Leaked army report: Actual problem or curbing of dissent by UPA

The working of the PMO is quite questionable. First it lost track of the coal scam files which went missing and then it works like a criminal investigation agency drawing conclusions over classified material.

Never has come a time in recent Indian history where the UPA government so readily agreed to the reports in media. But it did today to the reports published in the english newspaper Indian Express which published a leaked internal army report lying with the government. The report alleges Technical Service Division (TSD)- a controversial military intelligence unit set up by former Army chief General VK Singh- of misusing secret service funds to destabilise the Omar Abdullah government in Jammu and Kashmir, paying off an NGO to try change the line of succession in the Army top brasss, buying off air interception equipment and conduct unauthorised covert operations.

While the report was lying with the government for over six months now and not a single probe was ordered over the issue, the report was leaked to the Indian Express which reported it today.

Interestingly, the report, which defence ministry was quick to confirm, comes only two days after Singh shared stage with BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi at a rally in Rewari.

The government has been annoyed with Singh since the time he lobbied for his second term in the army as chief. The controversy was started on simple date of birth misinformation which then culminated into government alleging Singh of snooping on defence minister AK Antony through off-air surveillance equipments. It was also alleged that an NGO, Yes Kashmir, was given money to stall the path of general Bikram Singh’s ascendancy by filing a false human right’s case against him.

The allegation remains the same this time too, though covered in diplomatic codes. The report alleges misuse of funds in purchasing “interception equipment from a Singapore-based company in November, 2010, ostensibly meant to be deployed in the J&K 15 corps. In March 2012, following orders of the then-DG, MI, Lt Gen DS Thakur, the equipment was destroyed”.

According to an article written by defence expert Praveen Swamy, “Former national security advisor MK Narayanan first authorised the purchase of off-air interceptors back in 2005-2006. The National Technical Research Organisation first began operating this equipment in New Delhi—though, since the law doesn’t allow it to conduct surveillance, it operated under the cover of the Intelligence Bureau. The equipment proliferated soon, with several state governments also purchasing off-air interceptors—eventually leading to credible allegations that it was was being generously used for political espionage.”

In the same article, Swamy writes that the MI unit TDS was set up in the wake of 26/11 attacks and bought the off-air surveillance equipment.

Singh has refuted the charges saying that the equipment was bought by Lieutenant Genrar Tajinder Singh who again puts the charge onto Colonel Hunny Bakshi who turned the TDS into a chief’s personal cell.

The allegation in itself seem baseless as we know that there is no legal framework which can issue authorisation fro any of the intelligence operation. The question of “unauthorised use of funds” comes as a farce.

The allegation on army trying to destabilise the Jammu and Kashmir government comes as another unreal goal (if at all) set by the former chief. The situation in J&K would have wanted splitting National Conference, for which the report says independent MLA and agriculture minister Ghulam Hassan Mir was provided with Rs 1.19 crore. The point to be noted is that if at all he would have been able to break 28 MLAs of NC, he would have been required to break 11 MLAs of Congress too in any case. So to destabilise the J&K government, VK Singh should have gone to a Congress MLA or the opposition rather than going to an independent MLA.

In the last case, the person reported to have received funds, Hakikat Singh, denies any link with the said NGO.

As Indian Express reports and as Praveen Swamy also mentions, “top PMO official” explains why it hasn’t ordered an investigaiton: “the problem confronting us while dealing with the TSD report has been two-fold. One, those running the TSD appear to have covered their tracks well and destroyed crucial evidence; two, the statements contained in the inquiry report have no legal sanction. In fact, if they are faced with a court martial or CBI inquiry, these officials can turn around and deny everything they have said”.

The working of the PMO, as agreed by Swamy, is quite questionable. First it lost track of the coal scam files which went missing and then it works like a criminal investigation agency drawing conclusions over classified material. Everything that appears in front of us through the report is a haze.

But one thing is interestingly becoming clear: the UPA is not comfortable with the position it is currently in. And it is trying rather too hard to curb the slightest dissent appearing on the scene.

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