Sunday, September 15, 2013

Agni-5 repeat launch: Video and details

DRDO Press Note
India’s Intercontinental surface to surface ballistic missile Agni 5 capable of delivering nuclear warhead with high precision, was successfully launched today (15th September 2013) in a repeat of spectacular maiden launch last year. A symbol of DRDO’s technological excellence and India’s strength, the missile took off majestically at 0850 hrs from DRDO’s Launch Complex at Wheelar’s Island, off the coast of Odisha, India, flew on a predefined path and reached its destination with expected precision. The missile, powered by three stage solid rocket motors had a flawless, spectacular launch in auto mode and followed its entire trajectory in textbook manner, dropping the three motors at predefined stages into the ocean. The Ships located in midrange and at the target point tracked the Vehicle and witnessed the final event.
All the radars and electro-optical systems, ship based and those based on ground stations along the path monitored the performance parameters of the Missile and displayed information in real time. All the systems and subsystems of the missile, such as the launch system, navigation system, control systems, rocket motors, the re-entry package etc. performed well. The Navigation systems, very high accuracy Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System (RINS) and the most modern and accurate Micro Navigation System (MINS) ensured the Missile reach the target point within few meters of accuracy. The high speed onboard computer and fault tolerant software along with robust and reliable bus guided the Missile flawlessly.
A major milestone, this second successful test of Agni 5 has demonstrated the maturity, repeatability and robustness of the system, paving the way for initiation of productionisation and subsequent induction. The launch also clears the way for its canisterisation. The Agni 5 missile, in its operational form is designed to be stored and launched from the canister, enhancing its storage, operational readiness, transportability, response time and shelf life.
The Strategic Force Command team along with its top brass was present during all the operations to get acquainted with the system and trained.

Raksha Mantri A.K. Antony congratulated all the Scientists of DRDO and said that “DRDO Scientists have made the country proud”. National Security Advisor (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon congratulated DRDO Scientists and said that the event is a milestone in the long range Missile era of India.

Avinash Chander, SA TO RM and Secretary Department of Defence R&D throughout guided the launch as well as prelaunch activities. Dr V.G. Sekaran, DG (MSS), C-in-C SFC, Dr Jayaraman, Director ASL, Dr Satish Reddy, Director RCI, Shri MVKV Prasad, Director ITR, Sri Guruprasad, Director R&DE Engineers Pune were present during the launch operations. Sri R.K. Gupta Project Director guided the team of Scientists and employees of DRDO during the launch activities.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

LoC unplugged: journey on the India-Pakistan border

For three full days and nights earlier this week, an NDTV team comprising Barkha Dutt, me, two camera persons, a producer, two OB personnel and an engineer travelled about 680 km along parts of the Line of Control (loC) in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu regions. This is a compilation of our experience in what is a "hot peace" as an Army officer described it! Read on.

DAY I: Srinagar-Uri-Srinagar

The majesty of the Pir Panjal mountains. The full flow of the Jhelum river. The stillness of the mountain air, the tranquility all around belies the fact that we were in a major military flash point. One that has sometimes taken India to the brink of war.

We are in the Uri sector of the Line of Control, the 776 km de facto border separating India from Pakistan. For almost ten years now a ceasefire agreement between both countries has more or less held. But a spate of recent violations has renewed tensions all along the LOC. And as the soldiers here will tell you. Ceasefire or not the constant threat of imminent danger means the mind must be battle ready at all times.
Beyond Uri town a kuccha road winds its way up and down the mountain slope over gravel, mud and loose stones. To the border outpost of Silikote, the last village near the LoC. From here we begin our walk up to the forward post. In easy line of sight of the Pakistani troops on the other side of the LOC

Life at the LOC is often a test of nerves. Motivation and morale is key. As we clamber up the sparsely populated mountain ridge, we see some of the slogans that keep the soldiers strong. Dar Sab ko lagta hai, Dar ke aage jeet hai, says one ( Everyone is scared says one. But beyond fear is victory). Paanch minute, paachas gola (5 minutes, 50 rounds), says another.
After the ceasefire the focus has shifted more to counter infiltration strategies. But the soldiers tell us that whether its the ammunition levels, the regular shooting practice, the 24 hour patrolling or the underground communication trenches and observation posts life for them is akin to navigating a high tension wire.

For the 27 families. Roughly 100 people who live in Silikote village every ceasefire violation is a memory too close to the bone. The very sound of gunfire can still trigger tears.
Irshad Ahmed was just 18 when an artillery shell from the Pakistani side cut through his leg and left him permanently disabled. Today as he shows us his injuries his eyes well up. He tells my colleague Barkha Dutt he had got recruited into the army just days before the firing across the line of control changed his life forever. But the tragedy of this family was further compounded. Irshad introduces us to his father Ghulam Qadir.

