New Delhi: Amidst the raging row over bribery allegations, Army Chief General VK Singh is reported to have written a letter to the Prime Minister, stating the country’s security might be at risk owing to the fact that tanks are running out of ammunition, air defence is going obsolete and the infantry is operating without critical weapons.
According to DNA, Gen Singh wrote the letter to PM Manmohan Singh on March 12, two weeks before making an explosive revelation that he was offered Rs 14 crore bribe to clear a defence purchase.
The Army Chief’s letter also rocked both Houses of Parliament, with Opposition creating an uproar over the issue.
Defence Minister AK Antony told Rajya Sabha he was aware of the letter and that a response would be given “at an appropriate time”.
Minister of State for Defence Pallam Raju had earlier confirmed that the government had received the letter from the Army Chief and were taking it seriously. The minister added that steps were being taken to overcome the shortcomings in armed forces' preparedness.
"There is obviously a gap in the capabilities. We are trying to bridge that gap," the minister told reporters.
Sources meanwhile said that the Army Chief’s letter was a breach of protocol as it should have been sent to the Defence Minister only.
In the letter, the Army Chief – who also had a recent run-in with the government over his date of birth controversy – asked the PM to “pass suitable directions to enhance the preparedness of the Army”.
Gen Singh wrote to the PMO after he failed to get a response from the Defence Ministry. It is no secret that following the row with South Block —which houses the Defence Ministry — over his birth date, the Army Chief has had to face a bureaucracy that seems reluctant to process files.
Also, experts and observers have criticised the Manmohan Singh-led government, which first came to power in May 2004 and then won a re-election in 2009, for not having made any big ticket defence purchases.
“The state of the major (fighting) arms i.e. Mechanised Forces, Artillery, Air Defence, Infantry and Special Forces, as well as the Engineers and Signals, is indeed alarming,” Gen Singh wrote in his letter, as per DNA.
In his letter, the Army Chief stated that while there is lack of critical ammunition for the entire tank fleet, the country’s air defence is “97% obsolete and it doesn't give the deemed confidence to protect…from the air”.
Also, the infantry is crippled with “deficiencies of crew served weapon” and lacks “night fighting” capabilities. Elite Special Forces, on the other hand, are “woefully short” of “essential weapons”.
Lamenting the complex and slow defence procurement procedures, Gen Singh said that there was “hollowness” in the present system.
He also hit out at indigenous ordnance factories, saying they produce weapon systems and other fighting material of poor quality with no sense of urgency.
Stating the shortcomings were severely eroding the Army's preparedness, he stressed on the need to “urgently mitigate” these “critical deficiencies” that are “impacting the operational capability” of a 1.3million-strong Army.
First Published: Wednesday, March 28, 2012, 09:32