New battle for next army chief - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 29 October 2012

New battle for next army chief

Top: Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra (at left) with Gen Bikram Singh; Bottom: Lt Gen Dalbir Singh

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 30th Oct 12

The dust has barely settled after General VK Singh’s Supreme Court battle to be army chief for another year. Now another senior army general is approaching court with a petition that, if accepted, could make him the next army chief instead of Lt Gen Dalbir Singh, the Eastern Army commander who is currently in line.

Business Standard has learned that Lt Gen Ravi Dastane, currently the Deputy Chief of the tri-service Integrated Defence Staff, will shortly file a petition with the Armed Forces Tribunal, a high-court level legal body that adjudicates on military matters.

“My client has been unfairly denied the appointment of army commander, for which he fulfilled every condition. Instead, a post was kept vacant for Lt Gen Dalbir Singh who was under a vigilance ban. This was procedurally incorrect, and I will request the Honourable court to set it aside,” says Major (Retired) Sudhansu Pande, who will represent Gen Dastane in court.

After commanding the Leh-based 14 Corps in 2011-12, Gen Dastane is eligible to be appointed an army commander, a pre-requisite for becoming army chief. The army has seven commands: six geographical (northern, western, south-western, southern, central and eastern); and one functional command, the Army Training Command or ARTRAC. There is also the tri-service Andaman & Nicobar Command, which is commanded in turn by officers from the army, navy and air force.

The key date in the current dispute is 31st May 2012, when two army commanders’ posts fell vacant with the retirement of former army chief, Gen VK Singh, and the western army commander, Lt Gen Shankar Ghosh. Army records examined by Business Standard indicate that the three senior-most generals on that day who were eligible to become army commanders (the pre-requisite being that they must have commanded a corps) were, in order of seniority: Lt Gen Dalbir Singh; followed by Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra; followed by Lt Gen Ravi Dastane.

As was widely reported in the media at the time (and corroborated by Major Pande), Lt Gen Dalbir Singh was under a discipline and vigilance (DV) ban, having received a show-cause notice from the former army chief, Gen VK Singh, for a botched operation by the 3 Corps Intelligence Unit under Dalbir’s command.

With Dalbir ineligible for elevation because of the DV ban, the army appointed Chachra as western army commander (MS Branch signal 388218/2012/MS(X)/79 dated 30th May 12). Dastane, however, was not given the second army commander vacancy. Instead, it was kept vacant until Lt Gen Dalbir Singh’s show cause notice was nullified on 8th June by Gen Bikram Singh, who had taken over as army chief.

On 15th June, Lt Gen Dalbir Singh was appointed the eastern army commander through MS Branch signal 388246/2012/MS(X)/94 dated 15th Jun 12. Two weeks later, the MS Branch restored his seniority of 1st June 2012, through MS Branch letter A/45751/2012/LG/Army Cdr/EC/MS(X) dated 24th June 12.

Dastane’s Statutory Complaint to the MoD, filed on 6th August, objects to the differential standards applied, in which one vacancy was filled by appointing Lt Gen Chachra, while “reserving” one vacancy for Lt Gen Dalbir Singh, and granting him retrospective seniority.

“They appointed Lt Gen Chachra because he was retiring on 31st May 12. But my client was as eligible as him, and if Chachra was considered for army commanders’ appt on 31st May, that concession should also have been given to me. The government could have taken a stand that we will not appoint anyone before Dalbir’s show-cause notice is resolved. But they considered and appointed Chachra,” points out Pande.

The next army commander’s vacancy arises only on 31st January, by when Dastane would have less than two years of residual service, rendering him ineligible as per current guidelines to be appointed army commander.

Dastane’s lawyer says that his petition to the Armed Forces Tribunal will plead for his promotion as army commander with effect from 1st June 12, and that he be physically appointed to head the next army command that falls vacant.

If this is granted, says Dastane’s lawyer, the general will have a strong legal case to demand seniority above Dalbir Singh, who was appointed only on 15th June. That would make Dastane the senior-most qualified lieutenant general on 31st July 2014, when the current chief, Gen Bikram Singh, retires. The MoD convention has long been to appoint the senior-most qualified officer to succeed an outgoing chief.

