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The Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat Chat

'George Fernandes's present agenda is to communalise, politicise and corrupt the armed forces'

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat After the Chat, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat declared that he was disappointed by the quality of questions. "I expected people would ask me questions about the civil-military relationship and such issues. It does not appear they have read The Times of India, Frontline (publications which, incidentally had supported him in his battle with the Union government)," he said.

Since that evening the admiral has called Special Correspondent Syed Firdaus Ashraf, who set up the Chat, many times to inquire when the transcript would be uploaded. Unfortunately, due to a technical problem, the Chat transcript could not be uploaded until today, March 30, for which we are sorry.

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 7:24 IST)
Good evening I'm ready to take in your questions.

Desh Bakht (Fri Mar 5 1999 7:16 IST)
Admiral Bhagwat: Thank you, sir, for exposing the rot in our system. I am intrigued though by your allegations about the defence minister. Why do you believe he is the villain of the piece? Was he on the take?

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 7:33 IST)
Desh Bakht: Mr Fernandes has a long track record. He was organising the blowing up of railway lines which would kill innocent people in what is now known as 'Baroda Dynamite Case'. He also joined some others in calling the armed forces and the police to revolt against a democratically elected government with the largest majority since 1947 that of Mrs Indira Gandhi.

In 1977 when he became minister of industries he brokered what is known as the BHEL-SIEMENS deal for a consideration at the same time taking the people for a ride by shouting for the expulsion of Coca-Cola.

People in the civil service and in our intelligence agencies know him too well. His visits abroad, his contacts in foreign countries, his relationships with certain foreign agencies, receipt of foreign funds are all on record. If he was in the United States he would have to have the confirmation of the Senate and the Congress which he would never get.

Mr R K Hegde was on the list as the defence minister of the present government but Mr George Fernandes wanted only defence. Why did he only want to be the defence minister? His present agenda is to communalise, politicise and corrupt the armed forces -- The last instrumentality of the State. That would lead to a break-up through fractionalisation of the armed forces.

As a former defence minister told me in August to communalise the armed forces is the gravest crime. We would then be heading for a Yugoslavia-Bosnia situation. I was not going to permit it, as the President of the Republic himself had directed that we maintain the secular character of the armed forces which is a must for maintaining the unity and integrity of our beloved country. Where all citizens are equal before the law and in society. I hope that answers your question.

sandeepo (Fri Mar 5 1999 7:31 IST)
Sir, do you believe that Admiral S L Nanda and arms agents like him have such control over the defence ministry that they engineered the dismissal of the CONS?

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 7:35 IST)
SandeepO: It is not only a matter of belief It has been proved and demonstrated through my dismissal. However, Admiral Nanda is only one of the many who are subverting the officers of the armed forces, having already had great access to other elements in the government.

Komitet (Fri Mar 5 1999 7:29 IST)
Sir: Do you think it was correct for the prime minister to have socialised with Vice-Admiral Harjinder Singh two days after your dismissal? What message was he trying to convey to the Indian people?

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 7:39 IST)
Komitet: You have answered the question yourself. A prime minister who does not find the time to visit the fleet at sea spends a new year's eve with an officer who has earned undying notoriety because they are birds of the same communal feather.

H Singh (Fri Mar 5 1999 7:38 IST)
Don't you think your 1990 petition was responsible for wrecking your case this time? Do you regret filing that petition?

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 7:46 IST)
H Singh: Let me clarify again the ministry of defence had recommended my appointment to the ACC as the fleet commander. Based on the relevant criteria of performance in sea commands. Admiral Nadkarni, the then CNS, had fraudulently replaced my annual confidential report from August 1988 to August 1989 in collusion with Vice-Admiral Jain. This was proved by inquiries ordered by the ministry of defence and through the Intelligence Bureau and confirmed by the ministry of law, secretary Mr Rao, Mr Vohra and Mr Nambiar were in the ministry of defence.

As alleged by me in the petition and a CBI enquiry into assets disproportionate to known sources of income, Admiral Nadkarni had to pay income tax as the then principal secretary Mr B G Deshmukh had particularly requested me to withdraw the case as surely I did not want to see Admiral Nadkarni in jail after prosecution under the criminal laws. Some senior officers in the Navy had become corrupted and someone had to blow the whistle. Which I did. I hope your conscience would be similarly inclined.

Desh Bakht (Fri Mar 5 1999 7:28 IST)
You are fortunate, unlike many of us, to have a lawyer for a wife, yet you did not take the government to court over your dismissal. This leads to two conclusions: One, that you felt a case against your dismissal could not be sustained in court, or two, because you were threatened with exposure by the government. What is true?

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 7:48 IST)
Desh Bhakt: Both are untrue. I have tested the response of the media and the people it has been overwhelming to receive such love and respect from far corners of our country. From the highest to the lowest.

