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November 8, 1999
Lt Gen Krishan Pal to be shifted out of 15 Corps
Josy Joseph in New Delhi
After a series of embarrassing security lapses in Kashmir, the army brass is not yet ready to fix responsibility on any one. It is instead planning to transfer Lieutenant General Krishan Pal, commander of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps, in January as part of "routine transfers."
His transfer would be part of a "routine" shake up in the senior levels of the army, which is divided over the repeated lapses by the 15 Corps which have led to a slew of embarrassments in the last one year.
The Kargil intrusions took place when 15 Corps was guarding the Line of Control, and the November 3 attack on its headquarters in Badami Bagh Cantonment area in Srinagar has happened when Lt Gen Pal remains in command.
Indications available from the army headquarters are that the top brass is "inclined to think that [though] an individual is [not] responsible for all these, however corrective steps are necessary." One of the corrective steps is Lt Gen Pal's transfer in January.
Army sources said a replacement is being sought for Lt Gen Pal, and in all likelihood an officer from Delhi would be taking over as the new 15 Corps commander. But if the army grapevine is to be believed, Lt Gen Pal himself is interested in coming to Delhi and has been making informal queries about a possible posting to Delhi, which would be the last before he retires.
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed now by authoritative sources that the army headquarters misled the defence minister over last week's attack, telling him that it took place outside the high security zone and that the PRO and his staff were a "soft target." George Fernandes in fact went ahead and recorded a statement for Doordarshan in this regard,, but it was withdrawn minutes before the news bulletin went on air.
It is not known which senior officer from the army headquarters briefed the minister, but sources said the "brief came from Srinagar", once again pointing a finger at the 15 Corps top brass. Earlier the 15 Corps was accused of misleading Army chief General V P Malik and others during the beginning of the Kargil conflict in May saying that the intruders would be cleared in two days. That time too Fernandes gave such an assurance based on the briefing he received from the army.
According to sources, the inquiry ordered into the killing of Major Purushottam -- a brilliant officer, whose personal charm played a crucial role in containing to a large extent media criticism of the regime's Kashmir policy -- would also cover misleading of the minister.
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