We discover that shortly before the ceasefire agreement came into place and two years after Irshad was wounded.. His mother, Ghulam's wife was killed while she had taken the cattle out to graze.
But there is no space available to the soldiers to mourn when one of their own dies. They must remain not just vigilant but stoic as they guard the honour of the flag and stand alert for surprise firing from the other side.

We are finally at the closest point possible to the line of control. The waterfall in the distance separates Pakistan from India.

The truth is that even after the ceasefire, life on the Line of Control can often be about walking a thin line between conflict and peace.

When the headlines of a LOC violation fade and the country turns its gaze away, the soldier is still standing right there. Never betraying loneliness or vulnerability, as he keeps a watchful eye over the final frontier of the nations boundaries.

For residents of the Silikote village, access to education and livelihood is a luxury. Vocational training facilities are a far cry but Nisar Ahmed and Atiq are lucky.

An initiative by the local army unit has allowed them to undergo training in hotel management opening up employment opportunity they would not have dreamt of.

Says Nisar: "I did this hotel management course jointly organised by IHM (Institute of Hotel Management) and the Army. After the course I got a job in Taj Vivanta in Srinagar."

Manzoor and Atiq are not alone.

Over the past two years over 100 boys have been imparted hotel management courses, thanks to these two instructors.

Hotel management graduates and civil services aspirants Sohail and Manzoor have camped in Uri to run this vocational course. Says Sohail: " The Army has opened this centre where we train these boys in learning various hotel management skills. We have come from IHM Srinagar."


Not just these boys, but for all villagers life without Army's support would be tougher.The Army helps the residents in various ways: provides medical help, builds playgrounds, supplies computers to schools.

The Sarpanch is emphatic: "The Indian Army is our saviour. It gives us a reason to hope."

In absence of any state government presence here the Indian Army is indeed the saviour for this area.
DAY II: Srinagar-Shopian-Pir ki Gali-Surankote-Krishna-Ghati-Nangi Tekri
A quick meeting with 15 Corps Commander. Lt. Gen Gurmeet Singh and we set off for Shopian, the start of the Mughal Road, the old route between Balfliaz, south of Pir Panjal and the Kashmir Valley to it the north of Pir Panjal, now reconnected by a brand new road. But journeys in Kashmir are never smooth. There is trouble at Pulwama and Shopian, we are told. People are angry at the killing of four civilians in Shopian, two days before our journey. The CRPF claimed all four were militants. Locals differ. They have called for a protest. Stone pelting is happening on the way. We are told to be cautious but running against time we decide to take our chances.
Our driver knows the by lanes in south Kashmir and takes us on a detour to avoid troubled areas. It adds nearly 40 km to our journey. But every miles is worth the delay. As we reach Shopian, bypassing Pulwama, the streets are deserted, stones are strewn all over. 
A quick shoot of the billboards, shut down shops and security forces, we get away as speedily as possible and hit the beauteous Mughal Road. Officially still not open to traffic, taxis and security force vehicles have started plying on the road, wide and winding through some of the most spectacular mountains. It starts to rain and the trouble begins.                                                                          
The still-not-stabilised mountains hurl stones--big and small--on the road. One of our vehicles has a narrow escape as a large boulder whizzes past inches away from its bonnet!
A board makes us stop in our tracks. We stop an Army Captain leading a security detail to ask what dose Aliabad Sarai mean. He explains. During the Mughal era, convoys used to traverse this route. The convoys used to rest every night. One such major halt was at Aliabad. The ruins of the Sarai (a roadside Inn, if you may) are still visible down in the valley from where we are standing.

The intensity of the rain increases. Fog envelopes the road. Visibility is down to a metre! Our speed is reduced to less than 10 km an hour. Pir ki Gali, the Pass that connects the two valleys is is a non-descript highest point on the road. As we roll down the slope towards Bafliaz and into the Surankote-Poonch area, our thoughts are on the evening programme. Mobile connectivity is erratic. Sometimes for long stretches there is no signal. So we use primitive methods to communicate with Delhi through the OB (outdoor Broadcast) Van by holding handwritten placards while the Delhi MCR (Master Control Room) speaks through the OB!

 At last we reach Krishna Ghati brigade of the Army!

We decide to go live from here. Barkha anchored her programme from Krishna Ghati that evening. But the day was not over.

