The government on Thursday named Admiral Robin Dhowan as the new navy chief, 51 days after DK Joshi resigned, accepting moral responsibility for a rash of recent accidents.
A file photo of RK Dhowan, who took over as the Navy chief, taking salute at the commissioning ceremony of the INS Trikand. (HT photo)
HT was the first to report that Dhowan, who served as the acting chief in the interim period, was the frontrunner for the job. The new chief is a skilled yachtsman and loves his golf. A thoroughly professional officer, the 59-year-old admiral is equally known for being suave and stylish.
Commissioned on January 1, 1975, he is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy (NDA), Defence Services Staff College and US Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island. A navigation and direction specialist, Dhowan will serve as the chief till May 31, 2016.
Soon after taking over, Dhowan said the navy would take measures to ensure that mishaps didn't take place and personnel followed rules without resorting to shortcuts that could lead to incidents.
He said, "We have effective safety audits and strict procedures in place to ensure that accidents don't happen."
Dhowan is six months junior to Western Naval Command chief Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha. However, in spite of being the senior-most, Sinha has been superseded by the government since some of the worst naval accidents occurred under his watch, including the sinking of INS Sindhurakshak that killed 18 sailors on August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.
The decision to overlook Sinha was also prompted by the fact that defence minister AK Antony couldn't risk to be seen rewarding Sinha for the same reasons he readily accepted Joshi's resignation. Sinha could now resign or move court.
Dhowan has served as the naval adviser at the High Commission of India in London, headed the Eastern Fleet, commanded the NDA and held the post of deputy chief of naval staff.
His elevation has changed the naval hierarchy. National Defence College commandant Vice Admiral Sunil Lanba may now succeed Dhowan. Had Joshi not stepped down, he would have been replaced by Vice Admiral Satish Soni in August 2015.
Growing Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean Region will require every bit of Dhowan’s attention
He will also have to focus on 3Ms: modernisation, mishap reduction and morale of personnel
Strengthening the navy’s submarine arm will be a key challenge for Dhowan
He will have to push the new government to speed up the acquisition of six new submarines under a Rs. 55,000-cr project codenamed P-75I