Institution of Army Chief: The new low

BY M G DEVASAHAYAM

Behind the push by the UPA Government in its dying days to install Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag as the next COAS, is the powerful Arms Lobby which has billions of dollars at stake. The alleged ‘Line of Succession’ which was put in place is now entering its final phase. When this was challenged in the Supreme Court of India in a bid to uphold the institutional integrity of the Armed Forces, the petition was dismissed as being communal, mainly since the three main people in the line of fire were Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Army chief JJ Singh and the present COAS – General Bikram Singh!

With the BJP’s Dr Subramanian Swamy’s plea to stop the UPA from pre-poning the next Army chiefs appointment being forwarded by the President to the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the UPA spin doctors are at it again, trying to trivialize facts and spread lies which fail to stand up to the most basic scrutiny.

[sociallocker]Sometimes the truth is a bitter pill to swallow especially when we as a nation are betrayed by our own. All the moral grandstanding comes to nought when the Army’s top two officers, under the UPA and PMO’s protective shield, stand accused of some of the most heinous crimes. Worse, this blatant alleged acts weaken the very purpose of AFSPA, which is meant to protect our soldiers from false cases, and not something to be used by the top brass in pursuing an agenda of their own. Will the former Army chief, General VK Singh and his band of supporters, ridiculed and attacked by the spin doctors of the UPA, be vindicated after all?

The MoD and the government are already lying through their teeth. Lt Gen Ravi Dastane’s hearing has been curiously shifted from May 2 to September, rendering his case meaningless. The Jorhat incident is being brushed aside as being a case of a junior NCO stealing a cell phone, while Major T Kiran, the whistleblower in the Manipur killings is under virtual arrest with the Army desperately trying to get him to retract his statement.

Swamy-Letter-to-Prez-on-Army-Chief

(M G Devasahayam was an IAS Officer and holds post-graduate degree in Economics. Previous to the IAS he served in the Indian army and has participated in the 1965 Indo-Pak war and counter-insurgency operations in Nagaland. He is also a Guest Blogger with Canary TrapThe opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)[/sociallocker]

To mobilize or to polarize? Social Media in Mandate 2014

BY NIDHI SHENDURNIKAR TERE

As the countdown to India’s general elections draws nearer, apart from the usual range of issues that have dominated the political discourse, the role of social media is being keenly debated. With over 93 million users on Facebook and an estimated 33 million on Twitter (India’s social media election battle, March 2014); the use of social media platforms is now beyond connecting with friends and acquaintances. In the general elections of 2009, the role of social media in mobilizing public opinion was marginal. This time it is unprecedented and difficult to ignore.

With every political player now in the social media domain, it might even account for being a crucial factor in the present elections. The social media space has inevitably turned ‘political’ with major political actors in fray roping in expert services to promote their candidates on social media. Political parties are seen making every single attempt to stay in the electoral limelight by ‘trending’ on Twitter or ‘liking’ on Facebook. The impetus for this also seems to be a large number of young voters who are being influenced through social media. This is an interesting trend in itself because just a few years back the ‘political’ character of social media was debatable. Today, what we see on social media are posts, videos, comments emerging as sources of political knowledge. Certainly, there has been a transition in the way social media has reinvented itself as a medium this time around. Google hangouts, official pages of political parties, fan pages, voter awareness campaigns and voting ‘selfies’ speak much about the transition in Indian politics. However, the path ahead remains challenging.

To a large extent, social media has also contributed to polarizing opinions in the present political discourse. It is on social media that political battle-lines are being drawn with heated pro and against contentions, counter contentions and a daily dose of political passions and emotions. It is as if the electoral battle has now moved from the ‘realpolitik’ domain to the social media space.

While a basic feature of the medium is free expression, participation and immediacy of feedback (which contributes to the expansion of democratic debate), the current debating scene on social media reeks of political shrill, political abuse and a kind of intolerance for diverse opinions. Users do not stop at commenting/debating as they express contempt and disdain for political opinions that may differ from theirs. Openly expressing one’s affiliation to a political ideology or choice of a particular party/candidate may invite the wrath of friends and acquaintances who subscribe to a different set of ideas. Trolling, political sarcasm, mudslinging, levelling of accusations has vitiated the atmosphere on social media forums.

