Thursday, February 2, 2012

Army chief race turns murky as allegations fly

Army chief in waiting - Lt Gen Bikram Singh

Army chief race turns murky as allegations fly
Josy Joseph, TNN Jan 11, 2012, 04.15AM IST
Lt Gen Bikram Singh is likely to become the Chief of Army Staff after Gen VK Singh retires because he is the senior-most officer in the Indian Army and the government rarely deviates from the seniority principle in deciding the Army chief.
NEW DELHI: Just when the controversy over the age of Army chief Gen V K Singh is beginning to die down, a set of allegations have cropped up against his likely successor Lt Gen Bikram Singh, making the issue of who should head the world's second largest standing army a murky affair.

Most serious of the complaints against Lt Gen Bikram Singh is a decade-old, and concerns an encounter in Kashmir on March 1, 2001. Lt Gen Bikram Singh, then a brigadier heading counter-insurgency operations in the area, was injured and a colonel killed. A local NGO 'Youth Empowerment Services of Kashmir' has been petitioning various authorities in Delhi and in Kashmir countering Army's claim that the operation resulted in the killing of a foreign militant named Mateen Chacha.

The group has alleged that the deceased was actually a 70-year-old local named Abdullah Bhat, a resident of Machil, Kupwara, who was shown as a foreign militant. The NGO has not dropped its campaign despite the clean chit to Lt Gen Bikram Singh from the local police.

In what may appear to be part of a chain, an MP has also written to the prime minister questioning Lt Gen Bikram Singh's suitability to lead the Army on the ground that his daughter in-law is from Pakistan. The intelligence establishment, approached by the PMO, gave an all-clear to Lt General Bikram Singh but this has not spelt respite for him.

There are also anonymous complaints doing the rounds about Lt Gen Bikram Singh's posting in African on a UN peacekeeping mission, and failure to contain disciplinary breaches by some Indian Army soldiers. Some members of an Indian Army battalion are accused of fathering children, by illegal sexual contacts with local women, while they were posted in Africa.

There are three possible scenarios that heighten concerns within the government about the succession battle. One, if Gen V K Singh retires as per the government records, then Lt Gen Bikram Singh could be announced as the next chief by March 31. If Gen VK Singh were to continue until 2013, then Lt Gen KT Parnaik, who is heading the Northern Army Command, would be the senior-most officer in line.

In case Gen VK Singh resigns abruptly in the coming weeks, before the government announces Lt Gen Bikram Singh as the new chief, then there could a further twist to the succession battle. Given the complexities of the scenario, government sources said they were warily watching allegations being flung around.
Army chief race turns murky as allegations fly

Comment: The Indian Army Chief to succeed Gen VK Singh should be above board. The succession plan plotted by Bureaucrats should be examined, shelved and mischief makers brought to book.

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