Updated: December 17, 2021 11:00:13 am
The process to identify the next Chief of Defence Staff has been set in motion, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said Thursday. He did not, however, comment on any timeline for the exercise.
Following the death of General Bipin Rawat, the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff, in a helicopter crash on December 8, Army chief General M M Naravane has taken over some of the responsibilities of the CDS as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC). The committee, which includes the chiefs of the Army, Navy and the Air Force, is the main body to decide military issues.
When the post of CDS was created with General Rawat taking charge on January 1, 2020, the CDS was appointed as the permanent head of the committee, the first among equals —the four-star chiefs. After General Rawat’s death, General Naravane has taken over the role as he is the most senior among the serving chiefs.
With General Rawat’s death creating an unforeseen situation, the role has fallen on General Naravane’s shoulders as per the old system where the position of the chairman of the committee was rotated among the services, depending on seniority. The system has been in place since Independence, but critics say it sometimes gives a service chief just months before retirement to serve as Chairman of the COSC.
But now, General Naravane has taken over by default, until a new CDS is appointed. IAF chief Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari and Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar are two years junior to General Naravane who is due to retire in April next year.
If he is appointed CDS, he will get three additional years. While Lt General rank officers retire at the age of 60, General-rank officers or the service chiefs retire at 62. The age of retirement for the CDS is 65.
His seniority, sources said, has also made him the “natural choice” for CDS which the government is yet to decide. Not only is he the most senior military officer in the country, several people in the defence establishment are of the view that the CDS should be from the Army, at least till the theatre process is completed.
Under General Rawat, the three services had done studies on the possible architecture of the integrated theatre commands —three for land, and one each for air defence and maritime security. However, there are some differences among the forces on how the assets should be divided, and to whom the commander of these new integrated tri-services theatres should report to.
Officials said General Naravane as the next CDS is likely, considering he had worked closely with General Rawat and took over as Army chief from him. But his appointment can affect the line of succession within the Army. General Rawat had another year to go before he was due to retire at age 65 at the end of 2022, by when General Naravane would have superannuated.
If General Naravane is elevated before his retirement, it would make the serving Vice Chief Lt Gen C P Mohanty the most senior Army officer. Northern Army Commander Lt Gen YK Joshi would be the next in seniority after Lt Gen Mohanty. Mohanty and Joshi are due to retire at the end of January unless one of them is named the next Army chief. If General Naravane serves as the Army chief until April, then Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Manoj Pande would become the most senior Army officer, and in line to pick the rank of General to lead the Army.
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