India’s Army Chief Calls Leak of Memo ‘Treason’

Posted March 29th, 2012 at 2:50 pm (UTC-5)
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India's army chief says that whoever leaked a letter he wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh describing his country's defense capabilities as weak is guilty of treason.

In a statement Thursday, Indian General Vijay Kumar Singh said the unauthorized release “should be treated as high treason.” He went on to say that he believes “the source of the leak has to be found and dealt with ruthlessly.”

The letter, dated March 12, called the state of India's fighting forces “alarming.” It said India's tank fleet is “devoid of critical ammunition” and its air defense system is 97 percent obsolete. It also said the infantry is crippled with deficiencies and lacks night fighting equipment, while the elite forces are “woefully short” of essential weapons.

Following the leak this week, India's opposition parties have united with some ruling Congress party lawmakers in calling for General Singh's removal. They say his letter is damaging to the armed forces.

But Amer Latif, a visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, tells VOA the information contained in the letter is not that shocking. He says it is widely known that India has had a big problem with weapons modernization as it tries to emerge as the dominant force in a region that also includes long-time rival Pakistan and China. He blames the slow pace of modernization on the country's large bureaucracy.

Latif says it is more damaging for India that these concerns have surfaced in a leaked letter from a sitting army chief to the prime minister.

The leak also comes at a time when relations between General Singh and civilian authorities have hit a new low. Earlier this year, Singh took the defense ministry to the Supreme Court after claiming he was younger than military records showed. He lost the case.

On Monday, the general said he was offered a $2.8 million bribe to buy substandard trucks for the army. It was the latest development in a long series of corruption scandals to rock the government as the Congress party positions itself to hold on to power.

South Asian analyst Amer Latif says that when it comes to elections in India, domestic issues typically outweigh national security or global concerns in voters' minds.

However, he says the possibility of any corruption or malfeasance in the country's military could cost the ruling party votes in India's 2014 general elections.