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January 21, 2002
1415 IST

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Was Lt Gen Vij replaced at America's behest?

Josy Joseph in New Delhi

Was Lieutenant General Kapil Vij replaced as the general-officer-commanding of the crucial 2 Corps due to external pressure? Yes, if majority of the army sources were to be believed.

The commander of the crucial 2 Corps was replaced due to external pressure, rather than internal compulsions, several army officials told rediff.com.

An official said there was pressure from a Western power, which showed to the government evidence of Lt Gen Vij thrusting his troops close to the border. And the decision to send the general on leave was political and not a military one, he said.

Refusing to comment on the issue, an army spokesman told rediff.com that the officer went on leave "purely for personal reasons". The replaced general was a "highly accomplished officer", he said.

Lt Gen Vij was commanding 2 Corps, based in Ambala and now deployed along the Rajasthan border. Sources disclosed that the officer was trying some new tactics that he had worked out.

The 2 Corps is India's leading strike corps, carrying the strongest punch and having more force multipliers than the other two strike corps -- 1 Corps and 21 Corps.

The officer was apparently carrying out exercises on armoured thrust, and a noticeable number of 2 Corps' battle tanks were very close to the border.

"Satellites might have picked up pictures of the exercise," some officials said.

Without naming the US Secretary of State Colin Powell, the sources said that a visiting dignitary of one of the Western powers took up the issue with the government and pointed out that it was a provocative posturing that could destroy the fragile peace in the subcontinent.

Another officer told rediff.com that the he believed that the western country also conveyed Pakistan's concerns over the issue.

Former air force chief Air Chief Marshal S K Kaul said, "Why the US? It (the removal) could even be due to pressure from Pakistan." Under India-Pakistan confidence building measures, troop movements close to the border are to be notified to each other, he said.

The decision could not have been taken without taking into account the morale of the troops, ACM Kaul said, adding that it was not rare for a democratically elected government to replace a commander even during time of war.

"The government would have felt that his actions might escalate into a border skirmish, followed by a war," ACM Kaul said.

No inquiry had been ordered into the general's action, the sources said, adding that Lt Gen Vij would soon return to a posting "fitting his seniority and rank".

Lt Gen Vij is a much-respected officer whose action, officials said, "Could not have happened without the knowledge of the army headquarters."

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