New Delhi : Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh will be the next Indian Army chief, it was announced Saturday thus ending months of a bitter succession row originating from the disputed age of incumbent General V.K. Singh.
Bikram Singh, 59, will be the first army chief who joined the 1.13-million strong force after the 1971 Bangladesh war with Pakistan. He will be the second Sikh to head the army after Gen. J.J. Singh.
“Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh has been designated as the next chief of army staff in the rank of general, with effect from the afternoon of May 31, 2012,” a government statement said.
Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh currently heads the Army’s eastern command and will take the top post May 31 when Gen. V.K. Singh will be retiring from service.
The appointment of the next army chief comes after an intricate vetting process in the wake of allegation that Bikram Singh was involved in a fake shootout case in Kashmir and an intelligence check on his family members.
According to sources, the defence ministry had sought a detailed clearance from intelligence agencies on his eldest daughter-in-law who was alleged to be a Pakistani citizen. This had raised fears of “security risks and implications”.
But intelligence agencies rubbished this and in fact informed the defence ministry that the daughter-in-law is a US citizen. She is a daughter of an Afghan and her mother is from a Central Asian country.
The designated army chief was also alleged to be involved in a fake shootout in Kashmir in March 2001.
The mother of an alleged militant killed in a south Kashmir village alleged that his son was a civilian labourer and troops brigaded by Bikram Singh had killed him in a staged gunbattle.
But Kashmir Police gave Bikram Singh a clean chit over the case even though a petition is still pending in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
Bikram Singh was among the three short-listed senior-most officers — Vice Chief of Army Lt Gen Shri Krishna Singh and Northern Army Commander Lt Gen K.T. Parnaik being the other two — contending for the top post.
He emerged as the front-runner for the top post because of his seniority amongst the short-listed candidates.
Bikram Singh was commissioned into the Sikh Light Infantry Regiment in 1972 after finishing his course in the National Defence Academy and the Indian Military Academy.
He also attended the US Army War College, Pennsylvania.
During his 40-year-long service in the Indian Army, he has served in a variety of command and staff appointments.
He has commanded a corps in the Northern Command.
He had served as deputy force commander of a multi-nation UN peace-keeping mission in Congo and also as UN observer in Nicaragua and El Salvador during the early 1990s.
Incumbent Gen V.K. Singh, who was till a fortnight ago engaged in a bitter legal battle over his date of birth, was issued the Retirement Warning Letter (RWL) by the Military Secretary’s branch early this week after months of row over his age which was finally settled in the Supreme Court last month.