Minister Pallam Raju downplays India troop movement

MM Pallam Raju Mr Raju said not much should be read into the troop movement

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India's Junior Defence Minister MM Pallam Raju has said that "someone" in the government "may have read too much" into the movement of two key army units towards Delhi in January.

Last week, The Indian Express reported that the unexpected movement "had spooked the government".

The government has rejected the report, saying the movement was routine.

It comes at a time when the government and the army have been involved in a series of disputes.

"If there were movements of troops, we need not read too much into it. And if there are movements of troops that are necessitated by certain conditions, I am sure that there are protocols that exist where somebody has to be informed or somebody has to be kept in the loop," Mr Raju told the CNN-IBN channel in an interview.

When asked whether any protocol had been violated, Mr Raju said he had no such information.

'Confusion'

Asked whether the government had panicked on the night of 16 January when the army units moved towards the Indian capital, Mr Raju said: "I would not put it that the government had reacted. It's probably someone down the line who might have read too much into it."

Mr Raju continued: "It is a possibility that people would try to create a little bit of confusion in the current scenario."

"And I don't think that we should react too much into these things. We know what our national interests are. We know what has to be done to protect our national interests, and I think we are acting in accordance," he said.

The Indian Express report said the incident took place on the night of 16 January - the day army chief Gen VK Singh filed a case in the Supreme Court in an acrimonious row with the government over his age.

Army tanks in Delhi - 26 January 2004 India does not have a history of military interference in its politics

The movement caused considerable alarm and consternation in the government, it said.

It added that Defence Minister AK Antony was informed, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was woken up early on 17 January, while Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma was called back from a trip to Malaysia.

The army told the newspaper that the units were engaged in a routine exercise to test their mobility in fog and did not need to warn the government in advance.

There have been several run-ins between the army chief and the government.

A letter Gen Singh wrote in March to Prime Minister Singh about the inadequate state of India's defences was leaked and the general recently alleged he was offered a large bribe from a defence industry lobbyist.

There was also the bitter dispute over the general's age, which he eventually dropped.

He went to the Supreme Court on 16 January to have his date of birth as recorded by the military - 10 May 1950 - changed to a year later so that it matched the date on his birth certificate and other documents.

He dropped the case after the court indicated it could rule against him because he had already accepted three promotions that were based on the earlier date.

Changing the date would have meant that he could retire in 2013 instead of this year.

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