Shailesh Kumar is an independent journalist with over 15 years of experience in crime, political and defence reporting for leading media brands including Star News, India TV and NewsX. He is the founder editor of defence and security news portal, National Defence.
New Delhi, 15 December 2016
Suspense is rife as who will be knifed out of the three names defence ministry is said to have sent for the consideration of Appointments Committee of the Cabinet on appointments for the appointment of India’s next Army Chief. General Dalbir Singh is hanging his boots on 31stDecember 2016. The Defence Ministry has sent the file to Prime Minister’s Office in November last recommending three names each for the two Service namely Indian Army and the Indian Air Force. They are Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, Southern Army Commander Lt Gen P M Hariz and Vice Chief of the Army Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, sources said. It is still a big question on everyone’s mind as who will be India’s next Army Chief?
Generally, Government of India declares the name of succeeding service chief two months before the superannuation of the current chief. But barely two weeks are left neither the chief of army staff nor the Chief of Air Staff name has been announced. Modi Government has changed the convention. Sources said one of the reasons for the delay in the announcement of the new chiefs could be that Parliament is in session which would end on December 16.
Lt Gen Bakshi, under whose tenure the Myanmar anti- insurgency operation was carried out, is the senior most of the Commanders. Speculation is that the government may appoint someone based not on seniority alone but also experience in handling Kashmir and Pakistan, two issues which will continue to be the focus in the next two years.
While Lt Gen Bakshi is from the Armoured Corps, Lt Gen Hariz is from Mechanised Infantry and Lt Gen Rawat is an outright infantry soldier.
Invariably, the vice-chief of army staff, who in turn is the senior-most in the service after the COAS, is promoted to the chief’s post (normally a term of three years or the age of 62, whichever is earlier), provided he is not superannuated (turning 60) before the day of assumption (if he is made chief on his last day in office, then he automatically gets an additional two years as chief).
Is it that Lt General Bakshi’s background as an armoured corps officer is being held against him, as the post of COAS usually goes to those coming from infantry. The only armored corps officer to have made COAS was General Krishnaswami Sunderji, more than two decades ago.
However, all this is not to suggest that General Bakshi will not be made COAS. The point is that the delay by the government in announcing a name is giving rise to all sorts of speculation. In case Bakshi is being ignored or superseded by a junior for the post of COAS, he will be the next such officer to suffer this fate, starting with General SK Sinha in 1983.
More about Lt. Gen Praveen Bakshi:
Lt Gen Bakshi is an armoured corps officer and was commissioned in the Skinners’ Horse regiment. He commanded the Jodhpur-based 12 Armoured Division and the YOL Cantt-based 9 Corps. He was the Chief of Staff of the Udhampur-based Northern Command, which handles the borders with both Pakistan and China. Considered to be an upright officer, he was given the command of the Kolkata-based Eastern Command which looks after the entire eastern frontier with China, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
More about Lt. Gen Bipin Rawat:
Vice-chief of Army staff Lt Gen Bipin Rawat has wide experience in counter insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and Northeast.
He was commissioned in the 5th battalion of the 11 Gorkha Rifles regiment and has even served in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations in Congo. He was appointed as the vice-chief of Army staff when Kashmir valley was boiling over the killing of terrorist Burhan Wani and there were daily instances of stone-pelting there.
More about Lt. Gen PM Hariz:
Lt Gen PM Hariz is a mechanised infantry officer and is currently heading the Pune based Southern Command. The officer had been posted in Gujarat and commanded a formation there as a Major General.