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Updated: September 24, 2013 08:40 IST

V.K. Singh counters charges, admits ‘pro-India NGOs’ were funded

Chander Suta Dogra
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Gen. V.K. Singh
The Hindu
Gen. V.K. Singh

‘TSD worked with politicians and some pro-India NGOs to blunt anti-India propaganda of separatists’

In his first proper interview to a newspaper since details of an internal inquiry into his conduct as Army chief were published in The Indian Express last week, General V.K. Singh (retd.) admitted that a secret intelligence unit set up by him had paid Rs.1.19 crore to Jammu and Kashmir Agriculture Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir and several other politicians in the state to carry out "welfare programmes."

Speaking to The Hindu, the former Army chief said: “[Mir] is one of the most nationalistic politicians in Kashmir today, whose work has been appreciated by other intelligence agencies too… He has organised youth programmes to direct the young men of Kashmir away from militancy, and those who say that he is trying to topple an elected State government do not know the reality,” he said, referring to the allegation that the Technical Services Division (TSD) he had set up as Army chief had sought to use Mir to destabilise the government of Omar Abdullah.

Admitting the money was paid but not for destabilising the J&K government, General Singh said the TSD had worked with politicians like Mir and some pro-India NGOs in Kashmir to blunt the “anti-India propaganda” of separatists from 2010. “It was all part of a larger game plan, and two major achievements of the TSD were the panchayat elections of 2011 and the sudden end to the stone-throwing agitation in Kashmir in 2010.”

He also said: “Not just Mir but many other politicians in J&K are paid by the Army and other intelligence agencies for nationalistic work aimed at maintaining peace in the State. I have served in Kashmir myself and am aware of it. I know which politicians have been paid during my tenures. It is not unusual.”

Role of NGO

The inquiry board has also concluded that money was paid to an NGO, the J&K Humanitarian Service Organisation (JKHSO), linked to Yes Kashmir, in filing a public interest litigation petition against Army chief Gen. Bikram Singh to stall his appointment to the top job. The origins of the petition were widely speculated during Gen. Singh’s face-off with the government over his date of birth in 2011-2012. Gen. Singh, while admitting that intelligence funds were given to some NGOs in the State, attacked the inquiry’s conclusion about the PIL petition. “Everyone in Kashmir, the police and other intelligence agencies know about the work of these NGOs and their role in keeping the people away from militant activities by organising social and sports programmes. Some of them were given money to conduct these activities and they were purely nation-building exercises.”

Off-air interceptors

A key finding of the inquiry concerns the Rs. 8 crore spent on purchase of interception equipment from a Singapore-based company in November 2010, ostensibly for deployment with the J&K-based 15 Corps. The equipment was later destroyed on the orders of the DHMI, Lt. Gen. D.S. Thakur, following reports that it was being used illegally in Delhi to tap phones of Ministry of Defence officials. The General wondered how the board of officers conducting the inquiry arrived at this conclusion when the then DGMI had put on record a certificate saying that the TSD — which Gen.V.K. Singh described as a humint, or human intelligence, organisation and not a technical outfit — has never possessed or operated off-air interceptors. “The board chose to disregard this note although everyone knows that the TSD is not a technical outfit. The name was given only to keep its anonymity,” he said.

Independent army sources have confirmed to The Hindu that two such interceptors were indeed given to the 15 Corps but the controversial equipment was found unfit for use by the formation and returned. This, say the sources, was because of an inherent flaw in their functioning as they were not only receptors but also emitters that made them unsuitable for counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir, according to a senior army officer.

In March last year, the army had accused Lt.Gen. Tejinder Singh, who retired as Director-General of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DGDI), and some other disgruntled MI officers, of spreading stories about a covert army unit spying on MoD officials with off-air interceptors. He filed a defamation case against the Gen. Singh and others in which the latter is currently on bail. Two of these interceptors were reported to have been secretly destroyed by being thrown into the river Chenab. Gen.V.K. Singh claimed that according to fresh information reaching him, “out of the ten-odd off-air interceptors purchased illegally by the DIA and objected to by the Technical Coordination Group under the National Security Advisor, two were declared to be unserviceable. They were then shown as destroyed and later sold to a Singapore- based company known to the then DGDI. Let someone inquire into that.”

When contacted, Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh, the then DGDI, said: “If Gen.V.K. Singh has any such information with him, he should report the matter to the police or any other appropriate agency. I would like to point out that whenever any sensitive item is condemned as unserviceable in the army it is destroyed by hammers, so there is no question of selling it off again.”

Bugging charge

According to last week’s report in The Indian Express, a DIG of the Jammu and Kashmir police informed Chief Minister Omar Abdullah that the TSD had allegedly tapped his and other telephones in 2011, during the standoff between the Army and the Omar Abdullah government over revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. The General alleged that the entire report was fabricated with the DIG and a liaison unit (LU) of military intelligence working in tandem to discredit him.

He said the DIG in question was inimical to the army because “we have been pressing for action to be taken against him for his role in the March 2000 Pathribal fake encounter. Five of our men are being prosecuted for that incident but this DIG, who as the then SSP Anantnag provided the information and participated in the operation is scot-free.”

The Hindu contacted DIG Farooq Khan, who was SSP, Anantnag, in 2000 during the Pathribal encounter, for his response to Gen. V.K. Singh’s allegations. He said the five army men were held guilty by none other than the CBI, over which a police officer like him has no control. “As for the General’s accusations about an LU of the army giving us information, all I would like to say that it is too sensitive a matter for me to comment on. Let there be an inquiry into it to establish the truth.”

