MORE THAN nine months after the death in a helicopter crash of the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat (retired), the Government announced Wednesday it was appointing Lt General Anil Chauhan (retired) as the new CDS.
A statement from the Ministry of Defence said Chauhan “shall also function as Secretary to Government of India, Department of Military Affairs, with effect from the date of his assumption of charge and until further orders”.
The announcement sets at rest speculation on the future of the post triggered by the long delay in filling the vacancy. This is the first instance in the country’s military of a retired officer returning after a period of time to uniform to serve as its most senior officer. Chauhan retired in May 2021. Rawat took over as CDS the day after his retirement as Army Chief.
According to the Ministry, in a career spanning nearly 40 years, Chauhan has held several command, staff and instrumental appointments with extensive experience in counter-insurgency operations in J&K and the Northeast.
My congratulations to Lt. General (Retd.) Anil Chauhan Ji on being appointed as the new Chief of Defence Staff.
With his distinguished and illustrious service record in the force, I am sure he will provide the required leadership to the armed forces of New India. pic.twitter.com/gHEwRadG6A
Born on May 18, 1961, in Uttarakhand, Chauhan was commissioned into the 11 Gorkha Rifles in 1981. He is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy and Indian Military Academy. His predecessor, Rawat, was also from 11 Gorkhas.
“In the rank of Maj General, the officer had commanded an Infantry Division in the critical Baramulla sector in the Northern Command. Later as Lt General, he commanded a corps in the North East and subsequently went to become the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command from September 2019 and held the charge until his retirement from the service in May 2021,” the statement said.
According to the Ministry, in addition to holding these command positions, Chauhan also held important staff appointments, including the charge of Director General of Military Operations.
“Earlier, the officer had also served on a United Nations mission to Angola. The officer superannuated from the Indian Army on 31 May 2021. Even after his retirement from the Army, he continued to contribute to national security and strategic matters,” the Ministry said.
— Devendra Fadnavis (@Dev_Fadnavis) September 28, 2022
After his retirement, Chauhan joined the National Security Council Secretariat as Military Advisor, replacing Lt Gen Vinod G Khandare who stepped down from the post in October 2021.
Chauhan’s appointment comes over three months after the Government amended rules for appointment to the post of CDS. In June, the amended service rules of the armed forces made all serving and recently retired three-star officers — Lt General, Air Marshal and Vice Admiral — under the age of 62 eligible for the post.
The amendment rendered the then frontrunner for the post, retired Army Chief M M Naravane, ineligible for the post as service chiefs retire after attaining the age of 62.
As CDS, Chauhan will automatically become a four-star officer, and the first in a cohort of equals with the service chiefs — the only four-star officers in the country are the CDS, and the chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
President Kovind presents Param Vishisht Seva Medal to Lt. General Anil Chauhan, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM, The Infantry (Retired) pic.twitter.com/VCTZNhw9jZ
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) November 22, 2021
According to the new rules, all three-star and four-star officers from the three services, including those who retired in the last two years, are eligible for consideration. Since service chiefs retire at the age of 62, the three service chiefs who retired in quick succession since September 2021 were ruled out.
The amended rules stated that the Government “may, if considered necessary, in public interest, so to do, appoint as Chief of Defence Staff, an officer” who is serving as Lt General, Vice Admiral, Air Marshal or General, Admiral, Air Chief Marshal — “or an officer who has retired” from these ranks “but has not attained the age of sixty-two years on the date of his appointment”.
It said the Government may extend the service of the CDS for such a period as it may deem necessary subject to a maximum age of 65. This meant that all Lt Generals in the Army and equivalent officers in the Navy and Air Force, who retired after June 2020, were under consideration.
Congratulations to Lt Gen Anil Chauhan, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM for being appointed as the next Chief of Defence Staff.
Have served together during counter-terrorism tenures in Kashmir, an excellent military professional and true son of the soil.
— LT GENERAL GURMIT SINGH (Retd) (@LtGenGurmit) September 28, 2022
An elevation from three-star to four-star can be contentious in an institution that values rank and seniority, with a tenacious system of promotions to maintain the hierarchy. Even for service chiefs, the most senior officer is usually appointed as a convention although there have been exceptions.
Rawat, the first CDS, died in a helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu on December 8, 2021. After taking charge as CDS on January 1, 2020, he was to have a three-year tenure.
The mandate of the CDS, as the primary military advisor to the government, includes acting as a top-level link among the armed forces, creating integrated theatre commands, and prioritising capital acquisition for the modernisation of forces. The office was created with a dual role, as the CDS is also Secretary of the Department of Military Affairs.
It was touted as one of the most significant reforms in the top echelons of the military, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing the creation of the post during his Independence Day speech in 2019.
Heartiest Congratulations to Lt. General Anil Chauhan Ji (Retired) on being appointed by the Indian government to the post of India’s Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). pic.twitter.com/O5FjynD0wr
— Harsh Sanghavi (@sanghaviharsh) September 28, 2022
The delay in filling the post had created disquiet within the armed forces. Since Rawat’s death, the work on theatrisation was held up. But another major reform initiative was set in motion with Agnipath, a new recruitment system that is now the only route to serve in the armed forces, and under which fewer personnel below officer rank will be recruited in the permanent cadre.
The Government also signalled earlier this month the need for an extensive “decolonisation” in the armed forces by removing all vestiges of the British Indian Army.
Chauhan’s appointment comes three weeks ahead of the biennial annual defence exhibition, DefExpo2022, which is to be held in Gandhinagar from October 18 to 22. This year’s DefExpo is the first ever for only Indian companies. Foreign companies that have Indian subsidiaries or joint ventures with Indian companies will also participate.