New Delhi: It was
peace after war between ruling and opposition MPs Wednesday with
both sides agreeing that the issues raised by army chief V.K.
Singh in a letter to the prime minister should not become a matter
of public debate.
After two adjournments before 12 noon on Gen. Singh's letter to
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh highlighting the shortage of arms
and ammunition in the force, Defence Minister A.K. Antony
clarified in the Rajya Sabha that the government was committed to
strengthening the armed forces and the procurement process was
under strict monitoring.
Political opinion on the fate of the army chief however remained
divided, with parties like JD-U and SP demanding he be sacked,
while the BJP made clear it did not support the demand.
"These issues cannot be an issue of public debate... publishing
the contents of secret communication cannot serve our national
security," Antony told the upper house which reassembled after two
adjournments at 12 noon shortly after a meeting with Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Finance
Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
Opposition MPs agreed that the issue should not have come out in
The minister said successive governments attached priority to
defence preparedness and that the government was committed to
providing the best equipment to the forces.
"I can assure this nation it is our intention to keep it (armed
forces) strong. Government will do everything necessary to ensure
that our defence forces are provided and trained to make them best
fighting forces in the world," he said.
Singh, in a letter to Manmohan Singh, has pointed out a shortage
of arms and ammunition in the armed forces and raised questions if
the country was ready for a war.
According to reports, the letter, written March 12, states that
army tanks have run out of ammunition. The letter emphasises the
need to bridge the shortcomings and bring the army to fighting
Agreeing that the issue should not be raised publicly, Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley asked for assurance on the
"integrity" of the procurement process.
"While I agree we will all have to exercise utmost restraint and
not make it issue of public debate... across the media, too many
pieces of information which disturb us are coming with regard on
procurement process," Jaitley said.
Communist Party of India-Marxist's (CPI-M) Sitaram Yechury, Janata
Dal-United (JD-U) leader Shivanand Tiwari and several other
opposition leaders also agreed that public debate on the issue was
a serious concern.
The defence minister also assured the members that procurement
process was amended time to time and strong action was taken if
any violation was found.
The minister expressed happiness that the opposition and
government were united on the issue of national security.
"I am very very happy to hear observations of the opposition
leader and other leaders of the house... whatever be our
difference, when it comes to national security we are one," Antony
Opinion was, however, divided on the future of the army chief.
Janata Dal-United leader Shivanand Tiwari was the first to demand
"This is a matter of serious indiscipline, the army chief should
be sacked... if we don't take an action, it can become a bad
tradition," said Tiwari.
Echoing him, Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav told reporters
outside parliament that "responsibility should be fixed and strict
action should be taken. If Gen Singh is responsible, he must be
sacked and jailed".
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party took a slightly
different view. Asked about the stand taken by ally JD-U, BJP
spokesperson Ravishankar Prasad said: "We do not share the view."
Yechury said "examine into the leak, fix responsibility and punish
whosoever is responsible," taking no clear position on the demand
for removing the army chief.
While the Rajya Sabha saw two adjournments, the Lok Sabha was
adjourned twice but over the issue of statehood to Telangana.