Shimla: Army chief Gen VK Singh has said that efforts would be made to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution to the contentious Annandale ground issue.
Gen Singh, who was here on a farewell visit to ARTRAC, made the comment after meeting Chief Minister PK Dhumal at his residence.
“Efforts would be made to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution to the issue and I am sure we will find a mutually agreeable solution,” he said.
A government release described the meeting as a “courtesy call” and said that various matters of strategic importance from defence point of view such as construction of railway line upto Leh, construction of Rohtang tunnel, relocation of Dogra Regiment from Faizabad to Una and setting up of Canteen Stores Department (CSD) were discussed and there was no mention of “Annandale”.
The Annandale controversy had taken an “ugly” turn after an army release said that the ground was of strategic importance and national security cannot be ignored for “game and gimmicks”.
After the Army statement, Himachal Chief Minister PK Dhumal threatened to file a defamatory suit against the concerned officers and the Army chief had said that the relations between the army and the state government were very good and the matter would be discussed.
The sprawling 121-bigha lush green ground, surrounded by thick forests, located just 4.5 km from Shimla’s Ridge, has been under the Army’s control since World War II and the lease had expired some thirty years ago.
The state government had been asking for handing over the possession to the state but no serious effort was made in the past. However, the recent campaign launched by some sports and organisations for converting the ground into a multi-sports stadium escalated the row and HPCA president, Anurag thakur (MP) and son of chief minister led a march from ridge to CM’s residence and handed over a memorandum to the chief minister with two lakh signatures, urging him to take up the issue with the Defence Ministry.
However, the army maintained that Annandale ground was the only place which is open and suitable for strategic purposes.