In 2007, Indian soldiers, as part of the UN peacekeeping force, were accused of smuggling gold and drugs, selling weapons to the enemy and sexual misconduct in Congo.
And the man in charge was Lt Gen Bikram Singh — our next Chief of Army Staff. He is set to take charge of the Indian Army after General VK Singh retires on May 31.
Bikram Singh, who was then a major general, took charge of the troops in Congo from Brigadier Satya Narayan in August 2007 as the divisional commander and the deputy force commander.
Though a UN investigation report indicted the Indian soldiers, Lt Gen Singh did not take any action. And the government of India, too, did nothing.
It rather chose to gloss over the UN report and an alleged fake encounter case involving him in the J&K high court while announcing his name as the next army chief.
In fact, a group of senior retired army officers, along with some members of the civil society, on Tuesday sought a review of the Supreme Court’s April order quashing a petition against Lt Gen Singh’s elevation to the Chief of Army Staff.
The petitioners had contended that Lt Gen Singh should not be made the army chief in view of his role in Congo and the pending case in the J&K high court.
The investigation division of the United Nation’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) had found corroborative evidence to support at least six of the 44 charges against the Indian troops.
DNA has a copy of the UN investigation report. The defence ministry spokesperson did not respond to a detailed questionnaire sent by DNA regarding this report.
Smuggling gold and drugs and selling weapons to the enemy happened during Brig Narayan’s tenure. But Lt Gen Singh was in charge when the OIOS filed its report. Moreover, his tenure was more controversial since his men were accused of sexual misconduct.
The report says Indian soldiers dealt in cannabis with rebel leaders they were supposed to monitor or even attack if needed. Also, they sold UN ration meant for the poor to the rebels. Indian battalions “exchanged ammunition for ivory”, reads the report.
When they realised they had received fake gold, they “illegally detained the dealer”. Weapons found with rebels on October 1, 2007, were “identical to those used by Indian troops”, according to the report.
The UN also found that Indian troops would regularly “fraternise” with the rebels – a polite word for maintaining sexual relations – something that is strictly banned by the UN in a conflict zone.
UN investigators found another disturbing truth: Indian troops had leaked sensitive operational information to certain rebel groups. The report highlights that Indian troops had used “Indian military aircraft to illegally export minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo”.
Though the OIOS shared its “strictly confidential” report with government-nominated officials, the government tried to hush up the matter. But it was again bombarded with a sexual misconduct report that said children with distinct Indian features were found from near areas where Indian troops were posted.