Patna/New Delhi: A fresh controversy has erupted over the movement of two Army units near Delhi in 2012 with then DGMO Lt Gen AK Choudhary saying there may have been "distrust" between the Army and government on the issue, a view rejected on Friday by the national security adviser (NSA).
"There was misconception or there was perceptional difference or there may be distrust," Choudhary said on Friday after he was quoted in an interview, saying that the then defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma had asked him to send the troops back as the government at the highest level was "worried" over this.
When asked about this, NSA Shivshankar Menon said there was no distrust between the Army and government.
"I don't see there is distrust. How can I comment on something that I don't see. Because I am a civilian, I work very closely with the Army everyday. I don't see that," he said.
The movement of the troops was a "normal" exercise, Choudhary said, and the government immediately "understood" the issue after he explained the matter to them. "But before that either there was misconception... or may be distrust."
Asked by reporters whether there was any confusion in the government then over the troop movement, he shot back, "You ask them (government)".
Pressed further whether alarm bells had rung in the government over the issue, he said, "I won't say they were alarmed or not alarmed".
He said there was daily interaction between the government and the Army headquarters and if at all there was any confusion then, they could have sought clarification in such meetings.
He said the government did get "a little excited" which was "uncalled for". "I was only thinking that if there were inputs of this nature they (government) had thought about , they should have called us up and asked us for clarification. It would have finished at that point of time only."
When Sharma sought an explanation from him as the government had no information about it, he told him that this is a "normal routine" exercise and "you need not worry about it at all and they understood it".
The then Army chief General VK Singh, whose relations with the government soured over the controversy on his date of birth, said Choudhary's comments only confirmed the hand of a senior bureaucrat linked to Chandigarh in raking it up.
"It confirms who cooked up routine move to denigrate Army," he wrote on his Twitter post.
The then DGMO said it would be wrong to link the troop movement with Gen Singh's decision to drag government to the Supreme Court over his date of birth row as such exercises are planned long in advance.
"Such training exercises are planned in advance. It is wrong to link it with any particular date. It has nothing to do with him (Gen Singh) going to court," Choudhary said.
Singh had moved the apex court on January 16, 2012, which coincided with the movement of troop.
Choudhary termed the exercise as "very small", something which happens round the year. "These exercises they keep on doing very often. Earlier also they have done, they don't ask me. These are normal, routine exercises with the formation's command. They don't inform us, it's not required," he said.
He parried questions as to whether the concern in the government had to do with reports of "trust deficit" between Gen Singh and defence minister AK Antony and said such queries should be put to them.
He, however, appeared to blame the government for the row, saying if they were worried then they should have asked the Army.
"I cannot say what was in there mind when they received the information. When they asked me the next day, I explained it to them and it ended there... You should ask them if they were confused or what caused it," he said.
Routine training, says Antony
Defence minister AK Antony reiterated his earlier stand that it was a "routine training incident", rejecting suggestions of a trust deficit between him and General Singh or any "alarm" in the government over the troop movement.
"I said we got report from the Army. It was a normal routine programme. It was routine, nothing wrong in it. That is the answer, written answer I gave to Parliament. It was a routine training incident."
He said the defence secretary gave the same answer to the Parliament standing committee that the exercise was a routine training.