage with Modi. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said charges levelled against Gen Singh by an Army inquiry are “bogus” and he is being targeted for being close to party’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
While Gen (retd) Singh dismissed the reports as “hogwash”, “politically motivated”, “a load of rubbish”, “laughable”, “most absurd” and a “vendetta”, there are reports that he will also file a Freedom of Information (FOI) petition in this regard – a clear indication that he has covered his tracks with complete certainty, and wishes to prove that the Congress is “out to get him”. The former Army Chief blames what he calls the “Chandigarh lobby” as the source of the leak and of the vendetta against him – it remains to be seen whether this lobby is a political group or a group of military officers currently serving in India at general staff positions. Gen V.K. Singh further told the Press Trust of India (PTI) that “there is a nexus between arms dealers and those behind the reports”.
A few days after the rally, news leaked that Gen V.K. Singh had created a special Military Intelligence group – the Technical Services Division (TSD) – in May 2010 which reported directly to him, as opposed to the standard operating procedure and Indian Army guidelines, where they were supposed to report to the Director General of Military Intelligence (DGMI). There were many reasons why Gen Singh created this organization and ordered that it directly report to him as Army Chief, rather than to their immediate supervisor, the DGMI. The issue is so sensitive that the Indian Army has asked an external investigative agency, the CBI, to pursue the matter and uncover other alleged wrongdoings of the TSD. The main allegations against TSD (and V.K. Singh’s use of this military group) are the misuse of secret intelligence funds to try toppling the Omar Abdullah government in J&K, to scuttle the line of succession in the Army, and use off-the-air interceptors to tap phones of top officials in the Defense Ministry. The BoI report has asked the Indian government to order a high-level inquiry into the functioning of TSD, which has become “dysfunctional” ever since Gen Bikram Singh took over.
Lt Gen (retd) Raj Kadyan said allegations against TSD are serious and needs to be probed to the fullest extent possible. Maj Gen (retd) G D Bakshi also shared Kadyan’s views.
The Technical Services Division (TSD) of the Indian Military Intelligence
According to an Indian Army Board of Inquiry (BoI) report, prepared by a secret Board of Officers (BoO) led by Director-General Military Operations (DGMO) Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia and ordered by Gen Bikram Singh, the TSD was especially raised by Gen V.K. Singh to “conduct covert operations”, but the BoI report uncovered irregularities as well as financial wrongdoings in its functioning to a great extent. However, many of the documents concerning TSD’s work were destroyed by TSD operatives themselves, so the full extent of what TSD did cannot be ascertained. But what we know about the TSD’s activities can certainly explain why Gen V.K. Singh created this group from within the MI, and had it report directly to him. The report has been examined, sources said, at the “highest levels” in the MoD and the PMO. National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon is known to have chaired more than one high-level meeting to discuss the report and follow-up action.
The report, which includes original Army documents and notings, was submitted to the then Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma around March this year. It has rattled the security establishment and prompted a series of measures to curtail MI’s powers, tighten monitoring of its covert operations and its use of secret service (SS) funds. Sources said the report contains financial details of withdrawals of SS funds from accounts of the State Bank of India that match payments claimed by TSD officials — in their statements to the Board — for specific operations. It, however, cautions that given the covert nature of these operations, there is an element of “deniability’’.
Gen V.K. Singh said that the TSD was set up after 26/11 with the approval of then-National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan – who is now Governor of Bengal state – as well as the Defense Ministry, including the Minister, A.K. Antony. However, the activities of the TSD – listed hereunder – show that it had an entirely different agenda: one that was set and pursued by V.K. Singh as Army Chief; the TSD siphoned off large sums of money to fund “unauthorised operations” and the acquisition of the snooping equipment. This was later used to tap the phones of senior political and military officials at the height of the controversy over Gen V.K. Singh’s date of birth, and after the matter yielded no results, the equipment was destroyed so that it could not be traced back to the TSD or to Gen V.K. Singh.
According to the BoI report, the TSD used two of the off-the-air interceptors, procured from a Singapore-based company for Rs 8 crore in November 2010, to tap the telephones of senior MoD officials when the tussle between the government and Gen V.K. Singh over the latter’s age was unfolding early last year. The TSD’s existence came to light in March last year when it was alleged that the unit had tapped the phones of Defence Ministry officials.
TSD activities in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir
The BoI report accused retired Indian Army Chief V.K. Singh of misusing secret service funds to destabilise the government in Indian Kashmir. Speaking about the Army Board of Officers who submitted a report on the TSD, Gen V.K. Singh said it had carried out an in-depth check and had gone to J&K to assess the work of the TSD in “stabilising the situation” in Occupied J&K and the “work on the borders”.
