By S M Hali

The Indian military build up way above its genuine defence needs is a source of concern for all its neighbours. By flexing its muscles, raking problems for its neighbours and accusing them of fomenting trouble, India is causing instability in South Asia.

In the latest incident, according to media reports, Kashmiri militants attacked the Srinagar camp of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on March 13, 2013, in which five Indian soldiers lost their lives, while two militants were killed. At the drop of a hat, Pakistan was blamed, but its Foreign Office rejected the Indian Home Secretary R.K. Singh’s allegation: “Prima facie evidence suggests that the militants, who attacked the members of the CRPF, were from across the border; they were, probably, from Pakistan.”

Earlier this year, India had deliberately rekindled tensions across the Line of Control (LOC), infiltrating in Pakistan controlled territory, killing three Pakistanis in two separate incidents. To rub salt in the wound, India accused Pakistan of beheading two of its soldiers across the LOC. Although it offered no evidence and saner elements in the Indian media also poked holes in the frivolous claim, India continues to harp on the same tune despite the fact that both its Home Minister and Secretary had admitted that Hindu extremist outfits like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) operate in India with full authority targeting Muslims.

It is obvious that the Indian armed forces, riddled with problems of indiscipline and corruption, are looking at ways and means of diverting the attention of the Indian public and probing eyes of investigation agencies from the real problem, making Pakistan a scapegoat.

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The Indian army has been rocked by series of corruption and discipline cases in recent years, with land, liquor, sex and other scams involving General officers. Two fresh cases merit mention.

[box] It is obvious that the Indian armed forces, riddled with problems of indiscipline and corruption, are looking at ways and means of diverting the attention of the Indian public and probing eyes of investigation agencies from the real problem, making Pakistan a scapegoat.[/box]

A recently completed Indian Army’s Court of Inquiry (CoI) has blamed 56 personnel of the Indian armed forces, including five officers for scuffle between officers and soldiers of an Artillery Regiment that took place on May 10, 2012, at Nyoma, south-eastern Ladakh. The CoI has recommended disciplinary action against 16 personnel, including the Regiment’s Commanding Officer, Second-in-Command and three other officers for failure of command and control, assault, indiscipline and other lapses, while administrative action against 40 other personnel for their role in the incident.  In another most recent incident, Lieutenant Colonel Ajay Chaudhary was arrested for smuggling Rs 24 crore worth of illegal drugs to Myanmar this month.

To make matters worse, according to the Indian media, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) detectives raided the home of former Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi as part of an investigation into alleged bribes paid to secure a $748 million contract for 12 Italian helicopters.

The CBI had filed a “preliminary enquiry” report last month into the alleged scandal, linking four companies, four Westerners and seven Indians to the bribery allegations. India put payments to the Italian company Finmeccanica on hold last month and threatened punitive action against the firm if any wrongdoing was uncovered.

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The chopper deal was cleared by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whose Congress-led government has been buffeted by a series of corruption scandals that analysts say could affect the party’s electoral chances in 2014 polls. India has already received three of the choppers. The rest were to be delivered by the end of 2014.

This is not the first time that a military chief has been named in a case of alleged manipulation of military contracts against favours received from middlemen.  The first being in 1987 when CBI had raided former Navy Chief Admiral S.M. Nanda in the HDW submarines scandal.  Similarly, Former Navy Chief Admiral Sushil Kumar was named in CBI’s FIR in 2006 into Barak missile purchase.

The arms trade in India has often been mired in controversy with allegations that companies have paid millions of dollars in kickbacks to Indian officials. In the 1980s, the government of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi collapsed over charges that the Swedish gun manufacturer Bofors paid bribes to supply Howitzer field guns to the Indian army. Following Rajiv’s posthumous conviction in the scandal, India banned middlemen in all defence deals.

The Indian Army Chief now finds it expedient to oppose ending the draconian laws, like the AFSPA in Indian-Occupied Kashmir and the northeast, that offer the security forces near complete legal immunity. The method in the madness is diverting attention from the Indian armed forces’ own transgressions, but should not be at the cost of South Asian stability.

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