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PM, Antony dismiss report on troop movement

New Delhi/Visakhapatnam: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defence Minister A K Antony today rubbished a news report on "unusual" troop movement towards Delhi in the middle of January as "alarmist" and "absolutely baseless".

"These are alarmist reports. They should not be taken at face value," the Prime Minister told reporters on the sidelines of a function at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

To a question on the stand off between government and the Army Chief, he said, "the Army Chief`s office is an exalted office. All of us have an obligation to do nothing that would lower its dignity."

The Prime Minister was reacting to a report in the `Indian Express` which said that on the night of January 16-17 an entire mechanised infantry unit based in Hisar (Haryana) with its fighting vehicles began moving towards Delhi, the day Army Chief Gen V K Singh approached the Supreme Court on the age issue.

A sizeable section of the Agra-based 50 Para Brigade also moved to near Palam. Both were stopped and ordered to be moved back, the report said, virtually suggesting a possible coup attempt.

Defence Minister Antony described as "absolutely baseless" fears of coup by the armed forces and expressed confidence that they will not do anything to undermine democracy.

"Absolutely baseless. Army has already explained this. It is usual, natural activities. Nothing unusual. We are absolutely confident of the patriotism of the armed forces. Don`t question their patriotism. They will not do anything to undermine Indian democracy," he told a press conference in Visakhapatnam after commissioning `INS Chakra`, a nuclear power submarine.

Antony was replying to a question on the `Indian Express` report. The questioner told him that the report raised considerable alarm and fears of a coup and whether the government was afraid of such a possibility and what did it do. Would he rule out the possibility of a coup.

Antony said the armed forces personnel were "true patriots" and "don`t question the patriotism of the soldiers who are dying in the frontiers of the country. I am proud of the Indian Army, Navy, Air Force and the Coast Guard," he said. He also urged the media not to lower the dignity of the armed forces on issues of national security.

In a statement, Defence Ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said, "the points raised in the report have already been clarified by the Army…such exercises are conducted by the Army from time to time."

He also dubbed the report as "baseless and incorrect". Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju said the report was "highly irresponsible and anti-national".

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