March 31, 2020
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The Kargil Cover-Up

Despite denials by the Army, 'Outlook' stands by its story

The Kargil Cover-Up
The Brig Surinder Singh episode is far from over. The army authorities, worried by the disclosures made in this magazine last week, have instituted an internal enquiry, to be headed by a Lt General attached to the Northern Army Command to probe how the whole matter came to be reported. The army headquarters has also issued a letter which seeks to dispute some of the facts reported in this magazine. The letter, written by the army pro Col Shruti Kant contends, in the main that:

  • Brig Singh was removed from his post for 'operational reasons.' And that he petitioned the military secretary'the man who handles the postings and promotions in the army'for reinstatement and was granted an interview on July 1, '99.

  • There is no instance of Brig Singh having written to the army chief, Gen V.P. Malik before his removal from command. Col Shruti Kant also says: 'There is a clear chain of command in the army which unambiguously determines that on all operational matters an officer commanding a unit or a formation will communicate to his next senior officer. As a brigade commander, Brig Surinder Singh was expected to, and did, communicate his briefings to the general officer commanding the Leh Division. In this case, Brig Surinder Singh did not form a part of the command chain that would allow him to communicate directly with the chief of army staff. This impression needs to be corrected.'

  • Outlook has opted to sensationalise an issue having national security portents without verifying facts and procedures.

    It is perhaps necessary here to recap what was reported in the Outlook story, Command Failure (August 2). In the main, it said: 'Brig Singh wrote at least six letters to his immediate superiors, the army chief and the defence ministry between August '98 and March this year informing them of increased threat perceptions and possibility of incursions by Pakistan-backed infiltrators across the LoC in Kargil.'

    To take up Col Shruti Kant's letter. Nowhere in our story have we said that Brig Singh was removed from his post for reasons other than 'operational.' In fact, Outlook investigations now reveal that the main reason for the brigade commander's removal was his having 'serious professional differences,' with the goc of the Leh-based 3 Infantry Division, Maj Gen Budhwar. And these professional differences did not develop overnight. The duo were at loggerheads since July-August '98. In our cover story we have clearly stated that Brig Singh first wrote to his immediate superior Maj Gen V.S. Budhwar, and only after failing to get any response from him chose to communicate with the coas.

    That is when Brig Singh first wrote to the army chief directly under the provisions of a procedure called the Redressal of Grievances (rog). Under this procedure, a junior officer, however far removed he may be from the conventional chain of command can communicate directly with the coas highlighting the grievances that he may have against his superior officer(s), and Brig Singh did precisely that. In fact, even after his removal from the command, he wrote another letter to the coas in end-June 1999 detailing his earlier communications highlighting professional differences with Gen Budhwar. Col Shruti Kant's letter is silent on this particular fact.

    Indeed, fresh investigations by Outlook have revealed that the 15 Corps commander, Lt Gen Kishen Pal and the Northern Army Commander Lt Gen H.M. Khanna also knew about the 'professional differences' between Brig Singh and Gen Budhwar at least six months before Kargil happened. And yet, neither Gen Pal nor Gen Khanna bothered to take any corrective action in a matter which clearly involved national security considering the fact that the Kargil brigade is a vital formation guarding the nation's borders. The army pro does not mention any of these facts.

    Meanwhile, suspiciously, Brig Singh has virtually disappeared. Mediapersons trying to locate him have discovered that he was first sent to Srinagar and then to Hyderabad where he was posted for a week. He was then asked to proceed to Ranchi. But he is not traceable at that station. The army obviously is trying to keep him away from the press. However, some of the issues raised by Singh are corroborated by his colleagues at the 121 Brigade.

    And finally, the army raises the bogey of 'national security' when faced with uncomfortable facts. If reporters covering Kargil had not been responsible and conscious about 'national security', many unpalatable truths would have come out during the conflict itself.

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