Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Manoj Mukund Naravane, who is senior to his counterparts in the navy and air force, is a frontrunner to occupy the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) after the untimely demise of General Bipin Rawat in a helicopter crash on Wednesday.
The Cabinet Committee on Security meet on Wednesday evening was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi met on Wednesday evening condoled the deaths of General Rawat and others but no word on the successor of General Rawat came out. However, it is unlikely that the government will prefer to keep a critical military post like the CDS vacant for long.
IAF chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari took office on 30 September this year and Navy chief Admiral Hari Kumar a few days back on 30 November while General Naravane is slated to retire in April next year.
A CDS can serve till the age of 65 while the three Service Chiefs either serve till they attain the age of 62 or for three years in the post.
In another development, according to ANI, Army Vice Chief Lt Gen Chandi Prasad Mohanty has cut short his two-day visit to Qatar and is returning to Delhi. It is to be noted that if General Naravane is promoted as the next CDS there will be a string a vacancy in the army chain of command as well.
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.
In November, Naravane hit headlines praised Bangla people who stood to their right to liberty and independence in 1971. His address cames at an event organised by the Indian Army's think-tank Centre Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) to release the book 'Bangladesh Liberation @50 years Bijoy'
In his speech, General Naravane acknowledged that the Bangladesh Liberation War changed the lives and destinies of millions of Bangla brothers and sisters.
"I pay homage to those brave hearts on both of the borders forgave it all for a brighter and secured tomorrow," said the Indian Army Chief.
He also praised the Bangla Independent leaders who fought with the Indian Army to get an independent Bangladesh.
"Bangladesh and India have come a long way, our friendship has stood the test of time. As neighbours with common roots, we continue to grow together and share challenges, opportunities, and destinies," said General Naravane.
The seminar and webinar organised by CLAWS acknowledged both India and Bangladesh leadership in the Liberation of Bangladesh through the 1971 War.
The year 2021 is of special significance as both countries celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations which also coincides with the Golden Jubilee of Liberation of Bangladesh and the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.