Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Interpreting Interceptors

That the Army Chief could even have considered deploying interceptors to monitor conversations of personalities in the age-row is yet another hallmark in foolishness.

Interpreting Interceptors

Today’s news of the allegation of the possibility that Gen V.K. Singh had deployed Ukranian- origin interceptors of three kilometres range to monitor conversations of personalities that were involved in the case that led him to knock on the doors of the Supreme Court, is yet another hallmark in foolishness, just as the news two days back that hinted it was he who could have masterminded the bugging of the defence minister’s office.

To start with, all major headquarters in the army not only forbid use of mobile phones in office, but invariably deploy jammers that make mobiles non operative. Whether or why such jammers aren’t deployed in North and South Blocks only the government can answer.

Then comes the question of where a three kilometers range interceptor be deployed and, more importantly, would it not be discovered in no time by the premier technical intelligence agency of the country— the NTRO?

Any Service Chief could not be so naïve so as to put on stake his entire career and reputation merely to hear mobile conversation of those that fabricated and supported a concocted age row against him.

The reverse is perhaps more likely— government monitoring the telephone conversations of Gen V.K. Singh. Remember when the office of the finance minister was found bugged and he was forced to write to the Prime Minister, with opposition crying blue murder alleging another ministry was involved in the bugging?

Of course it will never emerge who was behind the bugging— the Chinese, ISI, corporate, ministerial rivalry, political rivalry for the race for the next President/ Prime Minister (as indeed could be possible in case of the defence minister too).

A few years back saw Amar Singh up in arms that his phones were bugged, but should anyone have been surprised?

Rupert Murdoch’s empire may have collapsed for the same reason but then he was not in India.

Can you imagine the office and bedroom of Rashtrapati Bhavan perpetually bugged? Well that was precisely what happened some years back as articulated in the book Open Secrets authored by M.K. Dhar, former Joint Director IB. He writes that when Zail Singh was home minister, terrorists from Punjab were being dined, wined, financed and armed at his residence. When Congress got the whiff of this, he was kicked upstairs to become the President (great qualification) and his conversations in Rastrapati Bhavan throughout his tenure as President were monitored and reported to the Congress high command.

The mere fact that no one has questioned M.K. Dhar proves the authenticity of this startling revelation. If such action can be taken against the President, what is a Service Chief? Who bothers about rules and norms?

Hopefully, there will be no vilification campaign against V.K. Singh to turn him from an “outstanding” Chief in December-January into someone below officer material before he retires, maligning the army in the process. Even this is very much possible according to a quote from the same book Open Secrets wherein M.K. Dhar says, “The susceptibility of the fourth estate to the intelligence community had tied our hands down. They are one of the too many holy Indian cows. Some of them, as described by a senior member of the fourth estate, ‘taxi on hire’ any paymaster can hire this particular brand.”

There has been a move to usher in legislation against bugging but what can mere legislation do if the government itself is involved and the IB and NTRO are exempt from RTI or will not respond citing security reasons?

Lt Gen Prakash C. Katoch, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SC is a Special Forces veteran of the Indian army