Indian Army general on extended leave in seniority row

April 20th, 2008 - 7:09 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 20 (IANS) A three-star general posted at the Indian Army’s crucial Northern Command that guards Jammu and Kashmir has gone on long leave as he is averse to serving under his junior. Army sources confirmed Sunday that Lt. Gen. P.C. Katoch, the number two at the Udhampur-based command, proceeded on 60-day leave after Lt. Gen P.C. Bharadwaj was elevated as its chief in March.

Katoch is a year senior in service to Bharadwaj and had commanded a unit during the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) operations in Sri Lanka in the 1980s with the latter as his second-in-command.

Authorities are now scurrying to find an “honourable way out” for Katoch by posting him either as a principal staff officer (PSO) at the Army Headquarters here or by sending him abroad on a UN assignment.

“Both are easier said than done,” an official admitted. “It’s a case of finding a suitable vacancy and at that (three-star) level these are hard to come by,” he added.

Bharadwaj previously headed the Leh-based 14 Corps and his positing as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Northern Command was mired in controversy.

This was because he had replaced Lt. Gen. H.S. Panag, who was shifted to the relatively obscure Lucknow-based Central Command at the behest of Indian Army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor.

The Indian Army had described the transfer as “routine” but Panag had sought and been granted an interview with Defence Minister A.K. Antony to protest the move.

Beyond granting Panag a patient hearing, Antony refrained from taking any action.

Panag had assumed charge as Northern Command chief in January 2006, succeeding then Lt. Gen Deepak Kapoor, who was posted as the Indian Army vice chief and was elevated to the top job in September last year.

Soon after assuming office, Panag had initiated enquiries into purchases made under emergency power during Kapoor’s tenure. This is believed to have had a bearing on his subsequent transfer, though the Indian Army vehemently denies this.

Panag’s transfer was ordered after the completion of the enquiries, which had not found any evidence of wrongdoing on Kapoor’s part, an official said.

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