In his first major interview since the controversy over the alleged unauthorised movement of two Army units in January broke out, Army Chief General V. K. Singh told The Hindu on Friday that these were “routine exercises” for which there was no requirement to “notify” the government. He also categorically rejected any link between the troop exercises and his petition on the date of birth issue in the Supreme Court, calling it “fables of a sick mind.”
General Singh spoke to The Hindu at Nepal Army's 11th Brigade base, right before his return to Delhi after a two-day visit.
The Army Chief termed the report on the troop movement, which appeared in The Indian Express on Wednesday, “absurd and deplorable.” Asked who could be behind it, he said, “There are so many theories doing the rounds. There was a newspaper story which said it was being done at the behest of a central minister. Sections of the bureaucracy can be feeding wrong inputs. They have made a mountain out of a molehill … God knows who all may be involved, nor do I want to waste time thinking about it.”
Referring to an interview he had given to The Week in March, he said, “I had mentioned it last month itself that, you know, tomorrow there will be exercises — and a big story will be made out of it.” So did he have an inkling of the story that eventually appeared? “It is like this. When there is general suspicion, you can do anything. Funny ideas can be planted.”
On the facts of the report itself, General Singh said these were “routine exercises.” Asked if the Army had notified the government, he replied, “Notify for what? What was happening? We keep doing this so many times.”
Responding to a question whether the civilian authority on the night of January 16 — the date of the reported movement — had asked him for a clarification, General Singh said, “It was not like that. No clarification was asked for. These were routine issues. I don't think one or two units should ever bother anyone. It was not as if the whole of the armoured division was marching towards Delhi. This is just a figment of imagination.”
General Singh rejected any link between the timing of the troop exercises, and his petition regarding his date of birth in the Supreme Court. “How is there any connection?” When pointed out that there were suggestions that the movement was meant to ‘scare' the government or exert pressure, he responded, “You have gone to the Supreme Court. What is there to scare the government for? These are fables of a sick mind. Anyone who makes a connection needs to see a psychiatrist. I had followed the laid down norms of a democratic constitution and gone to the SC. Where is the doubt left?”
Asserting that civil-military relations in India were good, the Army Chief said, “There is nothing wrong. I am on the same page as the government. We enjoy good relations, and I have no differences with the Raksha Mantri.” He accused “rogue elements of the bureaucracy” of wanting to “blow things up.”
General Singh said that anyone who joins the Army takes a “pledge to uphold the Constitution of India.” “No other service does it. You will not find anyone else more committed to the country, to the Constitution, and to democracy … The Army is the upholder of the country's values.” Those who think differently about the Army ‘need their heads examined' and are the ‘biggest anti-nationals,' he added.