The MoD’s viewpoint, say ministry sources, is that Lt Gen Dalbir Singh’s claim was alive on 1st June, though subject to a decision on his show-cause notice. The MoD, therefore, left one army commander’s vacancy unfilled, in anticipation of a decision on the show-cause notice.


  1. OCTOBER 26, 2012: "Indian, American navies carrying out joint drill : For the first time, navies of India and the US are carrying out joint drill to save sailors stuck in submarines during mid-sea mishaps off the coast of Mumbai in an exercise codenamed INDIAEX 2012 [PTI, October 26, 2012]".

    I had objected to the agreement for U.S. help for submarine rescue, on the grounds below, in the past which may have been responsible for the "huge delay in setting up the requisite infrastructure needed for it. [Times of India, October 26, 2012] "

    The essence of submarine operations is keeping their locations secret; the above "joint drill" gives ample opportunities to the Americans to get acoustic and other signatures of Indian submarines and put devices on them to be able to track them and this is the purpose of this "joint drill" -- to render Indian submarines worthless and subject to destruction by the Americans at any time and deprive India of any ability to use submarine-based nuclear weapons. The Indian army, air force and navy are already subject to being disabled and destroyed by the Americans in other ways I have described (such as in 'Indian Air Force Pilots' Murder' : IndianAirForcePilotsMurderDOTblogspotDOTcom ) and this adds another modality to it which will persist beyond the nuclear destruction of New Delhi and of RAW and the traitor army, air force and navy chiefs, etc. The coast-to-coast destruction of the United States that will follow the nuclear destruction of New Delhi, Washington and New York will require all the platforms India can bring to the task and the sabotage of these platforms will stop with the destruction of New Delhi, Washington and New York; till then the Indian and American governments will continue to race to destroy India's weapons platforms.

    OCTOBER 19, 2012: Niggers of the Indian media, such as NDTV, are covering the U.S. presidential debates as if it is the president of India who is being elected. Uninterrupted coverage of the one and a half hour long debate plus an hour before the start of the debate and an hour after the debate ended and the whole performance repeated over and over with endless analyses of the minutiae of the issues and styles and likes and dislikes and what not -- boy, these niggers really know who their masters are but shouldn't they be covering the Indian who is going to carry out the coast-to-coast destruction of this number one enemy country, instead (see below)? Well, they wouldn't be nigger slaves -- millions of whom will be killed in the nuclear destruction of New Delhi -- if they had this much sense. As I have said below, India's media, government and citizenry at large are willing participants in CIA-RAW's crimes against me and against India and deserve to be killed in their billions. IndiasTraitorGovtAndMediaDOTblogspotDOTcom

    Satish Chandra

  2. Dear Colonel Shukla,
    The gentleman who has posted the first comment on your article is (to put it mildly) a loony! He has a habit of posting preposterous conspiracy theories concerning R&AW, CIA etc and some of the stuff he writes is off the wall. You must review such posts. BTW I absolutely agree with your analysis of our senior generals and their intellectual drought.
    An OS and cavalryman

  3. why do colleagues quarrel with each other for a job post ?

  4. Another Mud Corps hit piece.....

    you are testing new lows every time.....

  5. Ajai , an excellent piece of reporting.
    I do hope your article will bring this matter out in the public domain and will help light a fire under the COAS and get him to respond to the statutory complaint.If my understanding is correct, a statutory complaint has to be replied within 90 days so November should see the Govt's position on this.

    The Govt talks of no "line of succession" but it is clear in the COAS's mind who he wants as his successor. Otherwise why would he have a)kept the Eastern Command position vacant for 2 weeks till 15th June and b) overturned the D&V ban on GOC 3 Corps with such alacrity after assuming office.

    I look forward to your blog bringing further news of this as it unfolds.

  6. Considered you to be an insightful blogger/reporter. But as it is said...better to keep your mouth shut and let people think that you are a fool than to open it to confirm it!

    First evidence of your loony thought process was evident when you had praised the ex 15 Corps GOC Gen Hashnain in such glowing words. That General was liked by you guys in the media, the 'AWAM' and the riff-raff but hated by almost all his subordinates. But, of course, you can understand it for you were a special invitee during that seminar 'Enhancing Kashmir's Pride' and were treated as a god knows what. Typical mud corps mentality you have got, give me a drink and free chicken and I'll lick any one's arse.