Users have been clearly divided into ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ camps (users can be seen subscribing to terms such as AAPtards, CONGtards, Fekus, etc) with little perspective in place. This certainly cannot be a healthy trend in a democratic set up. Though Manan Pathak, student Tata Institute of Social Sciences disagrees,

“Polarization as against mobilization is not really an attribute of social media. The attribute of social media is to mobilize; whether or not to get polarized is the onus of the people. Rigidity and dynamism on part of the people determine whether polarization occurs. Social media is a platform to inform, share, discuss, debate, express and form views, and the views ideally should not be absolute but they should be dynamic based on rational decision making.”

Much political shrill that is generated on social media is leading to a loss of debate on pertinent and real issues that an election should ideally be about. A sort of obsession with candidates, political personalities, political camps and ideologies has resulted into a watering down of political debate. Kirthi Jayakumar, lawyer cum writer from Chennai says,

“On the one hand, the speed with which information is passed and the outlets that are available reveal a clear and strong tool for the propagation and streamlining of public opinion. But, the same is also a disadvantage in that it is beginning to set people apart from one another through the polarisation of the masses. It is also alarming that people are not respecting the right to choose and the element of secrecy in a secret ballot method. Imposing voting ideas on another individual is both, inappropriate and unbefitting.”

So to what extent can the information being circulated in social media zones be trusted? Is it credible? When information goes viral, how does one differentiate between facts and propaganda? After all groups operating in social media may be no different than interests group with a purpose. Would it be some kind of an exaggeration to claim that what we witness on social media can claim to represent the ‘real’ voices of ‘real’ people? There are no easy answers. Undoubtedly social media makes the political sphere a bit transparent but it is bereft of any kind of accountability and hence the chances of misinformation do exist. Also not to be confused is the political participation on social media and its translation into real time voting. Kiran Bhatia, student at The M.S.University of Baroda believes that while first time voters indeed have received great amount of exposure towards the election process through social media, there are also naïve and amateur users who may not care to verify the authenticity of the information presented among the huge chunk of content in circulation. She puts this aptly – “We should not flow with the flow, but deliberate and decide whether the flow is genuine or not.”

Not to be dismissive of social media’s influence on Mandate 2014, one has to admit that social media does inspire a multi-mode channel of communication and may end up playing a more than anticipated role in one’s choice of political representation. The positive side is already evident through the extensive outreach of voter awareness campaigns cum appeals – a clarion call to voters of the world’s largest democracy. Since, the election period is a temporary one and so may be the polarization; though one is left wondering as to what will social media debate after May 16!

(Nidhi Shendurnikar Tere is a Political Science doctoral candidate at The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Gujarat, and a research fellow of the University Grants Commission working on India-Pakistan Conflict Mediation and Role of Media. She is also a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Gandhi Family fights for survival after striking a deal!

Gandhi Family - 1BY SAEED NAQVI

The Gandhi family is in this battle with its back to the wall. A burst of energy at this late stage shows a sense of purpose, and deep anxiety. They are fighting for their sheer survival.

There is a tragedy in the making – both personal as well as national, on an epic scale. The grand old party has been declining in every recent election, but this time the First Family runs the risk of crashing. Some day, when the family takes stock, it will discover it has been ill served by the small circle it surrounded itself with. The clique played both side of the street.

It was always too clever by half because people knew what was going on. Only, they were afraid to talk. And now that power is slipping out of the family’s hands, tongues are wagging. A cover up is on.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra turns up in Rae Bareli and makes a tear jerking speech about the family being “humiliated” by the opposition. They were targeting her husband’s land deals she says. Like her grandmother Indira Gandhi, she would fight back. She then unleashes her finest invective on Narendra Modi’s “snoopgate”, how the Gujarat strongman had allegedly organized surveillance of a woman architect across three states.

Surely Ms Vadra knows that barely three days ago there was a front page cabinet announcement that matters of such sensitivity will now be handled by the next cabinet. The deal has already been struck, Ms Vadra. Now you can scream “snoopgate”, “Jashodaben”, “Ishrat Jehan” for as many times as you like, but your party has already waved a white flag at Modi for a price you ought to know. When the dust settles, the party may blame it all on the family this time. Finally, the worm appears to be turning.

Is the Congress in a worse shape today than it has been in the recent past? It is putting up a fight in, say, Punjab where even mention of the Congress first family is a handicap. There are other places where a fight is on but the family is not required. This, then, is the emerging reality. The Gandhi family is increasingly at a discount.

