Lt Gen. Rawat and Air Marshal Dhanoa, presently the Vice Chiefs of their respective services, will take over on December 31, when incumbents Gen. Dalbir Singh and Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha demit office on retirement from service.
The appointment of Rawat has ignored the principle of seniority as Eastern Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Praveen Bakshi and Southern Army Commander, Lt. Gen. P.M. Hariz had spent longer in service. Bakshi was also not appointed Vice Chief when the post fell vacant in September and Rawat brought in from the Southern Command.
However, this was not the first time the seniority principle has been given the go-by by the government.
In 1972, the Indira Gandhi government had side-stepped Lt. Gen. P.S. Bhagat, who was next in seniority to then army chief General Sam Manekshaw, who later became a Field Marshal, by giving his junior, Lt General G.G. Bewoor a year’s extension. Bhagat retired in this period and Bewoor then succeeded Manekshaw.
In 1983, again under Indira Gandhi, Lt General S.K. Sinha who most senior was superseded when Gen. K.V. Krishna Rao demitted office and General A.S. Vaidya appointed the chief.
On Friday, asked if the line of succession will be broken, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had cryptically said: “Line of succession is decided by the people.”
Lt. Gen. Rawat was commissioned in the Fifth Battalion of the Eleven Gorkha Rifles in December 1978, from IMA, Dehradun, where he was awarded the ‘Sword of Honour’.
He has commanded an infantry battalion along the Line of Actual Control, a Rashtriya Rifles Sector and an infantry division in the Kashmir Valley, and has vast experience in high altitude warfare and counter insurgency operations.
Commissioned into the IAF’s fighter stream in June 1978, Dhanoa, who has flown various types of fighter aircraft and is a qualified Flying Instructor, commanded a fighter squadron during the Kargil Operations and flew numerous night strike missions in the mountainous terrain.
He has also held a number of important operational appointments including commanding a fighter base and leading the Indian Military Training Team in Bhutan. He has also served as Chief Instructor (Air) at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Intelligence) and Senior Air Staff Officer (chief of staff) of two operational commands.