The Indian armed forces have built up a regular routine for scandal. The latest, involving the Engineer-in-Chief of the Indian Army, Lieutenant General AK Nanda who has been accused of attempting sexual misconduct with the wife of his Technical Secretary, Colonel CPS Pasricha, comes after the expose of Commodore Sukhjinder Singh, in which case a CD emerged containing over a hundred photographs of the naval officer in various sartorial states with an unknown woman of apparently foreign origin.
Earlier this year saw three generals being hauled up over alleged improprieties in a land transfer adjacent to a military station, with a fourth being rumored to be involved as well.
And this is just 2010.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Defense admitted being clueless of l’affaire de l’general, saying no information could be found regarding the travel of the delegation headed by the Engineer-in-Chief to Israel last month or the alleged incident in question. “No file, no paper – this is an issue about which they are not aware,” said one mandarin at the ministry.
Glued to television sets and constantly answering telephone inquiries from journalists about the issue, army officers, in damage control mode, predictably denied any resignation, a la Sukhna.
While conceding that there were allegations against a person and the army said, “It has been found on preliminary investigation that there are a number of loopholes in the account of the allegations,” and that General Nanda remains the Engineer-in-Chief, having not, so far, put in his papers.
The general’s wife, Neerja Nanda, who was also in Israel during the visit, was interviewed by Vishal Thapar at NewsX, who asked her if the general met Mrs. Pasricha there. “What do you mean ‘meet’?” was the question in response.
It is also significant that senior army officers said there were ‘interested parties’ and ‘rumor-mongering’ in this matter, without elaborating further. It appears that a premature departure from office can make a succession to the chair in question uncertain, allowing perhaps, a wildcard entry.
With such a predicament possibly accruing benefits to brother officers, it was hinted that scandals can be motivated and that promotion to the top ranks of the army can also be secured by leaking scandals and precipitating sensation.
Most journalists covering the defense ministry predict a repeat play-out of the Sukhna scandal, with initial abject denials with a slow trickle of information over a month or so, confirming the news reports in question.
In contrast, when the scandal over the impropriety committed by Commodore Sukhjinder Singh broke, the Indian Navy calmly admitted everything there was to admit (although this might have been a result of the fact that CDs with photographs of the officer were already in possession of journalists). The result was the news was confirmed and carried, and the navy, being seen to be taking the appropriate action in the matter, came out looking good.
One journalist ended up hoping the Indian Air Force (IAF) was zipped up.