Lt General Bipin Rawat is new Chief of Army Staff: How does selection process work?

The government on Saturday chose Lt General Bipin Rawat as the next Chief of Army Staff (COAS). He will succeed General Dalbir Singh Suhag, who retires on 31 December. However, controversy broke out immediately as Rawat was not the senior-most officer in the Indian Army. Traditionally, the rule in the security forces is to nominate the senior-most officer as the new head. According to the established tradition, Eastern Command chief Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi was all set to be the next chief, on account of his seniority.

This is the second instance in Indian Army's history that this principle of seniority has been overlooked. In 1983, the then senior-most officer Lt Gen SK Sinha was superseded by Arun Shridhar Vaidya, who was the army chief when Operation Bluestar was launched.

Here is all you need to know about the process of selecting a new army chief.

Who has the power to appoint the new army chief?

The government of India has the power to choose the army chief. The government chooses a successor based on the security situation as well as the requirements that arise from time to time, noted The Times of India. It is worth noting that seniority has generally been the guiding principle while choosing the head of the third-largest army in the world.

Who exactly is responsible in the government for appointing the army chief?

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) is responsible for taking the final decision on the appointment. The ACC comprises of the prime minister, minister of home affairs and the concerned ministry, in this case the defence ministry.

File picture of Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. Getty Images

File picture of Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. Getty Images

How does the selection process go about?

The process of selection commences four-to-five months in advance, with the ministry of defence seeking personal data and professional profile of all eligible lieutenant generals from among the vice chief of army ataff and general officers commanding in chief of the various Commands, the IANS reported.

The service headquarter, then forwards data of the eligible candidates, including their professional exposure, achievements and operational experience. These are processed by the ministry and forwarded through the defence minister for consideration and selection to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, the IANS quoted an unnamed defence ministry source as saying.

Generally, the government appoints the prospective COAS as the vice chief of staff to familiarise him with the working at the South Block, the report added.

When is the announcement generally made?

The announcement of the next army chief is made two or three months in advance.

What is the tenure of the army chief?

The chief of army staff has a three-year term. Alternatively, the chief of army staff is in office till he is 62, whichever is applicable at the earliest.

Why has the move to appoint Rawat been criticised?

In an article in The Citizen, ex-army officer Lt General Vijay Oberoi said that such a move may play a negative role in the long run. "Chances of selection based on political, sycophantic and non-professional reasons may become predominant in due course, with professional and character qualities being sacrificed on account of extraneous issues."

What about Lt General Praveen Bakshi now?

Media reports suggest that the current Eastern Command chief might be the first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), a position first mooted after the Kargil War. The CDS will be the single point of contact for the defence minister as well as the prime minister.

With inputs from agencies


Updated Date: Dec 19, 2016 14:52 PM

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