New Delhi: Lieutenant General Manoj Pande is set to be named the new Army chief this week, ThePrint has learnt. Pande, the current vice-chief of the Army, will take over from Gen. M.M. Naravane, who is set to retire by the end of this month.
However, according to government sources, no decision has been taken as to who will be the next Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). The post has been lying vacant ever since the last CDS, Gen. Bipin Rawat, died in a chopper crash in December last year.
Sources have indicated that both serving and retired four-star and three-star officers are in contention for the post.
It is expected that the CDS will be from the Army, which is the largest of the three services, though the name of a retired Indian Air Force officer is also doing the rounds of the power corridors.
On the next Army chief, however, government sources said while a formal decision has not been taken as of Monday afternoon, the announcement of Lt Gen. Pande as the new chief will be made this week, just about 10 days ahead of Gen. Naravane retiring. Sources said that Lt Gen. Pande will be the senior-most in line to take over from Gen. Naravane.
First Army chief from Corps of Engineers
Pande will be the first officer from the Corps of Engineers to become the Army chief, a post so far occupied by Infantry, Armoured and Artillery officers.
Sources said that Lt Gen. Pande, who has been the Eastern Army Commander and one of the prime proponents of greater integration of technology along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), will bring with him both operational and logistics experience to Army chief’s chair.
Pande would have been the natural choice to take over from Gen. Naravane when he retired, but the sudden demise of CDS Gen. Bipin Rawat had led to multiple speculations. Had Naravane being made the CDS then, it would have upset the natural selection process, since Lt Gen. Pande would only have been the fourth in seniority.
However, with the government keeping the post of CDS vacant, decks have been cleared for Gen. Pande to take over as the Army chief, with all other contenders senior to him retiring in the interim.
Dark horse in contention to be the next CDS
As reported by ThePrint on 9 December last year, the government is also looking at the possibility of appointing a retired three-star officer to the post of the CDS.
Sources said that while Gen. Naravane is the natural choice to be the CDS, given the precedent of Gen. Rawat who took over the top post after handing over charge as Army chief, his name has not yet been finalised as the government is still looking at various permutations and combinations.
Sources said that a retired three-star Army officer, known for planning of operations, with knowledge of both the Western and Northern theatre, is the “dark horse” in contention for the top post.
It is understood that a top decision-making body within the government has approved changes in certain rules that allow the possibility of bringing back a retired officer to the post of CDS.
However, this does not mean that the government has decided on anything, and is just keeping its options open, sources said.
“The names under consideration include both retired and serving officers. Formal decision will be made public,” a source in the defence and security establishment said.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)