The Chiefs of the Army, Navy, and Air Force of India are the three senior most positions in the military hierarchy, and the most important, second only to that of Cabinet Secretary. The three service chiefs are the eyes and ears of the Prime Minister with respect to the defence preparedness of the country.
However, this time around, we are running into two weeks from retirement of the incumbent chiefs and no announcement has yet been made by the government. The only question coming to every mind is- what the likely hullaballoo would be over the delay in announcing the chiefs?
Why the delay? One would say that although there may be a perceived “delay”, yet that has clearly not affected the day-to-day functioning of the cohesive unit which is the body of the Armed Forces of India. It is clearly the decision of the government, and such an announcement will effect well in time prior to December 31, 2016.
Who will be the next chief? In the running, or so to say, in the pecking order are the senior most Lieutenant General and Air Marshal of the Indian Army and Indian Air Force respectively. But it is clearly the prerogative of the government as to who the next man on top will be!
Over the years, we have seen officers being made chiefs over senior most or in-line-to-be and that the government is well within the framework of rules and laws of India to take such a decision.
What if the line of succession is broken? As in the past, the decision to make one, a chief other than the one tipped to be, has never ever affected the professionalism which the Armed Forces of India prides itself in. Every officer and jawan, sailor, air warrior of the armed forces is a cog of the well-oiled machine, and institutional ethos have always prevailed over individual politics, if there ever may be.
When will the announcement be made? One is not within the know of things, but with a fair understanding of the structures of government, it would be well within the next seven days that such an announcement should be made by the government.
Will the decision of the government have repercussions?
One may like to reiterate that the Armed Forces as an institution have far too strong an underlying ethos for it to be dented by the civil-military dynamics of service chief selection. Today, people outside the spectrum of government and polity are aware of the nuances of the structures and compulsions of the governing establishment.
Social media is a huge leveller of information and ramifications. Unlike decisions of the past, a new social order of informed citizens is evolving. Today, people are as informed, and maybe more than some, within organisations in ‘need to know’ capacity.
Again, the decision of the appointment of a service chief is the whole and sole prerogative of the government, and in the larger interest of the state and Union of India.