New Delhi: Lt General Anil Chauhan (retd), a China expert and current military advisor to the National Security Council Secretariat, was Wednesday appointed as the new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
The Centre’s announcement came nine months after the tragic death of Gen Bipin Rawat in a chopper crash in Tamil Nadu.
This would be the first time that a retired three-star officer returns to active service in a four-star position.
“The Government has decided to appoint Lt General Anil Chauhan (Retired) as the next Chief of Defence Staff who 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,” a statement released by the defence ministry said.
Born on 18 May 1961, Lt Gen Chauhan was commissioned into the 11 Gorkha Rifles of the Indian Army in 1981. He is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, and Indian Military Academy in Dehradun.
Lt Gen Chauhan is known as the ‘China expert’ who has had multiple tenures in the Eastern Command and retired as the Eastern Army Commander on 31 May, 2021.
Before assuming charge of the Eastern Command, the officer, who has a career spanning over nearly 40 years, was the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) during the Balakot air strike in 2019.
Lt Gen Chauhan was also the architect of Operation Sunrise, a joint Indo-Myanmar military operation that targeted multiple insurgent groups in the Northeast in 2019.
Post retirement last year, he was appointed as the military advisor to the NSCS, headed by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
As the CDS, Lt Gen Chauhan will lead India’s theaterisation effort, with the three Services yet to sort their differences over the exact structure and command.
He will also be making a priority list of procurements that needs to be made while taking into account joint acquisitions rather than each Service following its own list.
Experience in counter-insurgency operations
When Gen Rawat took over as the CDS on 1 January 2020, China was not seen as the main adversary of India. It was Pakistan, and the Army was more oriented towards anti-terror and counter-insurgency operations along the Line of Control (LoC) and in the hinterlands of Jammu and Kashmir.
However, things changed with the Ladakh stand-off that began in May 2020 and the subsequent clashes in Galwan Valley.
Lt Gen Chauhan has held several command, staff and instrumental appointments in his active career and has extensive experience in counter-insurgency operations in J&K and Northeast India.
His appointment as the CDS was made possible after the government brought in formal changes in June this year to the rules and regulations, allowing even retired three-star officers to be eligible for appointment to the top post.
ThePrint was the first to report in May that a top decision-making body within the government had approved changes in certain rules that allow the possibility of bringing back a retired officer to the post of CDS.
It was also reported on 9 December, 2021, a day after the death of Gen Rawat, that the government was looking at the possibility of bringing in a retired officer as the CDS.
In the rank of Major General, the officer had commanded an Infantry Division in the critical Baramula sector in the Northern Command.
Later, as a Lt General, he commanded the 3 Corps in the Northeast and subsequently went on to become the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command from September 2019 and held the charge until his retirement from service last year.
He had also served in the United Nations mission to Angola.