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Monday, 2 April 2012

From Today's Papers - 02 Apr 2012
CBI lookout notice for Vectra boss
Tatra Deal Ravi Rishi likely to be summoned again, all airports & border checkpoints on alert
Prithvi and Agni missiles are launched from Tatra trucks
Prithvi and Agni missiles are launched from Tatra trucks

New Delhi, April 1
The CBI has issued a “lookout notice” to prevent NRI businessman Ravi Rishi, owner of Britain-based Vectra group, from leaving the country, a CBI official said on Sunday. The probe agency has alerted all airports and border checkpoints, officials said.

The Vectra group has been accused of alleged irregularities in the supply of Tatra trucks to the Army. Army Chief General VK Singh has alleged that he was offered Rs 14 crore in bribe to clear a file related to the purchase of the trucks. CBI sleuths had raided Tatra offices in Bangalore and New Delhi on Friday.

Rishi was not available for his comments and his company, when contacted, refused to react to the development, saying it were cooperating with the CBI in the case.

Rishi (57), named as an accused in the agency's FIR, has been questioned twice so far by the CBI and was likely to be summoned again. The Vectra boss has termed the allegations against him as unfortunate, saying the trucks were sold through public sector undertaking Bharat Earth Movers Limited. He also said the charges levelled with regard to Tatra trucks by the Army Chief were baseless.

Gen Singh has named retired Lt Gen Tejinder Singh in his complaint to the CBI as the person who offered him the Rs 14-crore bribe to clear a tranche of nearly 600 “sub-standard” trucks.

Tejinder Singh has refuted the allegations and has filed a defamation case against the Army Chief and some other senior officers.

CBI officials will be seeking more details from the Army Chief before they decide to register a case in connection with the bribery charge. The sources said the Army Chief was expected to provide more material about the alleged bribe offer soon. — Agencies
Indian army chief must be sent on forced leave

NEW DELHI: Amid the ongoing row between Indian government and its army chief, former national security advisor Brajesh Mishra on Sunday held both responsible for not taking action on the bribery allegation but wanted Gen VK Singh to be sent on forced leave.

"My view is that both the minister and the army chief are responsible for not taking action," he said commenting on the allegations by Gen Singh that he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore for clearing a contract for trucks and had informed the defence minister about it.

Asked whether the army chief should be sacked or sent on compulsory leave, Mishra told Karan Thapar on the Devil’s Advocate programme that "If he is sacked, then something more may happen. If he is sent on compulsory leave, he is not being sacked.

"He should be told that enjoy your two months vacation with government salary and then take pension and go home."

On the leakage of Gen. Singh’s letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the poor state of defence preprations, the former NSA sought to blame the army chief’s close associates.

"The PM -- whom I respect so much -- is not the man who is going to leak something like that. I cannot accept that any bureaucrat in the PM residence could have given it out. So if the General himself did not leak the letter, some of his friends might have done it," he said.

On Gen Singh’s recommendations for a CBI probe against 3 Corps commander Lt. Gen. Dalbir Suhag, he said the army chief was "not authorised" to do so.

"The person who is authorised to do it is the defence secretary. So the proper procedure was to send a letter to the defence secretary or refer the file to the defence ministry and leave it for them to decide," he said.
Assembled in India
The ministry of defence should rename itself the ministry of imports. India earned the undesirable honorific of being the world's largest buyer of foreign arms in the latest 'Trends in International Arms Transfers' report. The ultimate oxymoron in New Delhi today is 'defence self-reliance'. This
state of affairs will continue so long as the ministry continues to believe in the State-owned defence sector.

India's imports of defence equipment surged 38% to $12.7 billion from 2007-11, say the authors of the report, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The only better defence growth figures? Number of speeches by defence minister AK Antony declaring self-reliance to be his goal.

At the time the report was released, Antony spoke at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). He complained that DRDO had "many deficiencies", that it was "slow" in implementing recommended reforms. A few days earlier he called for change at Hindustan Aeronautics, another stalwart of India's government defence industry whose core competence is assembling imported airplane kits.

