[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n a move that aroused criticism for scrapping the long-enshrined seniority principle in appointing service chiefs, the government appointed Lt General Bipin Rawat as the next Army chief superseding two Lieutenant Generals. He will replace General Dalbir Singh Suhag on December 31. Lt. General Bipin Rawat (infantry), who took over as the Army vice-chief in September 2016, bypassed Eastern Command chief Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi (armoured corps) and Southern Army Command chief Lt. Gen PM Hariz (mechanised infantry). Even though, it’s well within the right of a government to appoint whoever it wants as the next chief, successive dispensations have almost always followed the seniority principle. All eyes are now on Lt. Gen Bakshi and Hariz to see whether they will quit in protest – as Lt. Gen SK Sinha had done in 1983 after being superseded by Gen AS Vaidya – since serving under a junior is unacceptable in the extremely hierarchy-conscious force. Lt Gen Bakshi and Lt Gen Hariz were commissioned in December 1977 and June 1978 respectively. Lt. Gen Rawat was commissioned into the fifth battalion of the 11 Gorkha Rifles in December 1978.
Anyway, I personally feel that the appointment of new Army Chief is a good decision. Capability should be the criteria and not seniority. Recently, CBI, Indian Army, Air Force, Intelligence Bureau and RAW’s appointments were made bypassing traditions. None of the contenders or anyone serving, for that matter, has any “real” war experience, but still they are able personnel to secure the country’s borders. The government has rights to decide on the Army Chief. We have given them the power to do, so criticism is unnecessary at this moment. As I told earlier, Indira Gandhi too superseded Lt. Gen SK Sinha to appoint Gen AS Vaidya as the Army Chief in 1983. Similarly, Air Chief Marshal SK Mehra became IAF chief, superseding Air Marshal MM Singh in 1988. Lt. Gen Sinha, of course, quietly resigned but went on to become Governor of Assam and Jammu & Kashmir, and also served as India’s Ambassador to Nepal. Then why can’t the Modi government appoint Lt. General Bipin Rawat as the next Army Chief superseding two Lieutenant Generals?
Lt. Gen Bipin Rawat was commissioned into the 5th Battalion of 11 Gorkha Rifles on 16 December 1978 and has vast experience in high altitude warfare and counter insurgency operations. He has commanded an infantry battalion in the Eastern sector along the Line of Actual Control, 5 Sector Rashtriya Rifles, 19 Infantry Division in the Kashmir valley, III Corps based in Dimapur and GOC-C Southern Command Pune. He has also held staff assignments which include an instructional tenure at IMA, Dehradun; General Staff Officer Grade 2 at the Military Operations Directorate; logistics staff officer of a RAPID in central India; Colonel Military Secretary and Deputy Military Secretary in the Military Secretary’s Branch and Senior Instructor in the Junior Command Wing. He has also commanded a Multinational Brigade in a Chapter VII mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo where he was twice awarded the Force Commander’s Commendation. During his career span of 37 years, he has been awarded for gallantry and distinguished service with the AVSM, YSM, SM, VSM, COAS Commendation on two occasions and the Army Commander’s Commendation. He presumed the post of General Office Commanding in Chief, Southern Command on 1st January, 2016 and assumed the post of Vice Chief of Army Staff on 1st September, 2016.
While commanding a Multinational Brigade in a Chapter VII mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), he has had a truly outstanding tour. Within two weeks of deployment in the DRC, the Brigade faced a major offensive in the East which threatened not only the regional capital of North Kivu, Goma, but stability across the country as a whole. The situation demanded a rapid response and North Kivu Brigade was reinforced, where it was responsible for over 7,000 men and women representing nearly half of the total MONUC Force. Whilst simultaneously engaged in offensive kinetic operations against the CNDP and other armed groups, Brigadier Rawat (Now Lt. Gen) carried out tactical support to the Congolese Army (FARDC), sensitization programmes with the local population and detailed coordination to ensure that all were informed about the situation and worked together in prosecuting operations whilst trying to protect the vulnerable population. This hectic period of operational tempo lasted a full four months and during this time Brigadier (Now Lt. Gen) Rawat, his Headquarters and his international Brigade, were tested to the full, across the operational spectrum. His personal leadership, courage and experience were pivotal to the success that the Brigade achieved. Goma never fell, the East stabilized and the main armed group was motivated to the negotiating table and has since been integrated into the FARDC. He was also tasked to present the Revised Charter of Peace Enforcement to the Special Representatives of the Secretary General and Force Commanders of all the UN missions in a special conference at Wilton Park, London on 16th May, 2009.
Appointing the new Army Chief, merit and suitability have been taken into account .Lt. Gen Rawat had more than 10 years of experience in counter-insurgency operations and on the Line of Control, besides serving on the China border. He has the requisite experience considering the current situation. Lt Gen Hariz, by contrast, had no experience in an operational area. And Lt. Gen Bakshi had mostly been posted in Rajasthan. The two postings he has done in J&K are both in staff — once as a Colonel in Doda and then as a Lt. General as the Chief of Staff in Northern Command.
The government also announced that Air Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa will be the 22nd Chief of the Air Force, replacing Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha who retires at the end of the year. Commissioned in the IAF in June 1978 as a fighter pilot, he is a Qualified Flying Instructor and has flown various types of fighter aircraft in his distinguished career. During the Kargil operations, he commanded a fighter squadron and he flew numerous night strike missions over mountainous terrain.
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