House panel not convinced by govt’s explanation

Govt failed to convince panel on 'circumstances' that led to mobilisation of two Army units.

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: April 4, 2012 12:05:23 am

Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma and the vice-chiefs of the three services today failed to convince a parliament panel with their answers to questions on the circumstances that led to the mobilisation of two Army units towards the capital on the day Army Chief Gen. V K Singh went to the Supreme Court against the government.

At least two members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence,including the Shiromani Akali Dal’s Naresh Gujral and AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi,were learnt to have asked the committee chairman to summon the Army Chief before the panel.

Gujral is set to send a formal letter to the chairman on Wednesday demanding that Gen. Singh be called in to not only answer the questions arising out of today’s report in The Indian Express on the mobilisation of Army units,but to also clarify the contents of his leaked letter to the Prime Minister about the country’s defence preparedness.

The defence secretary flatly denied that he had been asked by the government to cut short his visit to Malaysia in the wake of Army units’ mobilisation. He said he had returned early only because of a case that was coming up before the Supreme Court the next day.

But the explanation did not appear to have washed. “He (the defence secretary) is not a lawyer. What was the urgency to return like that?” a committee member said after the meeting.

Owaisi demanded to know why,if,as claimed by Sharma and the vice-chiefs,the movement was “routine”,the Army units were sent back. No answer was forthcoming.

Some committee members sought a detailed explanation from the Army and defence establishment about the entire episode at the next meeting of the panel on April 9.

A Congress MP on the committee said after the meeting,“While they denied The Indian Express report saying that it was a routine exercise,they did not answer specific queries as to why protocol was not followed,why the Army units were sent back and why the defence secretary returned from abroad early. The defence secretary said he cannot react to a newspaper report,but that is not an answer.”

Said another member: “The general mood of the committee members regarding the explanation offered by the defence secretary and the vice-chiefs about The Indian Express story was that it was not convincing. Their answers had many gaps. But if they deny it,you have to take it at face value.”

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