New Delhi, December 21
Eastern Army Commander, Lt General Praveen Bakshi, who has been superseded for the post of Army Chief, met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in Delhi. The agenda of the meeting, called by the minister, is not known yet, but there is speculation that Lt Gen Bakshi could be appointed India’s first Chief of Defence Staff.
Manohar Parrikar has flown back from Goa, where he was campaigning for assembly elections, for the meeting with the General. There has also been speculation that Lt Gen Bakshi could resign after being overlooked for the top post. The last time an officer was superseded in the appointment of a new Army chief, he had resigned. That was Lt General SK Sinha, who put in his papers after the Congress government of Indira Gandhi picked his junior General AS Vaidya to be chief in 1983. Lt General Bakshi is senior to Lt General Bipin Rawat, the present vice chief, named by the government to succeed Army Chief General Dalbir Singh, who retires at the end of this month.
The Chief of Defence Staff is meant to be a single point of contact between the three armed forces and the Defence Minister and cabinet for all crucial Defence decisions. The post has been discussed for years, but no one has so far been appointed.
The decision to appoint Lt General Rawat as Army Chief has been criticised by opposition parties like the Congress and the Left, and former Army chief General Shankar Roy Chowdhury said he was “beyond disappointed and anxious” about the move’s impact on the forces. The retired general said that while it was the government’s prerogative to appoint the Army Chief, the decision has opened up a controversy on an issue that is “extremely divisive within the Army.”
Lt General Rawat has superceded not just Lt Gen Bakshi, who was next in line to be chief on seniority, but also southern command chief Lt Gen PM Hariz.
Government sources said Lt Gen Rawat, an Infantryman, was found best suited among the three officers to deal with current challenges like cross-border terrorism and counter insurgency in the North-East, given his hands-on experience of serving in combat areas and at various functional levels in the Indian Army. He has years of experience in counter insurgency operations and has served at the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. He also has extensive experience fighting counter insurgency in the Northeast. Lt General Bakshi, is an Armoured Corps officer having spent most of his career in Jodhpur. He had other, less significant operational tenures in Jammu and Kashmir.
New Delhi, December 21