Appearing before the parliamentary standing committee on defence today regarding the unusual movement of two Army units towards Delhi on January 16-17,as reported in The Indian Express,Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma claimed it was a routine drill and no standard operating procedures (SOPs) were violated.
Reading from a prepared statement,Sharma said no permission is required from the Ministry of Defence for such an exercise. He sought to downplay the report as wrong inferences,conclusions and conjecture.
However,key issues raised by committee members remained unaddressed. The Defence Secretary did not reply when asked by AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi whether he had told the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) to order the troops back. Owaisi had asked this question at the committees last meeting on April 4,but the Defence Secretary and the three Vice-Chiefs had remained silent.
The committee members were also not satisfied with Sharmas explanation about Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Rajus remarks that probably someone down the line (in the government) may have read too much into the troops movements on January 16-17.
I am sure there are protocols that exist for movements of troops and I am sure there are procedures that are followed. But I think if it is an operational necessity,I am sure that the respective chiefs have the freedom to move the troops. And the movements of troops need not be unnecessarily interpreted as anti-establishment, Raju had said in an interview to Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN.
Asked about the ministers comment at the standing committee meeting today,the Defence Secretary only said that no SOPs were violated.