Acting on the high-level inquiry report into the functioning of a controversial Military Intelligence (MI) unit set up by former Army Chief V K Singh,the Ministry of Defence has sent a set of instructions to the Army,reminding it about its limited mandate of intelligence gathering and emphasising the rules for creation and restructuring of units.
The inquiry report,prepared by Director General of Military Operations Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia,had claimed that the secretive Technical Support Division (TSD) had allegedly indulged in activities to affect the government in Jammu and Kashmir and had claimed to have even carried out covert operations. It had also pointed to widespread misuse of powers that were given to the unit.
While a decision on further action based on the report is yet to be taken,it is learnt that the MoD recently sent firm instructions that any change in the shape or size of the Army has to be cleared by the government.
The inquiry report put a question mark on the very creation of the unit given that there were no clear instructions from the MoD or the Cabinet Committe on Security to conduct such operations. And that the TSD was set up by the Army in 2010 by merely interpreting the operational directives given to it by the government. This has prompted the MoD to send instructions to Army HQ that from now on permissions need to be taken to change the structure or role of units.
It is also learnt that the new set of directions specify and emphasise that the mandate of the MI has to be restricted to gathering of tactical intelligence that is needed either by troops on the border or soldiers engaged in counter-insurgency operations.
Making it clear that the mandate for intelligence gathering across borders remains with the external agency,Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW),the MoD has told Army HQ that no permissions have been granted to Army units to operate on foreign soil for matters other than gathering tactical intelligence.
In effect,the MIs role in using human intelligence has to be restricted to tactical depth,an area understood to span 20 km across the border. Despite the inquiry reports findings,former Army Chief Singh,in his autobiography,has written that the unit was set up by him in 2010 after he learnt that the National Security Advisor (NSA) had wanted to know immediately after the Mumbai attacks in 2008 if there was any capability to conduct covert operations on foreign soil and whether such a unit could be set up.
Singh has claimed that the TSD was being used by the Army for covert operations on foreign soil. The Indian Army had a unit called the TSD. It was set up to accomplish covert operations in other countries. It was a very important wing because it was the only unit which could perform this task, the former chief claimed in a letter he wrote to the Home Minister recently.