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Army, Air Force and Navy chiefs to appear before Parliamentary panel on April 20

The meeting saw defence secretary Shashikant Sharma presenting the government's response to reports of two Army units moving towards the Capital without notifying the government on the night of January 16.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Apr 10, 2012, 02.19 AM IST
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NEW DELHI: The chiefs of the three wings of the armed forces - Army, Air Force and Navy - will appear before the parliamentary standing committee on defence on April 20 to educate its members on the state of the country's battle-readiness.

The decision to summon the three service chiefs was taken by the parliamentary panel at its meeting here on Monday after members, citing contents of Army chief General VK Singh's March 12 letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, raised serious concerns over India's defence preparedness.

The letter, which had been "leaked" to the press, had triggered a furore in both Houses of Parliament, with the Opposition questioning the government's sincerity in dealing with the situation.

The meeting saw defence secretary Shashikant Sharma presenting the government's response to reports of two Army units moving towards the Capital without notifying the government on the night of January 16.

There was, he said, no standard operating procedure regulating such exercises, and the inferences drawn on the troop movement were "incorrect". AIMIM member Asaduddin Owaisi is learnt to have intervened at this juncture, demanding a probe into the manner in which the story had found its way into the media.

However, he was over-ruled by the remaining members, who expressed their satisfaction with the government's response, and said "the matter should rest at that".

The defence secretary was grilled by the members on India's readiness to take on the challenges posed by its "inimical" neighbours. Vice-Chief of the Air Staff, Air Vice-Marshal KK Nohwar, who was also present at the meeting, was questioned about the delay in acquiring the basic trainer aircraft.

Their acquisition, members said, had become all the more important in view of the spurt in crashes involving IAF combat aircraft in the past few months.

The Air Vice-Chief, in his reply, said that the deal to purchase 75 basic trainer aircraft, Pilatus-7, will be signed with Switzerland next month. Their supply, he said, will begin in 18 months. To avoid any delay, pilots will be sent for training to Switzerland six months before the first trainer arrives so that they are ready for take-off as soon as they arrive.

The Air Vice-Chief was, it is learnt, also asked whether India was ready to wage a two-front war. He was also questioned about India's ability to bridge the gap with China.


Beijing's military modernisation programme, it was said, was moving very fast. India was found to be lagging behind.

Air Vice-Marshal Nohwar is learnt to have said India could catch up with its northern neighbour by 2017, or even earlier, if the defence acquisition and modernisation project was taken up aggressively.

The defence secretary was, it is learnt, grilled on the Army's lack of critical ammunition. He admitted their reserves were below our requirement. In fact, reserves of certain types of tank ammunition had reached an alarmingly low level, and could last just four days.

He was asked whether the budgetary allocation for purchasing these ammunition was sufficient. Budgetary provision, he replied, was enough for the armed forces to bridge the deficit, but the delay had occurred because the government had blacklisted the Israeli company which was supplying these ammunition. There was, thus, no option but to turn to the Russians.

The defence secretary was also asked about the Tatra truck deal, and allegations of bribery in the vehicle's purchase, as highlighted by the Army chief. He responded by stating there was no complaint so far on the quality of the trucks per se.

Even the DRDO had testified to its efficiency. As far the bribery allegations were concerned, they were being looked into by the CBI, Sharma said.

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