Everyone has an obligation to not lower the dignity of the Army Chief’s office,says PM

Antony says report ‘baseless’,but doesn’t deny facts

Written by Manu Pubby | Visakhapatnam | Published:April 5, 2012 1:32 am

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said everyone must work to ensure the dignity of the office of the Chief of the Army Staff,in his first comments on the persisting perception of a tussle between Gen. V K Singh and Defence Minister A K Antony.

“The Army Chief’s office is an exalted office. All of us have an obligation not to lower the dignity of the office,” the PM told reporters on the sidelines of the Padma Awards function at Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Singh described as “alarmist” the report in The Indian Express this morning about the non-notified movement by two Army formations from Hisar and Agra in the direction of Delhi on January 16-17. Such reports,he said,“should not be taken at face value”. He added that the defence ministry has already issued a clarification in the matter.

The PM’s remarks came as the government insisted there was no communication gap with the armed forces,and that it was “absolutely confident” of their patriotism.

Antony said the report was “absolutely baseless”,but neither he nor his ministry gave any details,or countered or denied the facts reported by The Indian Express.

The ministry said the troop movements were “routine”,and were “conducted from time to time”. But it chose to ignore questions on the meeting that took place between Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma and the Director General of Military Operations on January 17 during which the Army was asked to withdraw the troops. Antony refused to be drawn into the details of the incident. He said that the patriotism of the armed forces can’t be questioned,and that he had full faith in all the three service chiefs.

“It is usual,natural activities. Nothing unusual. We are absolutely confident about the patriotism of the armed forces… they will not do anything to compromise Indian democracy. They are true patriots,” the minister said in response to sustained questioning by reporters.

“India is a democracy,will continue to be a democracy and the Indian armed forces will do anything to strengthen the nation. They will do everything to protect democracy,” Antony said,adding that the nation could not afford the “luxury of controversy” on such matters.

Antony said he “endorsed” the explanation given by the Army,which has said that the movements were part of a routine training exercise. He said there was no communication gap,and that he had “excellent relations” with all the three service chiefs.

“There is no communication gap. We are working together. I am so comfortable with the armed forces. I have excellent relations with the three service chiefs,not just professionally but personally too,” he said.

To a direct question on the reason behind the meeting between the DGMO and the defence secretary that led to the withdrawal of the troops,Antony replied: “I am telling you the end results. Ultimately I am telling,nothing like that… there is no communication gap. Don’t question that.”

Antony dismissed demands by the BJP for his resignation,saying the BJP was the “opposition party”. On the leak of a classified letter written by the Army Chief to the PM,he said the IB inquiry was ongoing.

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