New Delhi: The process to select the next Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) is likely to take “more time” and a successor to the late General Bipin Rawat is unlikely to be announced soon, ThePrint has learnt.
While there has been hushed talk in the defence establishment of three retired officers being considered for the top position, government sources said, “as of now”, serving officers are in contention.
India’s service chiefs retire after a three-year tenure or at the age of 62 years. The retirement age for the CDS is 65 years.
Former Army chief General Bipin Rawat was India’s first CDS and took charge on 1 January 2020. He passed away in a helicopter crash last month, along with 13 others.
The sources explained that the CDS does not have an operational role, and Army chief Gen. M.M. Naravane is already looking into tri-service matters as the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee following Gen. Rawat’s demise.
Issues with regard to the position of secretary, Department of Military Affairs (DMA), are being looked after by the additional secretary there in coordination with the defence secretary, the sources added.
The government started the consultation process to select the new CDS immediately after Rawat’s death, but the appointment is not an operationally urgent requirement since the executive powers for the services currently rest with their respective chiefs and commanders.
There are no written rules for the selection of the CDS, with only the retirement age set at 65 years. This means that the CDS appointment will be a selection made by the government.
If seniority is kept in mind, as was done with General Rawat (then the most senior of the three service chiefs), the frontrunner for the post will be Army chief General M.M. Naravane. The latter succeeded Gen. Rawat as Army chief on 31 December 2019.
However, this would affect the natural succession plan in the Army, since Gen. Naravane is due to retire in April this year. Under this line of succession, Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen. Manoj Pande would be the senior most to succeed him as the Army chief in April.
If a new Army chief has to be appointed now, three other officers will be in contention as well based on seniority, two of whom — Army Vice-Chief Lt Gen. C.P. Mohanty and Northern Army Commander Lt Gen. Y.K. Joshi — retire at the end of this month.
While sources said retired officers may be looked at for the post of CDS, they noted that the CDS also carries the position of secretary, DMA, and hence the odds are in favour of a serving officer. However, they added, nothing can be ruled out as of now.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)