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Rediff.com  » News » 'Need caution about appointing retired officer as CDS'

'Need caution about appointing retired officer as CDS'

By ARCHANA MASIH
June 10, 2022 14:09 IST
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'It conveys the impression that there is not enough talent available among serving officers.'
'That does not reflect well on the professionalism of the officer corps.'

IMAGE: Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh, right, with, from left, Air Marshal B R Krishna, Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff; General Manoj Chandrashekhar Pande, Chief of the Army Staff; Admiral Radhakrishnan Hari Kumar, Chief of the Naval Staff; Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari, Chief of the Air Staff. Photograph: PTI Photo

"We have had instances of retired officers showing political leanings after retirement, and they are free to do so, but if the government were to pick such an officer, questions would be raised on the politicisation of the office of the CDS," says Lieutenant General Deependra Singh Hooda (retd), the former Northern Army commander.

In his 40 years of distinguished service in the Indian Army, the general served extensively in Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland and Manipur. The surgical strikes in Pakistan occupied Kashmir in September 2016 were conducted during his tenure and on his watch.

"If a junior C-in-C or army commander is promoted over the Chief, it could cause some discomfort, but ultimately it could become an accepted norm in the future," General Hooda tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih while discussing the recent amendments to the rules for the appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff.

 

What are your thoughts about the government's change of rules for the selection of the Chief of Defence Staff that has been lying vacant for six months?

The government had been saying it wants to widen the pool of officers that can be selected for the appointment of CDS.

Therefore, the amendment is in line with their thinking of broadening the choice by including some retired officers.

The notification makes all lieutenant generals eligible, but I don't think they will pick very junior officers in that rank. Those who have served as commanders-in-chief/army commanders could be under consideration.

Will it lead to a situation where the three chiefs will have a junior ranking officer presiding over them?

The army has a rigid hierarchy. If a junior C-in-C or army commander is promoted over the Chief, it could cause some discomfort, but ultimately it could become an accepted norm in the future.

We have had cases in the past where the juniors have been appointed chiefs. General Bipin Rawat superseded two officers to become chief of the army staff, so at some stage the process of selecting junior officers will find acceptance. Ultimately, it is the government's prerogative to select the CDS.

The CDS is equal to the Chief, although he is the first among equals.

What will be the impact of a retired three-star general being appointed the CDS?

My personal view is that we need to be cautious about bringing in retired officers as the CDS.

First, it conveys the impression that there is not enough talent available among the serving officers. That does not reflect well on the professionalism of officer corps.

Second, the age limit for appointing a CDS is 62, which automatically excludes ex-chiefs who retire at 62. Therefore, the choice will be among lieutenant generals who retire at the age of 60 and could be appointed in the next two years after retirement.

One issue that could be discomforting is that retired officers are not bound by the rules that govern serving officers -- for example, like not engaging in political activity.

We have had instances of retired officers showing political leanings after retirement, and they are free to do so, but if the government were to pick such an officer, questions would be raised on the politicisation of the office of CDS. Hence, there is need to exercise caution in selecting retired officers for the post of the CDS.

What ramifications can it have on the command and structure of a rigidly hierarchical armed forces?

There could be some heartburn, but it will be acceptable if a proficient officer with a good standing, reputation and professionalism is selected. If a competent officer is selected, then any such problems can be overcome.

It has been six months since the tragic passing of the CDS. Why is the government taking so long to announce his successor?

It is puzzling because it is delaying the reform process that was set in motion. Hopefully with this notification, we may see a decision soon.

Let us wait and see whom the government appoints and many questions and doubts that people have will get cleared.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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ARCHANA MASIH / Rediff.com