Washington, DC – Former Indian Army Chief Vijay Kumar Singh, widely seen as a protégé of Anna Hazare, recently accompanied the anti-corruption crusader to the United States. In an exclusive interview with Tejinder Singh, editor of India America Today, the General shared his views on various subjects, including his birth certificate controversy and the hypocrisy of the Congress party in focusing on the 2002 Gujarat riots while not taking responsibility for the 1984 Sikh massacre, and he also praised the Bharatiya Janata Party BJP prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi’s style of functioning.
Welcome to the US. You have something in common with the President (Barack Obama). Both were attacked for their birth. He (Obama) was attacked where he was born and you are attacked when you were born. So he has taken it in stride, how are you taking it in your stride.
I have taken it in my stride.
What do you think about it, that there was some finger pointing or that there was one person who started the ball rolling and then it went. Even for myself, I have a school leaving certificate that is the birth certificate. Why is all this?
There are lot of reasons, the arms lobby, the vested interest of people. There is a combination of factors. And I think there was fear generated amongst the lobbyist also that look here now your things won’t get through. You have to be honest to your oath; you have to be honest to armed forces. You can’t be taking things which are not good or the things which are over priced. So it was bugging a lot of people. I think that was one of the reasons.
So is it okay to say that you became a causality in the corrupt environment?
See, when you stand up against corruption which is institutionalized, a lot of people would like to shoo you off. I think you are right that way.
Recently the Defense Minister Anthony gave Pakistan a clean chit, while our soldiers are dying on the border. What is the impact on the moral fabric of the Indian Army?
The Indian Army gave a situation report. You don’t have to give a very interesting excuse, which was given, that we were waiting for the Chief of the Army Staff to go there and come and tell us what had happened. If you are not going to trust people who are on the ground, then there is something wrong. So I think an unnecessary charade was created. All that was behind it is that, that statement that was given by Rakshamantri (Defense Minister) was drafted in the National Security Advisor’s and PMO’s office. So there was more to it. I think there are at times misconceptions where people think that if they cozy up, it will be seen as diplomatic victory. I don’t think so. Under the same Nawaz Sharif we had Kargil. Whom are you trusting? Is it that false notion, that because you are trying to have a rapprochement with Pakistan so somebody is going to give you a Noble Prize? I don’t know. But all that I would say as a common man, as a soldier it is something which is not done. You are lowering the morale of your soldiers which is not correct and sending the wrong message to the country.
Congratulations on your Hall of Fame which was given to you March 11th, 2011. What Is your take on the US India defense cooperation, defense deals, nuclear deals, where do we stand and where do we head, do you feel?
You can have an agreement, but if that agreement or the deal is not taken forward, then it is even not worth the paper on which it is written. The scope for the cooperation, whether it is defense or whether it is anything else or it is cross-sectoral collaboration between US and India, scope is immense. It is now up to more on India because of the type of the procedural delays that take place to ensure that these get fructified. After all, what does India look for from US? It is looking at the latest technology where defense is concerned. I am quite sure US would be willing to part with things if they are negotiated properly. You can set up do it ventures. You can do things and you can reap the benefits. It requires quite a lot of efforts.
You have been quoted as saying that Operation Blue Star was a political decision and not a military decision. If you come to US and in Canada where they express their feelings and even in England and even in India, the Sikhs are still hurt, their sentiments are hurt. What do you suggest the government should do? If you were in charge, what will you do?
There were many methods available at that time. A range of options were suggested. But the political decision-making based on whatever political inputs the leadership at that time had was what came about. I stand by my statement because I am convinced about it. In fact, I will say that I am aware of the facts that time as to how things happened. So it was a political decision. Militarily, if it was left to military commanders they could have done so many things and it may not have been done the way it was done.
Is there any suggestion what they should do now for the hurt feelings of the Sikh community?
That is again a political issue that you have to assuage the feelings of the Sikhs. Lot of things went wrong in 1984. I find it at the height of hypocrisy when you talk of 2002 in Gujarat, but you don’t talk of what happened in 1984 and it is the party that was involved in it. What more can you have. This gimmickry has to stop. And if do, take genuine action if they reach out. Somebody has got to say, look here, we are sorry. We did it wrong. No harm done.
You mentioned 2002 Gujarat. What is your take on Mr. Narendra Modi. He is quite a well-known name here. I have raised the question about his visa at the State Department three times. What is going on there – is there clarity coming out of it?