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I don't understand any logic behind hammering down or throwing away 8
crore rupees worth equipment in to Chenab. Didn't they ever hear about
the term "Reverse Engineering"? Wake up DRDO.

from:  Hari
Posted on: Sep 26, 2013 at 07:14 IST

Media in our country is becoming anti- national in the name of freedom of speech. Editors, Analysts and Moderators use their media as a weapon, to generate discontent and animosity, instead of a tool to spread knowledge and disseminate NEWS. Most TV political discussions are conducted by perverse moderators with per conceived notions and prejudiced attitude. How could they publish Ex Army Chief sensitive report without realizing the repercussions on national securities? You keep asking him questions, knowing very - well that the answers will be breach of National secrecy code. If he answers you he is damn and if he does not, you will blame him hiding the truth. What kind of Journalism is this? There must be an open debate on this. Media should be more mature and shun from propagating and sensationalize un-substantiated news which concerns serious National security and interest. This is all absurd, to defame and demoralize Army under some sinister design.

from:  Umesh Chandra
Posted on: Sep 25, 2013 at 22:16 IST

VK Singh is the first general in Army, who is letting out Army secrets and destabilising Indian Armed Forces. He should be stripped of his rank. Singh went to court regarding his birth date, and his petition was thrown out by supreme Court. How can a ex army chief want to let out operation secrets and embarrass the govt, the Armed forces and the country?

from:  Anil
Posted on: Sep 25, 2013 at 10:58 IST

Some body in these comments has said that the welfare of the people
has to be left to the civilian govt. elected by people. Every one
knows what these politicians do with public fund and national wealth -
stashing american dollars in undisclosed swiss banks and others. It
is a open secret that the army has been carrying out welfare measures
in the militancy affected areas and news on these have been carried
out in electronic and print media including yours applauding such
measure. Mr. VK singh can be found fault with only if he has pocketed
the funds showing contrary on records. Let us not demean the brave
officer who as a right fought with the Govt. on his age issue which
was bungled with due to the officers recording the datas.

from:  kasthuri rangan
Posted on: Sep 25, 2013 at 04:56 IST

Seeing all the recent developments involving Intelligence agencies, Army and retired officers it seems anti-national elements have infiltrated the power structure of the nation.

Now the question is what next.....

from:  Praveen Nair
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 16:55 IST

General VK Singh is the first Ranger to go head of army staff. That is why he is brave and is giving govt in the neck for unnecessary interfering in army matters. He is not from the crop of spineless generals like Thapar(yes father of Karan Thapar) who even Nehru said is more red than China. VK singh also exposed corruption in army tenders. He is now exposing govt. politics over army. If this doesn't stop then there is enough chances that army will get frustated and we know what happens then.

from:  harsh vs
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 15:38 IST

It is in fact most unproductive expense by Govt in the armed forces.If this expense is spent on the unemployed youths of J&K the militancy will come down.Now, after seeing the charges and counter charges against the men in uniform a serious question arises whether poor India can afford such forces?,The police also is spending money for covert operation and also to collect informations on criminals.There should be a check on this activity

Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 12:47 IST

Gen. VK Singh is one of the best Chiefs the Indian Army has ever had, or will ever have; a man of the higest standards of integrity and a loyal Indian to the core. People should exert pressure on the government to conduct an unbiased inquiry into allegations against the General and make the findings of such an inquiry public. Those that are commenting against Gen. VK Singh are doing so from the comforts of their homes, a couple of thousand KMs from the International Border in J&K. If such people are exposed to the traumatic conditions faced by the Indian Army in J&K, they will know better. Funds given by the Army to NGOs or ministers in J&K is done in accordance with policy instruction laid down by the Government of India and not at the whims and fancies of army personnel. While commanding my unit on the border in J&K, I too used army funds to repair schools and provide milk to children in villages since civilian administration faild to do so.

from:  Vijay Reddy
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 12:46 IST

It is a shame that honest and patriotic people like VK Singh are blamed unncessarily and the morales of our soldiers is being gunned down. Had it been an elected goon instead, no-one would have dared to go against him. Now, the Govt is risking the security of the country to prove that this guy is not right. Well, who gave him the highest position in the start.

from:  Manjeet Nandal
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 12:11 IST

It is a pity that all our inteligence work whether by RAW/IB/Military have to be disclosed in open air due silly politics of the governmnet in power. God save India !!

from:  Gopal
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 11:13 IST

He wants us to applaud his going behind the backs of democratically elected governments? He decides what is right for the nation not the people?

from:  andrew mohan charles
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 10:42 IST

In a world filled with deceipt and corruption who gets to decide whether an NGO is pro or anti India and whether it remains so after the funding is collected?

Even if such funding has been in vogue since independence as Gen VK Singh claims should he as a self projected righteous person and a pro democratic person called for an end to such practice and left the job of the civilian government to the elected representatives?

Funding for pro-democratic and welfare shemes are the domain of a civilian government and even if military has been called into a disturbed region for peace keeping it is hardly their mandate to get to choose the beneficiary of funding without it having civilian government participation on record with clear financial trails on official channels alone.

Two wrongs cannot make a right. Ends cannot justify wrong methods adopted. A review of the circumstances that may have led to this method of infrastructure funding is definitely in order.

from:  r n iyengar
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 10:08 IST

This only goes to prove Mr.Singh is not a Saint. He was playing Politics even before he left the army. He is a full time politician now.

from:  Jaya Prakash
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 08:05 IST

General V.K.Singh has done a dis-service to his country by giving covert funds to civil society organisations, whatever his motives. By his political act he has most probably destroyed the credibility of people he had hoped to support, and interfered in a political process he was forbidden to participate in. Hopefully, no other officer of the Indian Armed Forces will ever again follow in his footsteps. What India does not require is a Pakistan-type military.

from:  vithal rajan
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 07:45 IST
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