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Vice Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant-General Bipin Rawat’s selection as the next army chief, superceding two senior officers, has triggered a political storm.

After former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi overlooked General SK Sinha to make General AS Vaidya the army chief in 1983, this is the second time in 33 years when the government hasn’t followed the tradition of choosing the senior-most general for the top post. The defence ministry is yet to comment on the matter, government sources say Lt Gen Rawat is the best suited among the generals to counter the challenges the country currently faces.

The Centre has faced strong criticism from the Congress for choosing new Army Chief Lt Gen Rawat over two senior officers, Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi and Let Gen P M Hariz. Defence ministry sources today defended the Narendra Modi-government’s decision, saying Lt Gen Rawat was the appropriate choice given the current circumstances.Why was Lt Gen Rawat chosen instead of his seniors?

Sources said in the current situation — a reorganized and restructured military force in the north, continuing terrorism and proxy war from the west, and the situation in the north east — a person with operational experience is needed.

Sources said Lt. Gen Bipin Rawat has tremendous hands on experience of serving in combat areas, and at various functional levels in the Indian Army over the last three decades.

He has handled various operational responsibilities in many areas, including along the LoC with Pakistan, the LAC with China, and in the North-East.

Lt Gen Rawat has 10 years’ experience in Counter Insurgency Operations and also was posted on Line of Control. He was involved in 1986 Operations in Eastern Sector facing China. He was also posted in Pulwama in the 19 Division in 1986.

His experience as GOC-in-C Southern Army Command in Mechanised Warfare has been focused towards the western borders, in coordination with the other two services.

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