With the untimely death of Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat in a chopper crash on Wednesday in Tamil Nadu, the question rises -- who will be filling the void in the military hierarchy, next? Even as the Cabinet Committee on Security led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi met on the evening of December 8, the government is yet to make any official announcement of any name. Several names for the post have been doing rounds and according to several reports, it is believed that the government is likely to announce a successor in the next week.
General Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat along with 11 other Army officials were killed in a Mi17-V5 chopper crash in Coonoor in Tamil Nadu. The final rites of India’s first chief of defence staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat were performed at the Brar Square crematorium in Delhi Cantonment on Friday. Group Captain Varun Singh has been the lone survivor of the crash.
Who is eligible for the post?
Any commanding officer of the three services - Indian Army, Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Navy - is eligible to be appointed as the CDS. Additionally, the government considers the merit-cum-seniority of the officer and the person holding the post of CDS should not be older than 65.
Among the many names, here are a few ones that are being considered frontrunners for the CDS post.
1. General Manoj Mukund Naravane: General MM Naravane’s name comes first as a successor of General Rawat. Naravane is the senior-most in the military and took charge as the 27th Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) on December 31, 2019. Prior to serving as the COAS, he was the 40th Vice Chief of Army Staff, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Eastern Command and General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Army Training Command. Naravane is slated to retire in April 2022, however, he could still serve as the CDS till 65 years of age.
2. Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria: Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria is a retired Indian Air Force officer. He served as the Chief of the Air Staff of the Indian Air Force from September 30, 2019, after the superannuation of Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa. He retired on 30 September 2021 and is succeeded by Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari. He joined the IAF in June 1980 and served the security forces for 42 years. He comes with the experience of flying 27 types of fighter aircraft and transport aircraft for over 4,270 hours. He holds the distinction of being an Experimental Test Pilot, a Cat 'A' Qualified Flying Instructor and a Pilot Attack Instructor.
3. IAF chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari: Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari serves as the 27th Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), succeeding Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria. Prior to this, he served as the 45th Vice Chief of the Air Staff and as the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Air Command. Chaudhari joined the Indian Air Force as a fighter pilot on December 29, 1982. He has clocked over 3800 hours flying various types of fighter aircraft. Chaudhari has also served as the Assistant Chief of Air Staff Operations (Air Defence) at Air Headquarters and as the Deputy Commandant at the Air Force Academy, Dindigul.
4. Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar: Admiral Radhakrishnan Hari Kumar serves as the 25th Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) of the Indian Navy. He took office on November 30, 2021, after the superannuation of Admiral Karambir Singh. Prior to this, he served as the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command. Kumar was commissioned into the Indian Navy on January 1, 1983. He has also served as the Vice Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Personnel, the Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet, and as the Chief of the Staff of the Western Naval Command.