Intelligence unit set up by VK Singh in the eye of storm

Written by Press Trust of India | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 21 2013, 08:54am hrs
A huge controversy erupted on Friday over allegations that an intelligence unit set up by ex-army chief Gen VK Singh misused secret funds to try and topple the Omar Abdullah government in J&K with the Centre promising action if any serving or retired officer is found involved.

As the allegations in a secret Army report that the controversial Technical Services Division(TSD) was involved in unauthorised operations and financial wrongdoings triggered a political slugfest between Congress and BJP, a Union minister said on the condition of anonymity that a CBI probe into the "extremely sensitive" matter is not ruled out.

The defence ministry said it will take a decision about action on the army report on TSD after its careful examination while asserting it had measures in place to prevent any such undesirable activities.

Stating that the report "impinges on matters of national security", the ministry in a statement, however, said it has not yet taken a decision on going for a CBI inquiry,

BJP questioned the timing of the report and claimed that Singh was being "hounded" for sharing the dais with its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi at the Rewari rally five days ago.

The report was prepared by director general (military operations) Lt-Gen Vinod Bhatia as part of a Board of Officers inquiry formed by Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh to review the functioning of the top secret unit set up during the tenure of his predecessor.

The report submitted to the defence ministry in March this year is understood to have recommended a probe by an external agency like the CBI.

The Union minister, who spoke of a possible CBI probe, said the government has taken serious note of the report.

I&B minister Manish Tewari told reporters the facts brought out in the report are "extremely sensitive" and if any person--retired or serving--is found involved in the matter, action will be taken. The contents of the report which have been mentioned in a newspaper are under active consideration of the government. If any malfeasance is found against any serving or retired officer, action would be initiated.

In J&K, political temperatures rose with parties including ruling NC demanding a thorough probe into the role of state minister Ghulam Hasaan Mir, who figured in reports of having allegedly received funds from TSD unit to topple the Omar government. Mir, at present agriculture minister in the government, termed these reports as "blatant lies".

A media report quoting an Army document said Gen Singh had allegedly misused the secret service funds to destabilise the Omar government, to pay off an NGO to try change the line of succession in the Army top brass, to buy off-air interception equipment and to conduct "unauthorised" covert operations.

Replying to a question on possible action against the retired army chief and his team involved in this matter, Tewari said this is not a question of being individual- specific but it is more of a systemic and structural issue "wherein there are alleged actions which impinge upon the larger ambit of national security".

Tewari said the government does take such matters seriously as it is its duty to do so and asserted that action would follow "after a probe". "The facts mentioned in the report are in the cognisance of the government. If it is found after the probe that facts are true, then action will be taken against those who are allegedly involved in it, whether they are in service or have retired," he said.