Tuesday, February 15, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Race on for new Army Chief
From Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Feb 14 — The process for the selection of the next Chief of Army Staff, who would take over the reigns from Gen. V.P. Malik, has begun with Lt-Gen G. Padmanabhan, the GOC-in-C Southern Command, and Lt-Gen Chandra Sekhar, the Vice-Chief of Army Staff, being the two serious contenders for the post.

The appointment is likely to see a keen tussle as Army Headquarters (AHQ) is backing the candidature of Lt-Gen Chandra Sekhar and pushing hard to see that the General, who has worked in close quarters with General V.P. Malik actually takes over the reigns of the Army from him. Besides, a senior minister from the BJP is also said to be in favour of his being appointed as the next Chief of Army Staff.

On the other hand, sources in the AHQ point out that by seniority and merit, Lt-Gen Padmanabhan should take over the reigns of the Army. Due to retire on December 31, Lt-Gen Padmanabhan is presently the seniormost officer in the force with adequate experience to back him.

According to sources, along with the process for the selection of the next Chief of Army Staff, the process for promoting a large number of Major Generals to the post of Lt-Gen has also got under way. As many as 12 Lt-Gens are expected to retire in the coming months.

Similarly, the process for the selection of the next Vice-Chief of Army Staff and the Deputy Chief of Army Staff is also under way. One of the officers in contention to take over as the Deputy Chief of Army Staff is Lt. Gen Kishan Pal, who is presently the Corp Commander of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps.

According to reports, the AHQ has already shortlisted 10 names of the Major-Gen to be promoted and the list has been sent to the MS branch for further scrutiny. However the completion of the entire process is likely to take at least two months as the appointments will also be cleared by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) which comprises the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the Defence Minister.

These appointments apart, the tussle for the next Chief of Army Staff is again likely to see some string-pulling, specially as the AHQ-backed Lt-Gen Chandra Shekhar is also due to retire on September 30, the same day, Gen V.P. Malik is also due to retire. By this count, General Shekhar will not be in the reckoning. But there is a move to suggest that he be given a day’s extention in service which will put him in the running for the top job.

Sources said besides the Army top brass pushing for Gen-Chandra Shekhar, the Minister for Human Resources Development, Mr Murli Manohar Joshi is also backing his candidature, as he is from the Uttar Pradesh hills.

Although there have been precedents in the past where a senior Army officer was given a day’s extention to be promoted to the higher rank and post, there has been no incident of this sort for the selection of the Chief of Army Staff.

According to reports, the selection of the next Army Chief could also rake up another controversy in the force as, besides being the senior lost and competent, Lt-Gen Padmanabhan’s candidature is also being backed by one of the allies in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. The party from the South is said to have already expressed its desire to see General Padmanabhan as the next Chief of Army Staff.

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