Amidst a noise of ‘political interference’ in the army chief appointment, the government on Sunday put up a strong defence of its decision to appoint Lt. Gen. Bipin Rawat, the next Army Chief. It cited Rawat’s “tremendous hands-on experience” of serving in combat areas and the requirement for such a person in “the current situation”.
“Lt. Gen. Bipin Rawat was found the best suited among the Lieutenant-Generals, to deal with emerging challenges, including a reorganised and restructured military force in the north; continuing terrorism and proxy war from the west, and the situation in the Northeast,” said a Defence Ministry source as per a report in The Hindu.
However, many officers from colonels to Generals, raised concern at the “political interference” in the appointment, saying it could set a “bad precedent”. “This is the beginning of the end of the apolitical Army. Now people will play to the gallery. It is very unfortunate,” Lt. Gen. Anil Chait, former Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff, told The Hindu.
While referring to the superseding of Lt. Gen. Praveen Bakshi, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command asked, if experience in the Eastern Command was not operational experience. “Does the Army Chief only have to fight counter-insurgency operations,” he said.
Surprisingly, the government on Saturday designated present Army Vice-Chief, Lt. Gen. Bipin Rawat – the next Army Chief superseding two senior qualified Generals.
Traditionally, the senior-most eligible officer is appointed as Chief. This, as per the several officers, had ensured there was no political favouritism in the selection. Considering this, while Eastern Army Commander Lt.Gen. Praveen Bakshi matched for the top rank, the second in line was Southern Army Commander Lt.Gen. P.M. Hariz.
There is also rumor that Lt. Gen. Bakshi would be given a different position, maybe of the first Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.
As per the government sources, due process had been followed bearing in mind the prevailing security environment and necessities in the selection and nomination of the Chief of the Army Staff. They also highlighted that the right of picking the most suitable from the panel of eligible officers is that of the government. The selection was based purely on merit, they added.
According to them, Lt. Gen. Rawat matched these criteria by virtue of his “operational assignments as Commanding Officer of 19 Division in J&K” and “his outstanding track record, familiarity with the functioning of the Army headquarters and Defence Ministry in his capacity as Vice Chief.”
“His general dynamism has also played a role in tipping the scales in his favour,” it added.