SIPRI's report underlines the true trend in India's defence industry. Namely, that the louder the mantra 'self-reliance' is chanted by defence officialdom, the further the goal moves away from India.

It's not just that the Indian defence sector can't build simple trainer airplanes or armoured vehicles. It even struggles to design usable rifles or make good boots. "Indian soldiers", says Commodore Uday Bhaskar of the National Maritime Foundation, "prefer to buy their uniforms from private tailors rather than wear free government issue".

Antony's criticisms should mean that his office at least understands the problem. But the reforms the ministry advocates are, ultimately, about preserving the defence sector's commanding heights for the State-owned firms. And it's this "tweak the status quo" mindset that ensures India's security increasingly depends on how fast it can import.

Rising Indian arms purchases and stiff offset requirements - roughly half the cost of foreign purchases must be outsourced to Indian firms - means billions of dollars' worth of contracts will float out of the windows of South Block. Antony is asking DRDO and company to get their act together so they can cash in on this bonanza.

The ministry's hope is that these State-owned firms will absorb some imported technologies, recycle them and preserve the myth of indigenous defence production for another decade. The subtext to Antonyspeak should be: you need to change so you can keep pulling the wool over India's eyes.

The defence ministry loves the term 'technology transfer'. These are weasel words. Every study shows this to be a way to temporarily get obsolete knowhow. Transfers are like cheat-sheets. They keep you from doing the hard work of really learning something. The State-owned defence firms are like students who mug enough to get past each exam and graduate with blank minds.

In 2005, DRDO spoke of making 70% of Indian defence equipment at home. But the figures haven't change in all these years, says Air Vice-Marshal Kapil Kak of the Centre for Air Power Studies. "Government stonewalling has meant there has been no energising of the defence sector." Officially, India is at 30% indigenisation. So much of this is screwdriver work, says Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal of the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, "That the actual figure is 20% or less."

The Tatra truck, left-hand drive after 25 years, is only a more glaring example of this import-and-assemble game.

Antony and the ministry offer lip service to private sector involvement . But they have done little to make defence production attractive to such firms. Their vision is one of private firms serving as subcontractors to State-owned firms.

The Indian private sector is almost seen as the Enemy. Defence officials admit Hindustan Aeronautics prefers India import rather than get the Indian private sector involved. Such is their fear that India Inc will marginalise them.

In effect, India spends to maintain the military-industrial capacity of others who are too decrepit, like Russia, or too small, like Israel and France, to stand on their own feet. India's government defence firms serve as their cutouts. At the Prime Minister's Office, it is fully understood that the lack of an indigenous defence sector with real innovative capacity makes a mockery of India's great power ambitions.

Defence ministry mandarins are not wrong in claiming that in 90% of the contracts, Indian private firms don't have the capacity. What is needed is a long-term policy of developing exactly that. This would require the military to produce stable, long-term plans regarding arms procurements. The present system, especially prevalent in the army, of piecemeal and ever-changing weapons orders inflates prices and keeps Indian businesses away.

It would require the ministry to allow Indian private firms to be junior partners in ventures with overseas firms. "Foreign collaboration is needed for design knowhow," says Vice-Admiral Premvir Das of the Aspen Institute of India. Indian private defence companies are the first to say this is the best means to absorb military tech and grasp the crown jewels of defence knowhow - complex processes like systems integration.

There is no doubt that India's private manufacturers can produce the sort of engineering components even high-end fighters require. They have shown this in the automobile sector, notes Kak, where they produce components that match Japanese and German precision.

Combining this manufacturing capacity with India's software sector - half the cost of advanced defence systems is binary code writing - the foundations for a competitive arms business can be laid. The other path: decades more of Buying Foreign, Faking Indian.
Sack the general, did you say?
The Army chief has been accused of crossing the Lakshman Rekha. But those attacking him have crossed the line too.

It has been a free-for-all on television and print media this past week with analysts obsessively dissecting the conduct of Army Chief V.K. Singh. Some of the commentators might have had access to the “devious” mind of the “rogue” chief, judging by the authoritative information coming the way of news consumers.

