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September 15, 1999
Alleged Army HQ note adds fuel to Kargil fire
Josy Joseph in New Delhi
A four-page letter purportedly written by Army Headquarters has kicked up a fresh row in the post-Kargil scenario of charges and counter-charges.
The letter, whose very existence has been denied by the defence ministry, blames Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for ignoring early warnings on possible intrusions in the Kargil sector.
Copies of the alleged communication, which is believed to have originated in Army Headquarters but, surprisingly, has no reference number and is unsigned, are in the possession of a few media organisations in the capital, including rediff.com.
But the defence ministry this evening issued a statement denying the existence of any such letter. "It is categorically stated that no 'strategy backgrounder' as mentioned in [news reports] has either been prepared or disseminated to any source," the defence wing of the Press Information Bureau said.
The statement termed the alleged letter a "figment of the imagination and mischievous reporting".
"Army Headquarters has been maintaining utmost transparency in all its media interaction and has not, in any circumstances, criticised any agency. It is also emphasised that all documents/papers initiated by Army Headquarters are duly annotated with a file reference, which can be traced back to the originator," the statement pointed out.
Military Intelligence has initiated an inquiry into what the army has termed "systemic fabrication" of letters and reports. According to army sources, there have been three specific instances of fabrication: First, various letters purported to have been written by Brig Surinder Singh, the Kargil brigade commander who was replaced during Operation Vijay. Second, reports in the media that the army chief had appointed one of his own favourites as the Kargil brigade commander. And now, the four-page letter claimed to be an army document.
The letter in the possession of rediff.com says: "The erstwhile Secretary to RAW [the Research and Analysis Wing] has been rewarded by a governorship for int [intelligence] failure. It is quite possible that he may have given some info [information] of Pak designs to the PM, who may have ignored it in the context of [his] Lahore Bus Ride."
At the height of the Kargil conflict, RAW chief Arvind Dave was appointed governor of Arunachal Pradesh even before his tenure in the agency had ended.
"The PM made a statement early on during Kargil war that there was no intelligence failure. Thus he completely absolved RAW & IB [the Intelligence Bureau] of their failure. RAW & IB in the last one year never indicated to the Army any enhanced threat or possibility of intrusion in Kargil Sector," the 'letter' states.
In support of its claim, the letter says a summary of all the IB and RAW reports have been handed over to the K Subrahmanyam Committee, which is investigating how the intrusion could take place.
It also criticises the Joint Intelligence Committee, "whose responsibility it is to carry out an assessment of threat and prepare position papers, [but] never did so".
"The Govt must ensure that Army, which did a stirling (sic) job to throw out the intruders, is not maligned as is being done. This may destroy its apolitical culture and ethos. The PM needs to make a statement to this effect," the note titled 'Important Issues: Case of Brigadier Surinder Singh', says.
The paper also accuses some newspapers and magazines and their editors of being biased. "Unfortunately reporting in some newspapers and magzines in(s) Congress inspired (Asian Age Editor is M J Akbar -- a Congressman, while Vinod Mehta and N Ram are Congress sympathisers) and one-sided," it says.
The note begins with the claim that "Brig Surinder Singh is responsible more than anybody else for Kargil intrusion. He failed to ensure patrolling and surveillance from mid of 98 to early May 99... He ignored warnings given by battalions and also locals. When intrusions were detected, he dismissed it as of no consequence."
The note also claims that Brig Singh, who was replaced as commander of the 121 Infantry Brigade during Operation Vijay, has deliberately leaked out letters and concocted facts. This is because "in the Court of Inquiry, now being held, he can say that he has not given any letters to the media/politician since numbers of these letters do not match with those given by him to COAS [chief of the army staff]. By going to press and politicians, Brig Surinder Singh has done immense harm to an apolitical Army."
The note claims that all letters which have been appearing in various media were "doctored post Kargil when by wisdom of hindsight, he knew where all intrusion have taken place and quoted these places".
"The most distressing aspect of the smear campaign in the media is that the man most responsible for failure to detect intrusions -- Brig Surinder Singh has become a hero while COAS, who more than anyone else ensured total victory, is under personal vilification. How many Army chiefs can claim a victory in War?" it asks.
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