M A I N   N E W S

Parliamentary panel summons 3 Service chiefs
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, April 9
Worried over defence preparedness and the country’s war fighting abilities, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence today summoned the Service chiefs of the armed forces — Army Chief Gen VK Singh, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne and Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma — to appear before it on April 20 and explain if the forces are battle-ready.

This will be second time in less than 15 months that the three Chiefs will appear before a Parliamentary panel. The Murli Manohar Joshi-led Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had summoned the three chiefs in January 2011 and questioned about quality of rations for troops.

The Standing Committee on Defence is looking to take a holistic view of the word “defence preparedness” and define it. It will involve nuclear positioning, strategic positioning along side readiness of fighter aircraft, warships, submarines, choppers, tanks, artillery guns, ammunition logistic chain etc, sources said.

This involves diplomacy, international relations and even energy security in the context of relations with countries like Iran, sources said, adding that the panel will not stop at just asking the three Chiefs.

More people would be asked to come and depose. The Parliamentarians will also invite subject experts on China and Pakistan from various think-tanks to brief them about ground position.

The topic of defence preparedness has come about after the Army Chief sent off a letter to the Prime Minister discussing shortages in ammunition. The letter was leaked to the media for which the intelligence bureau is conducting a probe to establish the source of leakage. Notably, the ability of the forces to tackle a simultaneous ‘two front war” scenario - against Pakistan and China -- cropped up at today’s meeting. Sources said Congress MP from Ludhiana Manish Tewari asked the Vice Chief of the Indian Army Lt Gen SK Singh “will we be able to do justice in case we face a two front war”?

The Vice Chief, who has commanded the Leh-based 14 corps, was reportedly candid and told the panel about the Chinese war fighting doctrine. He also told the MPs the way China was expanding its military infrastructure.

The Indian defence budget this fiscal is Rs 1,93,407 Crore -- nearly $ 38.6 billion. In contrast, China’s budget is $ 106 billion.

Naresh Gujral, Akali Dal MP in Rajya Sabha, was among those who were agitated over the defence preparedness. He was informed by the Ministry of Defence officials that enough budgetary provisioning has been made for the purchase of ammunition and purchase has been fast-tracked.

The DRDO and Army official gave a green signal to the quality of the Tatra trucks. A CBI probe has been ordered into its purchase and pricing. The truck is crucial as the entire ‘cold start’ doctrine.

Meanwhile The Defence Secretary Sashi Kant Sharma told the standing committee of MPs that a newspaper report on movement of two key units of the Indian Army towards New Delhi on Jan 16-17, was ‘wrong inference’ and based on ‘conjectures’. No permission was required from the MoD for such routine exercise. The Defence Secretary described it as ‘regular exercise’, sources said. A mechanised unit from Hissar had moved toward Delhi and a unit of para-commandos based at Agra had also done the same.





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