The army has a surprise lined up for me! Its my 51st birthday and one of my students from the Staff College, now G-1 at the KG brigade, rustles up a cake.
 For the first time in my 51 years, I cut a birthday cake. A quick dinner and we are off to Nangi Tekri a forward post under the brigade which has seen more than a dozen ceasefire violations in August-September this year. Its 11.30 pm. We have been on our feet since 7 am!

Under the gentle glow of a half moon.To the naked eye, the softly shimmering lights in the distance look like a giant garland has been draped over the ridge line.

On our camera its barely visible. But these blobs of white light are actually part of India's fence at the line of control. And just beyond it is Pakistan.

From Krishna Ghati.. which has seen some of the of the worst ceasefire violations recently.. We head out to see the fence, a game changer f security at the LoC.

Night time of course is especially precarious. Both for firing across the boundary as well as infiltration. And as we drive through the darkness, we are told that we are literally driving parallel to Pakistan's observation posts on the other side of the line.

Half hour later we are at Nangi Tekri, a dominating height taken by India in the 1971 war.  Just at this one post there have been 15 ceasefire violations this year alone. Tonight at first, all seems quiet. In fact, its almost eerily still. All one can hear in the distance is night sounds of crickets.

But there's no taking any chances. In an underground bunker, surveillance is never let up. Not even for a second. From radio intercepts to battle field radars, all keep an eye on the other side. At this moment. The screen picks up some movement. Is it cattle? Is it a vehicle? Is it some one else ? Every minute detail must be reported..

Outside, the night is still silent. And then suddenly in the distance, the sound of gun shots, faint at first, louder later. Small arms fire. That, the soldiers tell us, is speculative firing by the Pakistanis.

Every night at this post, more than 200 such rounds of speculative fire can be heard. Too faint to register on camera but clear to the ear in the stillness of the night.

We make our way slowly down to the fence. Over patches of mud and stone to reach the last concrete barrier against Pakistani intruders. Across the barbed wire fence lies the Rokar Ridge in Pakistan.

The fence is patrolled 24 hours. The night patrols are especially strenuous. Almost a mind game.. Because the brain needs to be alert even if a leaf so much as rustles.


A few times every night, soldiers on duty approach from opposite sides to meet at the fence. They will need to confirm that there has been no breach. No suspicious movement. A message that is then conveyed to their superiors.

How difficult a 776 kilometre stretch is to secure, especially at night becomes evident to us as we move up. Standing right next to the fence and even walking right past him we don't even see the ghatak team of the unit, crouched behind a tree! His weapon ready to shoot if needed.

And till he emerges from under the green and reveals himself to be a soldier nor do we see a sniper in camouflage. He sometimes stays in one position from the crack of dawn till night breaks.

In a pitch dark, thickly forested terrain like this sometimes all the conventional systems of surveillance may not be sufficient.

When there is apprehension of an intrusion or a movement detected on the Indian side of the LOC not verified by other systems mortars would have to deployed to illuminate the area.

These few seconds of available light could be used if there is an actual violation of territory to hit the target with rocket launchers. Such is the level of vigilance and high tension every night at forward posts.

Clearly for all of us who sleep safely at home, are thousands who stay awake at risk to their own lives making a new dawn possible every single day.
Its 2.45 am. Time to hit the bed. Exhausted but happy with a full, productive day (and night).
Day III: KG-Mendhar-Balakote-Hamirpur
It looks like any other mountain village. The women chatting as they take the cattle out to graze.. The men busy in the maize fields.

But the miles of wire that encircle it and the soldier's post right at the beginning of the narrow path that takes you down into the village. Of Goldhe are signs of the permanent anxiety that stalks the people here.

This village right on the line of control has been witness to the surge in ceasefire violations. The red and green flags dug onto the roofs indicate where the last round of mortar shells fell from across the border.  

The women tell us they worry they most for their children.. But they are too poor to move out into any other area.

The sudden spate of LoC violations and especially the killing of five Indian soldiers has made the almost ten year old ceasefire agreement vulnerable. So far the firing has been restricted to small arms and mortar. The concern now is how to avoid an escalation to artillery duels across the boundary.

While ceasefire violations may have become a mere tabulation of statistics in the media, on the ground they can mark the difference between life and death.

The one thing though that has made guarding the frontiers somewhat more efficient is of course this fence that runs along the entire stretch of the LOC.