One of the key allegations is that Rs 1.19 crore was given to J&K MLA Ghulam Hassan Mir, who is currently the state agriculture minister, to destabilize the Omar Abdullah government. Mir, however, has dismissed the allegation as “incorrect and unbelievable”. Attacking the chief minister of the occupied state, Omar Abdullah, for “mis-governance”, Gen Singh said he was “shooting of his mouth for nothing” on the allegations that the TSD was used to topple the state government.
Then, the report alleges, another Rs 2.38 crore was paid to set up an NGO named Jammu and Kashmir Humanitarian Service Organisation, which in turn got another NGO “Yes Kashmir” to file a PIL against Gen Bikram Singh for an alleged fake encounter when he was posted as a brigadier in J&K in 2001. The PIL, which was later dismissed, was widely perceived to be a clear attempt to scuttle the appointment of Gen Bikram Singh, who was then the Eastern Army commander, as the Army chief after Gen V.K. Singh.
Lashing out at the Occupied J&K CM Omar Abdullah, Gen V.K. Singh said it should be ascertained as to who all in the Army are regularly in touch with him (Mr. Abdullah). V.K. Singh also claims that the Indian Army has “brought stability to Jammu and Kashmir”, a statement that proved hollow with today’s twin attacks in Kathua and Samba districts.
Gen. Singh had also claimed that the successful panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir in 2011 were the “achievement” of his Technical Support Division (TSD): “It was all part of a larger game plan, and two major achievements of the TSD were the panchayat elections of 2011 and the sudden end to the stone-throwing agitation in Kashmir in 2010″ Gen (retd) V.K. Singh said.
The TSD paid off panches and sarpanches to contest the local bodies (panchayat) elections in the Occupied state in 2011, and also paid off the winners of the elections – this may have been one of the ways in which V.K. Singh brought “stability” to the occupied state of Jammu and Kashmir through the TSD. Now, representative of panches and sarpanches in Jammu and Kashmir, Shafiq Mir, expressed apprehension of fresh militant attacks, holding the former Army chief General (retd.) V.K. Singh responsible for endangering the lives and properties of thousands of panchayat members. “With his reckless statements, Gen. Singh has caused an extremely serious apprehension of militant attacks on more than 33,000 panches and sarpanches as he has completely discredited and maligned the panchayat elections of 2011″.
“I believe not one of us has demanded or accepted a pie of money from the Army or any other agency of the Centre or the State government for contesting or conducting the panchayat elections. It’s strange and surprising that a General, who has functioned as the Chief of Army Staff in 2011, has degraded a legitimate democratic exercise as a military-intelligence operation and thus imperilled the lives of all panchayat members,” Mir, Chairman of the All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference, complained. Dozens of attacks have already taken place on panches and sarpanches, and after these revelations, Mir is concerned that militants will target all officebearers of the occupied state’s panchayat organizations for taking money from the Indian Army.
Mir said; “At this stage we can’t rule out that some politicians or officers have grabbed the Army’s money in the name of conducting panchayat elections. But, in that case, it is Gen. Singh’s moral duty to name such individuals. If it is established that we have been used for a political or military operation, we will resign en masse. We have risked our lives only to serve our people.”
Battle of the Singhs
Gen V.K. Singh clearly did not get along with Gen Bikram Singh, and this was widely known in the Indian general staff as well as in political circles – this tiff was also reported in the media from time to time. The TSD payment to “Yes Kashmir” is direct evidence of this.
Gen V.K. Singh tried to block the promotion of Gen Bikram Singh to the post of Army Chief based on a case in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir’s High court which blamed then-Brigadier Bikram Singh for staging an encounter and killing a 70-year-old Muslim citizen of the Occupied state.
On allegations that he tried to stall the appointment of General Bikram Singh, V.K. Singh said: “There is a case against Bikram Singh in court, if we wanted to cause problems we could have by changing the army’s stance. It involves the killing of a man, a 70-year-old, who is labelled as a foreign terrorist. There is no terrorist in J&K who is more than 30 to 40-years-old…”
The case was dismissed by the Jammu and Kashmir High court, which ruled that the encounter was genuine. Bikram Singh, then a brigadier, was injured in the encounter and a colonel and a soldier were killed. V.K. Singh used all his might and power as Army Chief to use the dismissed case against Bikram Singh, bringing it out of the dusty shelves of the Occupied J&K High Court’s records to deprive Bikram Singh of his deserved promotion to the top slot.
