Appointment of Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat to succeed as new Army Chief has kicked in a fresh controversy. This appointment has surprised many since it has gone against the decades-old tradition in the Indian Army to appoint the senior-most officer as the chief. Within hours of his appointment by the Narendra Modi Government, Congress leader Manish Tewari took to twitter to drag the issue into a political slug fest. The announcement has drawn attention for various reasons. First, the appointment has been made a mere two weeks before the crucial position is due to fall vacant; it usually happens at least two months prior. Second, Gen Rawat supersedes two competent General Officers, Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi and Lt Gen P M Hariz. The Indian Army has normally followed a system of appointing the senior-most qualified officer as army chief. The tenure is three years or till the age of 62, whichever comes earlier. In the past, it is only at the time of appointing the successor to Gen K V Krishna Rao that the government did something similar and overlooked the then senior-most qualified officer, Lt Gen S K Sinha, and appointed Lt Gen (later Gen) Arun Vaidya as the army chief in 1983. That remains the only precedent.
However, the decision has been taken with very solid reasons which are discussed here. According to defence ministry sources, Lt Gen Rawat was found to be the best suited among the lieutenant generals to deal with emerging challenges – including a reorganized and restructured military force in the north, continuing terrorism and proxy war from the west, and the situation in the North-East. Ministry sources also cited his operational assignments as Commanding Officer of 19 Division in Jammu and Kashmir, his outstanding track record, his familiarity with the functioning of the Army HQ and Ministry of Defence in his capacity as Vice Chief and his “general dynamism” as reasons for his appointment.
Well before the Surgical Strikes across LoC, The Modi Government famously conducted a similar strike across Myanmar border in June 2015 as a revenge of killing of 18 soldiers by Naga Rebels of NSCN-K. The responsibility of coordination of this military action was with none other than Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi and Lt Gen P M Hariz and Lt Gen Bipin Rawat are all competent officers but latter’s experience in combat operations in Jammu & Kashmir and at China Border made him stood out among his colleagues.