Squabble Over Top Posts Intensifies in the Armed Forces

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New Delhi, Sep 19 (UNI) Defence Minister AK Antony was today yet to give the nod to the implementation of Phase-II of the Ajai Vikram Singh (AVS) Committee Report which has recommended an increase in the total number of additional ranks at various officer levels in the Armed Forces.

And this even as the war in the country's defence establishment intensifies with the Navy and IAF launching a combined counter- attack against the Army over the proposed move to create at least 156 additional posts for General-rank officers in the Armed Forces.

In response to a letter in this regard last week by Army chief General JJ Singh to the Defence Minister, Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta and Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal FH Major had met Minister Antony earlier this week to put forward their own views on the second-phase implementation of the AV Singh Committee Report.

In his letter, Gen JJ Singh -- who retires as Army chief at the end of this month -- had accused the much-smaller Navy and IAF of unfairly trying to usurp more posts than they deserve. He had requested that the number of additional vacancies at various ranks for officers in the three Services be decided on a 'pro rata' basis -- meaning a ratio that is proportionate to the strength of the officer cadre in the three Services.

Under the A V Singh report, the Army is slated to get 20 more Lieutenant Generals (to add to the existing 70) and 75 more Major Generals (216), apart from 220 more Brigadiers (971) and 735 more Colonels (4,186).

''If we get 20 Lt Gens, IAF and Navy should get two Lt Gen-rank officers each to maintain parity -- not seven each as they are demanding... There should be parity in promotional prospects,'' averred a senior Army officer.

The IAF and Navy dismiss the Army claim as untenable. They contend that their case is purely based on ''functional requirements''. The Navy wants seven more Vice Admirals and 16 more Rear Admirals while it is seven new Air Marshals and 31 new Air Vice Marshals for IAF.

Army officials maintain that while the Army has below 0.15 per cent of its officer cadre strength as Lt Generals, the Navy and IAF have nearly 0.2 percent. ''If they get more senior posts as demanded, the asymmetry will get even more pronounced....'' Even as the Armed Forces move slowly towards 'jointness' and integrated theatre commands, the Army contends ''an awkward situation'' already prevails in the existing tri-Service institutions like the Andaman&Nicobar Command (ANC), Defence Services Staff College and Integrated Defence Staff.

''Army officers of higher seniority are often made to serve under Navy and IAF officers much junior to them in service... All this generates friction, instead of achieving jointness,'' said another Army officer.

Meanwhile, there was a prevalent view among a significant section of officers at the middle-level and higher levels of the three Services that the pyramidal structure of the services was ''too steep'' and ''promotions to the next level too few'', thereby necessitating the need for additional vacancies at middle-level and higher ranks.

The numerical strength of the Indian Army is about 1.1 million, while it is about 110,000 for the IAF and 55,000 for the Indian Navy.

UNI

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