The matter is now before Parliament. Let me tell you I will not allow the lies of this government to pass. They will have to answer for the fraud that they have played. And the insult they have heaped on their armed forces and the uniform. All my options remain open.

Komitet (Fri Mar 5 1999 7:45 IST)
Do you have any first hand experiences of communalism among the prime minister and home minister?

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 7:53 IST)
Komitet: That is a part of the record if you care to read it. They belong to the same outfit which assassinated the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi. In fact, these organisations were the creation of the British government as they were the counterpart to the Muslim League.

While our freedom fighters were inside jail from 1942 these people spread the communal poison along with the Muslim Leaguers. You think that in any civilised country a place of worship would be destroyed in 1992? Their agenda is to take us to the Dark Ages. Please do read all the books and their records of the reports of the communal riots in the country rendered by distinguished judges of our high courts, Supreme Court, including the Srikrishna Commission Report and the Madon Commission Report. Why are those indicted having a free run and even getting promoted?

sandeepo (Fri Mar 5 1999 7:44 IST)
The Pioneer reports of last week have revealed that officers loyal to you were allowed to changed their service records. Is that true?

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 7:56 IST)
Sanpeeo: Pioneer has a fantastic circulation of Seven Thousand copies. It is owned by Pramod Mahajan. He is Gobbels India Incorporated as the minister of information & broadcasting. They think that a lie repeated a thousand times will pass as the truth. The Sangh Parivar excels at this game.

Indian (Fri Mar 5 1999 7:51 IST)
Admiral Bhagwat: I have a strong reason for NOT liking the manner in which you handled your dismissal. Regardless of the fairness or unfairness of your dismissal, I feel that YOU, as an OFFICER of the armed forces, should NOT have voiced your (might I think political) opinions in public.

This will lead to a fracturing of the armed forces, even a perception of which is enough to give a fillip to our enemies. It will also lead to politicisation of our armed forces -- something that we have a proud record of NOT having in our 50 year Independent history. Do you really think that, OTHER than your PERSONAL reputation, there has been ANYTHING positive in this ENTIRE affair?

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:0 IST)
Indian: The truth must be told and it doesn't hurt or harm as lies and untruths do. I owe a duty to every citizen of this country. As a very senior ICS officer Mr P C Mathews told me last week, my dismissal was an act of politics. If that is so, you should try and understand what my stand has been both on record with the government and with the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and the Public.

At this moment it is necessary to alert all citizens of their designs and the gameplan that lay behind this dismissal, totally violative of the rule of law and the Constitution. The government has not been able to put forth any reason which would be believed by the people of the country. Its credibility lies in tatters.

Podgy (Fri Mar 5 1999 7:56 IST)
Admiral: You speak as if you are a latter day incarnation of Snow White, but it not true that you and Niloufer were investigated by RAW for your Soviet links, especially after both of you paid an unscheduled visit to the chief justice of the Soviet supreme court in 1982?

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:5 IST)
Podgy: The ambassador of India Shri Vishnu Ahuja asked us to go and meet not only the chief justice of the supreme Court of the USSR in 1982 but also the minister of law. My wife was the secretary of the Indian Association of Lawyers whose president was former chief justice of India Shri P N Bhagwat. To my knowledge the RAW was not excited as you presume.

Meeting any person in the legal field including Lord Denning when he came to Bombay was also our pleasure. For your information Mrs Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister of India, had hosted the Soviet chief justice and his delegation to lunch in New Delhi where my wife was also present. I hope you are not an admirer of Senator McCarthy and have read all he did with respect to what he called 'UnAmerican Activities'.

nadya (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:0 IST)
I will disagree there. Do you think the Pioneer reporters do what the top boss says. Does that mean the owners of Rediff have a deal with you. No, that is not true

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:6 IST)
Nadya: While we are still a democracy you have a right to your opinions.

Rahil (Fri Mar 5 1999 7:59 IST)

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:8 IST)
Rahil: The Army is hopefully not communal and I hope it will never be. You are absolutely right, this government couldn't even tolerate a secular naval chief who matters little in the balance of internal power politics.

sandeepo (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:1 IST)
Has any political party approached you? Also, I am intrigued by the Congress party's silence on the matter after the initial comments. How do you account for that?

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:9 IST)
SandeepO: I'm a citizen and do not belong to any political party but as a chief it was my job to be politically aware.

A K Rao (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:8 IST)
Both Mrs Niloufer and you have said your dismissal did not come as a shock to you. Yet people who saw you that evening say you looked like a man who had experienced disaster. As no doubt you had. Did you expect the government to go that far?

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:11 IST)
A K Rao: Can you name anyone who saw me? We had called on the President and I was perfectly calm and cool as a soldier ought to be even if there has been a Pearl Habour. We are trained to weather the storms. My school's motto is "Never Give In' -- Lawrence School, Sanawar.

