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Senior IAF officer expresses concern on Modi govt’s procedure to appoint next air chief

Modi government has begun the procedure of finding a successor to Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, who is due to retire on 30 September.

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New Delhi: A senior Air Marshal of the Indian Air Force has expressed concerns to the Defence Ministry about the ongoing process pertaining to the appointment of the next Chief of Air Staff. The government has begun the procedure of finding a successor for Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa who is due to retire on September 30.

“The Air Marshal-rank officer recently met a top functionary of the Defence Ministry and expressed his concerns over the appointment process as there is a possibility of the government not adhering to the so-called ‘line of succession’ in the case,” sources in the defence ministry told ANI. The officer who has voiced his concern in connection with the aforementioned appointment procedure would have been the senior-most as per the UPA-era ‘line of succession’ policy for appointing services chiefs.

The officer is one of the five senior-most officers in the Indian Air Force.
During the UPA government from 2004 to 2014, services chiefs were appointed from among the senior commander-in-chief rank officers according to their seniority in terms of date of birth and service number.

However, after the Narendra Modi government came to power, the appointments were made on the basis of merit and achievements of individual officers in their military service along with the seniority principle.

The government had followed the same model in the appointment of Indian Army chief in December 2016 and in the recent appointment of Indian Navy chief in May this year.

Defence Ministry sources said the process of the appointment for the next IAF chief was initiated soon after Narendra Modi government was elected for a second term. The names of the seniormost officers are being included in the panel of officers for the consideration of the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC).

Sources in the government said the Defence Ministry is still doing its due diligence over the file and is likely to send it to the ACC in the next few days.

The names of the officers in the panel are listed as per seniority along with their profiles and dossiers.

Also read: Kargil’s little-known fact: How IAF used helicopters to target intruders at high altitudes


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  1. Every selection should be merit based if UPA was doing something wrong, why should it continue

  2. The senior officers who reach to the level to be reckoned for the Air Marshall have risen to the level due to sheer merit. There is little difference between the contenders in terms of professional competence, personal integrity and other qualities required to hold the post. The system of seniority ensures that the Cabinet cannot dabble with appointments and play favorites. This ensures a non-partisan appointment that allows the Chief to advise the Government and take decisions in the best interests of the country. Selection by so called merit as indulged by the present Government has only led to Chiefs taking actions more in line with the diktats of their political masters which is undesirable.

  3. The status of Chiefs vis -a-vis C-in-Cs is that of first among equals. An officer becomes chief by virtue of his seniority. In so far as the competence is concer they are equal having reached that level after a hard slog through their career. The premise is that if a C-in-C in notconsidered fit to become chief he shouldn’t have made it to the level of C-in-C in the first place. To supercede a C-in-C when his tern comes for elevation is to question the selection process of C-in-C

  4. ThePrint like Wire, is a misleading news source. Most of their reporting is flawed. Poor journalism is the foundation of such news agencies. Most of the times, they can be seen as anti-government or more appropriately anti-modi news portal. The amount to bias is just f’ed up.

  5. Why should service number play any role in merit? It enables mischief. By looking atvthe service number and date of birth from which you can calculate date of retirement, you can fix things in such a way that your favourite can become atvleast C in C and even maybe chief.

  6. This is the best way of appointing the IAF chief on basis of merit and performance. This will ignite the officers to perform outstanding and better outputs.

  7. The selection process to the higher ranks in the Armed Forces is so flawed, and has been so for many many years. The Services know this very well and how chosen few are propelled upwards discarding meritorious and nationalist officers deliberately by the way side. So what seniority is one talking about… It is time to look at MERIT and Operational Exposure, Objective performance assessment under challenging situations, etc that should be one of the prerequisites for selecting the right officer for the top job. And it’s time the government takes all these into consideration as well, and am sure that would be done in this case as well. This practice surely would be far better than what was the precedence earlier where officers knew years in advance and played very safe guarding themselves avoiding taking tough decisions, sometimes ignoring Service needs, while some others were set up from Brigadier level onwards fir very senior appointments, by removing their competitors in the strangest ACR system that the Indian Defence forces follow. It is time we bring in the much needed changes in the Defence Forces.

  8. All Air Marshall rank officers are highly meritorious because unlike Civil Services, the Armed Forces have a very steep pyramidical structure.

    The article is very misleading. The seniority is determined not by service number and age, rather it is determined by the date of putting on the present rank. I am surprised that the journalist of a respected publication like THE PRINT is not aware of this.

    The government should follow the seniority principle which had been in vogue since Independence (and not just UPA era, as mentioned).

    When the government says appointment will be determined by merit, it is simply political appointment and interference. The civil services were finished off by politicians because of favouritism and now the last bastion of the country, the Armed Forces are getting politicised too.

    When Nehru appointed his favourites as Army Commander overlooking seniority, it led to the 1962 debacle. Is history repeating itself?

  9. IAF is not Monarchy based appointment, but based on merit. Simple date of birth shouldn’t criteria and its ridiculous

  10. As a retired air force officer, I completely endorse the govt’s policy of appointing the chief on the basis of merit. The earlier policy of appointing the “seniormost” Air Marshal as chief is highly flawed. An officer would have no motivation to work, as the next chief would be known years ahead of the appointment. All an officer would need to do is check the air force list, and he could figure our who would be the next chief. And the next, and the………….Since it would only depend on the date of birth. What happens to merit ????? I am very happy that this govt as decided to chose the best man, and not necessarily the senior most.

  11. There are rather less senior RSS officers in the Air Force then there are in the Army.
    There is no obvious contender, but who knows one might come out of the woodwork.
    The one that best fits the image of the new dispensation will probably be appointed. Loyalty to the cause and ideology comes first always. You think they won this overwhelming majority just to sit back and not make their own appointees.

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