Politics In Army, And Politics Of Leaks

When a Google alert I had set dropped a *bombshell* in my mail box in the form of former Indian Army Chief, General V K Singh, admitting that Army had sponsored bomb blasts in Pakistan, I was taken aback by the news. The Google search showed basically Pakistani websites picking up the story, which from the *timeline* looked mint fresh; and was attributed to The News International.
When I tried to look for Indian websites, who would have never failed to pick us such sensational revelation, I had to be content with only one search result, which pointed to Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS)- a New Delhi based *think tank* on strategic issues.
Though the search result brief clearly states that *Indian Army chief General Vijay Kumar Singh has admitted that India sponsored bomb blasts in Pakistan*, the perusal of the IPCS website didn’t show any material to support the *search criteria* despite attempts to dig deep. I was about to give up the story as *sensationalism of Pakistani press* because I could find no supporting evidence of ex-General V K Singh having made any such statement in last 2/3 days. However, a look at The News International report showed that it was relying in its reporting on India Today (Dirty Tricks: A politically ambitious general and a bungling govt put national security at risk) and Hindustan Times (Army spook unit carried out covert ops in Pakistan). Another Pakistani website, The Nation, in its story quoted almost ad-verbatim what Hindustan Times reported in its foregoing article.
The most intriguing thing about all the three above cited reports is their timing: 21st October 2013. They cite Hindustan Times story of 21st September and India Today story of 7th October. Why did it take so long for Pakistani media to latch onto such *promising story* from Pakistani perspective?, is really the million dollar question. In contrast, The Nation had picked up HT story in just 2 days, but it did not catch their media fancy then as has the *revelation* now by The News International. Does this timing have anything to do with politics in Pakistan and the imminent visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to USA, where he reportedly is to seek US President Barak Obama’s intervention in Kashmir?Answer to this would be interesting to know the dynamics of relationships between Civilian government, Army, Media, and to lesser extent Judiciary in Pakistan. But it is more important to know what the take away is from this washing of dirty linen in public by Indian Army generals.
One thing is pretty clear that V K Singh when he was Army chief went to great lengths to scuttle the succession of General Bikram Singh as Army chief. He tried to prolong his stay as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) by a year based on a *more convenient date of birth*. Had he succeeded, it would have altered the army’s succession lineup radically. Indian Express (IE) did a story –When Raisina Hill was spooked……..– alleging that V K Singh had *attempted to threaten Indian government through movement in the vicinity of Delhi of Agra based Strike Corpse* around the time his petition over date of birth controversy was in the Supreme Court. Who obliged IE then with helpful inner details of army units’ movement? V K Singh is also alleged to have used the services of secretive Technical Services Division (TSD) to have Bikram Singh indicted in an *encounter case* in Kashmir that took place when latter was a brigadier. Related to this development there is another revelation in Indian media that TSD under V K Singh snooped (phone intercepts) on Defense Minister and MOD officials among other GOI personnel. What friendly source helped with this information too? One of the first things that General Bikram Singh did on assuming charge as COAS was to enquire into the role of TSD under his previous Chief. The pretext for the enquiry was allegations of snooping. Post retirement V K Singh has taken avid interest in nation’s politics, which is his right like any other Indian citizen, first by associating with Anna Hazare and taking lead in organizing his tours and programs, and later by appearing at a ex-Service Men’s rally in Haryana –his home state- in the company of BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate and Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi. Coinciding with these later developments there was another helpful leak of the report on TSD’s activities prepared by the enquiry committee on the orders of Bikram Singh. The leaked report not only confirmed the *snooping*, but went on to allege that TSD tried to destabilize the Jammu and Kashmir government led by Omar Abdullah. Army playing politics may not be news in Pakistan, but was an alarming bombshell in India, where civilian governments have been uninterruptedly in saddle and armed forces firmly under control of elected civilian government. When this last leak took place, V K Singh defended himself by *leaking* in turn that right since independence Army has used *secret funds to stabilize situation* in Kashmir.
This is how these developments have been described in its fore-quoted article by India Today, “Organising eight bomb attacks in a neighbouring country. Subsidising secession on enemy territory. Sponsoring ‘friendly’ ministers to destabilise an indigenous state government. Eavesdropping on senior government functionaries including India’s defence minister. Former army chief Vijay Kumar Singh allegedly used the Technical Support Division (TSD), a clandestine collective of handpicked military intelligence personnel, to settle scores on both sides of the contentious Line of Control (LOC) between Pakistan and India. It was a secret war conceived by a reckless general between 2010 and 2012. And even 16 months after his unceremonious retirement, the general has not stopped fighting. Now the target is the Government, which is matching the general’s tricks with its own. The collateral damage of the dirty war between the two is national security”. The run away groupism in the Army is out to pollute and to consume the bitter electoral debates between BJP and Congress. A section of Media too has started taking patently partisan stance in line with their political sympathies. BJP may lionize V K Singh for having *crossed the border in hot pursuit* of the terrorists and their sponsors. It is a line that would shine the buildup of *strong man* image of Modi by cross transference of V K Singh’s *virtue* to Modi. Congress would target V K Singh in return for having crossed the लक्ष्मणरेखा, which is the hoary tradition of an apolitical Indian army firmly under civilian control. This is certainly not a scenario that augurs well for India’s future. Quite clearly the UPA government and Indian army top brass have mishandled the whole situation so badly that the damage already caused may be difficult to mend.
Arun Jaitley, the BJP leader, in a moment rare for India’s political class had reportedly said when V K Singh’s allegations about army funding the Kashmiri politicians and NGOs for stabilizing the situation there were made: **I have not heard what the General has said, and no one should hear or talk about this matter**. He had made a correct gesture and thereby opened up an opportunity for UPA government to unite the political class as one and to deal in non-partisan manner with the groupism in the army firmly and resolutely. Not only UPA miserably failed to cash the opportunity, but now all the political parties have joined the bitter bickering of the army in a destructive free for all melee.   
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One Response to “Politics In Army, And Politics Of Leaks”

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