Govt, Army chief set for another showdown

Govt, Army chief set for another showdown

In what may lead to another flashpoint between the government and Army Chief Gen V K Singh, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has forwarded Singh’s proposal on officers’ promotion to the Union Law Ministry for a thorough review as it feels Singh’s choices “are arbitrary” and may not stand a “legal scrutiny.”

Last October, Singh had handed over a list of officers to be promoted to the next rank to the Defence Ministry and also made certain suggestions for changing the Army promotion policy.

Sensing legal loopholes in both, the Ministry of Defence sent the proposals to the Law Ministry for a scrutiny. Sources said a final call would be taken only after receiving the legal opinion.

As the fate of promotion board hangs in balance, many crucial posts in the Army—both in command and staff position—remain vacant for months.

Syed Ata Hasnain, the General Officer Commanding of 15 Corps in Srinagar, is one of the casualties for the delay in finalising the promotion board. Hasnain—the first Muslim Army commander to serve in the Kashmir valley in decades—has been promoted for a senior-level staff posting in the Army headquarters.

However, he cannot come to Delhi as there is no reliever for him and the government does not want to keep the important post of GOC of 15 Corps vacant.

Similarly, an important position in the office of Director-General of Military Intelligence has been vacant for close to six months. The post of Corps Commander of 9 Corps at Yol and Chief of Staff of Southern Command in Pune are also vacant, sources told Deccan Herald.

Close to 45 officers are being considered for promotion to the rank of Lieutenant General and about 75-80 officers for Major General.

The current tussle is the second tussle between the MoD and Singh on the promotion board. Last year too, the MoD rejected a promotion board and sent for legal scrutiny as Singh wanted a major shift in the policy carried out by his predecessor Deepak Kapoor in 2009. The ministry contended that promotion policy could not be change in such a short interval.

Though the Army has only 13 Corps and 7 Commands, a high-level panel set up after the Kargil conflict suggested creation of 88 new posts of Lt Generals, 294 Maj Generals, 1,117 Brigadiers and 5,101 Colonels. The objective was to bring down the age profile of field commanders to make the Army more agile.

The government agreed to the panel’s suggestions. But in the process, it also created a headache for the Army top brass on how to accommodate so many officers in the present set up. While MoD officials appreciate the problem, they have clear suspicion on some of the names suggested by Singh as they felt those officers were being favoured by Singh completely in violation of the rule book.

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