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USI director quits after row over Jaya’s visit request

NEW DELHI, MAY 19: The BJP-led Government may have fallen but the Jayalalitha bomb continues to reverberate in the Capital. Venerable Lt ...

Written by Manvendra Singh |
May 20, 1999

NEW DELHI, MAY 19: The BJP-led Government may have fallen but the Jayalalitha bomb continues to reverberate in the Capital. Venerable Lt Gen (retd) Satish Nambiar has resigned as Director of the United Services Institution (USI), India’s oldest defence think tank. This comes after a whisper campaign against his decision to accept AIADMK chief J Jayalalitha’s request to visit the institute in March.

Sources say some senior officers, eager to unseat him and "jealous" of his impeccable public reputation, have been calling his decision a "publicity stunt". A special USI council meeting is being called on May 21 to discuss the matter.

As reported in The Indian Express, Jayalalitha had placed a request to visit the USI before she came to Delhi. The request and visit was "facilitated" by a Contributing Editor (then mistakenly reported as Consulting Editor) with a national daily.

While her interaction with senior retired USI officers focused on routine matters relating to the armed forces, it wasJayalalitha’s misinterpretation in public that created the controversy.

At an Executive Committee meeting on April 9, Lt Gen Nambiar offered to quit. But since the matter had to be resolved within the council, he was pressed to continue. The whisper campaign, however, didn’t stop and has now compelled the former Maratha officer to resign. The May 21 meeting will consider his resignation offer but members say "he is unlikely to change his decision".

Commissioned in the 1st battalion of the Maratha Light Infantry (the famous Jangi Paltan), Lt Gen Nambiar went on to win a Vir Chakra during the 1971 Bangladesh campaign. As Director General Military Operations at Army Headquarters, Lt Gen Nambiar was part of the team that came close to a resolution of the Siachen glacier conflict in 1992.

But it was as the first Force Commander and head of Mission of the United Nations Forces deployed in the Former Yugoslavia, from March 1992 to March 1993, that Gen Nambiar became an internationally recognised name.Upon his return, he was Director General Rashtriya Rifles for a brief while and then retired as the Deputy Chief of Army Staff (Training and Coordination).

He was selected as the USI Director after retirement from the Army. But his stint in Yugoslavia continued to visit him, and made him a much invited speaker around the world. And his troubles with certain council members are believed to have begun on that account. "There is a mistaken belief amongst some council members that Gen Nambiar is a much invited and quoted officer on account of his USI position. The fact, however, is that this is purely because of his professional experiences and intellect," said a member.

Like his paratrooper predecessor, Maj Gen (retd) SC Sinha, Gen Nambiar too has been working as the director without a salary. "He has not even touched his entertainment allowance till date, what to talk about his salary," said the member.

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