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Admiral DK Joshi’s unexpected resignation as navy chief on Wednesday, accepting moral responsibility for recent accidents involving leading warships, has turned the navy’s succession line-up topsy-turvy.
The government announced navy vice chief Vice Admiral Robin Dhowan would be the acting chief, “pending the appointment of a regular chief.”
There are indications that the government may consider appointing Dhowan as the next chief, a source said. Had Joshi not resigned, Dhowan would have retired on May 31, 2014.
However, he is now a strong contender for the top job, despite being junior to Western Naval Command chief Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha. But there’s no question of the government putting Sinha, who is currently the senior-most admiral after Joshi’s departure, in the hot seat as bulk of the recent accidents happened under his watch. India’s worst peace-time tragedy, the sinking of INS Sindhurakshak, also took place under Sinha’s watch.
There are strong indications that Sinha too may step down as he would find it untenable to serve under Dhowan, the second senior-most admiral in the navy. In the normal course, Sinha is due to hang his boots on August 31, 2014.
If accidents had not sunk Joshi’s career, he would have served as chief till July 2015. If that had been the case, he would have been replaced by Vice Admiral Satish Soni, who would then have been the senior-most admiral. Soni is currently heading the Southern Naval Command in Kochi.
In his resignation letter, Joshi said while the government continued to repose its fullest trust and confidence in the navy, he considered his continuation as chief untenable.
“In the interest of accountability, I therefore accept fullest moral responsibility for the accidents/incidents and hence I have the honour to resign with immediate effect,” he wrote.
The government is likely to forward Dhowan’s name to the appointments committee of the cabinet soon for his appointment as the next chief.
Joshi had clearly fallen out of favour with defence minister AK Antony due to the former chief’s inability to take decisive action to reduce mishaps.
Though the minister is known for being a staunch backer of service chiefs, Antony on Wednesday sent a clear signal that he cannot be taken for granted.
Antony had put his foot down when his some of his Cabinet colleagues had favoured the sacking of former army chief General VK Singh, who had dragged the government to court over his age issue.