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Bhardwaj’s appointment may spark row
Published on 2 Sep. 2009 12:57 AM IST
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The naming of Lt. Gen. P.C. Bhardwaj as the Indian Army's vice chief Tuesday could spark a succession row as it technically means supersession of the senior-most three-star officer, Lt. Gen. V.K. Singh, but Army Headquarters says this is not necessarily so. Singh was tipped to become the Indian Army chief when incumbent Gen. Deepak Kapoor retires in March 2010. Technically, the new postings mean that for the six months from October when Bhardwaj assumes the vice chief's post, Singh would be reporting to an officer who is his junior. Singh's other option would be to put in his papers, but a senior army officer sought to downplay the possibility of this. "There's nothing of that sort. Both are in the same higher administrative grade and get the same pay and perks," he noted. In the normal scheme of things, Singh would have, in all probability, become the vice chief when incumbent Lt. Gen. Noble Thamburaj retires October 1. However, the defence ministry accepted Kapoor's recommendation that the vice chief serve a two-year term. Thus, the appointment of Bhardwaj, who currently heads the Udhampur-based Northern Command, could be said to have upset Singh's apple cart. "What can we do about this? It was a decision taken by the defence ministry. We can only follow orders," the officer pointed out. The Indian Army's new promotion policy assigns officers of the rank of Major General and Lieutenant General to either command or administrative streams. Under the policy, staff stream officers will perform only administrative tasks, while command stream officers will lead troops in field formations. Officers would not be able to change stream while moving up the career ladder. Bhardwaj has been chief of the Udhampur-based Northern Command since March this year. He took over from Lt. Gen. H.S. Panag, who was shifted to the relatively insignificant Central Command. Panag has taken in his stride what could be construed a demotion. Prior to heading the Northern Command, Bhardwaj commanded the Leh-based 14 Corps that guards the frontiers with China and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir, as also the Siachen glacier, the world's highest battlefield. Bhardwaj has vast experience in terror-hit Kashmir, having been the Brigadier General Staff of the Nagrota-based 16 Corps in 2000-01, when militancy was at its peak and infiltration was at its highest level. He has also commanded the counter-insurgency Delta Force in the Doda region of Jammu. An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, the Indian Military Academy and the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, Bhardwaj was commissioned into the first battalion of the Parachute Regiment in June 1970. He has also received training at the Special Forces School at Fort Bragg in the US. A recipient of the Vir Chakra during the 1971 India-Pakistan war, Bhardwaj has commanded the elite Parachute Brigade and was the defence attache to Myanmar from 1994 to 1997.

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