Lt. Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag is set to be the next army chief with the cabinet clearing his name Tuesday. The decision was taken at the last working cabinet meeting of the Congress-led UPA government
New Delhi: Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, a veteran infantry officer, will be the next Army Chief succeeding Gen Bikram Singh as the government today appointed him to the top post, brushing aside BJP's protests.
The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved the recommendation of the Defence Ministry, a day after it was received, sources said.
Formal announcement about the appointment is likely to be made in a couple of days, the sources said.
The move came after the Election Commission gave the government the go-ahead for appointing the new army chief.
59-year-old Lt Gen Suhag, a Gurkha officer who had participated in the 1987 Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) operation in Sri Lanka, is currently the Vice Chief of Army Staff and the seniormost among the Lt Generals. He will have a tenure of 30 months as the 26th Chief of the 12 lakh-strong force when he takes over from Gen Singh who retires on July 31.
Suhag was made the Vice Chief of Army Staff in December last year. Earlier, he took over as the Eastern Army Commander on June 16, 2012.
He was at the centre of a controversy triggered by 'Discipline and Vigilance' ban imposed on him by the then Army Chief Gen V K Singh in connection with an intelligence operation in Assam earlier. The ban on Suhag, who was then 2 Corps Commander, was lifted soon after Gen Bikram Singh took over in May 2012.
Suhag was a Company Commander in 'Op Pawan' in Sri Lanka in 1987 and commanded 53 Infantry Brigade which was committed in counter insurgency operations in the Kashmir Valley from July 2003 to March 2005.
An alumnus of Sainik School, Chittorgarh, he joined NDA in 1970 and was commissioned into 4/5 GR (FF) in June 1974.
The General Officer has attended various career courses in India and abroad which include LDMC at CDM, Secunderabad in 1997-98, NDC Course at New Delhi in 2006, Executive Course in USA in 2005 and Senior Mission Leaders Course (UN) in Kenya in 2007.
He holds the distinction of commanding 8 Mountain Division in Kargil from October 2007 to December 2008.
Traditionally, the appointment is made two months ahead of the retirement of the incumbent Chief but the UPA government deviated from this practice when Bikram Singh was appointed in 2012.
At that time, the appointment was made three months in advance and this time too, the decision has been taken nearly two and a half months ahead.
The process of appointment, which had got mired in a controversy because of BJP's opposition, gained momentum after the Defence Ministry got a clearance from the Election Commission and it recommended the name of Suhag.
BJP has been questioning the "hurry" in making the appointment and insisting that the matter be left to the next government as there is still time left.
Former Army Chief and now BJP member Gen V K Singh has been in the forefront of opposing Suhag's appointment.
"What and whom are they trying to protect? What are the Defence Ministry and UPA-II scared of?... This harms the individual as people will question the UPA's motive," he said.
"The Defence Ministry seems determined to push the file through the Appointments Committee of Cabinet and the Prime Minister's Office despite the fact that given the ongoing Jorhat dacoity case, which has been a blot on the name of the Army, there can be no vigilance clearance.
"They got away with it two years ago when Gen Bikram Singh was appointed the Chief, so they feel they can do the same thing again," Gen V K Singh said.