They knew, for instance, that the chief deliberately timed his interview with The Hindu – where he accused a retired Army officer of approaching him with a bribe offer of Rs.14 crore — to coincide with the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in Delhi. But just in case this did not suffice, the trigger-happy general was also going to be ready with further ammunition: indeed, who else but the rampaging chief could leak a letter he wrote to the Prime Minister mid-March, lamenting the state of unpreparedness of the Army? Together, the bribery charge and the leaked letter containing the country's top defence secrets would shame India before the BRICS delegation: When it came to fighting wars, the “superpower” was super powerless!

The bombshell

As the person who did the “explosive” bribery charge interview, I ought to know something about its timing, and how the bribery revelation came about. I met the General at his official residence in Delhi for an hour-long taped interview a few days before its eventual publication on March 26. This time was required to fill in some gaps in information as well as to transcribe the long, meandering content of the conversation. It wasn't as if the chief was bursting with unspilled secrets. The interview, I assumed, was about the age controversy and the state of the army, and so it was for the large part. The general insisted the age controversy was manufactured — because the school leaving certificate was the only authentic document to prove date of birth, a fact, he pointed out, had been upheld in several Supreme Court judgments. Half way into the questioning, when he was specifically asked who was behind the controversy, he mentioned “the Adarsh lobby and some equipment lobbyists.” Then suddenly he dropped the bombshell about the bribe attempt. I absorbed the information trying not to show too much excitement, and quizzed him on the details. He said it was for clearing the purchase of a tranche of overpriced trucks that had no proper facility for “maintenance and service.” Also that he was so enraged by the brazenness of it all that he took it up with Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony. But Gen. Singh simply wouldn't part with more information, nor explain what action he or the Minister had taken. “Leave it,” he said.

Journalists know when they have a scoop and they also know how far to push their source. I do not know if the General knowingly concealed the scoop in a maze of information, I do not know if his intention all along was only to disclose the bribe attempt, but at that point, my overwhelming concern was that he shouldn't retract. Significantly, the “always warring” General never once blamed the state of affairs on the Manmohan Singh government or on Mr. Antony whom he appeared genuinely fond of. The chief had a standard reply to each of my questions on political graft, and on the people in government who might have been party to the corruption he was so anguished about: “I'm concerned with and will talk about only my organisation.”

I emerged out of Gen.Singh's home with the BRICS summit, still many days away, hardly in my consciousness. The bribe news hit TV channels and Parliament like an avalanche. Commentators and politicians were scandalised that a bribe offer had been made to the Army Chief. But as the day wore on, the accuser became the accused, and questions began to be raised about why the chief had not handed over the bribe-giver to the police and why he had not blacklisted the company that supplied the trucks. Valid questions, but by now a few details had emerged. The company was a public sector undertaking. Could the Army Chief have blacklisted it? Serving officers in the Army were also appalled at the assumption that the chief could have walked to a police station and filed an FIR against an officer who was now a civilian. “In the Army you report any such thing to the superior which the chief did by going to Mr. Antony.” The Defence Minister confirmed that the general had gone to him with the bribery complaint, adding though that he had advised him to act on it which he did not. This raised another question. Why did Gen. Singh not act on Mr. Antony's advice? But equally, why did Mr. Antony not pursue the complaint, and more importantly, why did he not sack the chief for glossing over such a serious matter? (It turned out later that he had received complaints about the trucks from Ghulam Nabi Azad.)

Intemperate reactions

By this time, the leaked letter had exploded, causing further mayhem. Mulayam Singh and Lalu Prasad, forming an undisguised caste grouping, hit out Gen. Singh, who was commissioned into the 2nd Battalion of the Rajput Regiment. “Sack him, sack him,” they chorused even as the Congress fielded spokespersons who despaired at the lunacy of the “runaway” chief. For god's sake, the man had leaked a classified letter containing India's defence shortcomings! The articulate Sushma Swaraj did not accuse the chief of leaking the letter but she was appalled that he had written to the Prime Minister instead of having a private chat with the Raksha Mantri: “There is always the danger that a letter will be leaked,” she said.

