In a rare move, army chief gets 1-month extension | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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In a rare move, army chief gets 1-month extension

By, New Delhi
May 27, 2024 05:08 AM IST

General Manoj Pande was to retire on May 31.

The Appointments Committee of Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Sunday granted a rare extension in service to army chief General Manoj Pande, days before his retirement on May 31, with the unexpected development deepening the suspense over who will be the next chief of the world’s second largest army.

Army chief General Manoj Pande (File Photo)
Army chief General Manoj Pande (File Photo)

The first and only such extension was granted more than five decades ago by the Indira Gandhi government to General GG Bewoor, who succeeded Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw as army chief in January 1973.

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The government has granted a one-month extension to Pande till June 30 under the relevant army rules, the defence ministry said in a statement.

The date is significant as well because it is the day the two senior-most generals believed to be in the running for the top post also retire. Army vice chief Lieutenant General Upendra Dwivedi, thus far widely seen as the frontrunner for the top job, is currently the senior-most officer in service after Pande followed by Southern Army commander Lieutenant General AK Singh.

Both Dwivedi and Singh will retire on June 30. They were commissioned into the army in December 1984.

To be sure, a top officer can be appointed service chief even if he is retiring on the same day as the outgoing chief.

The move comes at a time when it was widely expected that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government would name the country’s next army chief before Pande’s retirement.

“The Appointments Committee of Cabinet, on May 26, 2024, approved the extension in service of Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Manoj Pande for a period of one month, beyond his normal age (date) of superannuation (May 31, 2024), i.e. up to June 30, 2024, under Rule 16 A (4) of the Army Rules 1954,” it said.

Pande took over as army chief from General Manoj Mukund Naravane on April 30, 2022.

Successive governments have traditionally gone by the seniority principle to appoint service chiefs, though there have been rare instances of senior-most officers being overlooked for the top post.

The recent ones include the appointment of General Bipin Rawat as army chief in 2016 by the NDA government, and Admiral Robin Dhowan being made the navy chief in 2014 by the United Progressive Alliance government.

The top generals after Dwivedi and Singh are Northern Army commander Lieutenant General MV Suchindra Kumar, Central Army commander Lieutenant General NS Raja Subramani, Western Army commander Lieutenant General Manoj Kumar Katiyar, South Western Army commander Lieutenant General Dhiraj Seth, Army Training Command chief Lieutenant General Manjinder Singh and Eastern Army commander Lieutenant General Ram Chander Tiwari.

“The extension given to Pande has triggered a lot of speculation about who will succeed him. The top job could go to the senior-most officer or any of the army commanders if the government goes in for deep selection. We will have to wait and watch,” said a senior officer, who asked not to be named.

The extension provided to Bewoor led to Lieutenant General PS Bhagat being denied the army chief’s post.

The extension given to Pande has surprised many in the army as he was felicitated during the recent retiring officers’ seminar for those superannuating on May 31.

“#LtGenUpendraDwivedi #VCOAS felicitated General Manoj Pande #COAS during the Retiring Officers’ Seminar #ROS, for his glorious & meritorious service dedicated to the Nation spanning more than four decades. General Manoj Pande #COAS will continue to be an inspiration for current and future generations having pioneered a large number of technological initiatives and persistent efforts towards transformation of #IndianArmy into a modern, agile, adaptive & technology enabled future ready force. #IndianArmy,” the army wrote on X on May 21.

It is the government’s prerogative to appoint whoever they feel would make the best army chief, said a top retired officer, who asked not to be named.

“It should exercise this right in a clear and transparent manner. Taking some roundabout decision a few days before the new appointment is due only creates instability in the organisation which is completely avoidable,” he added

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