The charisma of the Gandhis was always exaggerated by insecure party leaders. Rajiv Gandhi had nearly three fourth majority in Parliament in 1984, after his mother’s death. In 1989 he was sitting in the opposition.

The party plummeted to 140 seats after the Babri Masjid fiasco and never recovered on Sonia Gandhi’s watch. True, there was no active hostility to the Gandhis as is on show now.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has in recent years looked increasingly like an inanimate object. The Sonia-Manmohan combination began to look dull, bereft of ideas, uninspiring. The PM thinks his high point was the civilian Nuclear Deal. The Prime Minister’s men ran around those days asking: “why are the Muslims opposed to the deal.” Of course they were not. They were unhappy with the image of Manmohan Singh in George W Bush’s tight embrace at a time when the global war on terror was being seen increasingly as a crusade against the umma.

A deft leadership would have kept people in the loop, explained the deal to them and then signed it. It should also have had the courage to explain why the deal turned out to be a damp squib. This kind of communication is not affected by two and a half journalists. This is a task for an effective political party to undertake which, in this instance, was absent.

The Indian ruling class has two political parties which have the endorsement of big capital – the Congress and the BJP. During UPA-II, the Indian establishment gradually defected to the BJP. Retired members of the Armed Forces, the Civil Service made a beeline for that party. When they were still in harness, they created conditions helpful to the BJP. Home Secretary R.K. Singh hanged Afzal Guru without keeping the Home Minister in the loop. He then proceeded to join the BJP. Is it not too late for Sonia’s advisers to beat their breasts on that score? Why did they not tweak Sushil Kumar Shinde’s ears then and there?

Even though the Congress is packing up its bags, the BJP is not yet moving into the premises of power. There is a Modi Tsunami declares Amit Shah, but does not pause to explain why Gopinath Munde, Rajnath Singh, Murli Manohar Joshi and Arun Jaitley are not being able to leave their constituencies even for a breather.

In the Congress ranks, there is disarray. Tarun Gogoi and Janardhan Dwivedi scream “bring in Priyanka”. Rahul loyalists, Shashi Tharoor and Jairam Ramesh shout back. “There is no vacancy at the top for Priyanka.” On Thursday Priyanka was supposed to campaign in Amethi but she did not. She flew back in her private plane even as party workers speculated if the siblings were, well, okay with each other.

Sharad Pawar, Prithviraj Chavan and a host of Congressmen are keeping a steady gaze on the regional parties.

UP is not yielding its mysteries. Which way are its 18 percent Muslims dividing or combining? The Brahmin, whose influence is greater than his numbers, has not indicated whether he will vote for Rajnath Singh in Lucknow. In UP, Brahmins and Thakurs, have historically not combined well.

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Why soldiers of the nation must be in Parliament

Prime Minister Pandit Nehru in conversation with Lt. Gen. K.S. ThimayyaBY MAJ GEN (RETD) DHRUV KATOCH

The recent release by the Australian author Neville Maxwell of the Henderson Brooks report pertaining to the 1962 debacle has once again drawn attention to the state of civil military relations in India. The near total domination of the armed forces by the civilian authority has its roots in post partition events in the region, which saw democratically elected regimes overthrown by military coups and created a fear psychosis in India’s ruling establishment of India suffering a similar fate. Nehru’s worldview, where he saw the military as an instrument of colonial power, further added to the distrust. Even in the best of times, civil military relations in India have maintained but a façade of civility. For the most part, they have remained mired in distrust and suspicion of the other, fuelled largely by an obdurate bureaucracy, intent on preserving its fiefdom and instilling fear of the military in the minds of the political leadership. While civilian supremacy over the armed forces is accepted in democracies the world over, and is an article of faith in the Indian military establishment, it refers to political and not bureaucratic control. It was the civil military disconnect which was largely responsible for slippages and deficiencies in India’s defence preparedness in 1962. Sadly, the situation has not improved much since then.