The noise grew into a cacophony as many voices pitched in. In this bazaar of instant verdicts, anyone could say anything and it would become breaking news. Army chief writing to the Prime Minister is Standard Operating Procedure in the Army. Similar communications take place between the chiefs of Air Staff and Naval Staff and the Prime Minister. The letters, termed by the forces as routine, are usually written at six-monthly intervals and give an account of shortcomings in order that the executive is kept fully informed on India's defence preparedness. To an outsider, these letters may appear alarmist but this is part of the drill in the services. In fact, this kind of communication happens down the line. A colonel in charge of equipment in the mechanised infantry would do similar stock-taking with respect to wastage and reserve of ammunition in communications to his immediate superior. Army commanders submit six-monthly appraisals of their respective commands to the chief and these are discussed “frankly and freely” at conferences attended by the Defence Minister and the Prime Minister.

Gen Singh's letter to the Prime Minister was similar to a letter he had written earlier to Mr. Antony which was scooped by a newspaper. Nonetheless, the “informed” discussions quietened down only after the General, away in Jammu and Kashmir, issued a statement asking for the leak to be treated as “high treason.” But there was still a lurking suspicion that he would do something rash and unpredictable, possibly disparage the Defence Minister at the ex-servicemen's rally scheduled for March 31. As it turned out, the general lavished praise on Mr. Antony, saying he had been more than receptive to his suggestions on solving the problems of armymen.

There is no doubt that Gen. V.K. Singh is one of a kind — any army chief who drags the government to court would be. His refusal to resign in the face of the government's intransigence is painful and was entirely avoidable. The General is a highly decorated officer, and has been something of a hero to his men. Some of his arguments on the date issue are sound, and yet he has done himself and the organisation – which goes to war so we can sleep in peace – he heads unspeakable harm by taking defiant positions. The General should have delivered a grand speech and made a graceful exit. That would have made the government appear vindictive and mean by comparison.

However, the unpopular positions he took on his date of birth ought not to become justification for heaping scorn and ridicule on a man who, even his critics admit, is squeaky clean. There is something about the general which is worth noting. He attacks from the front: He went to court, he gave an on-the-record interview. He is unlikely to have leaked the letter. He did not gain by leaking the letter.

Gen. Singh and Mr. Antony are both perceived to be incorruptible. Together they had an opportunity to cleanse the Army. History will record that this was a wasted opportunity.
General VK Singh is the worst Army Chief so far: Brajesh Mishra

New Delhi: Former national security advisor Brajesh Mishra said on Saturday that General VK Singh who currently embroiled in a bribery scam is the worst Army Chief so far and that General Singh is a failure.

Speaking with Karan Thapar on Devil's Advocate, Mishra said the Army Chief has come across as weak.

Here is the transcript of the interview:

Karan Thapar:Hello and welcomes to Devil's Advocate. After a week of high drama, how should we view the Army Chief and his behaviour... That's the key issue I shall explore today with former National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra.

Mr Mishra, after a week electrifying drama, how do you, as a former national security advisor, view General VK Singh the Army Chief?

Brajesh Mishra: I have never met this man before so I can't say whether it is now that he has lost his mental balance or did... there was something before also. But he has certainly behaved in a way which no Chief should ever behave.

Karan Thapar: You have used a very important phrase 'he has lost his mental balance'. You mean that?

Brajesh Mishra: Yeah ofcourse in this all episode he has lost his mental balance. But I did say, earlier I don't know the kind of man he was.

Karan Thapar: It is possible therefore this problem of loss of balance goes much further back in time?

Brajesh Mishra: Perhaps yes, perhaps no.

Karan Thapar: Now the Army Chief issued a statement on Friday, where he blames the press for creating or projecting a schism between himself and the government. Is the press to blame or do you think the problem began when he took his own government to court?

