NEW DELHI: (Web Desk) Vice Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant-General Bipin Rawat’s selection as the next army chief, superseding two senior officers, has triggered a political storm. After former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi overlooked General SK Sinha to make General AS Vaidya the army chief in 1983, this is the second time in 33 years when the government hasn’t followed the tradition of choosing the senior-most general for the top post. The defence ministry is yet to comment on the matter, government sources say Lt Gen Rawat is the best suited among the generals to counter the challenges the country currently faces.
Here is your 10-point cheat-sheet to this big story:
- Sources said in the current situation — a reorganized and restructured military force in the north, continuing terrorism and proxy war from the west, and the situation in the north east — a person with operational experience is needed.
- Sources said Lt. Gen Bipin Rawat has tremendous hands on experience of serving in combat areas, and at various functional levels in the Indian Army over the last three decades.
- He has handled various operational responsibilities in many areas, including along the LoC with Pakistan, the LAC with China, and in the North-East.
- Lt Gen Rawat has 10 years’ experience in Counter Insurgency Operations and also was posted on Line of Control. He was involved in 1986 Operations in Eastern Sector facing China. He was also posted in Pulwama in the 19 Division in 1986.
- His experience as GOC-in-C Southern Army Command in Mechanised Warfare has been focused towards the western borders, in coordination with the other two services.
- He is known for his balanced approach towards soldiering, compassion, and connect with civil society, sources said.
- In the selection and nomination of the Chief of Army Staff designate by the government, due process had been followed considering the prevailing security environment, the sources added.
- While the Congress and the Left Front had questioned the selection, the BJP has slammed what it calls the “politicising” of a key army appointment.
- The defence establishment is divided. Retired Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain said, “I have only endorsed the upgradation of the army chief to the highest rank. There is nothing political about this. The Indian Army is above politics.”
- Former army chief General Shankar Roy Chowdhury, however, said he did not agree that the present appointee “has the kind of experience we need” and added that he was “beyond disappointed and anxious” about the move’s impact within the forces. While it was the government’s prerogative to appoint Army chief, the decision has opened up a controversy on an issue that is “extremely divisive within the army”, he added.