The row between the government and the army chief got nastier with Defence Minister AK Antony calling as “anti-national” leakage of VK Singh’s letter to the Prime Minister over gaps in the force’s war-fighting capabilities and noting that an Intelligence Bureau (IB) probe had been ordered into the matter.
Antony’s assertion at a press conference on the occasion of Defence Exposition came within hours of Gen Singh too terming the leak of his top secret letter to the prime minister as “high treason” and calling for “punishing ruthlessly” the guilty.
However, Antony indirectly questioned the timing of Singh’s move of forwarding to the CBI a letter from Trinamool Congress MP Ambica Banerjee alleging corruption in defence deals by serving 3 Corps commander Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag. “Whoever has leaked the letter (to the prime minister)… that act is anti-national. We requested IB to inquire into that. Once the report is received, we will take the strongest action,” Antony said, soon after inaugurating the four-day event, described as Asia’s largest land and naval military systems exhibition.
“We want to find the truth. We will go to any extent to find the truth. We will go to the root. We cannot spare them,” the minister said.
In his letter to Manmohan Singh, VK Singh pointed to a shortage of arms and ammunition in the armed forces and questioned the Indian Army’s fighting capability.
According to reports, Singh’s letter, written March 12, states that army tanks have run out of ammunition. The letter emphasises the need to bridge the shortcomings and bring the army to a fighting level. The leakage of the letter has shocked the nation, with the political clamour seeking the immediate sacking of the army chief, who retires on May 31, increasing by the day.
Antony said every political party wanted to find the truth, be it “Left, Right or Middle.”
Meanwhile, rejecting allegations that he had leaked the letter, an “outraged” Gen. Singh claimed that the leak should be treated as “high treason”.
A statement by the army chief said, “This is an outrage! Official communication with the PM or Defence Minister or anybody for that matter is a privileged information. The leaking of the letter should be treated as high treason. This cynical approach to tar my reputation should be stopped. The source of leak has to be found and dealt with ruthlessly.
This clarification from the army chief came even as the chorus for strong action against him grew louder, with political parties demanding that he be sacked following reports that he had sought a CBI probe on graft allegations against a serving officer based on a letter written by the Trinamool Congress MP.