January troop mobilisation purely for training: Defence Minister

New Delhi: The government made it clear Thursday that the movements of army units on the night of January 16/17 was “purely for training purposes” and aimed at refining drills and ensuring operational preparedness during adverse weather conditions.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony also said there were no intelligence reports to the defence ministry on the troop movements.

“The movements were purely for training purposes aimed at refining the mobilisation drills and ensuring operational preparedness of the army despite adverse weather conditions,” said Antony in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.

A leading Delhi newspaper, in a page one report earlier this month, had claimed that centre was alarmed by the movement of units from the 50 Independent Para Brigade and 33 Armoured Division towards the national capital, leading to Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma being called back from a visit to Malaysia.

Sharma and army vice Chief Lt. Gen. S.K. Singh had previously clarified on the issue when they appeared before parliament’s standing committee on defence.

However, Antony did admit in his reply that the two units did move from their bases. The para commando unit moved from Agra to the location of another unit in Gurgaon on Jan. 17 and the armoured division unit moved from its location (reportedly in Hisar) to Bahadurgarh on the night of January 16/17.

The commando unit’s movement was to “practice mounting from an alternate airfield other than Agra, during ‘fogged out conditions/non-serviceability’ of the Agra airfield due to operational reasons”, Antony said.

These issues, Antony said, had emerged during the various deliberations in the course of refinement of plans of the 50 (I) Para Brigade.

The movement of the tank unit was “a precursor” towards an exercise it was to carry out in March-April 2012. The night mobilisation towards Bahadurgarh was “to validate its loading, movement and occupation of a harbour in poor visibility conditions”, the minister added.

“Having validated their mobilisation drills, both the columns moved back subsequently. There was no report received in the defence ministry from intelligence agencies on January 16/17 with regard to such troop movements,” he noted.


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