Former army chief General VK Singh’s statement that the army has been routinely paying off politicians in Jammu and Kashmir has caused “enormous damage”, a senior government functionary has said.
Using strong words to disapprove of Gen Singh’s statement, the official said his claims were already contested. “But we must find out how secret funds were used and for what purpose,” he added, avoiding a direct reply on whether a CBI probe would be ordered. “There are ways to find that out.” However, the official did say action would be taken against individuals if anyone were found guilty.
Gen Singh had claimed a covert unit set up by him — the Technical Support Division — had funded a J&K politician, who has denied the charge. “I don’t know if it is true. But if it at all it is, the army has no mandate to fund politicians or parties,” the official said, adding that if such an incident did occur, the individual and institutional flaws that caused it would be fixed.
Gen Singh had claimed the payouts were a means to keep the state stable and peaceful.
Pointing out that “enormous damage has been done” to India’s Kashmir policy, the government official did not rule out the possibility of Pakistan raising this during future talks.
Gen Singh’s statement is in line with the Pakistani narrative of the situation in Kashmir — that India is keeping it under occupation against the will of the people, with the support of a handful of collaborators. The separatist Hurriyat has already latched on to his statement, though the Pakistani government is yet to respond.
It has also come as a major embarrassment for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ahead of his address at the UN General Assembly on Saturday and his meeting with Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on Sunday.
According to the government, there are two issues involved — one, whether individuals overstepped their mandate, and if anyone did, action will have to be taken; two, whether there were lapses in the institutional mechanisms that led to this controversy. “We must see whether there are gaps and identify things that need improvement,” the official said.