Parrikar on next army chief—Line of succession decided by ‘people’

General Dalbir Singh Suhag was named the next army chief 80 days before his predecessor was to retire. But with General Suhag due to retire on December 31, there is no clarity yet on his successor

Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

NH Political Bureau

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday appeared to indicate that the Government may not go by seniority in appointment of the new chief of the Indian Army.

Asked if the Government had decided to ignore the ‘line of succession’, Parrikar pointedly said, “the line of succession is decided by the people” according to this report in The Economic Times on Friday morning.

General Dalbir Singh Suhag is due to retire on December 31, but with less than a fortnight to go before his term draws to an end, the PMO and the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet are yet to announce his successor.

The last time seniority was ignored in the appointment of the Army chief was in 1983 when General AS Vaidya, who was junior to the then Vice-Chief of the Army, Lt Gen SK Sinha, was appointed the army chief. Lt Gen Sinha had then resigned in protest.

The seniormost officer in the Indian Army after General Suhag is Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, who heads the army’s Eastern Command. But in the first signal that the Government might not go by seniority, it had appointed in August this year an officer junior to both Lt Gen Bakshi and the chief of the Southern Command Lt Gen PM Hariz as the vice chief of the army. Lt Gen B Rawat is said to be among the front runners for appointment as the next army chief.

General Suhag’s predecessors as army chief, Bikram Singh and VK Singh, were named as the next army chief two months before the incumbent retired. The appointment of General Suhag himself was announced 80 days before General VK Singh retired. General Suhag was actually appointed the vice chief to ensure a smooth transition.

This has been a well established convention to allow the successor to get sufficient time to get used to the tasks he would be expected to carry out and get briefed by the incumbent.

The Government is also yet to name the next chiefs of the Air Force, the Intelligence Bureau and the Research & Analysis wing (RAW) although the incumbents, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, Dineshwar Sharma and Rajinder Khanna respectively, are also due to retire at the end of December.

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