Today taken for granted as an element of the national security apparatus. But few remember what a mammoth project it was to construct and the firing that it provoked across the border

The terrain and the weather, especially heavy snow means looking after the fence is a 24 hour challenge. Every 50 yards along the fence is a soldiers post.When it was built.. the Army spent more than 2000 crore rupees on what was Operation Deewar. now just keeping it in good shape costs 25

Crores a year.

But the fence is still not the final frontier. The last man standing is still the soldier. Often in eye ball to eyeball contact with Pakistani troops on the other side.

As day turns to night his job never ends. 


Friday, September 6, 2013

Come clean on India's border policy with China

The reverbations of the April 2013 incident have reached the TV studios in Delhi in August. Although the Chairman of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) Shyam Saran has denied submitting any report to the government reporting loss of 640 sq km of Indian territory in Ladakh (His official statement reads: The NSAB is an autonomus body whose members serve in their individual capacities. They undertake visits to various parts of the country to familiarize themselves with the local situation to assist their deliberations. The visit to Ladakh was in the nature of such a visit to familiarize oneself with the situation prevailing in an important border region. No mandate was sought or given by the PMO or the Government.

"The Board has the strengthening of border management on its agenda and will, on the basis of all inputs available to it, make appropriate recommendations to the Government after due deliberation. The board does not concern itself with operational matters), the fact remains that India is under pressure all along the Chinese frontier.  

When Chinese troops came in 19 km and camped near Raki Nallah in Depasang plains near Dault Beg Oldie (DBO) in April this year, they exposed India's vulnerability in north-east Ladakh.

The Depasang plains-DBO area (see map) has remained as inaccessible to Indian troops as it was in the 1960s. Although the Indian Air Force (IAF) managed to land the newly-acquired C-130J Hercules transport plane at the DBO airstrip, absence of a road connecting the area continues to hamper the Indian security forces.

ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) and the Indian Army is forced to depend on foot patrols to keep a vigil in the area. The Chinese on the other hand have developed roads very close to Depsang plains. The advantage of a road network was evident in the April crisis when the Chinese pitched tents for three weeks and were well supplied from the rear. The Indian effort was however dependent on mules and air drops during the face offs.

During that period it also become apparent that the Chinese had chosen Raki Nallah with care. Their presence at 19 km deep inside what Indian territory had cut off access to over 600 sq km of area north of Depsang.

My colleague Sudhi Ranjan Sen reported on Thursday that the ITBP (which is responsible for the Depsang area) had told to the government in May that 640 square kilometres in Raki Nallah in north-east Ladakh had been inaccessible to Indian troops because of that large incursion by the Chinese army.
The question that needs to be asked however is: has the government downplayed the creeping Chinese encroachment in this area for years?

RN Ravi, a highly respected Intelligence Bureau officer, who retired as Special director in April 2012 had monitored India's land border for 20 years in his official capacity, thinks so.

During the Depasang crisis he revealed in a column he wrote for "Taking advantage of its superior military capabilities along the border, China has been making increasingly aggressive military pushes along Karakoram-Daulat Beg Oldi- Track Junction- Burtse axis in the Depsang Plains inching closer to Shyok river and seeking to substantially alter the “differing perceptions” of the LAC in its favour, forcing the Indian troops to yield and incrementally retreat. Loss of territory in this sub-sector grossly undermines India’s strategic future vis-a-vis China in this sector and increases vulnerabilities of its supply axis to the Siachen sector vis-a-vis Pakistan.
"Although the latest aggression by China caught the attention of the nation, thanks to the media, the countrymen have been kept in the dark about their ongoing numerous such transgressions. While in 2005 there were 150 transgressions of the Indian LAC in this sector, the number increased to about 240 by 2010. In fact the Chinese aggression escalated after 2009.
They built a 20 km motorable road along Jeevan Nallah in 2010 and 15 km long motorable road along Raki Nallah from JAK II to GR 626516 in 2011-- both on the Indian side in the Depsang Plain without a scintilla of resistance."

Ravi, an old friend, is known to have been a blunt and plain-speaking officer even while in service and had always made his strong views known to the government. However China apologists in the government, starting with the Prime Minister, the National Security Adviser and the foreign minister Salman "acne" Khurshid, have always downplayed such incidents and attributed the dispute to "differing perceptions," on where exactly the border lies.

