Army chief under fire in Rajya Sabha over leak of letter to PM detailing weapons crisis…
New Delhi, Mar 28 (PTI): The row between the Army Chief and the government worsened on Wednesday with Defence Minister A K Antony saying “appropriate action” would be taken regarding the leak to the media of a letter written by General V K Singh to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Members in the Rajya Sabha said the way the contents of the letter had been leaked to the media is “disturbing” and “serious”, and demanded that the government should take action against those responsible “whatever position he holds”.
Antony replied: “I have made serious note of the observations... After consulting the Prime Minister and colleagues, we will take appropriate action.”
He confirmed that the Army Chief had written to the Prime Minister on March 12 drawing his “attention to issues related to national defence and security.”
He said: “These issues are under the consideration of the Ministry of Defence. By very nature of these issues, they cannot be a matter of public debate.”
Earlier, Antony met the Prime Minister over the issue. Home Minister P Chidambaram and Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma were also present at the meeting.
According to a newspaper report, the Army Chief has contended in the letter that the entire tank fleet is “devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks”, the air defence is “97 per cent obsolete” and the infantry is crippled with ”deficiencies of crew served weapon” and lacks “night fighting” capabilities.
Gen Singh has also alleged that there is “hollowness” in the procedures and processing time for procurements as well as legal impediments by vendors.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Arun Jaitley, who is the leader of the Opposition, expressed concerns over leakage of the letter saying matters supposed to be confidential are being leaked to media.
He told the Defence Minister that if such leaks are permitted, there is no point in saying that you do not want such matters to be part of any acrimonious debate.
Sitaram Yechury of the CPI-M said the fact that a sensitive issue like a letter containing facts about nation's security and written by Army Chief to the Prime Minister gets leaked, is a matter of “utmost concern” and something that needs to be inquired into.
He said those responsible for leakages must be held accountable for such acts no matter what is the position of such officers in defence establishment and civil administration.
Pyari Mohan Mahapatra of the Biju Janata Dal said the government should take immediate action. “There is no scope for inquiry. It can take years. Whatever has to be done, it has to be done in hours not days,” he said adding “people who are to be sacked should be sacked” immediately under Article 311 B and C of Constitution.
Maintaining that Indian forces have never indulged in politics, JD-U leader Shivanand Tiwari said it would set a wrong precedent if such things are allowed and the government will have to take some tough steps in this regard.
Earlier, during Question Hour, Tiwari said the Army chief should be dismissed. Noting that some of the news reports related to defence preparedness are “extremely disturbing”, Jaitley said they raise question marks about the integrity of procurement and preparedness.
Antony said: “Government is committed to do all that is necessary for the security of the nation. Government will do everything possible to ensure that our defence forces become the best fighting forces in the world.”