Monday, 30th October 2017

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Military battles unusual foe called vacancies

Crucial posts in the higher echelons of the military, including that of the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), have fallen vacant with the government unable to announce replacements in time.

  • Published 2.10.15

New Delhi, Oct. 1: Crucial posts in the higher echelons of the military, including that of the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), have fallen vacant with the government unable to announce replacements in time.

The officers are usually named weeks, if not a month, in advance.

The office of the DGMO - that is a 24x7 job - may have fallen vacant for the first time. The DGMO, who is one of the principal staff officers to the Chief of Army Staff and monitors minute-to-minute counter-insurgency operations and developments on the borders with Pakistan and China and reports administratively to the vice Chief.

It is rare for such senior offices to be vacant. Sources in the army, asked for an explanation, said "these are minor issues of cadre-management". Other sources suggested that with the change of government and the change in the army top brass taking place around the same time last year, there was an intensified effort to find "new, fresh faces".

All the posts are recommended by the defence ministry and require the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Appointments headed by the Prime Minister.

The Narendra Modi government took over on May 26 last year. Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag took over as the army chief two months later on July 31 from Gen. Bikram Singh though his appointment was announced by the outgoing UPA II regime.

Lt Gen. P.R. Kumar, who was the last DGMO, retired on September 30. Lt Gen. Subrata Saha, who headed the Kashmir Valley-based 15 Corps till a month back and was then attached to the Udhampur-headquartered Northern Command, was widely tipped to take over as the DGMO. Before commanding the 15 corps, Saha had served as an additional director general of military operations in the rank of a major general.

The DGMOs of India and Pakistan are tentatively slated to meet for talks on easing tensions along the Line of Control and the border in the third week of this month. The decision was taken at the meeting of Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif in Ufa.

Although there is uncertainty over the DGMO-level talks since the talks between the national security advisers was cancelled, hopes rose after a scheduled meeting of the chiefs of the Pakistan Rangers and the Indian Border Security Force was held last month in New Delhi.

It was known that Lt Gen. Kumar would retire as the DGMO on September 30 this year since he took over the office 18 months back.

Lt Gen. Saha was also informed by the political establishment that he would be DGMO. But a last minute tweak in the postings could now see him taking over as the deputy chief of army staff (planning and systems).

The current ADGMO, Maj. Gen. Ranbir Singh, has been asked to officiate as the DGMO pending a new appointment. This can lead to functional problems because the DGMO has always been a lieutenant general who has finished command of a corps. Maj. Gen. Ranbir Singh is yet to be approved for the rank of lieutenant general and command a corps.

The other office in army headquarters that is also held by a principal staff officer is that of the military secretary. Lt Gen. Rajiv Bhalla also retired on Wednesday without a successor being named. The military secretary is responsible for all promotions, transfers and postings of officers from the rank of lietenant colonel upwards.

The military secretary's branch reports to the chief. Bhalla's retirement on September 30 was also known since his appointment as military secretary last year.

On Thursday, the Rashtriya Rifles, raised on October 1, 1990, specifically for counter-insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir marked its 25th raising day without a director-general. Lt Gen. Sandeep Singh who headed it also retired on Wednesday.

The office of the director-general, defence intelligence agency, is also vacant with the retirement of Lt Gen. Anil Bhalla.