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India's army chief has caused uproar by claiming the country's security is at risk, with an obsolete air defence and critical shortages of ammunition.

Gen. Vijay Kumar Singh made the statements in a private letter to prime minister Manmohan Singh which was leaked to a national newspaper and television stations.

Gen. Singh said the state of the country's artillery, air defence and infantry was "alarming." He said the army was "devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks" and the air defence system was "97% obsolete." The letter caused an uproar in parliament, with angry opposition MPs accusing the government of neglecting the country's defence.

Opposition parties have accused the government of delaying defence purchases, leaving the armed forces with outdated equipment. They say delays and a lack of transparency in defence purchases have led to the creation of strong lobbies and influential middlemen, and encouraged corruption in the procurement process.

Opposition MPs also demanded that the government explain how a private letter to the prime minister was leaked to the media.

The army chief was recently locked in a battle with the government in a controversy over his date of birth in which he petitioned the Supreme Court against the government - the first time a serving general has dragged the government to court. He is due to retire in May but wants to serve another year, claiming army records were wrong.

The row escalated this week when the army chief claimed in a newspaper interview that he had been offered a millions of pounds in a bribe to approve the purchase of sub-standard trucks for the army. Gen. Singh claimed he had informed the defence minister about the bribery attempt but nothing was done to investigate the charge.

India has one of the world's largest armies, with 1.2 million active soldiers and nearly another million in reserves.

The Congress party-led government has been embarrassed by a recent series of scandals and charges of incompetence. Last week, a leaked audit report showed the government had lost hundreds of billions of pounds by selling coalfields to companies without competitive bidding.

Senior ministers and officials have also faced corruption charges stemming from the hosting of the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the sale of mobile phone spectrum.


From Belfast Telegraph