New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government has started the process to select a successor to India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Bipin Rawat, ThePrint has learnt, after his sudden death Wednesday, over a year before his retirement, left a vacuum in the defence establishment.
Sources in the defence and security establishment said a consultation process has been initiated and a file with probable names is being readied.
It’s not immediately clear if an appointment will be made right away or a serving officer would be given additional charge, based on seniority, till a formal appointment is made.
The appointment of the CDS is not an operationally urgent requirement, since the executive powers for the Services currently rest with their respective chiefs and commanders, sources pointed out.
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, and there is no precedent to be followed, sources said.
Government sources, however, remained tightlipped on the likely successor to the late Gen. Rawat.
Lt Gen. D.B. Shekatkar (retd), whose report in December 2016 paved the way for creation of the CDS post, told ThePrint that among the recommendations in his report was that one of the three Service chiefs can be appointed.
“The recommendation had been accepted and Gen. Bipin Rawat, who was senior most among the three Service chiefs, had become the CDS,” Shekatkar said, reiterating that there are no written rules for CDS succession.
If seniority is kept in mind, then the frontrunner for the CDS post will be Army chief General M.M. Naravane, who took over the latter position from Gen. Rawat on 31 December 2019.
However, this would affect the natural succession plan, since Gen. Naravane was due to retire only in April next year.
If a new Army chief has to be appointed now, three officers will be in contention, based on seniority — Army Vice Chief Lt Gen. C.P. Mohanty, Northern Army Commander Lt Gen. V.K. Joshi and Lt Gen. Raj Shukla, who heads the Army Training Command. These officers would otherwise have retired before Gen. Naravane.
Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen. Manoj Pande, who would be the senior-most officer when Gen. Naravane’s retirement date arrived in April next year, would be the fourth in seniority if the latter were named CDS now.
Asked if a serving Lieutenant General can be named the Chief of Defence Staff, Lt Gen. Shekatkar said it is the government’s choice, but an officer junior to the Service chiefs will bring in complications and problems.
There is also the possibility of the government roping in a recently retired Service chief, but this would mean a number of rules would have to be changed.
Sources pointed out that since the CDS isn’t just an advisory role but also carries the position of secretary, Department of Military Affairs, the odds are in favour of a serving officer.
“It all depends on what the government wants. There is no written rule or a precedence. It will be a selection by the government and one will have to wait and see,” a source said.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)