However, political and military circles successfully defeated V.K. Singh’s efforts to undermine Bikram Singh, who became Chief of the Indian Army in June 2012. Now, V.K. Singh says that had he wanted to stop incumbent Chief of Army Staff General Bikram Singh from assuming charge, he could have done so, with the case in the Occupied J&K court being sufficient reason for him to stall Gen Bikram Singh’s promotion.
In a strange twist, Pakistan’s Express Tribune says that Bikram Singh was V.K. Singh’s “favourite”, and that the NGO was paid to file an application to dismiss the case against Bikram Singh. However, by the time the TSD was created and issued funds, the Occupied Jammu and Kashmir High Court had already dismissed the case; still, the Express Tribune quotes the Indian Express by stating that “this was done to ensure that no hurdle is created in Bikram Singh – who is currently the Indian army chief – becoming VK’s successor”.
The reality, however, is clearly different.
Controversy over Gen V.K. Singh’s date of birth
V.K. Singh took the unprecedented step of dragging the government to court (when he was Army Chief) on the issue of his date of birth and its impact on his retirement. According to latest reports, he was still hurting from the controversy over his date of birth.
But in revealing his wounds, the former Army Chief has also blamed the judiciary — risking contempt of court if he goes too far. He had challenged the government in the Supreme Court on the question of his date of birth, but the court decided not to give a ruling, and the general had to withdraw his petition. He eventually superannuated on May 31, 2012, after which Gen Bikram Singh became Chief of the Indian Army.
In V.K. Singh’s case, the Supreme Court had questioned why he was raising the matter after having earlier accepted the date of birth in his service records and gone on to become Army Chief.
What happens now?
The former Army chief said the TSD was not his “private or rogue Army” as was being alleged by certain organisations and it was budgeted by the DG Military Intelligence. However, the case certainly seems to prove otherwise, since it should have reported to DGMI and not directly to the Army Chief if it wasn’t his personal army.
MoD officials, pointing to the ongoing tussle between the Intelligence Bureau and CBI in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case in Gujarat, said it would be “dangerous” for an investigating agency to probe covert intelligence operations, which perforce have to have “deniability” and “cannot be compromised”. But it is a matter of huge concern that the Indian Army – cognizant of the groups and cabals that still exist in the military organization – has asked a non-military investigative agency, the CBI, to further pursue the case and investigate the workings of the TSD. This means that the Indian Army continues to feel compromised when it comes to investigating the misuse of office by Gen V.K. Singh, and to many, the discovery of the TSD comes as the tip of the iceberg.
Indian government and Army sources have said that a summary of the BoI report has been put up by the Defence Ministry to Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who is understood to have instructed that its contents be brought to the notice of Prime Minister’s Office. “The report has been examined at the highest levels in the Defence Ministry and Prime Minister’s office. The secret Board of Officers inquiry has recommended that India’s premier investigative agency, CBI should look into the matter,” it further stated. The government said it had taken steps to prevent such ‘undesirable activities’ as undertaken by groups such as the TSD, but was yet to decide about ordering a CBI inquiry.
“The report impinges on matters of national security and, as such, the government will take a decisions and further actions after a careful examination of the report,” said Defence Ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar. “It is further clarified that the MoD has not taken any decision for a CBI inquiry into the issues raised in the army’s report,” Kar said.
Reacting to the report, senior Congress leader Rashid Alvi has said Indian government will decide if an inquiry will be conducted or not. “We want to know if General VK Singh was doing this on his own or he had the backing of some political party,” he said. Now, after his retirement, it becomes much clearer whether V.K. Singh was doing this on his own, or with the backing of a certain major political party.
Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad also sought a probe, suggesting that the findings of the Army inquiry may not be reliable. “This is a serious allegation. It needs to be probed,” Azad said.
When asked why the findings of an inquiry headed by a top general needed to be probed again, the minister said the findings could not be relied upon because “there are groups” in the Army. “Unfortunately for the last few years there is groupism in the Army. This also could be because of internal fighting in Army”, Azad said. He said the allegations made in the report had not been proved, and that the defence ministry was investigating.
After these revelations, experts have come up with mixed reactions. While some are blindly believing the report and tending it as a further proof of BJP being a divided house itself (as L.K. Advani had tried to scuttle Narendra Modi’s chances of becoming the party’s PM candidate earlier), others have trashed it.
“Another of those reports that takes a premise from an already know fact, and adds mindless masala to make it sensational,” a media critic said. “Advani may not have succeeded in toppling Modi, and Gen V.K. Singh may not have succeeded in toppling the J&K government, but looks like there is deep politicization at the top brass of the Indian Army, and that cannot be tolerated because it is extremely unhealthy for the country’s national security”, the critic said.


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