The misleading presumption of a coup

We lose the middle when we debate the extremes

Here’s an excerpt from a report in The Hindu filed by its New Delhi bureau.

Precisely why the government ought to have been alarmed by the presence of two additional formations on New Delhi’s outskirts, when tens of thousands of soldiers are stationed in and around the city, also remains unclear.

Intelligence sources told The Hindu that the political apprehensions might have emanated from assessments given to the government as its conflict with the Army Chief on the age issue escalated in early January. Tens of thousands of soldiers were arriving in Delhi for the Republic Day parade, even as Gen. Singh was preparing to move the Supreme Court, and the Intelligence Bureau feared the inflamed public discourse on his date of birth might spark an embarrassing incident.

The movement of the two units was noted with concern in this context, a senior Intelligence Bureau official admitted to The Hindu, but insisted that “at no stage was the possibility of a coup, or any attempt to overawe the government, ever discussed. We worried about indiscipline, or a show of support by some elements — and it’s our job to consider those possibilities.”

Though the Intelligence Bureau routinely monitors troop movements in sensitive areas across India, the sources said, it had not been conducting surveillance operations seeking signs of threatening military movements. It was only after the 50 Brigade or 33 Armoured Division’s detachments were noticed on the capital’s outskirts that the government was notified of their presence. [The Hindu]

In yesterday’s blog post and tweets, I had warned that the presumption that the Indian Express report only indicated a coup would close our minds to other “in-between” possibilities.

Note what the senior IB official says—it was not a coup they feared, but rather ‘indiscipline or a show of support by some elements.’ Street protests have become increasing common over the last few years not least because the UPA government has succumbed to political negotiations conducted by such means. As the officer said, it’s the Intelligence Bureau’s job to consider those possibilities. The atmosphere of mistrust would have played on those risk assessments and set off the chain of events.

What is of public interest, then, is what caused civil-military trust to break down? What mistakes did the civilian establishment make in the days and hours leading up to January 16/17? What mistakes did the army make? These questions need to be examined dispassionately in order for us to be able to attempt to restore that trust. [Troop movements of the curious kind]

2 thoughts on “The misleading presumption of a coup”

  1. mathura based 1 corps under Gen AK singh made the move towards delhi from Hissar while movement of para brigade from Agra directly undr command of General Choudhry DGMO is the one which might have triggered the IB as both the officers are considrred close to Genral VK Singh.Mechanised unit checking movement in fog while para brigade moving to Hindon to check loading in C130J located there(while actually they were not located on that day) without informing Airforce .The whole exercise has also revealed the Missiles are located in Bharatpur an information which caould be used by enemies.The whole thing is not as innocent as made out to be. Americans are comfortable with Generals ruling any country is by now known to all

  2. One could debate possibilities till the cows come home all of it hypothetical. Thats the job of analysts.

    The fact is, some facts were strung together to suggest and yet not suggest a conclusion. The problem is not with the contents of the story. The problem is with the manner it was portrayed. When did we last see a full page 1 with such screaming headlines? Were the contents worth it? They spoke of troop movement which the IB or whoever reported to the govt and extreme conclusions were drawn by some with no basis. Shows the degree of suspicion and actually just how defensive the whole civil structure has become vis a vis the present Chief – the whole army is now being dragged into it as being suspect.

    There is only one solution, which will never happen. The PM must take matters in hand, gather all parties – political, military and bureaucratic – not mince words and get them to sit down together and hammer out things and not leave the room till they chalk out a plan to get back on the rails. Its not just about suspicions and upheaval its about our security and the future of this nation as a democracy

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