General rank push for Brigadiers - Army seeks re-designation to ensure officers don't lose out to cops in status race

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  • Published 12.11.07

New Delhi, Nov. 12: The army wants to add another General rank among its officer cadre. It has sought the government’s nod to re-designate Brigadiers.

The army chief, General Deepak Kapoor, has written to defence minister A.K. Antony that Brigadiers should be re-designated as Brigadier-Generals, in line with the practice of the American and some Nato armies.

But the real reason for the recommendation to re-designate Brigadiers is a worry in military headquarters that their senior officers are not being accorded due prestige and status in comparison with senior police officers. This is a source of concern because the army is committed to internal security duties in Jammu and Kashmir and in the Northeast.

The re-designation to Brigadier-General would place the officer holding that rank above a deputy inspector-general of police in the “warrant of precedence” prepared by the Union home ministry. A “warrant of precedence” lays down the hierarchy of government functionaries. At the apex is the President (Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces).

“There has been a proliferation of ranks in the police and in the civil bureaucracy but not so in the armed forces. The warrant of precedence may need to be revised,” a senior army officer told The Telegraph, explaining the rationale for the army chief’s recommendation.

In most Commonwealth armies, the Brigadier is immediately senior to the Colonel and immediately below the Major General.

The Indian Army has two, three, four and five-star Generals — Major Generals, Lieutenant Generals, General (Chief of Army Staff) and Field Marshal (honorary). The Brigadier-General would be the first time the Indian Army would have a single-star General.

As a prelude to the recommended change, army headquarters in New Delhi has allowed Brigadiers to fly their flags on staff cars. This was a privilege reserved for officers who were Major Generals (and equivalent in the air force and navy) and above in the armed forces.

There are nearly 2,000 Brigadiers in the Indian Army, about 600 Major Generals and around 190 Lieutenant Generals.

The ranks in the navy and the air force that are equivalent to the army’s Brigadier are Commodore and Air Commodore.

With the army asking for re-christening of the rank, the navy will also have to enhance the Commodore to Admiral status and the air force the Air Commodore to Marshal status. The equivalent naval and air force ranks may not have to be re-designated — because the military lexicon is limited — but they will have to be assigned “flag” rank to ensure parity among the armed forces.

In any case, the navy and the air force have fewer problems of rank and protocol than the army because their role in internal security is either restricted or not there.

It is the army Brigadier in Jammu and Kashmir and in the Northeast who often has to contend and compete with the police to ensure due status.

Army headquarters is also telling the Centre that the re-designation does not have a financial implication — it will cost the exchequer nothing.

Moreover, the army chief is understood to have pointed out, the officer selected for a “Brigadier-General” rank will be further inspired by the enhancement of status.

The army chief has also explained that the re-designation will help the Indian Army in its international exchanges. In UN deployments for example, the Indian Brigadier is often wrongly perceived to be junior to a Brigadier-General in the armies of African countries. The Chinese also have a “Colonel-General”.

The creation of the “Brigadier-General” rank was suggested by a committee six years back. But the recommendation was junked. The committee had then suggested creation of an additional rank. But now the army wants merely a re-designation.

Even if the army chief’s recommendation is approved, the old anomaly in the Indian Army’s (and Commonwealth armies’) officer rank structure will remain: a Lieutenant in the Indian Army is junior to a Major but a Lieutenant General (three-star) is senior to a Major General (two-star).