The Modi government has named Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as the new Army chief superseding his two senior officers. Lt General Rawat belongs to the famous 5th Battalion of 11th Gorkha Rifles.
He will replace General Dalbir Singh Suhag on December 31.
Though it is well within the right of a government to appoint whoever it wants as the next chief, Rawat’s selection goes against the long held tradition of appointing the senior most eligible officer to the post.
Lt General Bipin Rawat (infantry) bypassed Eastern Command chief Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi (armoured corps) and Southern Army Command chief Lt Gen P M Hariz (mechanised infantry).
By seniority, Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Command should have been appointed.
Speculations are rife that the government may appoint Lt Gen Bakshi as India’s first tri-service chief.
Reports said Lt Gen Rawat was found best suited among the Lt Generals to deal with challenges such as cross-border terrorism and proxy war with Pakistan, and the situation in the North-East.
Lt Gen Rawat has hands-on experience of serving at various functional levels in the Indian Army and in combat areas over the last three decades. It looks like the government has given due weightage to his over 10 years of experience in counter insurgency operations and deployment along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.
He has commanded the Dimapur based 3 Corps which was involved in taking out insurgent camps in Myanmar. He was also a Colonel commanding a battalion on the China front when there were tensions in 1986.
Lt Gen Rawat is a distinguished counter insurgency expert and has experience in high altitude warfare. Lt Gen Rawat was commissioned into the 5th Battalion of 11 Gorkha Rifles following his December 1978 graduation from the IMA.
It remains to be seen how Lt Gens Bakshi and Hariz react to this development as serving under a junior is unacceptable in the extremely hierarchy-conscious force.
At the same time the government has also appointed Air Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, a Kargil war veteran, as the next Air Force chief. He will succeed incumbent Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha who relinquishes the office on December 31.