Brajesh Mishra: No the press cannot be blamed for initiating this kind of incident and demoralising activity on part of the armed forces. It's not the press, it's the man who took certain actions and who leaked them out to the press. So eventually the press is going to think, 'Oh there is a problem between the Army Chief and the government, that's a big story'.

Karan Thapar: General VK Singh is himself responsible for his problem?

Brajesh Mishra: Of course he is responsible for that and then in order to make it even more, let's say funny or jokingly, he took it to the Supreme Court. And when you take this to Supreme Court, is any body going to say 'We don't know about General Singh and we are not going to say anything about it'?

Karan Thapar: There is a view after creating a crisis for his government, it would be improper for this Chief to continue. Some people suggested that he should be sent to the compulsory leave till his retirement in two months time. Is that the right way of handling him?

Brajesh Mishra: The question is three, whether he should remain after all of sudden, whether he should be sacked or whether he should be sent on compulsory leave? Now I said to myself that if he sacked then something more may happen in the defence forces. But if he is sent on compulsory leave, he is not being sacked, he is being told, 'You go home and enjoy your vacation with government salary for two months and then take your pension and go'.

Karan Thapar: So your advice to the government is, send him home on compulsory leave?

Brajesh Mishra: Yes.

Karan Thapar: Let's come to some of the major things that general has done. I want to get your view on record. How do your respond to them? First, what do you make on the fact that he referred the case of Lieutenant? General Dalbir Singh Suhag to the CBI, without informing, leave aside consulting the Defence Minister, despite the fact that this gentleman was due to become an Army Commander?

Brajesh Mishra: I mean it's part of his activity during this time. He must be thrashing his left or right. Now as far as, whether he is authorised to do it, he is certainly not authorised to do it. The person who is authorised to do it is the Defence Secretary, who works under the Defence Minister. So the proper procedure that should have been followed was to send a letter or refer the file to the Defence Secretary and leave it for them to take action.

Karan Thapar: So in this instance General VK Singh has clearly overreached himself?

Brajesh Mishra: He has overreached on so many things that is difficult to say only this or that.

Karan Thapar: Second issue is the letter that he wrote to the Prime Minister which was leaked. Although the Army Chief denied anything to do with leak, do you believe that he, his friends or supporters must be principle suspects?

Brajesh Mishra: Lets put this way, the letter will not go to the PM it will go directly to Number 7, Race Course road. So PMO as an office which is in south block won't have received the letter, number one. The letter was deliver to him signed March 12, if I remember correctly, was it delivered the same day or not I don't know. The Prime Minister of India whom I respect so much, he is not a man who is going to leak something like that which would make the situation more difficult for the government. So I cannot accept that any bureaucrat in the Prime Minister's residence could have given... done it, they don't do this. I have experience of that. So if the General himself didn't release the letter, some of his friends might have done it.

Karan Thapar: So either the General or his friends might have done it? They remain principle suspect?

Brajesh Mishra: Yeah.

Karan Thapar: Third, the interview that he has given where he alleged that he was offered of Rs 14 crore bribe - Was he right to reveal this to the media or should he have handled it effectively or kept it under wraps?

Brajesh Mishra: We are talking about something which happened how many months ago?

Karan Thapar: Eighteen months ago.

Brajesh Mishra: And today he is coming out with in the open, just because it suits him to attack the government in that fashion. My view is that both the minister and the Army Chief are responsible for not taking action.

Karan Thapar: I will come to the minister's role in a moment's time, let me first question you about the Army Chief's role. When the Army Chief reported this matter to the Defence Minister, he was asked by the Defence Minister to take action and said that he would... did not wish to pursue the matter and in effect refused to take action. What would you make out of that response?

Brajesh Mishra: May I ask you the question, when did that meeting happen?

Karan Thapar: I believe it was in September 2010, almost immediately after this offer of the bribe had been made.

Brajesh Mishra: So it was at that time. Now, the minister says go ahead and take action - this is his version over what the minister said. He says to the minister I can't take action because he is senior officer and this and that, whatever he might have said there. Third, the minister himself should have asked the Defence Secretary or the Secretary Incharge of Defence Production set up, to pursue the matter because he was told by the General at very moment that I am not going to do it.

