PM holds meet; will govt sack Army Chief?
New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday held a high-level meet on Army Chief General VK Singh’s letter in which he claimed that the Army’s ammunition power was at critical levels which might put the country’s security at risk.
The meeting was attended by Defence Minister AK Antony, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, apart from PM Singh.
The meeting came amidst demands from a section of the Congress party and the Opposition that the Army Chief be sacked for making confidential matters public.
In his letter written to the PM on March 12, the Army Chief had stated that 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 today, with Opposition creating uproar over the issue.
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”.
“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.
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”.
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