The poor state of civil-military relations leads to undesirable outcomes whenever issues concerning the armed forces are highlighted. Letters written by Service Chiefs to the Prime Minister giving out the state of preparedness of the country’s armed forces receive negative publicity whenever they find their way to the media, with some even questioning the propriety of the military in highlighting such issues. A routine move by two army units near Delhi led to panic among some in India’s bureaucracy, as a possible coup attempt! There is also a reluctance to discuss matters having a bearing on national security, which is perhaps why infrastructure development on our border areas remains pathetic. The role and performance of the defence public sector undertakings (DPSU) rarely comes under the scanner, enabling them to offload whatever they produce to an unwilling clientele. An example is the Tatra vehicle. Manufactured in the Czech Republic, it is imported by BEML, an Indian public sector undertaking (PSU) in a knocked down condition through a UK intermediary Tatra Sipox. After reassembling by BEML, it is sold to the Army at well over its original price. The Ashok Leyland Stallion (ALS) vehicle, manufactured by Ashok Leyland Defence Systems based in Chennai, is transported in knocked down condition to the Vehicle Factory, Jabalpur, another DPSU, where it is assembled and resold to the Indian Army, again at heavy cost overruns. The blueprints of the Bofors gun were available with India, yet the gun was never indigenously manufactured. Production of the Tejas aircraft has been inordinately delayed and we are still not producing a world-class rifle, something which has been done by a small country like Singapore. The list is endless.

To improve matters, there needs to be greater discourse on defence and security issues in the political domain. With the dates for the general elections being announced, many veterans have entered the political fray, which is a positive step. Surprisingly, this too has come in for criticism from some quarters on the specious grounds that it will lead to the politicization of the armed forces, some even using terms such as “soldiers of the party” for such veterans. Nothing could be further from the truth. An increasing number of veterans being part of all political parties, not just the two mainstream ones, augur well for the country. Firstly, they can form part of the party think tanks dealing with defence and security issues and provide valuable inputs to their party leadership. Secondly, as some will in due course of time get elected to Parliament, issues pertaining to defence can be adequately discussed and debated in the House. An increasing number of veterans in the political system, representing all shades of political opinion will improve understanding of the way the armed forces function and allay the sense of disquiet that some people still feel. Most importantly, it will lead to improved policies and better utilisation of the scarce resources of the country on security related issues.

While shrill voices keep getting raised against defence personnel entering the political arena, the counter narrative is rarely given space in the mainstream media. This is counterproductive. In a democracy, it is important that all issues pertaining to India’s defence be debated, rather than being confined to a one sided diatribe against the armed forces. As an example, Christopher Jaffrelot, writing in the Indian Express of 5 March 2014, expressed his angst against veterans joining the political arena, dubbing them as “soldiers of the party”. Jaffrelot’s anguish appears highly motivated. In any event, he lacks the depth of knowledge of the Indian Armed Forces, which could give his views any legitimacy. As a Frenchman, he must know of the stellar role defence veterans from France have played in the political life of their country. Why then is Jaffrelot so worried about Indian veterans joining politics? Moreover, Jaffrelot betrays his political bias when he accused this author of being aligned with the RSS and criticising the UPA-II in an article “Combatting Left-Wing Extremism”, published in “The Organiser”. Even a cursory glance at the article would have convinced even a dimwit that it was apolitical, academic in nature and merely highlighted the Naxal problem, giving at the same time certain recommendations for conflict resolution. These views have been expressed in open forums, have been spoken of in Doordarshan and All India Radio and have been published across the political spectrum to create greater awareness among the public on an issue, which the Indian Prime Minister describes as the greatest internal security challenge facing the nation. The UPA-II or any other political dispensation, found no mention. Evidently, Jaffrelot did not bother to read the article, which lays him open to the charge of lazy journalism. If he has, he throws himself open to the charge of intellectual dishonesty. It is for him to answer. But more importantly, it is precisely this one sided stance, which militates against a reasoned discourse on the role of defence personnel in public life. Mainstream media therefore, needs to give the counter view to permit analysis of situations, which are important to India’s security concerns and not allow falsehoods and innuendos to be bandied about as the truth.

The famous French statesman and journalist Georges Clemenceau, famously said “war was too important to be left to the generals”. This is undeniably true. Nevertheless, the counter to that statement has equal relevance.  In the parody, “Dr Strangelove”, General Jack D Ripper replies… “But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought”. An infusion of veterans across the political spectrum in India could perhaps be the right way of negotiating between the two viewpoints.

(Major General Dhruv C Katoch (Retd) is presently the Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi)

Putting Criminals in Command?

Indian ArmyBY M G DEVASAHAYAM

Criminalisation of politics is the flavour of the election season. Aamir Khan, in his Satyameva Jayate Episode 5 presented on 30 March 2014, ripped open its underbelly, clearly bringing out that the bigger the criminals contesting elections, the higher the chance of their getting elected. And this has been going on for the last several years and the resultant loot and plunder indulged in by those who run governments has turned India from a functional democracy to a dysfunctional kleptocracy.