Army's formation commanders in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh have however reported increasing belligerence on the border and increasing face offs between Indian and Chinese patrols of late. This report on (, as late as August is revealing: "Even as India and China work towards finalising a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement to prevent faceoffs with a potential to escalate into serious skirmish, the Army's Northern Command is worried over a change in pattern in the border intrusions in Ladakh and a discernible aggressive attitude of the intruders of late.
"In mid-July, for instance, two of the three intrusions in a week happened around midnight. Chinese troops on horseback came across the perceived Line of Actual Control in the dark. Strict instructions and rigorous training of the troops deployed on the LAC has prevented any untoward incident so far, Northern Command sources said. "Our worry is that a small mistake, an accidental exchange of fire at night, might lead to an unintended escalation," a senior officer confessed."As a student of India-China relations and border disputes, I have often tried to look into  past incidents to relate to the present situation. In the past I had an occasion to point out that in the late 1950s too, the Chinese behaved exactly as they are doing now.

Take the period between 1959-62 and see what had happened in the same area then.

On December 26, 1959 Peking (as Beijing was then known) sends a note to India talking about Aksai Chin. It says: "This area is the only traffic artery linking Singkiang to Western Tibet because to its north-east lies the great Gobi of Sinkiang through which direct traffic with Tibet is practically impossible...the area all along belonged to China."
So any move by India to improve its military posture close to Aksai Chin will always invite Chinese ire, as it has been doing since the late 1950s.
As Peking and New Delhi continued to exchange protest notes, 1962 began with fresh tension. Consider this:
Feb 22, 1962: India protests to China against advance patrolling by Chinese troops.
March: New Delhi protests against establishment of a military post by China 6 miles west of Sumdo.
April-May 1962: Chinese troops step up advance patrolling in Chip Chap area
April 30, 1962: Peking orders patrolling in the sector from Karakoram Pass to Kongka Pass and demands India withdraw 2 posts in the area.
May 2, 1962: China-Pakistan announce agreement to enter into 'negotiations to locate and align' the portion of India-China border west of Karakoram Pass in Kashmiri territory under Pakistan's unlawful occupation.
Mid-May, 1962: China sets up a new post in Indian territory 10 miles south-east of Spanggur.
Its not my case that events of 1962 will repeat themselves. Half a century later, the world has changed, India's military capability is far far better than it was then; And finally there is too much at stake for Beijing to launch any overt aggression.
What has however not changed is the Chinese tendency of bullying weaker neighbours and its policy to keep redefining 'core' interests according to circumstances. Policy making in China is one continuous process. In India on the other hand, it varies according to personalities and political parties in power.
While the military in India has overcome the trauma of the 1962 defeat, civilian policy makers appear to be still bogged down by the burdens of the past in dealing with China.
Of course, these mandarins get their act together only under pressure of a crisis like they did post-1986 Sumdorong Chu face off. The 2009 sanction for additional forces and speeding up of infrastructure development projects also came after increasing reports of Chinese belligerence along the LAC.
It is therefore essential to push for another round of capability-enhancing drive. Simultaneously, India must re-look and re-tweak its China policy. For instance:
  • Insist with Beijing the need for exchanging maps for all sectors immediately so that each side knows the other's claimed LAC and border negotiations can resume
  • Bring the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) under the operational control of the Army to ensure uniformity in border management
  • Ensure timely and effective information sharing mechanism with Indian media and through them the Indian people rather than let different stake holders speak in different and some times discordant voices during times of crisis
  • Educate and prepare the Indian people on the need for give and take on border negotiations in the future
Policy makers in India must be mindful of the fact that military preparedness and trying to improve diplomatic relations are not necessarily mutually exclusive. It must also communicate clearly with the Indian public as to what is India's stand on the border question. Otherwise we will end up in the same mess as in 1962.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Soldiers don't matter in this country, Former Army Chief Gen VK Singh laments

The full Video here:

Nitin: It's been more than a year that General V.K. Singh retired as India's Army Chief.  But controversies don't seem to leave him. He is at the centre of one controversy or the other. He is subjected to intense scrutiny for his pronouncements, his conduct, his associations. Thank You General for your time.

We have spoken earlier when you were in service. But after getting out of service, after retirement as Army Chief, you still continue to be in intense focus of public scrutiny. What is it that makes you a controversial figure in  many people's eyes?

V.K. Singh :  I really don't know if there is any controversy.  But yes....I think some people deliberately want to create controversy. Others probably haven't seen people working on social forums. So they are intrigued and they think what actually is happening. I don't think there is any controversy. I decided that for 42 years I have taken from the society and this is give back time . So I have perceived lot of things because 98 per cent of the army comes from the rural background. I picked up the causes of the farmers and it proved to be very fruitful.  I have been talking to the youth. They are the future. The more motivated they are the better for the country. I have been trying to get the ex servicemen together  because I think we are a forgotten community. Unfortunately in the great nation of ours, soldiers don't matter. 

