Chief of the Army Staff General V.K. Singh on Tuesday said the defence establishment's “foot-print” in Kerala was bound to get bigger given the State's “strategic vicinity” to the nation's island territories and international sea-routes.
Interacting with presspersons on his maiden visit to the military station here, General Singh said already five major public sector units, all having a bearing on the country's defence production, were in Kerala. The Army's deployment and infrastructure build-up in the State, including the positioning of its amphibious combat battalions, would depend on immediate and future threat perceptions.
Replying to a question on the controversy regarding his age, the General said it could have been immensely avoided. Asked who could have avoided the row, he said “by everybody.”
The Army chief said the North East was as safe as any other region in the country. Insurgent groups such as National Development Front of Bodoland and United Liberation Front of Asom had come to the negotiation table. In Nagaland, there had been a cessation of the hostilities between different groups and the State. Manipur no more had the profile of a violence-prone State. Tripura was largely peaceful except for a few isolated instances of sporadic violence. India's main battle tank Arjun was already in service. The Army would continue to evaluate the current and future versions and prototypes of the battle tank, point out the rectifications to be made and decide whether they were good or not, he said.
On the issue of possible corruption in defence procurement, the General said the Army's thrust was on “transparency and probity” in all matters. “The Army has elaborate procedures to ensure that we don't get saddled with equipment which are not good or substandard. If we find defects, the Army corrects it. I will also say that it requires a wide range of changes in the entire system. The Army is just a miniscule part of it,” he said. The General said he had Defence Minister A.K. Antony's support on the proposed “one rank-one pension” scheme of the Indian Army. Its implementation would cost the public exchequer Rs.1,300 crore.
The Army chief mixed easily with journalists, camera persons, fellow officers and their families. He asked reporters whether it was okay if he spoke informally with them during tea rather than taking the podium to answer their questions.
Earlier, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy released a coffee-table book, ‘North East Trilogy,' written by Dipti Bhalla and Kunal Verma. Lt. Gen. A.K. Singh, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command, was among those present.
The Army chief arrived here on a two-day visit on Monday. He visited the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple on Tuesday morning.