That this would afflict the Armed Forces was beyond one’s wildest dreams. But this is what precisely seems to be happening if one looks at the way persons are being selected and appointed to the highest command positions in the Army, including the Chief. When the appointment of General Bikram Singh was announced in a premature manner in 2012 after cutting short the tenure of General VK Singh through intrigues and deceit, ‘prominent citizens’ pointed out the fact that there were allegations of fake encounter against the former pending in the J&K High Court and a Court of Inquiry was on in Meerut for his lapses as Commandant of an Indian Army contingent on peace-keeping mission in Congo which was accused of sexual exploitation of local women. Yet the appointment was rammed through and a plea in the Supreme Court fell on deaf years! What is worse, ‘doctored’ papers were presented to get the PIL dismissed and despite efforts through RTI Act over the last two years Ministry of Defence and Cabinet Secretariat are keeping the ‘fudged file’ hermetically sealed!

[sociallocker]Now in 2014, as Bikram Singh is getting set to hang his boots, something similar is playing out. There are talks that he will be succeeded by Lt. General Dalbir Singh Suhag who has been accused of being accessory to more serious crimes indulged in by those under his direct command. This accusation is not coming from any busybody, but from serving Lt. General Ravi Dastane, who is just next to Lt. General Suhag in rank and seniority. He has done it in a sworn affidavit filed in Supreme Court in a Civil Appeal against an order passed by the Armed Forces Tribunal, Principal Bench, New Delhi. The Affidavit pertained to the criminal activities of one Colonel Shreekumar, who was commanding the Dimapur based Intelligence Unit (IU) of III Corps headed by Lt. General Suhag. These activities form two distinct events:

Event One was in July 2011 when Col. Shreekumar’s own Second-in-Command, Major Takula Ravi Kiran, wrote to the Brigadier General Staff of III Corps stating that on the 13th of March 2010, three Manipuri boys had been abducted and shot dead by Colonel Shreekumar’s outfit. Two days later, their bodies had been exhumed from a temporary grave in Rangapahar and thrown into a river. These bodies had been subsequently recovered by the Assam police on 19 March at Lakhijan in Karbi Anglong, but at the time they had no idea about who the deceased were. Despite the evidence on record with the police both Eastern Command and HQ III Corps refused to act on this crime.

Event Two happened in the early hours of the 20th of December 2011 when an armed party of fifteen soldiers dressed in battle fatigues under the command of Captain Rubina Kaur Keer, an officer of Col Shreekumar’s IU, raided the house of one Poona Gogoi, an army contractor in Jorhat, who was away in Guwahati. But all members of the family – wife (Renu Gogoi) and three children – were manhandled and tied up. On the orders of Captain Keer soldiers forcibly took the keys of the locked cupboards and took into possession a licensed pistol with thirteen cartridges, jewelry worth Rs. 6.5 lakhs and cash adding up to 1.5 lakhs. They also took away an assortment of items that included a laptop and four mobile phones. As the raiding party exited the house, they were accosted by the patrol van of the local police station, but slipped out giving some lame excuse.

On return from Guwahati, Poona Gogoi filed an FIR in the police station listing all the items that had been stolen. However, other than the fact that the raiders were army personnel, the police had no way of knowing who they were. For all practical purposes, the raiders had disappeared into thin air. The only clue they had was Renu Gogoi’s statement that the party was being commanded by a woman whose face she had seen and could possibly identify. A week after the incident, the police got a crucial break when a phone call was made from one of the stolen mobile phones and was traced to a number in Haryana. Police investigated and found that the call was made by an Army Havildar, Sandeep Thapa of III Corps Intelligence and Surveillance Unit and had participated in the raid.

Assam, Nagaland and Manipur, the Areas of Responsibility of III Corps are covered by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The Corps, then under the command of Lt. General Suhag, refused to cooperate despite the police directly taking it up with him. However police managed to intercept and interrogate Sandeep Thapa who though not arrested, spilled the beans about the incident.

Faced with overwhelming and embarrassing pressure, in an attempt to quietly bury the incident, the Corps handed back the stolen pistol, most items and the cash but the jewelry and cartridges were missing. The police were told by Lt General Suhag that the matter would be dealt with by Army authorities and that they had no further jurisdiction in the matter. But by now military circles were abuzz with the news and the spotlight turned to Colonel Shreekumar. Though the Colonel had denied being part of the raiding party, the police had accessed his mobile call records which clearly established that he was constantly in touch with Captain Keer before and after the raid.