So far as Mr Modi is concerned, Gujarat has done very well. That is an undisputed fact. Whether it is progress in infrastructure, whether it is progress for all the sections of society, whether it is- all areas have been addressed pretty well. That’s it. Now to say if you are to ask Mr Modi which fruit do you like and he says I like apple and one says see, he likes blood, because apple is red. I think that is stupidity of highest order. And people who are engaging in it lesser, better it is for their intelligence.
So will you support him for the Prime Ministerial Candidate?
I don’t know. I have told you my philosophy?
Is he a good…
I haven’t ..I don’t know him personally..
But you like his way.
Style of functioning is good. One needs to know more about it. Before you take the decision, the type that you are saying.
You do feel that he had been positively-
He has done positively well in Gujarat.
And if he follows that in India, it will be excellent.
What is your overall assessment on China, then on security in Bangladesh. The military is again playing a role in Naxals, Maoist so military is engaging within India as well. How is military handling all that?
Military is not involved in Naxal area. I was asked this when I took over as Chief, and I said it is a socio-economic issue, it is a issue of governance, it is an issue of development. You have failed on that and now why do you want to ask the military to go into it. They are not asking for a separate country. It is not a secessionist movement. Much more has to be done on the law and order front. On governance, development, socio-economic issues, tribal rights, how they are being handled – those are to be addressed. Military is not the answer for Naxal area. That is why we are not there. Bangladesh, we enjoy very good relationship. There are no problems with Bangladesh. China and Pakistan, yes. Again in both the cases, the government needs to have a firm and clear-cut policy which tells the neighbors, look here, this much and no more. Then things will become better.
Recently we have Freedom of Information Act, under that, CIA has released, which had carried a story that our first Prime Minister Nehru allowed the use of airspace and later the airbase in south of Calcutta to the US spy planes U2. What do you think about it. Is it a possibility in near future also?
A nation’s policies are dependent on what national interests are. A nation will accordingly craft its policies on security, foreign policy and other fronts. So if the national demands a particular, it will happen. If the national interest does not demand, it will not happen.
Just a few days ago a magistrate in Delhi said something that you come with a crowd and you create roughness. What is going on there?
The honorable court never said that what the media has used. Court says, ‘’Gen. V.K. Singh is a nuisance.’’ These words were never used. But obviously somebody is being paid to write such things and they carry on in the rest of the papers. All he said was, that whenever I am called to the court, obviously there are large number of people who like they come to the court. It is freedom. They can come to the court. And he feels that it creates an environment that puts him under a little pressure. I don’t know why he should be under pressure. I think they should be used to more crowds. It is a court house – anybody can go and attend. So it’s more a, you can say, off the cuff remark, which has got degenerated in the media.
Today you are in US with Anna Hazare. What is that you are out to conquer, to deliver, that people are asking why they are here, what is their purpose, what is their vision? Iif you can tell our viewers.
We came here to attend India Day parade in New York at the invitation of the FIA (Federation of Indian Associations). And we have utilized the time to interact with the Indian community to tell them what we are working for the community. We have told them that there is a need for a change in India. There is need to ensure that democracy in true form gets back. We want the Indian constitution to be followed in true spirits. Which, as per our analysis and way the things are, the political parties have vitiated it. And we wanted to see and hear how the Indian community feels about it. To that extent we have got our feedback by interacting with them. And they have got a ringside view of what we are saying or what we are doing. That’s all. There is no other purpose. We didn’t want any funds because we believe that people’s movement would be funded by people and not by business houses or anything else. We exclusively told them we are not looking for funds but we are at their roots, we are looking at technology by which they can reach out to people and tell them back home this is a time for change. Let’s change things as they are.
I have been repeatedly asked this question here since your visit- that you have talked today and Mr. Hazare has said that political party system is not correct according to the constitution, and people were confused because since last 60 plus years they have been watching that.
See that is the problem. Since 66 years we have got into a groove. We didn’t realize that we are not sending our representatives into the Parliament, people who were supposed to represent them, that party representatives. They won’t talk of the party. They talk of party interest. They are brokers of the party. They sell party ticket. They collect funds for the party. They talk to the businessman and party funds. So what we are saying is this must change. Person who represents people must be answerable to people. If people feel he is not delivering, people must have the right to catch him by the ear and tell him thank you very much and get back. That is the thing we are looking at and that is the spirit of the constitution. It is not something new, it is not something we are inventing; we are not reinventing the wheels.
Thank you very much for your time. Wish you all the best.