Thursday, April 05, 2012

The interesting report of The Indian Express on April 4 about troop movements on January 16/17

The problem with The Indian Express Page 1 report arises because of the context that is being created and the inferences that are being sought to be drawn. The day General V.K.Singh approached Supreme Court, the mechanised armoured unit and the para unit moved towards Delhi. The defence ministry did not know about it. There was panic once the intelligence agencies reported the movement of the two units. There was 'alarm'. The defence secretary on a visit to Malaysia had to return and called the director general of military operations. The DGMO's explanation that it was a routine exercise does not convince the defence secretary. The units are sent back to the places where they came from.
The Indian Express says that this caused so much alarm because of the distrust arising between the government and the army, between the civilian authority and the armed forces and that this happened because of Gen. V.K.Singh's birth date controversy. Had the Singh controversy not been there, this particular exercise would have raised eyebrows, created a 'false alarm' and that is all. What is causing concern is the strained relation between the general and the government because the general was also making allegations about corruption and all that.
For a few moments, the civilian authority thought the troop movement spelt danger. The defence secretary was called back. It must have taken about 6  to 8 hours to travel from Kuala Lumpur and New Delhi. Ultimately, the civilian authority symbolised by the defence secretary prevailed. The army units turned back because he wanted so.
So, what was the general doing in all this? Was there no communication between the defence secretary and the general? Did the defence secretary think that it was sufficient to talk to DGMO and end the matter there?
It is also mentioned in the story that after 1984, when some of the Sikh troops moved from Patna and other places towards Amritsar on hearing of Operation Bluestar, a protocol was put in place to watch unusual and 'suspicious' troop movements.
The hint is that the movement of the two units on January 16/17, raised similar suspicion in the mind of the intelligence agencies.
The Express story does not say that it was an attempted coup. All that it says that it raised apprehensions, so that the defence secretary had to be instantly called back from a foreign tour to settle the issue.
Written in the style of a New York Times report -- meticulous with regard to detail, neutral in tone and with the same kind of smooth superficiality -- but suggesting that the episode raised a false alarm.
The unstated suggestion of the story is that the fracas with general has created such a vitiated atmopshere, that even a routine exercise raised fears on the Raisina Hill.
What goes wrong with the Express interpretation is that it lays all the problems arising out of this episode at the door of the discontented general and the government's inability to deal with him in a proper manner, whatever that means.
The exercise could have triggered a false alarm even if general-government's relations were hunky-dory. The Express fails to distinguish whether this was a genuine false alarm or did it arise only because of a disgruntled general. The Express story suggests that it is all due to the disgruntled general. It is not too convincing.
The media is divided over the general. The Indian Express is against him. The Hindu is for him. DNA is with the general on the letter he wrote to prime minister about India's defence preparedness on the China border.  DNA is pursuing the Tatra truck deal scam.

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