Nitin: That's an important point. Normally soldiers have tended to or even the generals who have retired or even admirals or Air Marshals have tended to fade away and have gone into their cocoon. You are perhaps one of the rare people of late who have still tried to do public service or at least try to give back as you said to the society.  What are you doing  in terms of ex servicemen welfare  or getting the ex servicemen together?

V.K.Singh : See, my aim was to get  ex servicemen under one umbrella. So last July we formed a organisation called Proud Citizen Soldier Front.  or Swabhimani Samaj Sainik Manch. The aim was  that we   come together under one umbrella... everybody under it, talk of macro issues.

Nitin: So some might then accuse you of trying to capitalise on your standing, your popularity for political end.  Is that something you are looking at, career in politics?

V.K. Singh: Nitin, they have accused me of all kinds of things. I am actually not bothered about that. Ok...Small minds only think of small things. You know why the soldier community is not being catered or cared for ? They are not a vote bank.

Nitin: Are you trying to convert them into a vote Bank?

V.K.Singh: No, But I am trying to  get them to speak in a voice that people listen. After all you just go back to the days when the postal ballot system was there. Whether it reached or not nobody was concerned! In fact local politicians were very happy that some postman goes and dumps it to the nearest village or put outside the village or into a well. So I think the time has come  that people realise that here is a lot of 60,000 people, well trained, well disciplined, well motivated who must be used. And nobody seems to be wanting to do it because there is an apathy there is a general feeling ...Ok..they have .... I mean  like that the great minister of Bihar.... I mean I am horrified. It is high time that the veterans voice is heard. If they become a vote-bank so be it. How does it make a difference? 

Nitin: Correct...

V.K.Singh: I mean you have got a jhuggi jhopri vote bank...Why can't the ex servicemen vote bank be there?

Nitin: Sure 

V.K. Singh: I mean why should it scare people? 

Nitin: It does scare people but also what scares people is unpredictable nature of your trajectory post retirement in the sense that you went to Anna Hazare, you  associated yourself with are still with him....What are the compulsions or  let me say what is the vision you have in terms of associating yourself with Anna Hazare?

V.K.Singh: You know the unpredictability is only in the mind. And in any of the things which you win the war is the unpredictability... 

Nitin: You are applying those principles here.....

V.K.Singh:  No, no nothing like that. The thing is that I picked up the farmers causes because most of our soldiers come from that background. And then I decided that Anna who had been abandoned by lot of people and who is a genuine person needs to be taken up all over  again so that he can bring  about a good change in the society. So I associated with him. We made a thing called Janatantra morcha and if you go to our website, there are 25 do-ables that we have put out there which will change the face of this country. 

Nitin: Is fighting elections one of the do-ables?

VK Singh: No...election is nowhere in our mind. With Anna all  that we are trying to do is create an awareness ....create an awakening...that friends, time has come to  wake up. 

Nitin: That brings me you know one or two causes  that you took up immediately after retirement....One was the nuclear power station in Haryana in which you are trying to oppose and you said "we will gherao the Parliament" which was seen as something which is not in form in the sense that a former chief of the army trying to undermine the temple of the democracy ...something of that kind .. What do you have to say about that because you have never spoken about it? 

V.K.Singh: See, I think people twist everything.  Gherao does not mean that you are going to stand holding hands and encircle the Parliament...It just means that  you are going to protest at the Parliament. 

Nitin: Do you think if you look back at the last 2 years or 3 years as Army chief and now as a former Army chief for last one year have you been misunderstood in the sense that look at the defamation case against you for instance...which has been filed against you in a lower court which goes on and on and now we keep hearing various remarks from various people that you overstepped your brief or your authority as Army Chief in issuing that press release. What made you first of all issue that press release  and where does the matter stand now?

V.K.Singh: A thing comes on the press  that Army is bugging. Army has got equipment to carry out surveillance and they are listening to all the conversations of political system and the Raksha Mantri.. There cannot be anything more preposterous than that. 

Nitin: Why did it come up?

V.K.Singh: I am telling you... there was a person involved The press release was issued after checking things...We checked up as to who was behind it and we identified the person. Misunderstandings are created deliberately by people who hobnob with certain journalists who seem to be having an axe to grind and there are some of them very prominent ones. Why the axe is there to grind whether it is because they have been bought  over or something else I really can't comment on. But it appears quite obvious.  In this particular instance there was you know banner headlines 'Army is spying, Army is bugging, Army is doing A, B and C'.  It was bringing down the image of the army. Army of this nation does not do such things and to ensure that the image of the army is protected we issued a clarification after checking details.  If somebody thinks it is defaming  I think he is out of his mind. ....totally out of his mind.

