Gen Singh says all is well between Army, govt now

Olive branch: Army chief reconciliatory a day after Antonys statement

In what seems to be an olive branch offer to the government with whom he is being seen at loggerheads, Army Chief Gen V K Singh on Friday said “some elements” are at work to create a “schism between me and the defence minister but he is duty-bound to protect the Army’s institutional integrity.”

“This (allegation of a schism) is untrue and needed to be guarded against,” Gen Singh said in a fresh statement a day after Defence Minister A K Antony observed that the government had full confidence on the three service chiefs and he had no problems in working with Gen Singh.

“For the media to constantly project every issue as a battle between the government and the Army chief is misleading. The Army and by extension, the Army chief, are also a part of the government,” said Singh, who had dragged the defence ministry to the Supreme Court in order to settle a dispute on his date of birth issue.

The conciliatory statement from the Army chief comes days after political parties demanded his removal from office. But the table appears to have turned in favour of Gen Singh in the last 24 hours as the government and Gen Singh are understood to have worked out a compromise, though its formulation remains unknown.

While Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari on Friday welcomed Gen Singh’s statement, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee left for Kolkata in the evening, which possibly would not have happened had Gen Singh continued to be a thorn in the flesh for the government.

Clarifying his position on Rs 14 crore bribe offer, Gen Singh said after the “bribe issue” was brought to Antony’s notice, certain institutional steps were taken to keep an eye on the retired officer who had offered the bribe. Though he did not name anybody, indications were towards Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh, former director-general of the defence intelligence agency.

“Eighteen months later, the person resurfaced in the beginning of March this year and launched a smear campaign under the veil of anonymity alleging that the Army was snooping on the defence minister. Once the concerned individual had been identified by the Army headquarters, his identity and antecedents were made public,” Gen Singh said.

On March 5, the Army headquarters issued a press release naming Lt Gen Tejinder Singh as a person behind the smear campaign. The retired Lt Gen had challenged the press release in the court filing defamation suits against the Army Chief, Vice Chief and three other officers.

Hinting at the role of vested interests behind the leak, Gen Singh said there had been a string of selected leaks in the past, culminating with public airing of the letter to the prime minister which rocked Parliament. The Army chief on Thursday had completely denied his role behind the leak describing it as an “act of treason.”

“We have to identify and expose those elements (behind the leak) within the confines of the system and law. Freedom of speech and individual opinions need to be respected but frivolous and uninformed comments on these issue will only muddy the waters,” he said.

The Army chief further asserted that he is duty-bound to serve the country and protect the institutional integrity of the Army at all cost, even if it required looking within the system.

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