The tension between army chief general VK Singh and defence minister AK Antony seems to be cooling with the minister standing his ground defying his party colleagues in opposing the army chief's sacking following the bribery allegation and the leak of a letter which exposed the poor preparedness of the forces to take action against external threats. (See: Forces ill-equipped to meet threats, Army chief tells PM)
Antony yesterday said Singh continued to remain the army chief. "All the three defence chiefs enjoy the government's confidence. All the three defence chiefs are working today. I am comfortable, and I am not in an embarrassing situation," replied Antony when asked about the controversy surrounding Singh.
Even though Antony called the leak of the army chief's letter to prime minister Manmohan Singh on the army's state of preparedness to wage a war, an anti-national act adding that strict action would be taken against those involved in its leak, he stopped short of stating what the government's next move would be.
However, the minister was sending out conciliatory signals at a news conference at the Defence Expo in Delhi even as the army chief, on an official trip to Jammu and Kashmir was raising the pitch.
In a statement issued by the army headquarters, General V K Singh said, "The leakage of the letter to the prime minister should be treated as high treason. Cynical approach to tarnish my reputation should stop. Source of the leakage should be found and dealt with ruthlessly."
The chief's assertion comes in the backdrop of the standoff between the general and the civillian bureaucrats in the defence ministry, which seems to be getting more acrimonious. After the Rs14-crore bribery allegation, an embarrassed government realised yesterday that it was on shaky ground.