Contrary to the reports that Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi. GOC-in-C Eastern Command, who has been passed over for promotion as Army Chief, has only served in the deserts of Rajasthan, details of his career profile emerging now show that he had on multiple occasions asked for operational Commands. The Indian Express spoke to several senior Army officers who are known to Lt Gen Bakshi and who have had a parallel career trajectory as him and who are familiar with the efforts he made to ensure a well rounded service profile.
“When he was approved for the rank of Lt General Bakshi had met and requested the then Chief of Army Staff, General Bikram Singh, to be allotted an operationally committed Corps in the North East which could be 3 Corps or 4 Corps. However, his request was not acceded and he was instead given the Command of 9 Corps which is headquartered in Yol in Himachal Pradesh,” said a senior officer.
An armoured corps officer, Lt Gen Bakshi later volunteered for a posting in the Northern Command Headquarters in Udhampur as Chief of Staff of the Command instead of opting for a high profile appointment in the Army Headquarters. “This was very unusual for an officer who was destined for higher ranks. He had been slotted for appointment as Director General Perspective Planning in the Army Headquarters yet he requested that he be posted in Northern Command so that he got an overview of the counter-terrorism operations underway in Jammu and Kashmir and the situation on the Line of Control,” said another officer who retired as an Army Commander.
Sources also said that Lt Gen Bakshi was originally scheduled to take over as GOC-in-C Western Command upon promotion as Army Commander and the then Western Army Commander was scheduled to be moved as the Vice Chief of Army Staff. “However, Lt Gen Bakshi requested the Army Chief that he be posted to Eastern Command so that he could have adequate experience of the operationally committed Command in counter-insurgency operations as well as the deployments with regard to China. This request of his was also agreed to and he was accordingly placed in eastern Command,” said a retired Lt General.
Another senior officer who was Lt Gen Bakshi’s immediate superior in one of his command tenures said that even the Corps Commanded by Bakshi had a role to play in counter insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir. “Units falling under 9 Corps are also deployed in counter terrorism and counter insurgency in the Jammu area. Therefore to say that he has had no such experience is a false statement,” he said.
An impression has been sought to be conveyed that Lt Gen Bakshi and Lt Gen Hariz were sidelined for the appointment of the Army Chief because their career profile did not adequately reflect experience of counter insurgency operations as they were officers from the mechanised forces. This argument has been termed to be fallacious by senior Army officers who say that the Army primary role is not anti terrorism operations and that this explanation being given for sidelining the officers is not teneble.