VK Singh cites paper clippings to justify spend

Board to review secret unit functions

VK Singh cites paper clippings to justify spend

Former Army chief Gen V K Singh had cited “newspaper clippings” as “proofs” to justify spending money worth crores on covert operations undertaken by a secret military intelligence unit that reported to him directly.

This was found by a three-member board of officers that reviewed the functions of the secret unit known as Technical Support Division once Gen Bikram Singh took over as the army chief in 2012, sources said. The board was headed by Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, director- general of military operations.

While Defence Ministry officials admitted that TSD budget could not be scrutinised like other defence units because of its operational nature, they were not satisfied with the way TSD flaunted newspaper clips as proof of the success of operations in foreign countries to justify the expenditure incurred.

Dissatisfied with TSD response, the defence ministry modified guidelines on how the money used in intelligence operations would be sanctioned and how approvals would have to be taken, depending on the nature of the expense.

The money required for intelligence operations is sanctioned by the defence secretary and not by the defence finance department. Army officers said TSD ran “human sources” and did not have resources to carry out any signal intelligence operations.

The unit is dysfunctional at the moment as there are only four men posted in the unit. But all officers and most of the men have been transferred out of the unit after Bikram Singh took over as the army chief and decided to do away with the secret outfit.

Some of the TSD operations – at least claimed by the officers posted in the unit – are so sensational in nature that it was unlikely that the defence ministry would ever come out with any detail of the Bhatia report.

Ever since the controversy broke out, the ministry has taken a “wait and watch” policy, without saying much.

The defence ministry admitted receiving the Bhatia report, which impinged on matters of national security. The government, said a spokesperson, would take a decision and further actions after a careful examination of the report.

Generally a Board of Officers report paves the way for formal investigations. But whether the defence ministry would follow the same course with the TSD report would be a “political call”, said an official.

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