The government on Saturday named Vice Admiral Karambir Singh as the next chief of naval staff. Singh, who will succeed Admiral Sunil Lanba who retires on May 30, will be the first helicopter pilot to occupy the office of Navy chief.
Singh superseded Commander-in-Chief of the Andaman and Nicobar Command, Vice Admiral Bimal Verma, for the post. Verma, younger brother of former Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Kumar Verma, hasn’t headed either the Western or the Eastern Naval command, which is considered essential for anyone to be considered for the top post.
In 2016, the government had elevated General Bipin Rawat as Army chief, superseding two senior Army commanders. Though a new service chief is usually named around a month in advance, Singh’s name was announced with two months still to go for Lanba’s retirement. This, sources in the government said, was to ensure a smooth transition during the general elections. The announcement also lays to rest any uncertainty about the military hierarchy at a time when the country’s defence forces are in a heightened state of altertness post the Balakot air strike.
“India put its key naval assets, including the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and nuclear submarines, on operational alert as tensions between India and Pakistan escalated,” read a statement issued by the Navy last week.
Vice Admiral Singh is at present the Flag Officer Commanding in Chief (FOC-in-C) of the Eastern Naval Command in Visakhapatnam, and will take charge as Navy chief on May 31, the Defence ministry announced.
Official sources said that besides Verma, the other contenders for the Navy chief’s post included Vice Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar, FOC-in-C of Western Naval Command Vice Admiral Ajit Kumar and FOC-in-C of Southern Naval Command Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla.
Admiral Singh, who belongs to Jalandhar, graduated from Barnes School in Maharashtra before joining the NDA. Singh was commissioned into the Indian Navy in July 1980 and earned his wings as a helicopter pilot in 1982. He has extensive experience in flying the HAL Chetak and Kamov Ka-25 helicopters.
“In his career spanning over 37 years, the Admiral has commanded four ships, Indian Coast Guard ship Chandbibi, missile corvette INS Vijaydurg, guided missile destroyers INS Rana and INS Delhi. Singh has also served as the Fleet Operations Officer of the Western Fleet,” said a statement issued by the Navy.