Colonel Shreekumar had been General JJ Singh’s OSD during his tenure as the COAS and was known to enjoy his patronage later when JJ Singh became Governor of Arunachal Pradseh. Shreekumar had a virtual free hand as he reported directly to Suhag and Bikram Singh and was involved in various nefarious activities which included the flow of narcotics and a network involving vehicle thefts in Rangia district of Assam. Despite being posted in Dimapur, Col Shreekumar was mostly seen in Delhi doing hatchet work and assisting in the conspiracies and intrigues against General VK Singh, the then Army Chief!

After the Jorhat incident, Chief Minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi spoke to the then COAS, General VK Singh demanding action against the erring officers and men. Around this time, Major Kiran once again wrote to the Eastern Army Commander, Lt General Bikram Singh, repeating the allegations of the custodial killings. He had alleged that a cold blooded triple murder took place in the IU under the command of Col Shreekumar. According to the complainant three people were picked up by Major Nector and Capt Rubina Kaur Keer after an operation in Dimapur and that these ‘suspected terrorists’ were brought to the unit’s officers’ mess and shot. This complaint appears to have been investigated by a one man inquiry by HQ III Corps and ‘disposed of’.

In the meantime Poona Gogoi had moved the Guwahati High Court demanding action. As it turned out the reason for the raid was to kidnap Poona Gogoi and hand him over to a militant organization for extortion. This was done at the behest of one Nirmal Gogoi, another army contractor based in Dimapur, who was a business rival of Poona Gogoi. Obviously huge money was involved!

On receiving the report of this incident, a Court of Inquiry by a different formation which was not under III Corps was convened by the Headquarters Eastern Command to investigate the matter. But it was headed by only a Brigadier rank officer with the deliberate intention of keeping the Corps Commander (Lt. General Suhag) out of its purview. This was premeditated because being directly responsible for the IU he should have been the first person to answer for its illegal actions. The CoI was obviously orchestrated which is evident from the fact that despite clinching FIR and evidence the accused could get away on some technical ground or the other.

Top brass at Eastern Command and III Corps were shielding Colonel Shreekumar, refusing to act on Major Kiran’s two written complaints and also against the erring unit in the Jorhat case. It was fairly obvious that Dalbir Suhag was biding his time, for he knew that he would take over Eastern Command from Bikram Singh who would move to Delhi as the Chief on VK Singh’s forced retirement.

The Court of Inquiry Report was received in Army HQ through Eastern Command and directions on the same were given by the then COAS (General VK Singh) on 23 April 2012 which was in variance with the one issued  by the then Eastern Army Commander (Lt. Gen Bikram Singh). Further, the then COAS also gave additional directions on this CoI on 18 May 2012. That there was attempt to protect all those involved is evident when one sees the much lower scale of punishment directed by the then Eastern Army Commander and subsequently upgraded by the former COAS in his directions.

COAS Gen. V.K. Singh also issued a Show Cause Notice (SCN) on 19-05-2012 to Lt. General Suhag for certain lapses related to his command responsibilities and simultaneously placed him under a Discipline and Vigilance (DV) Ban. The SCN brought out lapses noticed by the then COAS for not handling a Unit placed under the Corps Commander’s direct command in a professional and appropriate manner and also for not following up on certain other complaints sent earlier through HQ Eastern Command.

The IU is only an intelligence gathering unit on ‘targets’ and then keeps them under surveillance till it is decided that the targets need to be apprehended. As per the drills and procedures mandated if raid is to be conducted there has to be a combat unit with the IU personnel accompanying them together with a police party. The repeated illegal acts of the IU was a just case for the Corps Commander to be held accountable for his acts of omission in failing to command his IU in a professional manner. In the event General VK Singh was perfectly justified in issuing SCN and place Lt. General Suhag under DV Ban.

That MOD received the information from the Army HQ on 25-05-2012 about the imposition of the DV ban and they in turn informed the Cabinet Secretariat on 29-05-2012. But much against Rules Lt. General Suhag was appointed in the acting rank of Army Commander w.e.f. 01.06.2012 even before he replied to the SCN and its detailed processing on merit. No Army Commander is given an acting rank. It is only given when there is no clear substantive vacancy. In this case there were two substantive vacancies that of Eastern and Western Commands.