Karan Thapar: You are saying two important things. First, you are saying that the Army Chief should not have been reluctant to take action, otherwise why was he reporting the matter to the minister in the first place. Is that correct sir?

Brajesh Mishra: My point is if he didn't want to take action why he did he go to the Defence Minister.

Karan Thapar: In other words refusal to take action contradicts the whole purpose of the going to minister in the first place?

Brajesh Mishra: That's right.

Karan Thapar: The second thing you are saying that when the Army Chief refused to take action, the minister should have asked the Defence Secretary to take action?

Brajesh Mishra: Yeah, let's say this happened in September. In October, no result of any action there... Shouldn't the minister have gotten up and say Defence Secretary, 'What has happened to this man came and all... I asked him to do it, he refused. But I have asked you people to do it'; If he had done it that way then every thing would have been fine. But he also didn't take action.

Karan Thapar:To come back to the Army Chief for a moment again, the Army Chief refuse to take action even though his minister, his boss was asking him to do so. But in this particular case as the Army Chief himself has admitted to The Hindu, it wasn't a one-off. The Army Chief had been made away that the bribes have been made earlier, possibly even to his predecessors. So this was the case of prolonged bribe-giving to senior officers over an extended period of time. Surely that required action and this makes the Army Chief's refusal even more perplexing.

Brajesh Mishra: You are absolutely right, he is reluctant to take action against, let's say his contemporary or one and two years seniors. But why does he go and report it to the Defence Minister? I mean this is where I talk about, is there a loss of mental balance? What is the purpose of going to the Defence Minister and telling him and then say 'I won't take any action'. I mean is this a reasonable?

Karan Thapar: This suggests loss of mental balance as you said?

Brajesh Mishra: Of course. He may have decided, 'Okay I will just go and decided the minister my duty is done and finish'.

Karan Thapar: You also suggested that he is reluctance to take the action, may have stemmed from the fact that the alleged bribe-giver was a retired General and therefore a fellow officer?

Brajesh Mishra: I did.

Karan Thapar: In a sense he was protecting a fellow officer to an extent?

Brajesh Mishra: Well you know it is very difficult to go into his mind. If he was protecting as I think he was protecting, why did he go to the Defence Minister?

Karan Thapar: And he can't answer that question.

Brajesh Mishra: No.

Karan Thapar: Secondly beyond the question of taking action, should the Army Chief have blacklisted the company, on whose behalf he was allegedly being offered a bribe?

Brajesh Mishra: I don't know what their procedures are, whether it is the Army Chief who has to blacklist them or is it the Defence?

Karan Thapar: I am told the Army Chief has the power and the authority to blacklist. In that case should he have used that power?

Brajesh Mishra: Of course he should have. Even if he was suspicious of certain things going on, he should have used it.

Karan Thapar: Even on suspicion he should have acted?

Brajesh Mishra: Yeah after all suspicion also has some bases.

Karan Thapar: And here it was more than suspicion. It was a bribe allegedly offered to him face to face. So black listing was clearly called for?

Brajesh Mishra:Yes if it is within his power, he should have done that. And in fact he should have done that and then gone to the minister and said, 'I have done it'.

Karan Thapar: So in fact, he should have the order the other way round.

Brajesh Mishra: Yeah.

Karan Thapar: As a former National Security Advisor, would you say that by failing the blacklist the company and by refusing to take action against alleged the bribetaker, General VK Singh has not lived up the to the high expectations expected of an Army Chief?

Brajesh Mishra: Certainly not, he has failed in so many aspects.

Karan Thapar: Is he a failure as Army Chief?

Brajesh Mishra: Of course he is a failure as the Chief of the Indian Army.

Karan Thapar: Will he go down in the history as one of the worst Chiefs?

Brajesh Mishra: Well I don't know there have been instances before my time. There was some talk about Thimayya and Cariappa.

Karan Thapar: But he will certainly go down as one of the worst Chiefs ?

Brajesh Mishra: The worst so far.

