NEW DELHI: Following the announcement that Lieutenant General Manoj Pande will become the 29th chief of Indian Army, one has to juxtapose this elevation with the way Indian armed forces have adapted to major technological and institutional changes of late.
Lt Gen Pande is the first Corps of Engineer officer to take charge of the Indian Army in its 75-year history. This daily spoke to his course mates, officers under whom he served and officers who served under him to know more about him.
One point reiterated by every person is the innate composure of Lt Gen Pande. “It is a crucial appointment, when the country is facing a number of external and internal security challenges, including the stand-off along the northern border and proxy war on the western border,” said Major General SB Asthana (retired).
Lt Gen Pande has a lot of experience in working on the Line of Control, Line of Actual Control and the tri-services matter which will shape the future of the armed forces. India is heading towards integration of the armed forces and here is an officer who led the only tri-services command.
“He is a thorough professional — cool, calm and composed — with a stable mind to handle such a variety of security challenges which the country faces,” said Maj Gen Asthana, “He has experience in various theatres within the country as well as in the international environment, including the UN where we served together.”
Maj Gen Asthana and Lt Gen Pandey served at the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, when Asthana was a Colonel and Pande a Lt Colonel. A senior serving officer in the army headquarters said he is the most suitable person to lead the Indian Army at this critical time. “With his technical background, combined with military professionalism, he will be able to handle the modernisation transformation, indigenization and technological enablement and technical empowerment of the Indian army,” said the officer.
Major General Ajay Seth (retired) remembers his course mate as one who has a lot of confidence in what he does. Seth and Pandey had joined the 61 Course of National Defence Academy and were commissioned together in December 1982. “We both were appearing for Part D exams at Yol, Himachal Pradesh, in 1988 which are important for promotions. We were the junior most among those appearing, as we had around six years of service. We had not been able to prepare but I had an advantage as I was able to prepare notes.
Manoj asked me to share the notes during night when I was about to go to sleep. And, the notes were back in my room which was opposite his room, before I woke up, without failing.” Both of them cleared the exam in their first attempt.
His composure and ability to listen and learn is going to help not just the Indian Army but the entire national security apparatus, said Major General Seth. Lt Gen Pande is blessed with a son who is a serving military officer. Simplicity is the virtue which he shares with his wife Archana Pande, added Major General Seth.