There was serious conflict of interest in the matter of dealing with the SCN and the DV Ban by General Bikram Singh. He ought to have sent the entire file to the Government in view of the fact that he was the one who had directed the action to be taken against the personnel involved in the incident and his directions were not agreed to by the previous COAS. Instead he got the DV Ban lifted in two weeks time in an illegal manner. This was done without thorough investigation and due application of mind only to make Lt. General Suhag a regular Army Commander against the vacancy kept unfilled for 15 days. If this had not happened Lt. General Ravi Dastane would have become Army Commander and taken over as COAS on the retirement of General Bikram Singh on 31 July, 2014. Even now this could happen if Supreme Court rules in his favour.

Though the Eastern Army Commander (Lt. General Suhag) and COAS (General Bikram Singh), both products of the obnoxious ‘Line of Succession’, tried their best to hush up the whole thing the Court of Inquiry led to Court Martial.  In December 2013, the Court Martial concluded its deliberations and ordered the dismissal from Service for Havildar Sandeep Thapa. Colonel Shreekumar was given a severe displeasure while Captain Rubina was given a reprimand along with Havildar Bhupen Hatimuta and Havildar Jeevan Neog who got severe reprimands.

Considering the enormity of the crimes these are no ‘punishments’. Under Section 391 of Indian Penal Code dacoity is described as “five or more persons conjointly commit or attempt to commit a robbery, or where the whole number of persons conjointly committing or attempting to commit a robbery…” Punishment laid down in Section 395 is life imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment up to ten years. Section 397 prescribes a minimum punishment of seven years. If Event One is taken into account it could be the charge of cold blooded murder attracting Section 302 IPC!

The IU raid comes under the definition of ‘dacoity’ and is a huge blot on the credibility and integrity of the Army which both General Bikram Singh and Lt. General Suhag failed to protect. They are also guilty of criminal negligence and dereliction of duty. If Event One that could have attracted Section 302 IPC (Murder) is taken into account it is far worse. Placing them at such high positions in the Army is clear indication of a premeditated plan to criminalise the upper echelons of the Army with nefarious intention.

Now, as if driving a red hot spear into a festered wound there are reports of the UPA government planning to make Lt General Dalbir Suhag as the next Army Chief before it demits office in May. Ex-Army chief and now BJP leader VK Singh has accused the government of ‘playing with the institutional integrity of the Armed forces’. It is far more than that. Army Commanders are being criminalized. Can this ever be countenanced?

(M G Devasahayam was an IAS Officer and holds post-graduate degree in Economics. Previous to the IAS he served in the Indian army and has participated in the 1965 Indo-Pak war and counter-insurgency operations in Nagaland. He is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)[/sociallocker]

Indian Defence: Sleaze, Subversion, Sabotage, Supersession and Succession

Admiral DK JoshiBY RSN SINGH

It seems that the Defence Minister of India Arackaparambil Kurien Antony was waiting for the din of the fifth and the biggest phase of elections to arrive so that the government could surreptitiously push its agenda of appointing a Naval Chief for which the powers that be had schemed for many months.

The appointment of Admiral RK Dhowan comes after 50 days of the resignation of Admiral DK Joshi. In any decent country the appointment of the next Naval Chief should have been immediate.

Admiral DK Joshi resigned on moral grounds, taking responsibility for series of accidents and mishaps, involving dozen vessels including two submarines. The government and most quarters in the Navy attributed these incidents to logistics, shipbuilding or age-related problems. Even though, the indications of sabotage deserved serious consideration, it was disdainfully ruled out. It may be reiterated that all the accidents and mishaps had taken place on the shore. Only in February this year, the Navy conducted a massive Exercise TROPEX in which more than 70 vessels had participated, and there was not one accident/mishap in the mid-seas.

Many senior Indian Naval Officers that this author has interacted with are strong on the judgement that the accidents/mishaps are nothing unusual and are now coming to notice because of increasingly intrusive media.

If the accidents were ‘usual’, due to logistics problems or age-related mishaps, then why did the Defence Minister accept the resignation of Admiral Joshi with amazing alacrity? When General VK Singh’s age issue was still with the MoD, there were babus who superciliously bandied that the General would not be allowed to resign and alter, the ‘succession plan’, as he served under the pleasure of the President. Why was Admiral Joshi’s resignation therefore not withheld by Antony till his successor was found?

