Simmering unrest in Indian Army goes sweltering

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Army-Govt row intensifies in India | Defiant Indian Army Chief to sue govt | Gen Singh holds meetings with mily aides, PM consults Defence Minister | Gen VK Singh having support of majority of 3-star Generals, Navy Chief | Ex-Punjab Cm Amrinder Singh bats for furious Army Chief | Gen Singh also defiant to govt’s decisions including removal of AFSPA in IOK | Govt also rejects Army’s nomination for new MS | Secy Defence fails to cool down govt-frenzy General | Govt digging out mily scams to tame furious General

From Christina Palmer

If the former Fort Williams boss, as he was known as during his last posting, General VK Singh the Chief of world’s 2nd largest army i.e. the Indian Army, made life extremely miserable for former Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor and his top aides in the Indian military establishment and ensured highly ugly departures for all of them, buried under scams and corruption bam than he has proved to be even more irritant to the Indian government, specially India’s Ministry of Defense and a few Lieutenant Generals of Indian army, known to be very close to General. Deepak Kapoor, reveal the investigations of The Daily Mail.

According to these investigations, General VK Singh, developed his initial difference with civilian government at New Delhi, soon after assuming charge as Chief of the Army Staff when he stressed the Ministry of Defense for initiating action against certain 3 star and 2 star Generals for different reasons which was blatantly rejected by MoD in April 2010. The General, later developed some major differences with the government at New Delhi by March 2011 over numerous issues, the major one being the amendments in controversial “ Diturbed areas Act” .

According to The Daily Mail’s investigation In March 2011, Indian Minister for Home Affairs, P. Chidambaram, directly approached the Commander of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army, Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh and directed him to carry out an operation to crush the clashing factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) in the border districts of Tirap and Changlang in Eastern Arunachal Pradesh. These investigations further indicate that General Bikram straight away refused the directions and stated that he was there to follow the directions from Army Headquarters in New Delhi and not to follow any instruction from the Minister of Home Affairs.

Sources at the Army Headquarters here in New Delhi say that soon after this development, General Bikram Singh reported the matter to the Headquarters in New Delhi. Taking a serious notice of the development, Indian Army Chief, General V.K. Singh took up the matter with the government and showed his utter displeasure over the issue and very strongly refused to carry out any such operation.

These sources further said that General Singh made it clear to the government that an army operation in the said districts was not possible at all because the said areas do not fall under the Disturbed Areas Act.

The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that after this rude reply from General Singh, the Indian government decided to yield to the Home Secretary G.K Pillai, who is considered to be having deep relations with the Army top brass and the establishment as he proved it by making a controversial statement at the crucial stage of the Pak-India talks in Islamabad, a couple of years back, at the behest of the Indian Army and the establishment while the foreign ministers of both the countries were holding negotiating in Islamabad.

The investigations also reveal that after Pillai’s involvement in the matter, the Army leadership asked Pillai to get a favourable report from General Bikram Singh to carry out an operation. The investigations further indicate that after this development, Home Secretary Pillai flew to Kolkata, to resolve the tricky situation.

The sources said that Pillai held a closed-door meeting with Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh, to find a way out to seek the Army’s help, without declaring the areas as “disturbed” under the Disturbed Areas Act. However, the issue raised serious differences between the military leadership and the civilian leadership at New Delhi and the ties amongst the two started simmering.

The simmering unrest continued to swelter and finally reached the top point after the Indian government decided to humiliate General Singh by declaring his claims about his own date of birth as untrue and in a way held him guilty of being deceitful about his age.

The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that two days after the Defense Ministry formally rejected his statutory application seeking correction in his date of birth, General VK Singh started working out his future response. He felt the government has given him a raw deal and therefore he has no option but to fight for his honour. General Singh consulted legal experts, including three former Chief Justices of India while they strongly supported him. According to highly credible sources, General was mulling two options: Either to go to the Armed Forces Tribunal, or move to Supreme Court directly while the Supreme Court is already hearing a Public Interest Litigation over the issue. These sources also say that General Singh has also not ruled out resigning ahead of his tenure ending on May 31, 2012 – the date which the government has now decided.

Different records within the Army show May 10, 1950 and May 10, 1951 as the General’s date of birth. General Singh has consistently claimed that he was born in 1951 and not 1950 as maintained by the Ministry of Defense. In his statutory complaint, he had said that he was seeking to clear the perception that he was lying about his age and not fighting for his tenure, which he maintained, was the government’s prerogative.

After the controversy over his age, Gen, Singh argued that that the confusion arose from a form which he had filled at the age of 15. The clerk handling his papers for the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC) exams listed his age as 16 instead of 15. This was the application form for the National Defense Academy (NDA), which documents the General joining the Army.All his promotions were, however, decided on the basis of him being born, as he said, in 1951. In an interesting move, after receiving the formal communication from the Defense Ministry, General Singh went and met India’s Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. What transpired at the meeting is, however, unknown.

