Army chief General V K Singh has termed a newspaper report on the movement of two army units in January ‘spooking the government’ as ‘absolutely stupid’. He made the remark on Thursday in response to a question about the story -- which had appeared in The Indian Express on Wednesday -- during a visit to Nepal where he is attending a regional seminar on disaster management and humanitarian assistance.
The chief’s remarks came on a day when his host country’s Prime Minister, Baburam Bhattarai, hailed the role of the Indian Army and its values in an official bilateral meeting.
Dr. Bhattarai’s press advisor, Ram Rijhan Yadav, told The Hindu that when General Singh mentioned that the Indian Army operates according to ‘democratic values and principles’, the Nepal PM said that the Nepal Army (NA) too operated according to the same values. Dr Bhattarai, who is a senio leader of Maoists in Nepal, also acknowledged the training and exposure received by Nepal Army officers in India, and said this had helped the NA transition from a force controlled by the monarchy to being one under an elected government.
Meanwhile, a new dimension to the troop deployment controversy emerged with The Week magazine releasing the audio recording of an interview it conducted with General Singh in early March, -- excerpts of which were published in the magazine on March 13 -- in which the Army chief expressed his apprehension that the normal movement of soldiers could be presented in a distorted way. “Even, let us say one of our corps or divisions or brigades exercise, somebody will say, oh! They did an exercise. It was not an exercise; they wanted to do something else," he is heard saying. “Now you will make a story out of it. There are lots of people who want to make stories these days for various nefarious aims, if I can put it like that.”
According to PTI, he had pointed to ‘people both uniformed and not in uniform, some civil servants, who had their own axis to grind…feeding all kinds of wrong things’. General Singh added, “So, you tell him (the journalist) something juicy, it comes on front page and nobody even looks whether there is any truth in it. It is already done. So, you have already thrown muck on somebody. There are lots of people who are doing that and I don't know what their motives are.”
Besides the Prime Minister Bhattari, General Singh met Nepal’s president, Ram Baran Yadav, deputy PM and defence minister Bijay Kumar Gachhedar, his counterpart, Nepal Army chief General Chhatraman Singh Gurung and other serving and retired army officers. Through his visit, his refrain, speaking in Nepali, was, ‘Whatever is good for Nepal is good for India.” General Singh also offered any assistance – training, weapons, and ammunition – that the Nepal government needed and sought.