The resignation of a service chief by taking moral position or responsibility on any issue is huge symbolism. It is these gestures that provide impetus to integrity and moral muscle in the evolution of the organization. It does not in any way reflect any kind of guilt. The quality of inventory of the three services is more the responsibility of the government. To that extent, it was Mr AK Antony who should have resigned.

There are many stories in the air about the resignation of Admiral Joshi. Most of them portray the Defence Minister and his babus in conspiratorial roles. Admiral Joshi’s silence further deepens and fans the conspiracy theories.

The most robust theory was that the accidents and mishaps were used as a tool to compel Admiral to resign and to supersede the next claimant by Admiral RK Dhowan. This theory has now been vindicated. No upright officer would accept the position after so much of sleaze, manipulations and machinations. His appointment alters the entire ‘line of succession’, which vested interests, most significantly the ‘arms lobby’ is now investing in a brazen manner.

Vice-Admiral Shekhar Sinha has been superseded. But for the fifth phase of the ongoing elections, this supersession story would have dominated the front page of newspapers and prime time television. The manipulators in government are advancing preposterous and bizarre logic for his supersession. They maintain that since most accidents took place in the Navy’s Western Command, Admiral Sinha as Flag Officer Commanding of that Command is also responsible. This argument nails the lie of AK Antony that he did his level best to persuade Admiral DK Joshi against resigning. If Antony did not find him guilty, how can he inflict that guilt on Admiral Sinha and supersede him. Moreover, why should this chain stop only at Admiral Sinha?

The moot question is: Will the new Chief Admiral RK Dhowan resign as and when the next accident takes place, or all logistics and age-related problems of the naval inventory has been fixed forever?

[sociallocker]From the sequence of events and the behaviour of principal protagonists the suspicion of subversion and sabotage becomes overwhelmingly strong. To people with Intelligence backgrounds, conversant with the machinations of ‘Western arms lobby’ the sabotage angle behind the accidents was most plausible. If the accidents were not sabotage, the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Indian Navy and other related organizations would have been impelled to meet the crisis on a war footing. Instead in the aftermath of these accidents increasing adversarial relationship was witnessed between the MoD and the Indian Navy. Some people in the MoD looked clearly happy, since the situation was now amenable for pursuance of their agenda.

I had followed General VK Singh’s age row case very intimately, and distinctly remember the vicissitudes. I was particularly intrigued by the machinery the ‘arms lobby’ had assembled to ensure the exit of the General. This lobby included journalists, owners of television channels, some retired army officers, strangely one very senior Air Force Officer and even a former diplomat who had no locus standi on the issue. During that period, I was invited to many television channels. To begin with, one prominent TV channel asked me whether I was ready to say on air that the General should resign. It also assured me that while taking this stand, the channel would vouch for the integrity of the General. I clearly understood the game-plan, being scripted by the government and carried forward by this particular news channel. Nevertheless, I did make myself available, but on the penultimate question on whether the General should resign or not, I said: “it is for the General to decide”. The anchor was aghast! There were many occasions that a particular anchor of one channel while taking anti-General stand during debates, would prod me underneath the table to take on some of the worst detractors of the General. The anti-VK Singh industry also included a former national security advisor, who got himself invited to an interview by a TV channel, and during the course of which, and in an inebriated state, he led the journalist to the question: “Who has been India’s worst Army Chief?” Actually, given his own background, the answer was very simple for the anchor.

Even at that time Antony could have resolved the age issue in respect of the General within hours. It may be mentioned here that the General while filing his nomination for Lok Sabha has mentioned his date of birth as maintained by him. Doesn’t it smite your conscience  Mr Antony? Why is it that the names of recipients of kickbacks on AgustaWestland deal stop at the former Air Chief? Are you not interested in other names Mr Antony? How is it that most of the revelations regarding kickbacks on arms deals when they are at the verge of fruition are sabotage by some of the sleaziest countries in the world who dabble in arms business?

In reality, it did surprise everyone that why did the power behind your elevation as Defence Minister repose so much of faith in you? Going by precedence and proclivities of that power the reasons can be anything but ‘honesty and integrity’.

The extent of reach and influence that the ‘arms lobby’ has carved for itself under the present dispensation, can be gauged by its ability to alter the ‘line of succession’ in the armed forces. Under you Mr Antony, the ‘succession plan’ has subverted the three services for posterity. This is your greatest gift to the Indian Armed Forces!

In the assessment of this author, the chain of accidents involving naval vessels will now come to an end.

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)[/sociallocker]