- The Washington Times - Friday, September 7, 2001

NEW DELHI (Agence France-Presse) — A scandal involving senior Indian army commanders who were filmed with prostitutes in a sting exposing shady defense deals has left the military wondering what it can do to improve its image.
The expose has highlighted fears that some officers could be easy prey for spies and a threat to national security.
Six officers are facing a court-martial after journalists who were investigating defense deals for the Indian Web news site www.tehelka.com used spy cameras to videotape three of the officers negotiating bribes to fix military purchase contracts.
The remaining three, including a major general and a colonel, were taped with prostitutes provided by Tehelka as part of its operation to expose a link between military commanders, arms merchants and crooked politicians.
Tehelka had already released parts of the tapes in March, showing politicians pocketing bribes, which led to the resignation of Defense Minister George Fernandes.
The tapes showing the three men with the prostitutes were leaked to a newspaper last month, sparking national outrage.
Defense experts warn that India must install a screening system and offer higher wages and better training to keep its men in uniform out of trouble.
Former Indian army chief Gen. Vishwanath Sharma said the military must restore the respect of combat troops for their officers.
"They will have to be punished. The first action should be severe because what they did was a violation of officerlike conduct and character, and conduct is paramount in the military business," the general said in an interview.
Gen. Sharma argued that the three officers, one of them a distinguished commander, had failed in their basic training.
"Sex is an enticement from prime ministers to presidents, so there is no real protection from sex, but it depends whether one desires to be enticed. We are taught from Day One at our academies to shield ourselves," Gen. Sharma said.
India's 1.3-million-strong army, the world's fourth-largest, freely but secretly uses an archaic military law titled "Stealing the affection of brother officer's wife" to punish those who cheat with their colleagues' spouses.


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