Secret military intelligence unit ran 8 covert operations abroad?

NEW DELHI: Technical Support Division (TSD), the secretive military intelligence unit set up by former Army chief General V K Singh which is accused of trying to overthrow the Omar Abdullah government, has claimed to have carried out at least eight successful covert operations in a foreign country.

But the claims are so sensitive and sensational that it would be a key reason why the government will not hand over the inquiry report into the functioning of TSD to an external investigation agency.

Sources said though the Army has recommended an independent investigation by an agency such as the CBI, the defence ministry has not fully endorsed the suggestion. In fact, official MoD notings have said the investigation won’t move forward because of lack of concrete evidence even if it is handed over to an external agency.

Gen Singh has already dismissed all allegations, saying it was the Congress-led UPA government’s vendetta politics. “This is simple vendetta as some people are not comfortable with me sharing the dais with Narendra Modi to espouse the cause of ex-servicemen in the country,” Gen Singh had said over the weekend.

Sources said the inquiry report also doesn’t conclusively prove that the money claimed to have been paid to various people reached the intended beneficiaries. “These are all based on statements of TSD officials, former DGMI (director general of military intelligence) and others. There is no concrete evidence that can stand the scrutiny of law,” a senior official.

According to sources, among the most sensational claims in the report is that the TSD carried out eight specific covert operations in a foreign country. It has claimed to have spent a few crores on those operations. There is no corroborative evidence for the claims, but if it were to emerge in public, it would be a major embarrassment for New Delhi.

Besides, the report prepared by director general military operations Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia has claimed that Rs 1.19 crore was given to Ghulam Hassan Mir, agriculture minister of Jammu and Kashmir, to topple the Omar Abdullah government.

The report also claimed that Rs 2.38 crore was given to Hakikat Singh who set up an NGO called ‘Jammu and Kashmir Humanitarian Service Organisation’ that was in turn linked to ‘Yes Kashmir’ which filed a PIL against Army chief Gen Bikram Singh in the alleged fake encounter case in Jangalat Mandi when he was a brigadier.

Bhatia’s report has also claimed that TSD spent Rs 8 crore to buy interception equipment from a Singapore-based company in November 2010. Though this was officially for Srinagar-based 15 Corps, it was misused for tapping into phone calls in New Delhi. In March 2012, the equipment was destroyed in Jammu and Kashmir. Then director general of military intelligence Lt Gen D S Thakur told the inquiry that he ordered destruction on instruction from the top brass.

The report also said that at least three retired lieutenant generals, including an Army commander, were aware of some of the payoffs of military intelligence funds for TSD activities.

Sources said the MoD recommendation was to look at closing structural gaps in the system. Among them was to ensure that the intelligence agencies do not overlap in their function. “Why should MI have such operations in foreign countries,” a source asked.

Josy Joseph, TNN Sep 24, 2013, 02.45AM IST

Find this story at 24 September 2013

© 2013 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd.

Indian army spooks carried out covert operations in Pakistan

NEW DELHI – The Indian military intelligence unit set up by former army chief General VK Singh was involved in sensitive covert operations in Pakistan and was even on the trail of 26/11 mastermind and Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed, officials associated with it have told HT.
“Our main task was to combat the rising trend of state-sponsored terrorism by the ISI and we had developed contacts across the Line of Control in a bid to infiltrate Hafiz Saeed’s inner circle,” an official who served with the controversial Technical Services Division (TSD) said.
Asked for an official response, an army spokesperson said, “The unit has been disbanded. Details of the unit, which was the subject matter of an inquiry, are only known to the Chief and a few senior officers. It is for the defence ministry now to initiate any further inquiries.”
The spook unit was set up after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks on a defence ministry directive asking for the creation of covert capability.
Army documents, perused by HT, reveal the senior-most officers signed off on the formation of this unit. File No A/106/TSD and 71018/ MI give details of approvals by the Director General Military Intelligence, vice-chief and chief of army staff.
The TSD – disbanded after allegations that it spied on defence ministry officials through off-the-air interceptors – was raised as a strategic force multiplier for preparing, planning and executing special operations “inside depth areas of countries of interest and countering enemy efforts within the country by effective covert means”.
But it then got caught in an internecine battle between army chiefs. The TSD – which reported directly to Gen VK Singh – used secret service funds to initiate a PIL against current chief General Bikram Singh. As reported by HT in October 2012, secret funds were paid to an NGO to file the PIL, in a bid to stall Bikram Singh’s appointment as chief.
However, covert ops were the unit’s essential mandate and deniability was built into it and it reads, “The proposed organization (TSD) will enable the military intelligence directorate to provide a quick response to any act of state-sponsored terrorism with a high degree of deniability.” Its task was to carry out special missions and “cover any tracks leading to the organisation”.
Though covert operations were formally shut down by IK Gujral when he was PM in 1997, sources reveal the TSD carried out several such operations within and outside the country – such as Op Rehbar 1, 2 and 3 (in Kashmir), Op Seven Sisters (Northeast) and Op Deep Strike (Pakistan). Controversy is dogging the unit once again after disclosures in The Indian Express that secret service funds were also used to destabilise the Omar Abdullah government in Held Kashmir. The BJP has raised questions over the timing of the disclosures. While the defence ministry has had the inquiry report since March, the revelations have come soon after Singh shared the stage with the saffron party’s PM candidate Narendra Modi last Sunday.

September 23, 2013
The Nation Monitoring

Find this story at 23 September 2013

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