|VK Singh at the news conference on Tuesday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Sept. 24: The spat over General V.K. Singh’s activities while in service is threatening to unravel a security architecture nearly a year-and-a-half after he retired as army chief.
Discussions in newspapers, on television and on Twitter on the functioning of a shady unit under the military intelligence wing of the army, including calls for a probe by another investigative agency of the government, is setting the stage for a spy versus spy game.
Only, in the present instance, the actors are functionaries in the same government operating in co-ordination with agents outside the administration. This is a nightmare scenario for intelligence operatives whose credo is secrecy and avoidance of limelight.
It was left to BJP leader Arun Jaitley to articulate the discomfiture of the operatives in the security establishment.
“Disclosures in relation to certain activities of the Indian army now raise a larger question — should covert operations be leaked out by the government and made a subject matter of public debate?” he wrote on his website this evening.
Among the army top brass is the fear that the CBI could be asked to probe a military intelligence wing — spy versus spy. Apart from setting two security agencies of the same government against each other, this could also usurp the layered network of contacts built by the outfits.
It is again Jaitley who has warned of the danger from this. He wrote: “The CBI cannot invoke its investigative jurisdiction to start investigating whether secret funds have been properly spent by the Intelligence Bureau, the R&AW or the military intelligence or by any other agency. All these activities are neither accountable to Parliament nor judicially justiciable. These are a part of the covert operations….
“Should such an information have been leaked out by the political establishment which had a problem with the former army chief? Pushed to a corner, should the army chief at all have admitted that such payments were indeed undertaken?”
The leak of part of the contents of a report that studied the intelligence unit — called the technical support division (TSD) — to a newspaper and the confirmation by the ministry of defence that it had indulged in “undesirable activities” is in itself a shocker.
Gen. Singh has filed a request under the Right to Information Act for a copy of the report. Defence ministry sources have said the report was “Top Secret”.
Intelligence and spy agencies the world over use cash to pay off informants and/or agent provocateurs. These agents could be spies or politicians or, indeed, agents of an enemy intelligence wing who turn double-crossers.
Gen. Singh is aware of the dangerous game his latest bout is leading to. “I did not commit any mistake. When I said some politicians were given money, it was not… for lining their pockets or for bribe….
“It was meant solely for stability.… to wean people away from separatist activities under the overall umbrella of sadbhavna (harmony),” he said at a news conference.
The Indian Express newspaper, quoting the report of the army’s board of officers, alleged that Gen. Singh prompted the TSD to bribe a Jammu and Kashmir minister to topple the state government. There is no independent verification of this.
Gen. Singh says the funds were used to sponsor and organise events to engage the Kashmiri youth who had come out on the streets in large numbers in 2010 to stone security forces. The funds were routed through an NGO and a politician to create events that would keep the youth off the streets.
The Congress today said Gen. Singh’s statements were unbecoming of a former army chief. “The good name of the army is being sullied…. A person of his stature should not speak like that.”
The Omar Abdullah government has decided to approach the Centre for a probe.