The Daily Mail’s investigations further reveal that the dejected Indian Army Chief also held meetings with his Principal Staff Officers (PSOs), particularly the record keepers in the army headquarters here, sources said Monday. Though no official information on what transpired in the meetings held Friday and again Monday, sources said the Defense Ministry’s communication Friday that the Attorney General’s opinion which was against acceding to his request did come up for discussion. The meeting with his PSOs, held twice within a matter of four days, was attended among others by the Adjutant General, who is responsible for record keeping and pay and in the army headquarters.

The records with the Adjutant General branch, including General Singh’s school leaving certificate, indicated that he was born May 10, 1951. However, records with the Military Secretary, responsible for postings and promotions, showed it as May 10, 1950.

The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that General. Singh’s army age controversy first cropped up in 2006 when his name came up before the government for appointment as a corps commander.

In the age controversy, he filed a petition on May 25, 2011 before the Defence Ministry asking it to treat May 10, 1951, as his date of birth. But July 21, 2011 this plea was rejected by the ministry. The statutory complaint was filed by General Singh in response to the July 21 rejection of his earlier petition. If the ministry had granted General Singh his request, it would have provided him another 10 months in office and he would have retired in April 2013. According to The Daily mail’s investigations, such a move would have also resulted in Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh, who is the present Kolkata-based Eastern Army Commander, being denied the chance to become the next chief in May 2012 and his junior Lt. Gen K.T. Parnaik, present Udhampur-based Northern Army Commander, would have become the next chief in April 2013.

The Daily Mail’s investigations, former Chief Minister of Indian Punjab and state Congress President Captain (retd.) Amarinder Singh has also come for the rescue of Gen. Singh.

In a letter written to Defense Minister AK Antony on his decision to reject the army chief’s contention that his date of birth is May 10, 1951 Amarinder Singh has requested Antony that the official records be reconciled.

Amarinder Singh, in his letter, further said that he backed the army chief’s fight for his honour and for upholding his integrity and that the controversy was affecting the morale of the 1.13-million strong army. The former Punjab Chief Minister also reportedly attacked former Army Chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor, saying politics played a large part in have this controversy brewing so that it benefits some individuals. The discrepancy in Gen. Singh’s date of birth in army records, he said, “seems to be part of some army headquarters politics geared to placing individuals in position to be future chiefs”, a reference to Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh, the present Eastern Army Commander, who is touted to be the next chief based on his seniority when the present chief retires in May this year.

When The Daily Mail ascertained about Amarinder Singh’s letter to Antony, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said it was written by the former Punjab Chief Minister, a former Army officer with own views on military matters, in his personal capacity. Tewari’s comments come even as Amarinder Singh himself clarified that he had written the letter in his individual capacity.

The Daily Mail’s investigations further reveal that amidst the heavily bowling Army-Government row at New Delhi, the Army proposal for appointment of a senior officer, Lt. Gen. Sanjive Chachra, as the next Military Secretary from February 1 has also run into trouble.

The Defense Ministry has rejected the Army Chief’s recommendation in this regard and is sending a reply to the General Headquarters that appointing Lt. General Sanjive Chachra was not possible as the officer will have a very short stint since he is due for elevation as Army Commander in about five months.

The Defense observers and military sources are of the firm view that this development will take the fiery battle between India’s civilian and military leadership even sweltering and flaming.

Our Monitoring Desk adds: Indian army chief General VK Singh should not move the court to settle a row over his date of birth while still in service since it involves the honour of the army, former Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major said on Wednesday.

Amid speculation that Singh could move court to overturn the government’s decision of not allowing him to change his date of birth five month’s ahead of his scheduled retirement, Major said Singh should resign if he planned to challenge the government’s stand.

Singh has been fighting a protracted battle to effect a change in his date of birth from May 10, 1950 to May 10, 1951. This could extend his tenure as army chief by almost a year and change the complexion of the army’s hierarchy.

Major told HT from Bangalore, “If I were in his (Singh’s) place, I would resign if I felt very strongly about the issue and then move the court. I wouldn’t seek legal recourse as chief.”

In a setback for General Singh, the defence ministry last week rejected his statutory complaint to get his date of birth changed. The controversy arose in May 2006 when two different dates of birth were detected in the records of the Military Secretary’s branch (1950) and the Adjutant General’s branch (1951).

Former Navy chief Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, whose tenure as chief was cut short by the NDA government in December 1998, said, “The matter has become a huge embarrassment for the army and the government. It doesn’t really matter whether Singh goes to court or not.”

The Congress on Tuesday sought to disapprove the remarks of former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh over the age row involving army Chief VK Singh.

“He has already clarified that this was his personal view. Generally, politicians should not comment on internal affairs of armed forces,” party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said.

Earlier, Singh clarified that he had written a letter to defence minister AK Antony on the issue only “in his personal capacity”. On his part, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari sought to downplay the controversy.

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