  7. 1962 or...
    or 2012... touch wood...

  8. This is how Generals become generals, by not really caring about the country or Army but always fighting for a promotion.

  9. Ajai Sir, I think you are giving this guy free publicity. He is not saying anything substantial at all. He is not even a pseudo-intellectual. Better to just ignore any posts he makes here and not allowing him to post?

  10. The IAS has finally done to the armed forces what it did to the police force.

    Making of Generals who will act more like junior babus in front of the IAS and the political class. This will eradicate any confrontations regarding any issues be it military strategies, purchases or non purchases actually,promotions no thrust for OROP thru the chiefs and behind the scenes deals in relation to how much the IAS and the political class are corrupt and working for outsiders.

    The next move of the IAS will be to push in SC/ST OBC based promotions..furthering making of the army, an army of political parties.

    Saddening is that the lower echelons of the army fight for justice for the armed forces when the higher echelons think butlers and waiters are the road to glory

  11. Anonny said

    "Another Mud Corps hit piece.....

    you are testing new lows every time.....

    31 October 2012 08:06

    My Dear Sir,

    1. The article just brings out the facts as these are. These may be unpalatable alright but the author can hardly be faulted if one Senior Gen decides to contest his passing over.

    2. If you have some long festering grudge/bias against Armd Corps offrs that is altogether a different issue.

    3. And just to put things straight I'm not from Armd but unsung and humble Sigs Corps!

  12. And yes

    A hit piece won't lead to this for sure!

    So pls have the equanimity to accept things (how so ever bad) with grace.

  13. @Harry

    Well my dear Sig Corps, then reas what a Sig Corps general has to say:

  14. @anony


    Looks like you are mixing up between two issues. These comments are in response to the post, "New battle for next Army Chief" whereas Ex So-in-C Lt Gen Harbhajan's (who link you posted) rebuttal is against the post ,"Wake up Gens" (though the author stays the same).

    Looks like your comments pertain to the other write up by Col Shukla but posted here by mistake.

    In any case, even the other write up by Col Shukla only points out unpalatable truths which no one can deny, honestly. But yes Col Shukla could have toned down the language a bit possibly and still would have conveyed the msg without causing much resentment. Our Gens may be deep selected alright but no one is infallible here and examples are aplenty.

  15. @ Harry
    you may be the next SO-in-C, even then Skulka will be around to berate the Cyber warrior who becomes a Lt Gen without even firing a shot in his 40 years career...

    The man who starts with mandalisation theory, then homes on to allegedly politically ambitious VK Singh, is targeting present breed of generals and the chief has to have something wrong somewhere...

    He says IA ran back in 1962. Is that so? Were they there for a battle? Or were they simply there to massage the egoes of Nehru and Krishna Menon who ordered them to be there against professional advise...

    Only pseudo intellectuals like Shukla would castigate IA like that..

    You expressed your views to which you are entitled. I am doing the same...

  16. Sir, being a soldier yourself maybe you can answer my question. What's with this new culture pervading in the Indian army of not shaping/moulding your berets?

    You will never find one private, sergeant or Lieutenant, leave alone a general without a nicely shaped, crisp beret in any NATO army. Does it really take that long to get some hot water and shape the damn thing! This alone is enough to convince me standards have fallen from the old days of the Indian Army. My OTC cadets have better turn out than your officers.

  17. What kind of officer doesn't even shape his beret properly? They teach you this when you are a cadet!

  18. @Anony

    1. Thanks for your views Sir.

    2. First things first, I am NOT going to be even one of the COs of the Sig Regt let alone So-in-C (having hit a dead end already as a half Colonel).

    3. If someone becomes a Gen w/o firing a single shot in 40 years (as you mentioned) would that be acceptable to you, leaving alone Col Shukla for the time being?

    4. Isn't mandalisation is grim reality for today's Army and thus leading to lot of resentment and frustation amongst officers from not-so-privileged Arms and Services. Does it not amount to changing goal posts after match has begun? Why blame the IAS Sir when we are ourselves not any different when it comes to looking after own (or own Arm's) interests?

    Anyway, I don't question your need to have your own (diametrically different though) opinion.

    warm regards,
    - Harry

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