FROM THE EDITOR- IN- CHIEF
Over the last few decades, while most other ideals have slowly crumbled around us— the clean politician, the selfless bureaucrat— one tenet that has remained untarnished is the integrity of the Indian Army. At times of external threat such as alleged incursion by China into Ladakh this April, internal conflict such as Maoist skirmishes in Chhattisgarh, communal violence such as the Muzaffarnagar riots that began in August, and natural disasters such as the Uttarakhand floods in June, we have been reassured by the thought that, come what may, the armed forces will step in to bail us out. In spite of the recent scandals engulfing the Army, it is still regarded as one of the institutions that was least affected by the flotsam of Indian politics. The armed forces were voted as the “most trustworthy” in the India Today Group- C-Voter Youth Poll conducted among firsttime voters earlier this month— 20 percentage points ahead of the media and 40 percentage points ahead of Parliament.
It is therefore disquieting to see the Indian Army being dragged through the mud in a protracted battle between an inept Government and a retired general- turned- political endorser. The battle is throwing up allegations which are a serious threat to national security. The crossfire between the UPA and former chief of army staff General V. K. Singh has revolved around a sensitive army report alleging the misuse of secret service funds to destabilise the Omar Abdullah government in Jammu and Kashmir, and buying equipment to conduct off- thebook covert operations. Incredibly, the Government sat on this report for six months without taking any action.
The general’s response that he is being personally targeted in a conspiracy involving politicians, bureaucrats and the media, and that ministers in Jammu and Kashmir are routinely paid by the Army to bring “harmony” to the state, is equally reckless. Intelligence and covert operations are a murky but essential component of national security. Matters of statecraft are never meant to be dragged into the streets, especially by the government and the army top brass. There are already countless allegations against different governments for misusing CBI to settle political scores, and specifically against the UPA Government for putting pressure on the Intelligence Bureau to fix the Ishrat Jahan encounter case.
Now that military secrets are being discussed in public, our cover story, written by Deputy Editor Sandeep Unnithan, reveals the frustration within the Army, which had hoped for some respite from the controversies that had preceded Singh’s retirement in May 2012. We explain why General V. K. Singh set up the Technical Support Division, which has been accused of gross irregularities, how it functioned, and why it was disbanded soon after he left office. “The Army is aghast at once again being dragged into an arena it has always steered clear of— politics,” says Unnithan.
The timing of the allegations against Singh smack of a possible political vendetta, considering they have come just days after he appeared with BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi at a public rally in Rewari, Haryana, on September 15. But the general’s reaction has been equally irresponsible, converting a highly sensitive situation into an embarrassing war of words. The Government and the general have pursued their own narrow political interests and in the process damaged the country’s international reputation and the Army’s morale. A very sordid saga indeed.
OUR APRIL 2012 COVER