According to sources, a debate over whether there should be some uniformity across all armed services, as is the case in the US, triggered an argument in the meeting

New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, along with two others from his party, Wednesday walked out of his first meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence following a verbal spat over a briefing on military structures.

Committee sources said that the briefing was being held on the rank and structures, including their uniform, stars and badges, of the armed officers.

Following a power point presentation, Gandhi objected to wasting the Committee’s time and that of the Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat who was also present.

Sources said that Rajya Sabha MP and Army veteran Lt Gen. D.P. Vats (Retd) suggested that the Service personnel could have some commonality and clear markings like the US.

He was of the opinion that the Indian military system could incorporate US structure and said that Indian military’s uniform and symbols were complicated.

Gandhi objected to this and said that the forces are the only authority who can decide what the uniform should be. He added that ranks and symbols on the uniform have their own identity that are inspired from traditions.

Gandhi also said that politicians should refrain from giving suggestions, and added that the process is tantamount to wasting the time of senior defence personnel.

At this point, committee chairman Jual Oram intervened, saying that members are well within their rights to know about the military structure and hierarchy. He added that members can give suggestions.

Oram said he, as chairman, will decide what suggestions can be given or not and added that Lt Gen. Vats is more qualified to give suggestions related to defence forces.

Then two other Congress members present — Anumula Revanth Reddy and Rajeev Satav — objected to Oram not allowing Gandhi to speak, after which the three walked out.

Other spokespersons of the party, who did not wish to be named, said the Congress is yet to take an official position on the issue, and would not like to comment yet.

“Of course the forces will decide on what the uniform should be. But an MP can give suggestions also,” a source, who attended the meeting said.

Sources who were at the meeting said BJP MP Prathap Simha questioned why Gandhi met with Chinese authorities in 2017 when the Doklam stand-off was on if he was so supportive of the armed forces and respected them.

The defence parliamentary committee has a total of 31 members — 21 from the Lok Sabha, nominated by its Speaker, and 10 from the Rajya Sabha, nominated by its chairman. It is responsible for examining bills pertaining to the Ministry of Defence, along with other defence-related issues of importance in Parliament. The term of office for the members of the committee does not exceed a year.

In July Gandhi had not attended a single meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence since its formation as part of the 17th Lok Sabha last year.