Desh Drohi (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:4 IST)
Admiral Bhagwat: You said that The Pioneer is communal. What about and does not sell more than 7,000 copies. What about India's most respected magazine, India Today. Log in to their site, And they have exposed your hypocrisy.. Now, do you have an answer for that? :) :) :)

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:13 IST)
Desh Drohi: For further details please find out more about Prabhu Chawla the fixer and George Fernandes the de facto No 2 in the Cabinet according to Prabhu Chawla. What is their common interest?

Podgy (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:10 IST)
People in the navy say you created a mood of fear, where people loyal to you spied on those who did not care much for you. One manifestation of that was your threatening then Vice-Admiral Sushil Kumar with a court martial. Do you deny that you were autocratic? Do you denied that you threatened Admiral S Kumar with a court martial?

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:16 IST)
Podgy: A chief is not in a popularity contest. Like Admiral Sir Jack Fisher who was much more stricter, I had to get the Navy moving from being a cosy club to a fighting service. There could be no compromise on that. As has been reported in the media and I have the correspondence between Sushil Kumar and the CNS there was no threatening of a senior colleague by a court martial on the date that this was alleged by George Fernandes. I was in Bangladesh and at that time the guest at a reception in my honour by our high commissioner in Dhaka.

H Singh (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:12 IST)
Admiral: Is it not true that George Fernandes calls you a security risk because of your proximity to the Russians? Unfortunately, he cannot be explicit because it may affect our association with the Russians.

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:17 IST)
H Singh: I hope George Fernandes will make up his mind. At the moment he is running scared and making all kinds of stories.

Sandhya Gude (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:10 IST)
Admiral Bhagwat: Since you are talking about the army being hopefully not communal. Do you think other institutions like the judiciary and bureaucracy have also turned communal?

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:19 IST)
Sandhya Gude: Communal thinking is like a poison. There is much to worry about a secular India because without it we will break up.

Ragini (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:14 IST)
Admiral: Enough of political and navy questions. What are your other interests? I mean do you read politics and economics?

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:19 IST)
Ragini: International Economics, History, and developmental economics.

Desh Bakht (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:9 IST)
Admiral: Why have you not been able to translate the image of a martyr to a figure of resistance against this government? One former CONS told me that you would be a 15 day wonder as indeed you were.

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:21 IST)
Desh Bhakt: I'm not going about making these images, it is for our people to assess me and my role in promoting national security over four decades. Watch out the wonder is still ticking.

Sheila Kushe (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:19 IST)
Admiral Bhagwat: Do you think our navy suffered a setback after the disintegration of the Soviet Union?

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:24 IST)
Sheila: We did go through a small bad patch. We are fundamentally an indigenous Navy. Please visit INS Delhi.

We have strong warship design teams, an excellent systems integration and software organisation. The challenge is how to accelerate our pace of indigensation. Particularly to put the 30 year submarine building plan of the Navy into operation. We need your support.

Rehman (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:21 IST)
Admiral Bhagwat: Do you think Muslims are safe in this country considering the fact that these BJP guys are making our lives miserable in all ways?

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:26 IST)
Rehman: All of us have to modernise, study well, not be afraid, stand up as equal citizens of this great country. These people are hopefully a temporary phenomena and India will assert itself. Our civilisational values preclude such narrow minded people but it won't happen automatically. All of us who believe in India will have to join hands. Then no force can overcome our unity. God Bless you.

Prasad Kulkarni (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:25 IST)
Admiral: How your children have taken your dismissal? I mean your son is in the Indian Navy, he must be feeling embarrassed all the time, isn't it?

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:28 IST)
Prasad Kulkarni : My son is a submariner. He is a tough boy and will always stand up for the truth. The majority of officers and men in the armed forces are proud of what I have stood for. So are, I believe, the majority of our citizens.

Jeevan (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:27 IST)
Admiral Bhagwat: If you say the Navy is with you. Why didn't they revolt against the government? Since they didn't do it, what do you have to say?

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:30 IST)
Jeevan: We are a disciplined service. Please read my messages to the Navy of 30th December. The country is above the government. We are not a trade union, we show our love, respect and loyalty to our chief in a very different way which you would have understood if you had been wearing the uniform.

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (Fri Mar 5 1999 8:35 IST)
I was happy to be with you on this programme. The armed forces are a unique institution with a unique value system and ethos. Please do continue your interest in support of the armed forces and if I may request you widen your reading and do read books about civil military relations. The biographies of great military leaders and what makes for a progressive democratic secular society and nation. We will all win if we go forward together and not try to divide our people. We have so much to do, to catch up with the rest of the world. We have to be competitive, otherwise we will de facto be enslaved again. Thank you.

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat Chat, Continued