Nitin: But, is there such a equipment available with the Army which was misused?

V.K.Singh: That is what the whole funny thing about it.  This equipment is with an agency called Defence Intelligence Agency which is under IDS(Integrated Defence Staff) and not under the  Army and the person who was involved in it has been part of DIA.  So he knew about this equipment and that is why he put out things this way. So I think people who are...who went by this and splashing the....and look at the papers which splashed it...and you will find the answer which I have been trying to tell. 

Nitin: But there is also the other controversy or other allegation which keeps coming up in certain section of the media  about the so called Technical Support division which you seemed to have set up on your own initiative, no clearance, autonomous independent or even rogue ....some people have called it.  Misuse of money....Initially it was 18 it is 8 crores.. What is the truth behind the so called TSD?

V.K.Singh: See I have tried to clarify it once earlier.  But I find same reports keep coming up.  In fact this great paper called Indian express  had done the same report  with just a minor variation of figure by the same reporter couple of months back. He has brought it up again. Same change in it.  Just a minor variation much for the journalistic talent  that this paper has.  TSD was set up after lot of discussion on the operational requirement. Lets understand it. It is in sync with the operational directive issued by the Raksha Mantri of this country. 

Nitin: The same Raksha Mantri...
V.K.Singh: The same Raksha Mantri. I can't you know verbatim tell you as to what the operational directive is but this was the requirement of the operational directive. The thinking on this started  with my predecessor. It was implemented when I came. Ok... It was called TSD for the want of a name which will give it a certain amount of anonymity. It has got nothing with  the technical work. It is all human intelligence. 

Nitin: It was supposed to be Ultra secret, low profiled...

V.K.Singh: not secret...

Nitin: Low profile perhaps....

V.K.Singh: Absolutely low profile and it was the part of the military intelligence, controlled by the military intelligence, not by the Chief of  Army Staff.  I mean some people have gone totally bonkers, out of their mind and it has been done deliberately. Because they couldn't find anything  or somebody has fed them ....these great people that  I spoke of. So they said OK...lets blow it up. And it is all vested interests.  Let me also assure you one thing  if they had not tinkered with the organisation lot of things that are happening on our borders today would not have happened and that's a guarantee I give. 

Nitin:  Please mean when you say on the border, was this agency designed to look at our adversaries or their weaknesses....something of that kind?

V.K.Singh: This agency was totally designed to look across the borders. It had nothing to do with the internal except if it found an external link which were doing things here. Except that and that too providing information of that to the required quarters. 

Nitin: But that is now been wound up. So do you think that our capabilities have been reduced?

V.K.Singh:  It has... If the Raksha Mantri has given you a directive and you are not following it and you have gone into a cocoon  by seeing ghosts, then there is something wrong. 

Nitin: What about the charges of embezzlement and misuse of funds. How does one sort of reconcile with that?

V.K.Singh: Nitin, the unit is there...There is a  director general of military operations (intelligence) who gives them money. They deal with it. There is a procedure. I am quite sure you can find what is there. Now for a paper to say 8 crore is missing ...Have they seen the log books? Have they gone through the details?  They haven't.  No...I think lot of things that this paper has been doing  is totally wrong. 

Nitin: Lets move away from this paper...but generally  the feeling among lot of people and ex servicemen was that as a chief and also as the serving chief  and then now as the former chief  you have tended to speak  something which is not exactly in what is called in sync with the tradition and norms of the military leaders. Is that what you.....

V.K.Singh: Tradition and norms of the service tell you to speak the truth, be upright about it. Not hide facts  or take advantage of the system for the furtherance of your own rehabilitation later on. That is what the service norm is. Unfortunately people have forgotten this service norm. Had they all adhered to the service norm  we won't have the problems that are afflicting our armed forces today. How many people stood up to say  look here, this type of equipment that you are getting us is bad. We are not going to take it. How many people did it? 

Nitin: That brings me to what you wrote to the defence minister that time and that letter came into the media. You were accused of leaking it. For your own advantage.  But be that as it may,what you said about shortage is, is something we must worry about?

