Retreating from his hard position in the last few days,Army chief General V K Singh today said “rogue elements” were trying to project a “schism” between him and Defence Minister A K Antony and made it clear he was duty bound to serve the country.
Facing flak and demands for his removal over some of his comments and moves,General Singh issued a statement today saying projections of schism between him and Antony was “untrue and needed to be guarded against”.
He said it is ”misleading” the media was constantly projecting every issue as a battle between the government and the Army chief.
The Army chief’s attempt to further cool tempers comes a day after Antony expressed the government’s confidence in the service chiefs.
Antony also vowed to give maximum punishment to those behind the leak of General Singh’s letter to the Prime Minister in which he had spoken about the lack of defence preparedness.
General Singh had also issued a statement calling the leak ”high treason” and that its source should be treated ruthlessly.
The Army chief,who had lost his battle with the government over the age row,had recently raised the hackles of the government by giving an interview claiming he was offered Rs 14 crore in bribes to swing a sub-standard deal. The leak of the letter to the Prime Minister raised tension between the two sides.
“There have been a string of leaks culminating in the public airing of letter to hon’ble Prime Minister of India,” General Singh said.
He said “we are duty bound to serve our country and to protect the institutional integrity of the Army at all costs even if we sometimes have to look within”.
General Singh said the Army and,by extension the Chief of Army Staff (COAS),are also part of the government.
“There are rogue elements in our society which have played an active role in trying to project a schism between the Defence Minister and the COAS. This is untrue and needs to guarded against,” he said.
General Singh said “we have to identify within the confines of the system and of the law and expose these (rogue) elements”.
He said freedom of speech and individual opinions need to be respected but frivolous and uninformed comments on these issue only muddy waters.
Referring to the recent controversy over his statement on the bribe,he said the timing pertaining to the bribe issue has drawn considerable attention.
“It is pointed out after the matter was brought to the honourable Raksha Mantri’s notice,certain steps had been taken institutionally to keep a wary eye on the retired officer who had offered the bribe.
“18 months later,the person resurfaced in the beginning of March this year and launched a smear campaign under the veil of anonymity alleging the Army was snooping on the Defence Minister of India.
“Once,the concerned individual has been identified by the Army headquarters,his identity and antecedents were made public,” he said.
Earlier in the day,on a couple of occasions when journalists sought comments from General Singh,he parried questions saying he had made a statement yesterday and he had nothing much to add. “I think you people speculate too much,” he said.