Why denying armoured corps its importance would be an error in late announcement of new army chief

Whenever anyone criticises Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar for either his intemperate remarks or his shabby sartorial inelegance and total lack of occasion there is invariably a group of people who rush to his rescue.

This is understandable because we are, as a nation, weaned on the equation that those who are ‘simple’ (read sloppy) or disheveled and scruffy are good people at heart. This is integral to our categorisation of the human race and any effort to be smart or display a level of is indicative of a certain corruption of values. Simplicity becomes a cloak for laziness, sloth, even casual indifference.

 Why denying armoured corps its importance would be an error in late announcement of new army chief

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

The same sort of casual indifference that marks the attitude towards the announcement of the next Chief of the Army Staff. General Dalbir Singh Suhag, who himself, was appointed after much stress, retires at the end of the month and that is scarcely more than two weeks to go.

In a brilliant assessment of the subject of four-star appointments by Prakash Nanda in Firstpost on the inordinate delay, he has traced the frequent rocks strewn in the path of the handing over in all three services. The fact that the successor is announced at least 10 weeks before the date of retirement has been conveniently ignored because, of course, the defence ministry is clearly not cognizant of this fact. The thing is when the announcement is made automatically there is a shuffling at the Army Commander level and the domino principle kicks in. Immediately, the senior ranks know who the next leaders of their armies and Corps are going to be. The deck so to speak is reshuffled.

It is customary in India to give the fourth star to the seniormost army commander. After all, if his Annual Confidential Reports are without any negatives Indian convention follows the British model and it cannot find fault with that aspirant. After all, there is no further gauge to measure his caliber. In the US the president can appoint and leapfrog several Generals to announce a successor.

To keep the obvious choice in suspense is to inject politics into the issue and needlessly bring about speculation that is detrimental to the morale of the force and fuels rumours. At present Lt General Praveen Bakshi, GOC-in-C Eastern Command is the frontrunner and the automatic choice. The indication that since he is an Armoured Corps officer (tanks and missile regiments) there is uncertainty over his being the chief a position held usually by an infantry officer.

This is such balderdash it is unbelievable. We have had Signals officers who were Army Commanders. The Armoured Corps is not only held in the highest esteem it is an elite arm of the Service and has a history of over 250 years with regiments like Deccan Horse, Scinde Horse, Poona Horse, Hodson’s Horse, the 3,7, 8 Cavalries and Central India Horse that can display medals of gallantry in battle way back to the early 18th century. The much-touted battle of Basantar, the biggest since Rommel, was an Armoured Corps affair and if he denied command over the Army on these grounds it will be a huge pity.

If Lt General Bakshi is denied his legitimate claim to the fourth star it will also be a bruising of the huge store held in the capabilities of our men in tanks.

The black berets are the best.

Honestly, this is so indicative of civilian ignorance of how the armed forces operate that they would play tiddlywinks with such a sensitive matter.

Even the infantry would be appalled if that was a reason applied to the Parrikar decision to bypass the Eastern Command chief while appointing the vice-chief.

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Updated Date: Dec 14, 2016 21:42:59 IST