Lt Gen Bipin Rawat is the new Chief of Army Staff – the top executive Commander of the Indian Army. The Army has been the centre of many political controversies lately. Several “news” channels & websites are more than willing to malign the army every chance they get! A certain Chief Minister questioned the integrity of the Indian Army based on Pakistani claims, demanding proof of their acts. Another Chief Minister feels insecure when the Army conducts drills on her state’s roads after giving her prior information well in advance! Further in the North East, a woman who had hogged a lifetime of limelight in an anti-army “protest” suddenly called it off, with Chief Ministerial ambitions! Coincidentally(?), she did this a day after the Mental Health Bill, was passed in the Lok Sabha, decriminalising suicide. (Details later!)
Currently, the topic on my mind is the new Army Chief. Why exactly, did the government appoint Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as the new Army Chief “superseding” two seniors? I searched for his profile & arrived at the following conclusion:
Operational Experience: Lt Gen Rawat joined the 5th Battalion of 11 Gorkha Rifles on the Vijay Diwas (16 December) of 1978. He is fearless. Though Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi was the senior most, Lt Gen Rawat has an operational experience far exceeding that of Lt Gen Bakshi’s. Though not in terms of number of days of service, but based on the variety of operations that he has commanded & activities undertaken; Lt Gen Rawat is one of the most experienced men serving in the Olive Green today.
Versatility in Service: Lt Gen Rawat has had a wide spectrum of experience:
- Administrative & Operational Experience:
- Vice Chief of Army Staff
- General Officer Command-in-Chief of the Southern Command in Pune
- General Staff Officer (Grade 2) at the Military Operations Directorate
- High Altitude Warfare: Commanding Officer of 5 Sector Rashtriya Rifles, 19 Infantry Division in J&K
- In the North East Against China: Commanded an Infantry battalion along the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh
- Others: a Rashtriya Rifles Sector and an Infantry Division in the Kashmir Valley.
- Logistics: Logistics Staff Officer of the 36th Infantry Division (RAPID) of the XXI Corps in Sagar, MP
- Counter Insurgency: Head of the III Corps in Dimapur, West Bengal during its operations in Burma
- International Experience: Commanded an international brigade in the UN Peace Keeping Force in Congo, Africa
- Some Training Assignments: Trainer at the reputed Indian Military Academy, Dehra DunSenior Instructor in the Junior Command Wing
- Colonel Military Secretary, Military Secretary’s Branch
- Deputy Military Secretary, Military Secretary’s Branch
With such a vast experience, he is a formidable force to reckon with.
Kashmir Specialist: In commanding a brigade & a division in Jammu & Kashmir, Rawat has acquainted himself with the mountainous terrain well enough. He has a ton of experience in mountain warfare. With our not so friendly neighbour hell bent on creating disturbances in the valley, Rawat is potentially the greatest asset in countering them. These days, Pakistan is going all ends out with its proxy war against India. After demonetisation, their “freedom fighters” went to school due to lack of “salaries”; but sons of headmasters (read insurgent terrorists) have become more desperate & hence, more active. Rawat – with his immense familiarity with the terrain & over a decade of experience in counter-insurgency operations – will instill fear in them.
Experience Against China: Lt Gen Rawat has commanded an infantry battalion in the Eastern sector along the Line of Actual Control. As a Colonel, Rawat was active in the North East. He commanded a battalion which took on the People’s Liberation Army in the lesser talked about 1987 skirmish at Sumdorong Chu valley in Arunachal Pradesh. China, as we know is getting progressively active in the Kashmir region. They have their eyes set on colonising Pakistan via the proposed CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor). Earlier this year, PM Modi has called for a free Baluchistan in his Independence Day speech. In a situation like this, tension between the two nations is imminent. At such a time, it is necessary for us to have an Army Chief who is well versed with the affairs of China.
Impeccable Integrity: There is no doubt about the credibility of Lt Gen Bakshi; but Lt Gen Rawat himself is an extremely competent officer & a man with high integrity. Bakshi, however, lacks the kind of versatile service that Rawat has seen. Lt Gen Bakshi remained an Armoured Corps Officer in Jodhpur for most of his career. His other postings in the north were not as significant and eventful as Rawat’s. The second officer being talked about, Lt Gen Hariz, has no similar operational area experience, either. Therefore, the government had picked Rawat in the best interest of the country. This was also an important step, considering the challenges faced in the present day.
Security Expert: Lt Gen Rawat is Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), too! He completed his research on Military Media Strategic Studies from Chaudhary Charan Singh University in Meerut in 2011. Like my good friend Maj. Gaurav Arya, Lt Gen Rawat is an expert in National Security, too! He has been a guest columnist in several journals & publications. His articles on National Security & Leadership are very popular.
Highly Decorated Officer: During his 37 years of service, Lt Gen Rawat has won multiple awards & recognitions for his distinguished service. His valour has won him the:
- Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM)
- Yudh Seva Medal (YSM)
- Sena Medal (SM)
- Vishisht Seva Medal (VSM)
- Army Commander’s Commendation
- Chief of Army Staff Commendation (twice)
- Force Commander’s Commendation (UNPKF)
Intelligence Inputs: ABOVE ALL, though PM Modi is not an expert in everything, but he has a team of experts. I am sure that somewhere, there must have been an invaluable input from one man over this appointment; one man who is the greatest genius in Internal Security & International matters; the man whose own experience, skill, & expertise far exceeds all others’. That man is Ajit Doval.
Opposition of Rawat Baseless
The opposition’s plea is baseless for the following reasons:
The Due Procedure Was Followed: The appointment of the Army Chief is not dictated merely by seniority in the date of birth/joining alone. Lots of factors influence this. A list of 5 senior-most commanders is created. This list includes the Vice Chief of Army Staff, too. The most suitable man gets the appointment. This has been the case since time immemorial. This is the established procedure and it was duly followed. Progressive governments of the past, ruled by the same people who are crying foul over this appointment, did the same. This is a legally compliant appointment. This is the main reason why the opposition is only creating a frenzy in the media, but nobody will ever approach any court for quashing the appointment.
Not Unprecedented: The opposition (mainly the Congress) accuses that Lt Gen Rawat’s appointment “supersedes” two senior officers. This is not the first time that this has happened. Indira Gandhi took a similar step in 1983. Lt Gen SK Sinha was sidelined & Gen AS Vaidya was appointed. Upon this, Sinha resigned in protest, amid suppressed voices of protest. Sinha maintained his composure & remained dignified throughout the incident. It is widely known that Indira used to make all appointments arbitrarily on her personal choices.
In fact, this was the second time Indira did this. Earlier in 1972, she had sidelined Lt Gen PS Bhagat, who was one of the only Indian men to have received the Victoria Cross during the Second World War. Such was Indira’s fearlessness of the law of the land that she had illegally granted his junior, Gen GG Bewoor a year’s extension. Lt Gen Bhagat had retired in due course. As a result, Gen Bewoor succeeded Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw as the Army Chief.