NEW DELHI: As the suspense continues over the appointment of next Chief of Indian Army and Indian Air Force, defence minister Manohar Parrikar has said the announcement will be made in this regard soon. Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag and Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha are superannuating on December 31.
Traditionally, the appointment of Chiefs of Defence Services is announced by the government three months in advance to rule out any possible friction and lobbying amongst the top ranks.
Speaking after paying tributes at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate on Vijay Diwas, to observe on December 16 to mark the military triumph over Pakistan in 1971 which led to the creation of Bangladesh.
Even less than a fortnight remains in the date of retirement, Defence Minister did not give a timeline for naming the new chiefs.
Responding to question speculations on the line of succession might be broken in the appointment of the next army chief, Parrikar said, "Line of succession is decided by the people."
According to sources, the defence ministry has already moved a file with nominations for the new chiefs to the Prime Minister’s Office and Appointment Committee on Cabinet (ACC) headed by the Prime Minister will take final decision on the issue. It is believed that a formal announcement is expected after parliament's winter session concludes on Friday.
The sources also added that the Eastern Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Praveen Bakshi; the Southern Army Commander, Lt. Gen. P.M. Hariz and the army vice chief, Lt Gen Bipin Rawat are in the race to succeed Gen. Dalbir Singh. Air Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, a Kargil war veteran, and the IAF vice chief is in the fray for the top job.
Speculation over next army chief is high in the corridors of army headquarters. Lt. General Bakshi, an Armoured officer, is an alumnus of National Defence Academy, held several important positions including commanding of an Armoured Brigade in the Western Sector on Pakistan border, a Division in the desert and a Corps in the plains of Punjab and J&K.
If everything falls in place, Bakshi will be first armoured corps officer to become Chief of Army Staff after many years. But, insiders maintain unlike norms, Lt. Gen Bakshi has not been appointed as the Vice chief of army, which generally allows an incoming chief the time to familiarise himself with ongoing army projects, procurements, and with functional procedures within South Block.
Coincidentally, the last three Army chiefs — Dalbir Singh, Bikram Singh and VK Singh — were also Eastern Army commanders and Bakshi could be following them from Fort William to South Block in New Delhi.
But sources indicate that the Infantry, which has the maximum strength of Army officer, do not seem to be enthusiastic over Bakshi becoming Chief of Army Staff, as it will dislodge their monopoly in top brass of Army.