Army prepared to meet any contingency: Singh

Thiruvananthapuram: Army Chief Gen V K Singh today said the force was operationally prepared to meet any contingency, days after he highlighted major "shortcomings" in the country`s defence preparedness.

On corruption in defence deals, he said it was important to ensure probity and transparency.

Speaking about defence preparedness of the country, the Army Chief said, "With great confidence, I can say that operationally we are prepared to take on any contingency that can arise."

Singh said defence preparedness was a large field that comprises training of troops, morale of the troops and the type of equipment and other things.

In a letter to the Prime Minister on March 12, Gen Singh had complained about lack of defence preparedness and ammunition. He had also pointed out the obsolescence of air defence systems in the force.The leakage of the letter in the media had triggered a controversy.

Maintaining that adequate measures were being taken to check corruption, he said, "Corruption has always been a major issue. We had people fighting against corruption for long time. Certain exposes have come up in recent times in various fields which included the defence sector also."

"Our thrust area is to ensure transparency and probity and also to ensure that middlemen and dealers who indulge in wrong practices are checked," he said. He said it was also important that the defence forces were not saddled with sub-standard equipment.

Singh said it required wide ranging changes in the entire system in which the Army was only a minuscule part of it.

Gen Singh, who was the chief guest at the release of the Army-commissioned book on north eastern region "North East Trilogy", said the area was now much more peaceful than it was five years ago.

Citing examples of different north eastern states, he said the Army was closely working with state governments to bring insurgents to negotiation with the government.

Asked about the "threat perception" posed by China to that region, he said, "China is our neighbour." He, however, said when you have a border that has not been settled, there can be all types of things happening. I do not want to say more on that", he said.

On the demand for one-rank one-pension, Singh said this was something that "we had been pursuing" and expected a positive outcome with the support of Defence Minister A K Antony.

As per the present estimates, its implementation would cost Rs 1300 crore.

Gen Singh said north eastern region of the country was as safe as any other part and the Army was working for the last couple of years to ensure that peace prevailed.

A lot of insurgent groups fighting against the state had come forward to have settlement with the governments.

In the case of Assam, groups like ULFA and NDFC were fighting. In Naglaland, insurgent groups had ceased their hostility with the government.

Manipur had a comparatively violent profile because of differences between two major groups. "We are working very hard to ensure that they also come to negotiate and settle with the state government", he said.

Tripura had only law and order problems and Meghalaya was very peaceful except for some political issues. "Generally I would say, as a whole, north east is much more peaceful than five years ago."