From being appointed the Vice Chief of the Indian Army in September 2016 to being given the top job of Army Chief, starting 31 December 2017, Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat's elevation has been sudden and dramatic.
Insiders in the military establishment have expressed concern over his quick promotion and wondered if such instances are going to set a precedence. Cases of supersession, while not unheard of in the Indian Army, are not all that common either. The last instance of such a decision was in 1983, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi chose General AS Vaidya over the more senior, General SK Sinha, for the job of the Chief of Army.
As Firstpost notes, in 1972, the Indira Gandhi government had also ignored Lt General PS Bhagat, who was next in seniority to then army chief General Sam Manekshaw, who later became a Field Marshal, by giving his junior, Lieutenant General GG Bewoor a year's extension. Bhagat retired during this period, which made it possible for Bewoor to succeed Manekshaw.
Such exceptions are usually made either for political expediency or as a recognition of merit. In the recent case, the government has upheld the latter as its reason behind choosing Rawat for the role.
In spite of the controversy surrounding his appointment, Rawat has won accolades during his years in the service and seems well placed to take on the mantle of the Army Chief. According to a report in the Economic Times, his contemporaries describe him as "stout, fair and shy", a thorough "professional and a gentleman".
But more importantly, in spite of spending less years in the army than his two closest contenders for the top tob -- Eastern Army Commander Lieutenant General Praveen Bakshi and Southern Army Commander Lieutenant General PM Hariz -- Rawat has credible hands-on experience in the field, having been a counter-insurgency expert during his tenure.
The ET report also called Rawat as a "master of surgical strikes" with good reason. Months before the September attack in Uri, which led to India carrying out surgical strikes along the Line of Control (LoC), the country faced a fragile military situation in Manipur.
In June 2015, 18 Indian soldiers were killed there in an ambush by Naga rebels, which led to cross-border strikes that were monitored by then Dimapur-based 3 Corps Commander Rawat. Just over a year later, he found himself at the centre of a similar situation again as India reacted to the terrorist attack on its army headquarters in Uri, Jammu & Kashmir in September 2016.
A cursory glance at Rawat's qualifications and experience reveal his impressive standing within the army.
Commissioned in the Fifth Battalion of the 11 Gorkha Rifles in December 1978, he was trained at the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun, where he was awarded the prestigious Sword of Honour. Rawat has commanded an infantry battalion along the Line of Actual Control (with China), a Rashtriya Rifles Sector and an infantry division in Kashmir, apart from being experienced in high-altitude warfare and related counter-insurgency operations.
In a career spanning 37 years, Rawat was involved in the 1986 Operations in the Eastern Sector facing China. He was posted in Pulwama in the 19 Division and has handled operational responsibilities in the North East, according to The Times of India.
Eight years ago, Rawat took charge of the United Nations' North Kivu Brigade in the Congo at a time when the going was getting tougher for the peacekeeping mission. Then a brigadier, he transformed the strategy with an "iron hand", as a report in the Hindustan Times puts it, pushed back the rebels and won over the goodwill of the people.
Apart from his decades-long experience in the field, Rawat is also known as an astute scholar of military strategy. As The Indian Express says, he has written articles on national security in various journals. He has a Doctorate of Philosophy from Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut.
Also on HuffPost