Gen Anil Chauhan to take over as Chief of Defence Staff on Friday | Latest News India

NEW DELHI: Lieutenant General Anil Chauhan (retd) will take over as India’s new chief of defence staff (CDS) on Friday, more than nine months after the death of the country’s first CDS, General Bipin Rawat, in a helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu, officials familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The government had on Wednesday announced Chauhan’s appointment as CDS, ending the months-long suspense over who would be Rawat’s successor. Chauhan retired as the Eastern Army commander on May 31, 2021, and was the military adviser to the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) before being appointed to the top job.

Chauhan, who was commissioned into the same Gorkha Rifles regiment as Rawat, will spearhead the theaterisation drive to best utilise the military’s resources for future wars and operations.

His appointment as CDS has drawn considerable interest as it is the first time a three-star officer has been brought back from retirement to hold a four-star rank (the Cabinet approved the creation of the post of CDS in the rank of a four-star general in December 2019).

CDS-designate Anil Chauhan (right) with his father, Surendra Singh Chauhan (ANI)
CDS-designate Anil Chauhan (right) with his father, Surendra Singh Chauhan (ANI)

That became possible only after the government amended the Army, Air Force and Navy rules in early June to broaden the pool of officers from which the CDS was to be selected — it made retired three-star officers from the three services among those eligible for the top post.

Chauhan is 61. The new rules announced in June laid down that the service of CDS can be extended to 65 years of age. If that be the case, Chauhan will work with six different service chiefs to power the theaterisation drive.

The drive slowed down after Rawat’s death on December 8, 2021, and the government will now expect Chauhan to provide impetus to the long-awaited military reform.

“The new CDS will have to pick up from where General Rawat left. His top priorities will include steering the theaterisation drive, bringing about jointness in the armed forces, ensuring all stakeholders are on the same page, defence preparedness and indigenisation of weapons and systems,” said former director general of military operations Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia (retd).

Chauhan has been appointed the country’s most senior military commander at a time when India and China are locked in a border row in eastern Ladakh, and the government has sharpened its focus on modernising the armed forces through indigenisation.

As CDS, Chauhan will also serve as secretary, department of military affairs (DMA), permanent chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, and the single-point military adviser to the defence minister.

Chauhan was commissioned into the 11 Gorkha Rifles in 1981. The three chiefs, General Manoj Pande, Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari and Admiral R Hari Kumar, were commissioned into their respective services later – the first two in December 1982 and the latter in January 1983.

The current theaterisation model to enhance tri-service synergy seeks to set up four integrated commands – two land-centric theatres, an air defence command and a maritime theatre command. The armed forces currently have 17 single-service commands spread across the country.

Chauhan will have to address the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) lingering concerns about the current theaterisation model, as previously reported. IAF’s concerns have raised questions about the viability of the model and indicate that inter-service differences have still not been reconciled. Lack of consensus on joint structures could delay the military reform, officials said.

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