India Today - - INSIDE - ( Aroon Purie)

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.


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