Tradition should guide next army chief's selection

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New Delhi, Jan. 2 (ANI): Traditionally utmost care and transparency is maintained by the government in the selection of service Chiefs and in maintaining the hierarchy of the services.

The top hierarchy of the Army is due for a change with incumbent Chief of Army Staff, General Deepak Kapoor, completing his tenure on 31 March 2010. There is speculation in the media with respect to the selection and appointment of his successor.

The front runner and senior-most officer after General Kapoor is Lt. General V K Singh, who is presently commanding the Kolkata-based Eastern Army Command.

There is no reason to suggest that the above precedent will not be followed this time also, but there are some extraneous issues that are gaining center stage, particularly with regard to the candidature of Lt.General V K Singh.

The first is the matter of his age for which there exists certain discrepancies in the Army records. In the Adjutant Generals' Branch of the Army, Lt. Gen. Singh's birth date is recorded as May, 10, 1951, whereas in the Military Secretary Branch, it is recorded as May, 10, 1950.

The second issue is the appointment of Lt. General P C Bhardwaj as the Vice-Chief of the Army Staff, which is being perceived in certain quarters as an attempt being made to supercede Lt. Gen.Singh.

Lastly, there is a conclusion being drawn that General Kapoor is trying to manipulate against the appointment of Lt. Gen. Singh as his successor.

According to Jaibans Singh, a detailed investigation into the whole process has brought to light some interesting inputs.

With respect to the age factor, what has emerged is that the date of birth as recorded in the Gazette of India as May, 10, 1950. A second point is that whatever the date of birth, Lt. Gen.V K Singh will continue to be the senior most and most eligible contender for the post of Army Chief when General Deepak Kapoor retires,and the age factor will only impact the period for which he retains the post. The third point is that the date of birth published in the Gazette is deemed to be final if no observation is raised within two years of its publication and Lt. Gen.V K Singh's date of birth is recorded in the Gazette as May, 10, 1950.

It is not known whether the case for change of age has been going on for almost three decades now or whether it is of recent origin in which case it may not be admissible by law.

With respect of the appointment of Lt. Gen. P C Bhardwaj as Vice-Chief of Army Staff, what has emerged is that there have been many instances in the past when army commanders have directly picked up to be Army Chief. The most recent example is that of General J J Singh who was the Western Army Command chief from where he directly assumed charge as Army Chief.

On the issue of alleged manipulation by General Deepak Kapoor, it has emerged that the services -- be it Army, Navy or Air Force -- are not involved in the selection of their respective Chiefs. The services merely forward to the Ministry of Defence the dossier of the Army Commander ranked officers in service at the time of selection.

These dossiers are processed by the Ministry of Defence and presented to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet which is responsible for the final selection.

Therefore, in the interest of the nation, the government should be allowed to do its job with the confidence that those entrusted with this responsibility definitely know what is best for the country. (ANI)

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