Senior minister Sutradhar of coup report? (Sunday Guardian)
MADHAV NALAPAT NEW DELHI | 4th Apr
Sources involved in tracking sensitive developments claim that a senior minister of the UPA government was the mastermind of the April 4 front page item in a daily newspaper about a suspected coup attempt. The sources claim that the minister is connected - through his close relative - with the defense procurement lobbies gunning for Chief of Army Staff General V K Singh,and that the decision to "trick the newspaper into running a baseless report was to drain away support for General Singh within the political class",who could be expected to unite against any effort at creating a Pakistan-style situation in India. However,the minister in question appears to have miscalculated the response of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defense Minister to the report."The minister assumed that both would decline comment on the report, in view of their strained relations with the Army chief, but instead both came out foursquare against the newspaper.This surprised both the minister as well as journalists who relied on him for the initial information," a source claimed.
Others say that a close relative of the minister in question has been "regularly meeting with arms merchants and their lobbyists,including on his many visits abroad".They say that the Intelligence Bureau seems clueless about such activities,as "its net does not cover the influential people in question". Those connected with national security say that "the net of arms merchants is very wide, with Dubai,London and Bangkok being the three locations where they usually wine,dine and otherwise entertain VVIPs from India". In order to ensure protection for their operations,a lot of which involves dubious money transfers, such agencies and individuals "usually function as auxiliaries of foreign intelligence agencies, and are told to ferret out sensitive and secret information from their contacts". These sources claim that "non-declared units of selected NATO member country intelligence agencies (especially one with a huge presence in the defense procurement market in India ) regularly liase with lobbyists and employees of arms manufacturers,and use them for operations such as honeytrapping".In such a context,"their link with relatives of ministers is a worry."
According to these sources,the minister in question "is well-known to senior journalistic levels of the publication" that ran the coup report. A military source was "surprised that the newspaper in question ran such a story,in view of the high level of competence of its senior staff", but added that " a senior minister being the source of the initial information would explain their belief in the truth of the report". Other military sources warned that the "objective behind the leak was not merely to discredit the Chief but to paralyse the army in its training function". Already, procurements have slowed to dangerous levels because of repeated - and often accurate - claims of graft. Should the military's freedom to undertake routine training exercises of the sort described in the report get curtailed" because of imaginary fears of a coup, "the military would very soon lose its fighting edge". Military sources claim that even some civilian officials "are linked to arms lobbyists and through them to foreign intelligence agencies",and that these "want to take away even the little freedom of action that is left with the military" since the Nehru-era policy of removing of discretion from the uniformed services to the civilian side. While no one accuses the senior minister of wanting to degrade the capabilities of the army, these sources say that he has perhaps unwittingly "played into the hands of certain arms lobbyists who are salivating not only at the prospect of garnering huge army orders during the balance of the UPA's term in office" but "who seek to weaken the training function of the army and thereby render the force less effective against the sort of challenges that it is facing in Kashmir and other threatres."
Army sources say that "the strong rebuttal by the PM and the RM (Raksha or Defense Minister) has cheered those in the service who were unhappy at the way the Chief is being treated". However,this total denial of the news report would have come as a shock to friends and admirers of the senior minister in the newspaper,who took his conclusion that a coup was being planned at face value,and decided to run a report that took up the entire front page with an imaginary scenario that has inadvertently purveyed the falsehood that the Indian army is going the way of its Pakistan counterpart,and that General Singh is itching to do a Musharraf to Manmohan Singh's Nawaz Sharif.