New rules for top jobs set to alter army’s hierarchy

Two senior generals will be the first army officers to benefit from a key amendment last month to the force’s rules governing the appointment of army commanders, a person familiar with the matter said on Monday.

The lieutenant generals will now be eligible to take over the reins of two of the army’s seven commands sometime this year. What has thrust them into the reckoning for these top jobs is a change in the residual service clause for appointment as army commanders.

The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, identified the two lieutenant generals as Ranbir Singh and Rajeshwar Singh. Until the rules were changed in December-end, only those lieutenant generals who had 24 months of service left could be considered for the post of army commander.

However, the new rules have now reduced the required residual service from 24 months to 18 months — a move that is likely to change the complexion of the army’s top hierarchy in the coming years, the person added.

“The two generals will be the immediate beneficiaries of the change in rules. The army will now have a larger talent pool to pick from while making top appointments,” a senior officer said. If the rules had not been altered, the generals (and other similarly placed officers) would have had to settle for other senior appointments such as principal staff officers to the army chief or heads of arms in the army headquarters, the officer added on condition of anonymity.

While serving in the military operations directorate, which he also headed, Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh was deeply involved in the planning and execution of the 2016 surgical strikes against terror pads in Pakistan occupied Kashmir and the 2015 targeted operations against militant shelters in Myanmar.

Ranbir Singh has just finished his tenure as the general officer commanding of a strike corps based in Mathura and could be appointed army commander when a vacancy arises in May-June, this person said. Rajeshwar Singh is posted in the Army HQ. “Many officers lost out on becoming army commanders as age was not on their side. This won’t be the case any longer,” said a senior army officer who asked not to be identified.

The army has, however, chosen not to amend guidelines governing the appointment of corps commanders (also lieutenant generals) who can go to become army commanders. To be eligible for the rank of corps commander, an officer has to have residual service of 36 months. For appointments equivalent to army commander in the air force and the navy, officers need to have residual service of only 12 months.

The army is also making efforts to stabilise the tenure of corps commanders and division commanders (major generals) by increasing it from 12 to 18 months.

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