As the nation mourns the sudden demise of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat in a military helicopter crash, the question of who will fill Rawat’s big boots is on everyone’s minds.
Top sources had told News18 that the post will be filled in the next seven to ten days and the frontrunners for the same are Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Manoj Mukund Naravane and former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria (Retd).
As per the rules, any Commanding officers or flag officers of the armed forces are eligible for the position. General Rawat had taken over the charge as the first CDS of the country in January 2020. Normally, the upper age limit for the CDS has been fixed at 65 years. PM Modi, in his Independence Day address in 2019, had announced the appointment of a CDS who will be above the three Chiefs.
General Naravane is senior to his counterparts in the navy and air force. Naravane, who took over as the 27th Chief of the Army Staff on 31 December, 2019, previously served as Vice Chief of the Army and prior to that headed the Eastern Command of the Army which takes care of India’s nearly 4,000-km border with China.
In his career spanning over four decades, Naravane has served in numerous command and staff appointments in peace, field and highly active counter-insurgency environments in Jammu and Kashmir and the North East. He has also commanded a Rashtriya Rifles Battalion in Jammu and Kashmir and an infantry brigade on the eastern front.
He was also part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka and had served as India’s defence attache at the Indian Embassy in Myanmar for three years. He was appointed to the Army War College as Directing Staff in the Higher Command Wing, and served two tenures at the Integrated Headquarters of MoD (Army), New Delhi.
Naravane is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy and the Indian Military Academy. He is an alumnus of the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington and Higher Command Course, Mhow. He holds a Master’s Degree in Defence Studies, an M.Phil Degree in Defence and Management Studies, and is currently pursuing his Doctorate.
He was commissioned into the 7th battalion, the Sikh Light Infantry Regiment in June 1980. The general is a decorated officer who has been awarded the ‘Sena Medal’ (Distinguished) for effectively commanding his battalion in Jammu and Kashmir. He is also a recipient of the ‘Vishisht Seva Medal’ for his services as the Inspector General Assam Rifles (North) in Nagaland and the ‘Ati Vishisht Seva Medal’ for commanding of a prestigious strike corps. He commanded the 2017 Republic Day Parade in his capacity as GOC Delhi Area.
Meanwhile, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria joined the fighter stream of IAF in June 1980 and retired after 42 years of service during which he was the architect of two mega fighter aircraft deals which included 36 Rafales and 83 Mark1A indigenous Tejas jets. Bhadauria has clocked over 4,250 hours of flying and has experience on over 26 different types of fighter jets and transport aircraft.
During his tenure as chief of the Air Force, India and China were locked in a bitter dispute on the eastern border in the Ladakh region. The Indian Air Force had deployed most of its frontline fighters in key frontier airbases along the Line of Actual Control as ties remained highly strained for months.