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Kargil hero to head army

New Delhi, Oct. 31: The Centre today announced that Lt. General Nirmal Chander Vij, vice-chief of army staff, will take over as the next army chief. General Vij will take over from December 31, when General S. Padmanabhan retires.

The Centre’s choice of General Vij for the post means the defence establishment has reposed faith in an officer who has put in 40 years of service — an achievement by itself — and who was next in the line of succession after General Padmanabhan.

The vice-chief of army staff is not necessarily an automatic choice as army chief. The heads of the army’s regional commands also rank at par with the vice-chief.

General Vij also brings to the post a vast operational experience. As the vice-chief, it is he who was directly responsible for Operation Parakram, the 10-month stand-off in the borders that is now being wound up.

A series of new appointments is likely to follow in quick succession with General Vij’s elevation. Sources in the army headquarters say Lt. General Shantonu Choudhary, currently head of the Army Training Command (Artrac), Shimla, is tipped to take over as the next vice-chief.

General Vij, who was commissioned into the Dogra Regiment in 1962, was the Director General of Military Operations during the 1999 Kargil war for which he was decorated with the Uttam Yudh Seva Medal.

He has commanded both a strike corps (21 Corps) and a defensive formation (4 Corps) engaged in counter-insurgency operations.

He has also commanded a RAPID (a fast-moving formation of artillery and the mechanised infantry) division in the desert.

A strike corps commander, Lt. General J.J. Singh, is expected to head Artrac in the new changes to follow.

The Director General, Infantry, Lt. General Hari Prasad, is also likely to take over as the army commander, north, after Lt. General R.K. Nanavatty retires.

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