M A I N   N E W S

PM trashes ‘coup fears’
Says report of key Army units’ movement in Jan shouldn’t be taken at face value
Ashok Tuteja & Ajay Banerjee/TNS

Delhi/Vishakapatnam, April 4
The government today vehemently denied a newspaper reports that two key Army units had moved closer to the National Capital in January without prior notice to the government. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh termed the report “alarmist” and said it should not be taken at face value.

“Well, the Defence Ministry has clarified the position. These are alarmist reports. These should not be taken at face value,” Singh said on the sidelines of an investiture ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here.

Asked about the uneasy relationship between the government and Army Chief Gen VK Singh, he said: “The Army Chief’s office is an exalted office. All of us have an obligation to do nothing that lowers its dignity.”

An English daily today carried a front page report saying that the Army’s Hisar-based Mechanised Infantry and elements from the airborne 50 Para Brigade in Agra had moved towards New Delhi on the night of January 16, without following the standard operating procedure of informing the Defence Ministry in advance.

According to the report, the movement happened the day the Army Chief approached the Supreme Court with his date of birth row with the government, and a day after Army Day celebrations.

The report raised several questions, with the civilian administration finding it difficult to give a satisfactory response. The government says the movement of the units was normal, but it is unable to explain whether the movement on the night of January 16, too, was in the Defence Ministry’s knowledge.

In Vishakapatnam, Defence Minister AK Antony described the media report as “absolutely baseless”. Talking to reporters on the sidelines of a function welcoming INS Chakra, a nuclear-powered submarine, he said, "Fears of a coup by the armed forces are absolutely baseless” and expressed confidence that the Army would not do anything to undermine democracy.

Antony said, “The Army has already explained this (movement). It is a usual, natural activity… nothing unusual. We are absolutely confident of the patriotism of the armed forces.”

Asked about the report that the Defence Ministry was not informed of the Army movement indicating a communication gap, the minister said, “There is no communication gap between the functioning of the armed forces and the MoD.” He went on to say that there was nothing wrong in relations between the armed forces and the ministry and he was comfortable with the Service Chiefs.

why the alarm bell

  • Jan 16-17: A mechanised infantry battalion from Hisar and elements of 50 Para Brigade move towards Delhi without informing the MoD, as per a report
  • The movement happens the day the Army Chief took the age row to the SC
  • The government says the movement was normal, but can’t explain whether it was in the MoD’s knowledge





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