India: Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh All Set To Be Next Army Chief

The government is all set to announce the appointment of Eastern Army Commander Lt General Bikram Singh as the next Army chief, after an elaborate vetting process including an unusual and detailed intelligence check on his family. The announcement will bring to an end the unsavoury succession battle marred by several controversies and sniper attacks.

Lt Gen Bikram Singh all set to be next Army chief

NEW DELHI: The government is all set to announce the appointment of Eastern Army Commander Lt General Bikram Singh as the next Army chief, after an elaborate vetting process including an unusual and detailed intelligence check on his family. The announcement will bring to an end the unsavoury succession battle marred by several controversies and sniper attacks.

Lt Gen Bikram Singh

According to senior government sources, the file proposing Lt Gen Bikram Singh as the next Army chief is in the final stages, and would be put up for approval of the Cabinet Committee on Appointments sometime in the next two weeks. The approval, a source said, could come as early as in the first week of March.

The process for appointing Gen V K Singh's successor, however, included an unusual intelligence check on his family members. Sources said the defence ministry sought clearance from intelligence agencies on Lt Gen Bikram Singh's daughter-in-law.

The move was prompted by several complaints, from political leaders as well as others, alleging that Lt Gen Singh's daughter-in-law was a Pakistani, and thus his appointment had potential security implications.

According to sources, intelligence agencies have given a clean chit to Lt Gen Singh, rubbishing the allegations. According to the agencies, his eldest daughter-in-law is an American citizen, whose father is an Afghan and mother is from Central Asia. In fact, the agencies also reported that she had converted to Sikhism upon marriage. "The agencies have given a clean chit. The allegations were unwanted efforts to target him," a senior government source said.

He said they had received detailed resumes of the three senior-most Army Commanders - Lt Gen Bikram Singh, Lt Gen Shri Krishna Singh and Lt Gen K T Parnaik -- from the Army Headquarters and had carryied out other processes such as the routine check by Intelligence Bureau.

The customary procedures would lead to the defence ministry listing Lt Gen Bikram Singh as the senior-most in the line to succeed Gen V K Singh. The file proposing his appointment would then be put up to the Cabinet Committee on Appointments for final approval.

The government official said they were expecting to conclude the process of Lt Gen Singh's appointment by March 10. "We are not hurrying up anything. We will go by the standard practice," he said. The official also dismissed earlier rumours that the government may announce the new Army chief soon.

Gen V K Singh retires on May 31. The usual practice is to announce the successor two months before the retirement of the chief.