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Making secret letter public harmful for country: Antony

delhi Updated: Mar 29, 2012 01:12 IST
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The government would respond "at an appropriate time" to Army chief Gen VK Singh's letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a security risk following shortage of arms and ammunition, Union defence minister AK Antony said on Wednesday.

Antony said in Rajya Sabha: "Publishing the contents of a secret letter is not in the interest of the security of the country."

There are gaps in the capabilities of armed forces and efforts are on to bridge these quickly, minister of state for defence Pallam Raju said on Wednesday following reports of army chief General VK Singh writing to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the shortage of weapons and ammunition.

Reacting to VK Singh's letter, Raju said the defence ministry has utilised the entire budget allocated to it in the last three years.

"In the last three years we have utilised the entire capital budget and there was no surrender of budget. Nevertheless, there are gaps in capabilities which we are trying to bridge as quickly as possible," Raju told reporters.

The army chief on March 12 wrote to the prime minister, stating the country's security might be at risk owing to the fact that tanks are running out of ammunition, air defence is going obsolete and the infantry is operating without critical weapons. He appealed for suitable directions to enhance the preparedness of the army.

"We are fine-tuning the procurement process and speeding up the process and I think the government also has been very responsive to the needs of the capabilities of armed forces and we will see greater progress in the times to come," Raju said.

"We have been framing new rules and policy to minimise all these things (irregularities in procurement) and in case of purchases over Rs 100 crore, we have asked vendors to sign an integrity pact," he said.

"We are changing policy wherever possible to such things because every time any irregularity is pointed out and a cancellation happens it results in us buying the same equipment at much bigger price in a point later in time, which also affects our preparedness," he added.

VK Singh had on Monday disclosed that he was offered a kickback of Rs 14 crore in his office by a retired defence officer, sending shockwaves through the defence establishment.

He contended that he had informed Defence Minister AK Antony immediately about the conversation. The defence minister has ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry in the matter.

Major issues in General VK Singh's letter to PM:

1. Army’s entire tank fleet is 'devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks't

2. Air defence is '97% obsolete.

3. Air defence doesn't give deemed confidence to protect'.

4. Infantry is crippled with 'deficiencies of crew served weapon'.

5. Infantry lacks “night fighting” capabilities.

6. Elite Special Forces are “woefully short” of “essential weapons.

7. There are “large-scale voids” in critical surveillance.