The government is working hard to put all controversies surrounding the Army Chief to rest. "The Army Chief's office is an exalted office and nothing should be done to lower its dignity," Dr Manmohan Singh told reporters at the Rashtrapati Bhavan today.
"We cannot have the luxury of controversy with the armed forces. We have the fullest faith in them," said Defence Minister AK Antony, who was in Visakhapatnam where the INS Chakra, a Russian-built nuclear submarine was inducted into the Indian Navy.
Last week, the Army Chief and the Defence Minister were pitted against each other on two different fronts. First, General VK Singh shared that he had been offered a bribe of 14 crores in 2010; this information, he said, had been shared with Mr Antony. The remark was interpreted to mean that the minister failed to take any action. Then Mr Antony retaliated in Parliament that he had urged the chief unsuccessfully to follow-up on the offer of the kickback. Opposition leaders also questioned why General Singh had gone public with the information two years after the bribe was offered, and why he had not registered a police case. A CBI inquiry will now study his allegations.
The other crisis between the government and the Army came via the explosive leak of a confidential letter sent last month by General Singh to the Prime Minister.
The letter detailed an alarming catalogue of obsolete equipment. Opposition leaders blamed the chief for the leak and asked for his removal. General Singh retorted that the attempt to blame him was a smear campaign. Mr Antony helped to deflate the tension by stating publicly that the three serving chiefs enjoy the government's confidence.
The government and the Army Chief have walked a rocky course over the last year. General Singh became the first military chief to take the government to court. He asked the Supreme Court to insist that the government accept his claim that he was born a year later than listed by some of his records.
This would have qualified him for an extra year in office. General Singh withdrew his case after Supreme Court judges indicated they would have to rule against him. He retires at the end of May.