NEW DELHI: The government on Saturday appointed vice chief of army staff Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as the new Army chief superseding his two senior officers, while vice chief of air staff Air Marshal BS Dhanoa has been made the new chief of the Indian Air Force. “Government has decided to appoint Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, vice chief of army staff, as the next chief of army staff with effect from afternoon of December 31,” the Defence Ministry said in a tweet. It also tweeted that Air Marshal BS Dhanoa will take over as IAF chief with effect from afternoon of December 31. Lt Gen Rawat will replace General Dalbir Singh, while Air Marshal Dhanoa will take over from IAF chief Arup Raha. Lt Gen Rawat, an infantry soldier, superseded senior most army commander Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, who headed the Eastern Command and was next in line to be the army chief, besides Southern Command Chief PM Hariz. Government sources said Lt Gen Rawat was found best suited among the Lt Generals to deal with emerging challenges, including cross-border terrorism and proxy war from the west, and the situation in the North-East.
They said Lt Gen Rawat has tremendous hands-on experience of serving in combat areas and at various functional levels in the Indian Army over the last three decades. He has more than 10 years of experience in counter insurgency operations and deployment along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. He also has extensive experience fighting counter insurgency in the Northeast and has commanded the Dimapur based 3 Corps which was involved in taking out insurgent camps in Myanmar.He was also a Colonel commanding a battalion on the China front when there were tensions in 1986 and has handled various operational responsibilities along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and in the North-East, the sources said.Sources said Lt General Praveen Bakshi, the senior-most officer who was superseded, is an armoured corps officer having spent most of his career in Jodhpur. He had other, less significant operational tenures in Jammu and Kashmir as Colonel Planning in Delta Force in Doda and as Staff Officer to the Army Commander North. Lt General Hariz meanwhile was said to have no significant operational area experience.
Superseding senior officers in favour of their juniors in the army is not new though there has not been any such instances in the recent past. In 1983, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had appointed Lt Gen A S Vaidya as army chief superseding Lt Gen S K Sinha, who resigned in protest.In 1972, the Indira Gandhi government side-stepped the very popular Lt General P S Bhagat, one of the handful of Indian Victoria Cross awardees from World War II, who was in line to succeed General (later Field Marshal) Sam Manekshaw. This was done by giving his junior, General G G Bewoor a year’s extension, during which time Lt General Bhagat retired. General Bewoor, thus, succeeded General Manekshaw.