Defence and Security

Gen Suhag has under 3 weeks in office: Can India ever avoid political delays in naming service chiefs?

Dec 14, 2016
By Prakash Nanda
Come New Year, India will have a new Chief of Army Staff (COAS), as the incumbent, General Dalbir Singh, is due for retirement. The very fact that the central government is yet to announce his successor has already made news. In fact, the issue will only get further politicised, just the same way Dalbir Singh's appointment was, two years ago. And it's all because of a convention that the incoming COAS (or for that matter, the new chief of Indian Navy or Indian Air Force) be announced two months in advance, in order to make the transition smooth.
Invariably, the vice-chief of army staff, who in turn is the senior-most in the service after the COAS, is promoted to the chief's post (normally a term of three years or the age of 62, whichever is earlier), provided he is not superannuated (turning 60) before the day of assumption (if he is made chief on his last day in office, then he automatically gets an additional two years as chief).
This convention, it seems, has been broken by the government. Only a fortnight remains for the new COAS to take charge, but as The Indian Express reported, the Modi government has not yet appointed Lt Gen. Praveen Bakshi, who heads Kolkata-headquartered Eastern Command, and the senior most General to succeed Dalbir Singh as the vice-chief (that post had gone to a relatively junior officer). Nor has the government officially announced Bakshi as India's next COAS. The newspaper speculates that Bakshi's background as an armoured corps officer is being held against him, as the post of COAS usually goes to those coming from infantry. The only armored corps officer to have made COAS was General Krishnaswami Sunderji, more than two decades ago.
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First Post, December 14, 2016

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