WITH JUST a week to go for the officiating Western Army Commander, Lt Gen JS Cheema, to proceed on posting, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is yet to formally announce the name of the officer who will be taking over as the GOC-in-C Western Command.
As of Tuesday, there are three senior Lt Generals who are awaiting their next posting orders and two out of them have to be appointed as Army Commanders or the equivalent status in a tri-service organisation. Lt Gen Surinder Singh, General Officer Commanding 33 Corps, will be relieved of his appointment by the end of this week, and while he is widely tipped to take over as Western Army Commander, there is no official word on his appointment. However, his successor in 33 Corps has already been named.
Even more intriguing is the case of Lt Gen DR Soni and Lt Gen PS Mehta, both of the armoured corps, who have been without any permanent posting for nearly two months now. While Lt Gen Soni was general officer Commanding 10 Corps in Bathinda, Lt Gen Mehta was commanding the Strike Corps, 21 Corps, in Bhopal. Lt Gen Mehta had been given extended joining time till the end of July and attached with South Western Command in Jaipur while Lt Gen Mehta had been given 45 days leave and attached with the Army Headquarters till August 15.
Even after the expiry of their joining time and leave, respectively, Lt Gen Soni and Lt Gen Mehta have not been given any posting orders. Both officers were recently learnt to have been in touch the office of the Military Secretary in order to know their next assignment but they have been told to wait. The situation has caused consternation in military circles as such a situation has never been observed in recent years where uncertainty prevails over the appointments of senior officers. The Western Command has been without any GOC-in-C since July 31 when Lt Gen KJ Singh retired and as an interim measure the GOC 11 Corps was made the officiating GOC-in-C.
Sources say that the impasse over the postings of senior officers is taking place because the Ministry of Defence has not approved the posting orders which have been recommended by the Army Headquarters. Lt Gen Soni was earlier tipped to be posted as the Commander-in-Chief of the Andaman and Nicobar Command but that post is now expected to remain with the Navy. Similarly, Lt Gen PS Mehta was supposed to be posted in the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) to the Chiefs of Staff Committee but then it was learnt that the Chief of the IDS would have been junior in service to him creating a piquant situation.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Lt Gen RS Kadyan (retd), former Deputy Chief of Army Staff, said, “Every appointment above the rank of Major General is approved by the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC). They never actually meet because they are busy in other tasks and the file moves from one minister to another and it takes time. The recommendations have to be by the Army which knows best who is suited for what. Unless there is some intelligence input about something being drastically wrong with some name approved, it is not for the government to make any changes. It is the Army Chief who is is best judge and they should listen to his professional advice”.