The Indian Army Tuesday officially denied that its chief, General VK Singh, had alluded to the defence ministry's handling of his age row "as though he was Pakistan's army chief" in a meeting with Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma.
In a clarification issued in New Delhi, the Indian Army headquarters said the media report in this regard was "factually incorrect" and has been made "to sensationalise" a routine meeting.
"With reference to the media report, it is clarified that the report is factually incorrect and has been made to sensationalize a routine meeting," the clarification issued by the army spokesperson's office said here.
The report had claimed that Gen. Singh told Sharma during a one-on-one meeting that he was being treated by the ministry as if he was the Pakistan army chief and that he felt humiliated by the bureaucrats in the ministry.
Meanwhile, former Punjab chief minister and state Congress president Captain (retd.) Amarinder Singh has batted for Gen. Singh in a letter written to Defence minister AK Antony on his decision to reject the army chief's contention that his date of birth is May 10, 1951 and requesting that the official records be reconciled.
Antony had last week rejected a statutory complaint field by Gen. Singh four months ago, citing the recommendation of the attorney general that changing birth date records at this state would vitiate the existing succession line in the army.
Amarinder Singh, in his letter to Antony, said that he backed the army chief's fight for his honour and for upholding his integrity and that the controversy was affecting the morale of the 1.13-million strong army.
The former Punjab chief minister also reportedly attacked former army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor, saying politics played a large part in have this controversy brewing so that it benefits some individuals.
The discrepancy in Gen. Singh’s date of birth in army records, he said, “seems to be part of some army headquarters politics geared to placing individuals in position to be future chiefs”, a reference to Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh, the present Eastern Army Commander, who is touted to be the next chief based on his seniority when the present chief retires in May this year.
Asked about Amarinder Singh's letter to Antony, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said it was written by the former Punjab chief minister, a former army officer with own views on matters military, in his personal capacity.
Tewari's comments come even as Amarinder Singh himself clarified that he had written the letter in his individual capacity.
The age row has its genesis in the two different sets of records maintained by two different branches of the army headquarters that deal with personnel matters. While the Adjutant General's branch, which is the official record keepers dealing with pay and perks, has 1951 as the army chief's year of birth, the Military Secretary branch that handles postings and promotions has 1950 as his year of birth.
The issue first came up in 2006, when Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee was the defence minister, even as the government was considering Gen. Singh's name for promotion as a corps commander. Again, in 2008, when his name came up for promotion as army commander, the age issue once again reared its head.
On both occasions, the government maintained 1950 as the year of birth and accorded its approval for his promotion.
With these as the basis, Antony and the defence ministry has rejected a couple of times rejected Gen. Singh's request for reconciling records to reflect 1951 as the year of birth.
As the army chief has now exhausted all options that are available for him to get his grievance redressed within the service, he has the option of either going to the Armed Forces Tribunal or the Supreme Court with his plea.