On December 31, General Dalbir Singh is scheduled to hang his boots as the chief of the Indian Army.
Traditionally, the governments of the day would announce the name of the chief-designate two months in advance, but the Narendra Modi government has changed the convention.
Appointing its first Army chief, the NDA government has kept the force guessing about its next leader with only three weeks left in the incumbent’s tenure. The whole Army is rife with speculations and guesses on social media messages creating more confusion about the name of the next Army chief.
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There is also talk about the government creating the post of a permanent Chairman Chiefs of Staffs – a four-star appointment, who will head the tri-services organisations.
When asked to clarify the government’s position on the issue, senior Defence ministry sources said the appointment of permanent, COSC was not heard even by them. “We made our recommendations almost two months ago on the panel of senior officers formed by us and forwarded it to the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) headed by the Prime Minister,” they said.
MANOHAR PARRIKAR REFUSES TO COMMENT
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar said he did not want to comment on the issue as the ACC has to approve the appointments. The Defence ministry sources said the government does not want to follow the tradition of appointing services chiefs 80-90 days in advance as it did not want to create alternative power centers so early and this did not help in any way in functioning of the forces.
Recently, some of the Army commander-level vacancies were filled up a week or 10 days after the incumbent had retired.
Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba’s appointment was also announced only 40 days ahead of Admiral Robin Dhowan’s superannuation on May 31 earlier this year.
In the Army, the panel formed by the Defence ministry for the appointment is learnt to include Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Pravin Bakshi, Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Bipin Rawat and Southern Army Commander Lt Gen PM Hariz. Of the three officers, the senior-most is Lt Gen Bakshi who is an armoured corps officer and was commissioned in the Skinners’ Horse regiment.
WHO WILL IT BE?
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.
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.
Lt Gen PM Hariz is a mechanised infantry officer and is currently heading the Punebased Southern Command. The officer had been posted in Gujarat and commanded a formation there as a Major General.