January 23, 2002, Chandigarh, India
Gen Vij on “annual leave”
New Delhi, January 22
It was officially described as “incorrect” media reports that General Vij had been shifted under US pressure.
Even as government sources reiterated that the sudden removal of General Vij, who was carrying out new tactics a little too close to the International Border for the government’s comfort, was due to political reasons and not military, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) issued a rejoinder not only denying media reports but commending General Vij as a thorough professional and one enjoying “complete confidence” of his superiors.
The laboured MoD rejoinder stated: “Reports on change of Command of the 2 Corps, as appearing in a section of media, are speculative and totally incorrect. Lt-Gen Kapil Vij, a professionally competent officer, who enjoys the complete confidence of his superiors, was given the prestigious command of the elite 2 Corps and having completed the normal command tenure was due for the next tenure. Lt-Gen B S Thakur was already earmarked to take over the command of 2 Corps after the turn over of Lt-Gen Kapil Vij as per normal practice.”
The denial further said “Lt-Gen Kapil Vij requested for annual leave due to pressing personal reasons. In view of the prevailing security environment, it was not desirable to keep the formation with the GOC and therefore Lt.Gen B S Thakur was moved on attachment to HQ 2 Corps, pending formal approval of his posting from the Ministry of Defence. Speculations that the General Officer was shifted due to external pressure or directions of the PMO are totally baseless.”
Sources disclosed that the government reaction to the news reports came as it wanted to avoid embarrassment for having any US connections in movement of Army officers at this critical juncture. With not only the Assembly elections in four states round the corner but also the country’s foreign policy also under close scrutiny of the opposition parties, such incidents could cause a piquant situation for the government.
Besides, the government is also keen to keep the US name out of any controversy. This assumes importance with the USA trying to lessen Indo-Pak tension and New Delhi putting pressure on Islamabad to hand over its list of 20 criminals and terrorists taking shelter in Pakistan.
Military experts and impartial observers wonder if General Vij had completed his tenure, then why was he allowed to carry out critical exercises. And then, when General Vij was directly involved in the exercises and working out new tactics, why bring in a new man who would have to not only understand the finer points of the tactics but win the confidence of all those forming part of this important strike corps of the Indian Army.
The 2 Corps holds almost 50 per cent of the Indian strike capabilities and although based at Ambala it is responsible for guarding the borders till Ganganagar.
The denial goes on to say that General Vij requested for annual leave due to pressing personal reasons. The MoD, while preparing its rebuttal, however, seems to have conveniently forgotten that in the present troop build-up which is the biggest since the 1971 conflict with Pakistan, all leave had been cancelled and men recalled to duty with immediate effect.
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