Differences between a top army commander and his second-in-command came to light on Monday, with army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane nominating a senior lieutenant general to iron out the rift between the two senior officers, people familiar with the developments said, on condition of anonymity.
The differences — rare in the army’s top echelons — between the head of the Jaipur-based South Western Command and his chief of staff relate to roles and responsibilities of various offices in the command headquarters, the officials said, without elaborating on the exact nature of the ongoing tussle between the two lieutenant generals.
There was no official word from the army on the development.
The South Western Command is headed by Lieutenant General Alok Kler, an armoured corps officer, and his second-in-command is Lieutenant General KK Repswal, who is from the Corps of Engineers.
After receiving representations from both the three-star officers, Naravane nominated the army’s vice chief Lieutenant General SK Saini to look into the matter and submit a detailed report with measures to streamline the functioning of the command headquarters, the officials said.
“Differences of opinion at that level can hinder day-to-day functioning and decision making. The fact-finding mission will hopefully resolve the matter,” the officials said.
The South Western Command has around 130,000 soldiers and is responsible for guarding India’s border with Pakistan in Rajasthan and Punjab.
On December 31, 2019, Kler wrote a letter to commanders under him asking them to shun military pageantry, ensure offices shut by 2 pm (the time they are meant to be shut), and encourage professional dissent (as different from insubordination) as they focus on their primary task — constant readiness for battle.
In directions issued to 265 commanders on New Year’s Eve to improve the operational readiness of the South Western Command, he asked them to adopt a nuts-and-bolts approach to soldiering as “it’s not a question of if but when we go to war.”