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HindustanTimes Sun,28 Dec 2014

Naval rejig: Top admirals to face new challenges

Rahul Singh  New Delhi, April 28, 2014
First Published: 14:00 IST(28/4/2014) | Last Updated: 01:55 IST(29/4/2014)

In a soon-to-be announced naval reshuffle, Eastern Naval Command (ENC) chief Vice Admiral Anil Chopra is likely to be moved to the Western Naval Command (WNC) that has witnessed some of the worst accidents in recent months, a defence ministry source told HT.

The key challenge for Chopra, currently the second senior-most officer in the force, would be to lift the morale of the WNC personnel and put measures in place to reduce accidents. Chopra’s tenure will be short as he will retire next March.

The Mumbai-headquartered WNC was earlier headed by Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, who took voluntary retirement after being passed over for the chief's post. Sinha sought early retirement hours after he was superseded and Admiral Robin Dhowan took over as the navy chief on April 17.

The major mishaps that happened in the WNC include the sinking of INS Sindhurakshak that killed 18 sailors on August 14, 2013, the INS Talwar infamously slamming into a fishing trawler on December 23, 2013 and the INS Sindhuratna mishap that killed two naval officers and led to the hurried resignation of Admiral DK Joshi on February 26.

Dhowan has already made it clear that mishap reduction would he his top priority. He has also stressed that resources are scarce and “every penny needs to be stretched.”

The source said National Defence College commandant Vice Admiral Sunil Lanba is tipped to take over as the navy’s vice chief, a position that fell vacant after Dhowan was elevated as the navy chief.

The exposure will be vital for Lanba as he is in line to become the next navy chief after Dhowan retires on May 31, 2016.

Southern Naval Command (SNC) chief Vice Admiral Satish Soni is expected to replace Chopra at the Vizag-headquartered ENC. Soni will take on the ENC’s leadership at a crucial time.

The country’s first indigenous nuclear-powered submarine is likely to kick off deterrent patrols, armed with nuclear warheads, later this year under Soni’s leadership.

The 6,000-tonne, INS Arihant, will complete the sea-leg of India’s nuclear triad, giving it enduring nuclear strike and counter-strike capabilities. The United States, Russia, the UK, France and China are the only countries that can deliver nuclear warheads from a submarine.

It is learnt the navy's deputy chief, Vice Admiral PK Chatterjee, is likely to be the new chief of the Port Blair-headquartered Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC). Plans are afoot to upgrade the capabilities of the ANC, amid growing realisation that India’s farthest military outpost holds the key to dominating a vital maritime zone.

Myanmar’s Coco Islands, where the Chinese navy has reportedly set up a surveillance post, are barely 40 km from the Andamans’ northernmost tip Landfall. A significant volume of China’s oil imports passes through Malacca Strait, about 350 km from these islands.

There are indications that Strategic Forces Command chief Vice Admiral SPS Cheema will move to the Kochi-headquartered SNC that controls training establishment and bases.


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