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Centre extends tenure of Army Chief Gen Manoj Pande | Who are main contenders for top post?

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved a one-month extension in the service of Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Pande, extending his tenure until June 30, 2024.

Edited By: Arushi Jaiswal @JaiswalArushi New Delhi Updated on: May 27, 2024 16:58 IST
Army Chief, Indian Army, Gen Manoj Pande
Image Source : PTI (FILE) Army Chief Gen Manoj Pande

New Delhi: In a rare move, the central government on May 26 extended the tenure of Army Chief General Manoj Pande for a period of one month, just days before his scheduled superannuation. General Pande was to retire from service on May 31 after a 25-month tenure.

According to the Ministry of Defence, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet approved one month's extension in service of Gen Pande. "The Appointments Committee of Cabinet on May 26 approved the extension in service of Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj C Pande for a period of one month, beyond his normal age of superannuation (May 31), i.e. up to June 30, under Rule 16 A (4) of the Army Rules 1954," the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Who is General Manoj Pande?

General Manoj Pande assumed the role of the 29th Chief of the Army Staff on April 30, 2022, following the retirement of General MM Naravane. Prior to this appointment, General Pande served as the Vice Chief of the Army Staff.

He is notable for being the first officer from the Corps of Engineers to lead the Indian Army.

During his distinguished career, General Pande also held the position of Commander-in-Chief of the Andaman and Nicobar Command, which is India's only tri-services command.

An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, General Pande was commissioned into the Corps of Engineers (The Bombay Sappers) in December 1982.

Indira Gandhi-led govt extended tenure of Army Chief

The extension granted to General Pande marks the first such decision in nearly five decades since the Indira Gandhi-led government extended the tenure of Army Chief General G G Bewoor by one year in April 1974. General Bewoor retired on May 31, 1975.

Due to the extension given to General Bewoor, the next in line, Lieutenant General Premindra Singh Bhagat, an esteemed military officer, retired without ever becoming the Army Chief, according to military experts. Prior to General Bewoor, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw received an extension following the victory in the 1971 war.

Who are other contenders for position of Army Chief?

Lieutenant General Upendra Dwivedi, currently serving as the Vice Chief of Army Staff, is the senior-most official following General Pande. The next in line after Lieutenant General Dwivedi is Lieutenant General Ajai Kumar Singh, the Southern Army Commander.

Interestingly, both Lieutenant General Dwivedi and Lieutenant General Singh, who are course mates, are scheduled to retire on June 30, the same day the extension granted to General Pande  comes to an end.

The government retains the option to appoint either Lieutenant General Upendra Dwivedi or Lieutenant General Ajay Kumar Singh to the top post, following the precedent set by the appointment of Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria as the IAF Chief on the day he was due to retire in September 2019.

It is learnt that Lieutenant General Singh is a strong contender for the position of Army Chief. 

Central Army Commander Lt Gen NS Raja Subramani could be the main contender if the new government looks beyond Lt Gen Dwivedi and Lt Gen Singh, said a source.

Lieutenant General Dwivedi, who has extensive operational experience along the frontiers with China and Pakistan, took over as Vice Chief in February, succeeding Lieutenant General MV Suchindra Kumar.

Who is a Chief of Army Staff?

A Chief of Army Staff is the highest-ranking officer in the Indian Army and serves as its head. The COAS acts as the principal advisor to the Defence Ministry on army-related matters and also serves as the key military advisor to the President of India.

At the time of India's Independence, the head of the Indian army held the rank of "Commander-in-Chief, Indian Army." On March 1st, 1948, the rank was changed to "Chief of the Army Staff and Commander-in-Chief, Indian Army." The Commanders-in-Chief (Change in Designation) Act, 1955, subsequently changed the title back to Chief of Army Staff.

How is the Chief of Army Staff selected in India?

The Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) is appointed by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), a central government committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Minister of Home Affairs, and the Defence Ministry. The selection process for an army chief is lengthy, which begins three months beofre the appointment.

The Chief of Army Staff retires from office after three years of appointment or at the age of 62 years, whichever is early. 

What are the criteria for selecting the Chief of Army Staff?

The Government of India typically appoints the senior-most officer to the post of the Chief of Army Staff. However, this tradition was not followed in the selection of the late General Bipin Rawat as the 27th COAS in December 2016. The central government ignored the seniority of two army officers when appointing him to the four-star rank post.

(With PTI inputs)

Also Read: General Manoj C Pande's services as the Chief of the Army Staf extended for one month

Also Read: I.N.D.I.A bloc will come to power in Delhi, TMC to play pivotal part: Mamata as elections enter last leg

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