Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday called a media report on two key army units moving closer to the Capital in January without prior notice to the government as “alarmist” and said it should not be taken at face value.
Defence Minister AK Antony also vehemently denied the report as “baseless” and added there was no doubt about the patriotism of the armed forces.
“Well, the defence ministry has clarified the position.
These are alarmist reports. These should not be taken at face value,” Manmohan Singh said. He also spoke on the reported tussle between the government and army chief Gen. VK Singh.
“The army chief’s office is an exalted office. All of us have an obligation to do nothing that lowers its dignity,” he said, when asked if there was unease between the government and the army chief.
The Indian Express said in a front-page report that the Hisar-based Mechanised Infantry and elements from the airborne 50 Para Brigade in Agra had moved towards the Capital in January.
It said the movement took place on the night of January 16, without following the standard operating procedure of informing the defence ministry in advance. The report said since this happened around the time when Gen. Singh was waging a judicial battle against the government over his age row, it created unease and suspicion in Delhi.
In Visakhapatnam, where Antony had gone to formally induct a nuclear-powered submarine, the minister clarified that the report was “baseless”. He also said he had no doubt on the patriotism of the armed forces. “It is usual, natural activity... nothing unusual, and we are absolutely sure of the patriotism of Indian armed forces,” Antony added.
Antony also appealed to the media not to “question the patriotism of the soldier, who are dying for the country.” However, the BJP didn't lose the opportunity to corner the government. “The relationship between the army and the political leadership of the country is at an all-time low. This is a matter of very deep concern,” Ravi Shankar Prasad said. He added the prime minister should step in to strike equilibrium.
The Congress, on the other hand, said that the paper should not have come out with the report. “The Indian Express tried to sensationalise the matter and I condemn that because the matter defence ministry is linked to the national security,” said Rashid Alvi, spokesperson of the Congress party