The suspense over who will take on the navy's leadership is almost over.
Vice Admiral Robin Dhowan is likely to be the new Indian navy chief. (HT photo)
Vice Admiral Robin Dhowan is likely to be the new navy chief, with the defence ministry sending his name to the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) for final approval, a top official told HT.
If cleared by the PM-headed ACC, Dhowan will serve as chief till May 31, 2016.
Dhowan, who was commissioned in January 1975, is currently the second senior-most naval officer after Western Naval Command chief Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, who joined the service in June 1974.
But the government appears to have superseded Sinha as some of the worst naval accidents took place under his watch. If not elevated, Dhowan would have retired on May 31, 2014.
The navy has been without a chief for the last 49 days. It has been functioning under acting chief Vice Admiral Dhowan after Admiral DK Joshi resigned on February 26, accepting moral responsibility for a rash of recent accidents. Sinha, who retires on August 31, 2014, could either resign or drag the government to court.
HT was the first to report that Dhowan was the frontrunner for the job.
The major accidents that happened under Sinha's watch include the sinking of INS Sindhurakshak that killed 18 sailors on August 14, 2013 and the INS Sindhuratna mishap that killed two officers on February 26, 2014.
Defence minister AK Antony couldn't have risked to be seen rewarding Sinha for the same reasons he promptly accepted Joshi's resignation.
Dhowan hasn't led a fighting command but precedents appear to have worked in his favour. As first reported by HT, former navy chiefs Admirals Sushil Kumar and Oscar Stanley Dawson did not have the experience of running operational commands.
Had Joshi not stepped down, he would have served as chief till August 2015 and then been replaced by Vice Admiral Satish Soni, who retires in March 2016. A chief can either serve for three years or till the age of 62.
Dhowan's elevation will change the naval hierarchy. National Defence College commandant Vice Admiral Sunil Lanba may now succeed Dhowan.