V.K.Singh: We must. That is why that letter went to the Prime Minister. Normally all Chiefs do write periodically to the Raksha Mantri. Once in a while to the Prime Minister about the concern... ( interrupts)

Nitin: Also that again you know, going back to the DIA, and also the TSD as well as the snooping equipment. The DIA handled the so called equipment for bugging or whatever 
V.K Singh: Not bugging, see they have got equipment which has got limited range 
Nitin: Right

V.K Singh: It is supposed to be deployed

Nitin: hmmm

V.K Singh: In areas which are... which allow them access to... listen to things across the border 

Nitin : Okay 

V.K Singh: Or into terrorist affected areas 

Nitin : So is the equipment which is there and you say it is with the DIA not the army

V.K Singh: Yes

Nitin: Was this brought up in any of the highest forums of the military chiefs or with Raksha Mantri, that you know this is not with us, we should have it or something of that kind or was it...

V.K Singh: No (interrupts) 

Nitin: ever..

V.K Singh: (interrupts)  No.. see what has happened is when the restructuring took place and the IDS was made that was the time DIA appointment came up and the assets that used to be under the army Sig Int ...

Nitin: The Signal unit you mean, the Signal intelligence?

V.K Singh: Yes it was, it is the tri-service organisation 

Nitin: Right

V.K Singh: You have got air force, navy, army  all three combined, it used to be under the army. It went under DIA 

Nitin: Okay 

V.K Singh: So all these resources and assets went under DIA. This particular technical cell functioning from the adjunct of the NSA had pointed out that this gentlemen who was the DG of DIA had made wrong purchases, purchases in excess of permission given or without permission

Nitin: (interrupts) I see...

V.K Singh: It had come up, it had come up to the chiefs of staff committee but somebody glossed over it 

Nitin: Oh...That's.. that's a serious charge (interrupts)

V.K Singh: It is (interrupts)

Nitin: And..this happened when you were in service (interrupts)

V.K Singh: Yes 

Nitin: I see...It was covered up in the chiefs of the staff committee?

V.K Singh: It was.. (interrupts)

Nitin: Oh.. (interrupts) That's very serious 

V.K Singh: It was covered up.

Nitin: hmm.. right. But now looking forward what are your plans for the organisation you have formed with Anna Hazare and how do you deal with the court cases, and  these allegations and these charges. Are you sometimes worried about the... you know the unnecessary attention that crop up because of these cases?

V.K Singh: No, I know that these cases have been put to harass me. I wouldn't be surprise if somebody else also starts some other case, if this finishes somebody else will start. This is all designed to create a harassment but one has to be mentally strong to take it on, where is the problem (laughs)

Nitin: (interrupts)  what about the organisation with Anna Hazare, what is, what are your plans?

V.K Singh: (interrupts) Our organisation with Anna Hazare, Jantantra Morcha is doing well. Our jantantra yatra is evoked tremendous response across the country. We have got 60,000 volunteers who are willing to give one year of their life for this cause and that is to create that awareness in the country as to what true democracy implies. 

Nitin: Will Jantantra Morcha then look at individual candidates and sponsor them, or you know approve them .. Is that something you are looking at?

V.K Singh: (interrupts) Janatantra Morcha will support people's candidates

Nitin: (laughs) but how will you decide on people's candidate ?

V.K Singh: (interrupts) people will decide. 

Nitin: Okay...

V.K Singh: People will decide. All that we are saying is the system today requires good people. It is not my belief that all people in politics are bad , 80 per cent people are good.
It is only 20 per cent people who twist the system. With this 80 per cent people and the other people in the society if we can bring about a change , I think that change will be for the better.

Nitin: (smiles) Okay, one final question, there was this report I think... you were not in the country that time that you were going to stand for elections against Sonia Gandhi in Rai Bareli. Whats that all about?

V.K Singh: (interrupts) I think... I think it is somebody's ripe imagination, putting out things and I believe India Today is one of them in this, which came out with this funny report

Nitin: (interrupts) No, I saw it in couple of other agencies also

V.K Singh: (interrupts) After that they start catching on  

N.G: Right..

V.K Singh: So... there's nothing in it. 

Nitin: There's no truth to it?

V.K Singh: No truth at all...because I don't know who has started it...

Nitin: Okay

V.K Singh: And as part of Janatantra yatra I haven't even visited Rai Bareli but think I should now!

Nitin: (interrupts) You should.. Okay but one more additional question although I said final question at that time... are you against the Congress? Because that's the feeling in the ruling party, the ruling ministers, ruling party ministers keep saying that he's now trying to get back at us because he, we didn't give him what he thinks was justice?

V.K Singh: I am against nobody. I am for a better India, if people are not providing that leadership and that vision and working for better India, I am against them. They can be from any party.

Nitin: On that note general thank you very much for your time

V.K Singh: Thank you 

Nitin: Its always a pleasure