Government justifies Lt. Gen. Rawat as next army chief

New Delhi: The Defence Ministry on Sunday maintained that Lt. Gen. Bipin Rawat, named the next Army Chief ingoring the generally followed seniority norm, was “best suited” for the job.

The appointment has ignored seniority of Eastern Army Commander Lt. Gen. Praveen Bakshi and Southern Army Commander Lt. Gen. P.M. Hariz who have a longer service.

“The process of selection is based on a process that commences four-to-five months in advance with the Ministry of Defence seeking personal data and professional profile of all eligible Lt Generals from amongst the Vice Chief of Army Staff and General Officers Commanding in Chief of the various Commands,” said a source in the Ministry.

“The service headquarter forwards data of the eligible candidates, including their professional exposure, achievements and operational experience. These are processed by the Ministry and forwarded through the Defence Minister for consideration and selection to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet,” said the source, who did not want to be named.

According to the source, the cabinet panel made the final selection “based upon the inputs provided by the Service HQ, Ministry, as well as any other additional information that may assist in the selection of the service chiefs, for the assignment that involves strategic management of national security”.

“He (Rawat) was found the best suited among the Lt. 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,” the source said.

Generally, the government had appointed the senior-most army commander as the Vice Chief before appointing them as the army Chief so as to familiaries them with the working at top levels.

Bakshi was also not appointed the Vice Chief when the post fell vacant in September and Rawat was brought in from the Southern Command.

On Friday, when asked if the line of succession will be broken, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had cryptically remarked: “Line of succession is decided by the people.”

Commissioned in the Fifth Battalion of the 11 Gorkha Rifles in December 1978 from the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun, where he was awarded the ‘Sword of Honour’, Rawat has commanded an infantry battalion along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), a Rashtriya Rifles Sector and an infantry division in the Kashmir Valley.

“Lt. Gen. 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, LAC with China and in the northeast,” the source said.

“He is known for his balanced approach towards soldiering, compassion, and connect with civil society. 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,” the source added.

Soon after the appointment was announced, the Congress questioned the decision.

Congress leader Manish Tewari tweeted: “Why has seniority not been respected in appointment of Army Chief? Why have Lt. Gen. Pravin Bakshi and Lt. Gen. Mohamed Ali Hariz been superseded, Mr PM (Narendra Modi)?”

The Defence Ministry on Saturday night announced the names of the next chiefs of Army and Indian Air Force, 13 days before General Dalbir Singh and Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha are to retire.

Air Marshal B.S. Dhanoa will be the next chief of IAF.