Thu, Apr 05, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Indian army units’ unusual movements spook government

Reuters, NEW DELHI

Two Indian army units that moved toward New Delhi on a January night without notifying the government raised an alarm in the capital, the Indian Express reported yesterday, citing several unidentified sources.

The newspaper report said the infantry unit of the 33rd Armored Division, based 150km from New Delhi, and a unit of the Airbourne 50 Para Brigade, based in Agra to the south, reached the outskirts of New Delhi before being ordered back.

The army told the newspaper the units were engaged in routine training exercises to test their mobility in fog and did not need to warn the government in advance.

Indian Defense Ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said it was not true the maneuvers had caused alarm in the ministry.

The troop movements happened at a time of high friction between Indian Army Chief Vijay Kumar Singh and the government. The newspaper said the accepted view is there was a breakdown in communication, rather than a plot of any kind.

The military in India is not known for conspiring against the government in a region plagued by instability.

On the night in question, lookouts confirmed the two units were traveling toward New Delhi, the report said.

Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony was informed and the government ordered police to check all vehicles on roads to New Delhi as a way of slowing traffic. The defense secretary, the ministry’s top civil servant, cut short a trip to Malaysia to handle the situation.

The report highlights the deep rifts and tense atmosphere in recent months between the world’s second-largest standing army and the government.

On Jan. 16, the day the exercises took place, Singh took a case against the government to the Supreme Court in a row about whether he could serve another year before retiring. He later lost the case.

The army chief has since said he was offered a US$2.8 million bribe and accused the defense minister of not acting on information about corruption in the forces. He also wrote a letter to the Indian prime minister last month saying the army was not in proper shape to defend the country. The letter was leaked.

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