The UPA trouble-shooter, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, has finally chipped in to strike an out-of-court settlement with army chief General VK Singh to end the row over his age.
According to government sources, Mukherjee has already had three rounds of meetings with the general. The government is working on a letter to the army chief, which will indirectly recognise 1951 as his year of birth, but will not allow him an extended tenure.
The step is aimed at mollifying Singh, who dubbed the age issue as a matter of “honour and integrity” rather than an attempt to get an extra year in office.
A top negotiator told HT that the letter will also state that Singh himself had entered 1950 as his year of birth “by mistake or otherwise”.
The hopes of a possible behind-the-scene compromise crashed last month after defence minister AK Antony said the government would wait for the Supreme Court’s final verdict, an indication that the Centre would rather fight a legal battle.
The controversy erupted in 2006 when Singh’s two different dates of birth were found in the records of the Military Secretary’s branch and the Adjutant General’s branch.
The sources said a union minister, regarded as a key legal brain of the UPA, had already drafted of the letter and efforts were on to reach a compromise.
While some political negotiators find the ‘letter diplomacy’ a feasible solution, a section in the defence ministry still has reservations about recognising 1951 as Singh’s year of birth in any form.