Appointment of Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat as the next Chief of Army Staff superseding Lieutenant General Praveen Bakshi and Lieutenant General PM Hariz has got the self-appointed social media critics going ballistic on the internet. It has also given enough to feed the monstrous hunger that the media has for breaking news. Many writers have mentioned that there has been precedence of such supersession. Having known all the three officers closely, one is at a loss to explain one’s feelings. Lieutenant General Bakshi is an intellectual, straight shooter, dynamic and a thoroughly professional officer who is a dear friend and a course mate.

Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty ImagesLieutenant General Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty Images

Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty Images

Lieutenant General Hariz is again a very competent officer and a junior in service but became the author’s boss due to residual service requirements. A mature and simple officer, he conducts himself with dignity. Lieutenant General Rawat, took over the command of the corps from this author. He is a humane, mature, professionally sound and a second generation officer. Appointments Committee of the Cabinet would have had a tough time picking one among them as the next COAS of the Indian Army. Since the supersession issue mainly pertains to these three officers, other officers considered are not mentioned here.

Be that as it may, the procedure followed is very simple and has been alluded to by some writers. A panel of all eligible army commanders and vice chief of army staff is sent to the defence ministry by the army headquarters. The defence minister makes his recommendations and sends it to the Appointments Committee of the cabinet. Previously, the appointments committee of the cabinet used to comprise of the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Foreign Minister, Defence Minister and the Finance Minister. Under this government, it has been simplified and reduced to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister. A thorough 360-degree review of the individual is carried out for all promotions to and above the rank of Major General. Similarly, in this case too such a review would have been done. One is confident that all three would have been above board. After the panel is drawn and recommendations are made by the defence ministry it is purely the call of the appointments committee of the cabinet to make the selection of the next Chief of Army Staff. Needless to say that it is the prerogative of the government of the day to select the COAS of its choice.

A quick glance at the selection procedure of other democracies would be highly perceptive at this time. The organisational structure of many of the advanced countries is different from that of our country. The USA follows a theatre commands system whose commanders directly interact with the Secretary of the State for Defence and the President. In the USA, a Chief of Staff is considered to be the equivalent of the Chief of Army Staff in India. UK follows the system of a Chief of Defence Staff who has an advisory role and a Chief of General Staff who commands the army directly. Australia has a Chief of Defence Staff and a Chief of Army. Pakistan also follows a system of a Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and a Chief of Army. Sri Lanka follows a similar system to ours. One cannot compare China and other communist countries with India on this subject as “political correctness” plays a major role in such selections and the system is different.

In the USA, the selection of Chief of Staff (COS) is governed by the rule “10 US Code 3033 – Chief of Staff”. Unlike the COAS of the Indian Army, the Chief of Staff of the Army is an administrative position and does not have operational command authority over the army. The COS is recommended by the Secretary of the Army, nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. In the UK, the equivalent of the COAS is the Chief of General Staff. The Ministry of Defence headed by the Secretary of State for Defence, recommends the names for Chief of General Staff and he is nominated by the Prime Minister. By the exercise of Royal Prerogative Powers, powers to appoint the senior leaders of the services is vested in the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence. The Queen, remains the ultimate authority. A similar system is followed in the Australian Army. In Germany, the Army Chief is designated as the Inspector of the Army (Generalinspekteur derNationaleVolkarmee). In peacetime, and in a state of tension, command of the Armed Forces is vested in the Federal Minister of Defence. It is only in a state of defence, which can be declared only with a two-third majority in the Bundestag (Lower House), that the power of command over the Armed Forces is passed to the Federal Chancellor.

While the systems may differ in various countries, the underlying principle in appointing the Chief of Army remains the same. That is, the political dispensation holds the privilege of choosing the person it likes to have as the Chief of its Army.

There has been disappointment and anger in some quarters about the supersession particularly those who are close friends of Lieutenant General Bakshi and Lieutenant General Hariz. This is but natural. Once the dust on this issue settles down and it dawns on people that the civilian government’s supremacy is to be respected, things will return to normal. Already, it has appeared in the media that things have reverted to normalcy and Lieutenant General Bakshi is back to his regular work schedule. Nothing less would have been expected from the true soldier that he is known to be. Similarly, Lieutenant General Hariz can also be expected to do the same. If these two generals who were directly affected have behaved in a manner befitting their stature and reputation, it behoves on all others to behave in a like manner. There are also rumours making the rounds that they will be accommodated as Permanent Chairman of Chief of Staff and Vice Chancellor, Indian National Defence University respectively. Again, it is required to keep in mind that it is the prerogative of the government to take a decision on these appointments. There is also a need to have confidence in the government that it will take the decisions in the best interests of the country.

This author has closely watched two of the COASs functioning and is convinced that every COAS works hard for the army. Therefore, we should hold the hands of Lieutenant General Rawat and support him in all his endeavours to take our famed army to higher glory.

The author is a retired lieutenant general of the Indian Army.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 19:20 IST

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