New Delhi: “Ridiculous,” “irresponsible”, “contemptible” and “mischief” were the common refrain of several former armed forces chiefs, senior officials and strategic analysts on the sensational media report here Wednesday suggesting that there was an army coup bid based on movement of two key battalions to the national capital in January.
First to call it “ridiculous” was former army chief General Ved Prakash Malik, who headed the 1.13-million strong world’s second largest standing army during the 1999 Kargil war with Pakistan.
“I think it is a ridiculous report and that’s all that I can say,” Malik said.
The Indian Express, in a front page report Wednesday, said the Hisar-based Mechanised Infantry unit and elements from the airborne 50 Para Brigade in Agra moved towards the capital on the night of January 16, without following the standard operating procedure of informing the defence ministry in advance.
He, however, believes that the troop movement was a routine training exercise and there was no need for notifying the defence ministry on such minor movement of units.
His sentiment was shared by a former defence secretary who is regarded quite well by the government for his experience and knowledge on matters of military. “We have to see the basics of the report. The inferences drawn from it seem ridiculous. That’s about it,” said the former bureaucrat who did not want to be identified.
The most stinging criticism of the report already dubbed “alarmist” by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and “baseless” by defence minister AK Antony came from former Indian Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash.
“It is a very irresponsible piece of journalism by a senior editor, especially at a juncture when the situation is tense and uncertain. I am wondering what purposes does this report serve. It is a very contemptible piece of writing,” Prakash said.
“This is about the Indian Army and not the Pakistan Army, right? Should we be worrying about Indian Army units moving within the country?” he asked.
Former Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi though acknowledged that the media report was correct to the extent that there were indeed some army unit movements. However, the report is “incorrect as far as the nefarious purposes of the army units’ movement is concerned”, Tyagi said.
Former Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses director C Uday Bhaskar, a reputed strategic analyst, said he was “intrigued, disappointed and very concerned” at the way the report had presented the army movement.
“The nuance and innuendoes, as though there was an attempted coup or there was any sort of an intimidation, is invalid,” Bhaskar said.