In a break from the past, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is taking greater interest in appointments of Principal Staff Officers (PSO) to Chiefs, Vice Chiefs and Army Commanders and their equivalent in the Navy and Air Force. Senior-most officers of the three forces are appointed as PSO and they advise the chief on critical issues.
Earlier, the Ministry of Defence went by the recommendations of the Chiefs and the service headquarters. Now, sources tell NDTV, Mr Parrikar has told the services that while he would take into account the recommendations of chiefs for the appointments, the final call would be of the ministry. And, some recommendations for appointments as PSO have been sent back with queries.
It is understood that while the recommendation of the Chief of Army Staff in the appointment of the vice-chief has been accepted by Mr Parrikar, he has hasn’t accepted the recommendation of the Army Headquarters in certain cases.
Senior Ministry of Defence officials said Mr Parrikar has asked the forces to inform the ministry about all officers who are ligible for promotions instead of just the first three or four officers, as was the custom earlier. The change in the process comes after several retired officers have suggested to the Defence Minister that recommendations of the service headquarters should not be final.
Besides, there have been allegations that some appointments were influenced by regimental preferences. Former Defence Ministers AK Antony and Pranab Mukerjee also questioned appointments but that was never a policy, more an intervention.
In a related development, the Ministry of Defence has appointed Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat, currently commanding the Pune based Southwestern Command as the new Vice-Chief of the Indian Army. The current Vice-Chief MMS Rai retires this month. The delay in naming the new Vice-Chief was attributed to the consultations between the defence ministry and Army Headquarters.
Sources said the defence ministry has also cleared the appointment of Lieutenant General Surinder Singh as the Western Army Commander. He is from the Mechanized infantry and now heads the Sukhna-based 33 Corps. The outgoing Western Army Commander Lieutenant General KJ Singh retired on July 31. Lieutenant General SK Patyal has been appointed as the Director General of Military Intelligence. The previous DGMI Lieutenant Genral KG Krishna retired on July 31. General SK Patyal was commanding the Leh-based 14 Corps Command.