Karan Thapar: The worst so far?

Brajesh Mishra: Yeah so far

Karan Thapar: Mr Mishra, let's come to the Defence Minister's role in this sorry saga. How much of this responsibility of mishandling this whole situation falls on the shoulder of Mr Antony?

Brajesh Mishra: Apart from the Chief himself, the other person who is responsible for non-action, for not exercising his authority as the Minister of Defence is Mr Antony.

Karan Thapar: Has he emerged as a weak and ineffective Defence Minister?

Brajesh Mishra: I don't know what is ineffective but he certainly very weak.

Karan Thapar: He is certainly very weak?

Brajesh Mishra: Yes.

Karan Thapar: Has Mr Antony also, despite his proud boast of probity and integrity, actually failed to live up to that high standard he sets for himself, when he didn't pursue the matter of a bribe offered to the Army Chief ?

Brajesh Mishra: Well obviously, as I said earlier we are not going to go back to that. It was his duty to do two things after the Army Chief said, 'I will not take action' - one to reprimand the Army Chief, which he didn't do, and second to say to Defence Secretary production that 'you now take action to inquiry in to this and there is CBI if you want'.

Karan Thapar: Should Mr Antony continue as a Defence Minister in these circumstances?

Brajesh Mishra: Well I don't know. He has been weak but I won't say that he has brought the government to the kind of phase as Raja and others.

Karan Thapar: So this is not the sacking matter in Mr Antony's case?

Brajesh Mishra:Yes.

Karan Thapar: Let's come to the issue that the Army Chief raised about India's defence unpreparedness. In the letter he wrote to the Prime Minister which was leaked, he says that air defences are 97 per cent obsolete, he says that the tank fleet is devoid of critical ammunition, he says the state of the major fighting arms is alarming. Is the UPA government guilty of neglecting India's defence preparedness?

Brajesh Mishra: Well there is a lot of exaggeration on what the Army Chief has said in his letter to the Prime Minister. We are weak militarily, but not that kind of weakness that he is talking about, and if you have been watching all these shows in where Generals have been coming and talking, hardly any General has supported this contention on this thing. Now if the Prime Minister was convinced that this is the case, get the letter and talk to the Defence Minister. And say what action we are we going to take, whether they are doing it now, I don't know. I said this before also, probably it is going to be repetition for your audience, the real problem is that neither the political leadership nor the service leadership, the three chiefs, have acted in a manner to secure the country from external aggression. They have not. Thirty years have passed after the last war but in these 30 years they have not taken any action to get more material. You order one thing - tested in the sand, height, snow and in naval and other things - and these tests you go on for four or five years and by the time all things are obsolete, there is nothing left. So these antiquated procedures of 19th century when Great Britain was the lord of world, they are not there for now.

Karan Thapar: You are saying something very important. You are saying the Army itself, the services themselves are guilty of going by outdated testing procedure, which are prolonged and delaying and just waste time.

Brajesh Mishra: Antiquated procedures of 19th century.

Karan Thapar: Neither the government nor the services are changing this?

Brajesh Mishra: So far as the government is concern they are worried about Bofors on their shoulders. So they want to take every precaution to see that they are not named, this their....

Karan Thapar: Fear of scams has paralysed Defence procurement?

Brajesh Mishra: My final word is, the Chief ofcourse is out of his mind but the political leadership and it may not be Mr Antony, it may be others also, who have failed to take stern action to deter any kind of behaviour by either a Chief or his subordinate... I have never advocated that he should be sacked. I didn't say that we did something... He refuses to honour the decision of George Fernandes, but that is not the question here. Here the question is he was told by the Supreme Court, go and jump in the lake, this was the sum and substance of the... And he still goes on and writes a letter.

Karan Thapar: So all in all the government must find a way for sorting out this problem with the Chief promptly and immediately?

Brajesh Mishra: Not merely sorting it out but punishing him by sending him on compulsory leave although he will enjoy money without doing any work. And then he will have his pension.
Army chief Gen Singh's Nepal tour curtailed

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