The incumbent UPA government on Tuesday named Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh as India’s next army chief, following the well-established seniority principle and upholding the order of succession in the force.
Dalbir Singh, who is currently the army’s vice chief, will succeed General Bikram Singh who is retiring on July 31. Service chiefs are usually named two to three months in advance to help them transition more smoothly into the new role.
A highly-decorated general, Dalbir Singh brings vast military experience to the table. He has headed the operationally-critical Eastern Command, commanded a corps in the northeast and led a mountain division in the sensitive Kargil sector.
Considered to be a China expert, it was under his leadership that the army laid the groundwork for setting up a new mountain strike corps to counter the Communist neighbour in the eastern sector. One of his top priorities as chief will be to accelerate the setting up of the new strike formation, 17 Corps.
Several attempts were made to scuttle Dalbir Singh’s chances of becoming army chief, but no merit was found in the allegations against him. It will be crucial for the new government and the new army chief to focus on scaling up the capabilities of the force to transform it into a well-oiled fighting machine.
The PM-headed Appointments Committee of Cabinet cleared Dalbir Singh for the top job a day after the defence ministry proposed that he be appointed the next army chief.
Dalbir Singh, 59, was commissioned into the 4/5 Gorkha Rifles in June 1974. A third generation soldier, he has attended several elite courses in India and abroad. He doesn’t use his surname (Suhag) in official records.
The BJP had earlier opposed his appointment but it later softened its stand, with a top leader pointing out that the party had no problems with appointments where there was little scope for the political executive to use its discretion, as first reported by HT on May 3.