Monday 9 April 2012

7 Hard Questions for IB Chief Sandhu (Sunday Guardian)

Intelligence Bureau chief Nehchal Sandhu(C) with President Pratibha Patil. Photo:
Minister of State for Defence Pallam Raju shares with A.K. Antony the reputation of being an honest man, a rarity in a party that exalts the Vilasrao Deshmukhs. His revelation that elements in the government were "misled" about the wholly routine troop movements described in theIndian Express of 4 April, when combined with the newspaper's claim that Intelligence Bureau chief Nehchal Sandhu ruined the sleep of retired and serving high officials on the morning of the manoeuvres with an alarmist diagnosis, make it imperative that the IB chief answer certain queries about him and the functioning of his organisation, which ought not to act as the praetorian guard of the private interest of the ruling group rather than as a prime guarantor of security for the population as a whole. In a democracy, there ought to be no space for the lack of transparency that afflicts the functioning of the IB, and which has made it regarded as an instrument less of national security than of political expediency, one that dismisses as "anti-national" and "motivated" any effort at accountability.
The questions Director IB Sandhu needs to answer are:
1. Is it a fact that the DIB is personally well-known to former Chief of Army Staff Joginder Singh (who is seen as the mastermind behind the successful bid to curtail General V.K. Singh's tenure as COAS by a year), retired Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh (who has been reported as being hyperactive in the effort to malign the Army chief) and incoming COAS Lt. Gen. Bikramjit Singh? If such charges are true, has he recused himself from ongoing monitoring of certain sensitive issues because of such personal linkages, or is he continuing to supervise such operations?
2. Has the IB conducted an investigation into the extensive foreign contacts of the three gentlemen mentioned, including that of their spouses and children? Has it done an audit of the foreign travel of all these individuals, and if so, is the IB satisfied that no contact has taken place outside the country that may have a negative bearing on national security, or which reflects commercial rather than national interests?
3. Has the IB made itself conversant with the reported frequent visits to a Gulf destination of the family members of two of the three army names given above, and whom they meet while there, as also the sources of local hospitality? Are such reports true? And is the IB aware that foreign intelligence agencies have been tracking such "spousal and offspring movements" of key individuals in India, and that these may later be used for purposes of information, influence or blackmail?
4. Is the IB aware of the increase in wealth of at least three immediate predecessors in office of Gen. V.K. Singh, and in particular, does it have information on the newly-acquired property holdings within the National Capital Region of the former COASs and their family members? Has any investigation been done into such assets in their and their close relatives' names, in view of multiple complaints that have been received by official agencies about improper dealings? If the IB has not compiled any such register of assets, even while foreign agencies have, why such lack of action in the case of those making core national security decisions?
5. Is the IB aware that the children of several VVIPs — including UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Central minister Vilasro Deshmukh — have made several visits almost every month to the same Gulf destinations, without ostensible cause? Is the IB aware of the citizenship and linkages of the foreign nationals that the VVIP offspring are meeting while on such visits, both in the Gulf location and on subsequent legs of their foreign trips, or that other intelligence agencies are regularly collecting such information?
6. Has the IB been asked to not keep a record of the foreign travel and other activities of the close relatives (i.e. children and sisters) of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, even though some have extensive interaction with foreign business and other entities in direct commercial and geopolitical competition with Indian interests? Have the relevant levels of government been kept informed of such contacts, and if so, what action has been taken? Also, is the IB aware that foreign relatives of a prominent India-based politician regularly arrive and depart the country accompanied by (state-protected) children and in-laws of the said leader, thereby evading mandatory security checks? Is the IB aware that such a wholesale exemption from screening to a particular family that comprises more than 90% foreign nationals within its number may lead to documents and other precious artefacts being smuggled out for sale or dissemination? If so, why has such an immunity been permitted, and for so long?
7. Does the DIB believe his organisation to be the personal instrument of the rulers of the country, as it was during the British raj, when it served the interests of the colonial masters against that of the people, or will he agree that the organisation needs to place public interest above personal service to a few?
More than 95% of the Intelligence Bureau comprises officers of integrity and commitment to national interest. Only a handful pervert the mandate of the organisation so as to serve private interests. IB director Sandhu needs to allow the 95% in the IB who are honest a free hand to uncover the interests, both Indian and international, that have teamed up to malign COAS Gen. V.K. Singh and Defence Minister A.K. Antony, because of their commitment towards ending the graft and malfeasance that has infected government procurement (in all sectors) for so long. Hopefully, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will ensure that the muck gets cleaned up, before he becomes a byword in history textbooks as the leader who presided over an empire of sleaze.

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