Delhi: The Centre on Sunday announced Calcutta-headquartered eastern
army commander Lt General Bikram Singh as the army chief-designate,
pre-empting the possibility of a succession battle in the backdrop of the
row with General VK Singh over his date of birth.
Lt General Bikram Singh will succeed the current chief on promotion to the
rank of general from the afternoon of May 31, 2012, an official defence
ministry announcement said.
Last week, the military secretary's branch of army headquarters had issued
a notice of retirement to General VK Singh.
The new army chief-designate, in a statement issued from Calcutta's Fort
William, said: "I am honoured and grateful to the government for having
reposed confidence in me and having appointed me as the next Chief of Army
The announcement of a service chief-designate is usually made two months
before the date of retirement of the incumbent. But the government has
chosen to make the announcement nearly three months before Lt General
Bikram Singh is due to take over.
The announcement also means that the government is going by the seniority
principle because Lt General Bikram Singh would be the senior-most army
commander on May 31, 2012. Had the government accepted General VK Singh's
contention that his year of birth is 1951, he would have been eligible for
a 10-month extension of service.
If General VK Singh's tenure was extended, Lt General Bikram Singh would
have retired as army commander and Lt General KT Parnaik, the northern
army commander, would have been the seniormost.
The early announcement also pre-empts the possibility of a row over who
should take over if General VK Singh demits office before his date of
superannuation because of differences with the government.
The announcement of the army chief-designate means that General VK Singh
will now have to keep his successor in the loop for all important
decisions. General VK Singh has, for all practical purposes, been reduced
to a lame-duck chief.
When he takes over, Lt General Bikram Singh would also mark a generational
shift. He would be the first post-1971 officer to occupy the post. India
waged its last full-fledged war in 1971, taking 93,000 Pakistani prisoners
of war and midwifing the birth of Bangladesh.
Lt General Bikram Singh, however, has seen action overseas and in Jammu
Commissioned into the Sikh Light Infantry Regiment on March 31, 1972, he
commanded the Kashmir Valley-based 15 Corps. He has also served as deputy
force commander of a multi-nation UN peacekeeping mission in Congo. He has
also been a UN observer in Nicaragua and El Salvador during the early
Lt General Bikram Singh studied at the Defence Services Staff College, the
Army War College and the US Army War College, Pennsylvania. He has also
done an MPhil in defence management from Indore University.
The defence ministry has been served a four-week notice by Jammu and
Kashmir High Court after a family in Kashmir alleged that as a brigadier,
Bikram Singh was involved in a suspicious encounter.
- The Telegraph, Calcutta