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No public debate on defence issues, say government and opposition

Delhi,Defence/Security,Politics, Wed, 28 Mar 2012 IANS

New Delhi, March 28 (IANS) It was peace after war between ruling and opposition MPs Wednesday with both sides agreeing that the issues raised by army chief V.K. Singh in a letter to the prime minister should not become a matter of public debate.


After two adjournments before 12 noon on V.K. Singh's letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, highlighting shortage of arms and ammunition in the forces, Defence Minister A.K. Antony clarified in the Rajya Sabha that the government was committed to strengthening the forces and procurement process was under strict monitoring.



'These issues cannot be an issue of public debate... publishing the contents of secret communication cannot serve our national security,' Antony said as the upper house reassembled after two adjournments.



Opposition MPs agreed that the issue should not have come out in the open.



V.K. Singh, in a letter to Manmohan Singh, has pointed out a shortage of arms and ammunition in the armed forces and raised questions if the country was ready for a war.



According to reports, the letter, written March 12, states that army tanks have run out of ammunition. The letter emphasises the need to bridge the shortcomings and bring the army to fighting level.



The minister said successive governments attach priority to the defence preparedness and that the government was committed to providing the best equipment to the forces.



'I can assure this nation it is our intention to keep it (armed forces) strong. Government will do everything necessary to ensure that our defence forces are provided and trained to make them best fighting forces in the world,' he said.



Agreeing that the issue should not be raised publicly, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley asked for assurance on the 'integrity' of the procurement process.



'While I agree we will all have to exercise utmost restraint and not make it issue of public debate... across the media, too many pieces of information which disturb us are coming with regard on procurement process,' Jaitley said.



'Attach utmost priority to the fact that there are no malpractices in it,' he said.



Communist Party of India-Marxist's (CPI-M) Sitaram Yechury, Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Shivanand Tiwari and several other opposition leaders also agreed that public debate on the issue was a serious concern.



'We are happy with the assurance... the information appearing in the media is a matter of utmost concern,' Yechury said.



The defence minister then assured the members that procurement process was amended time to time and strong action was taken if any violation was found.



The minister expressed happiness that the opposition and government were united on the issue of national security.



'I am very very happy to hear observations of the opposition leader and other leaders of the house... whatever be our difference, when it comes to national security we are one,' Antony said.



While the Rajya Sabha saw two adjournments, the Lok Sabha was adjourned twice but over the issue of statehood to Telangana.


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