‘Integration of armed forces top priority’: Rajnath Singh

Singh’s comments indicate that the current vacuum created by Rawat’s demise will not hit India’s theaterisation plans.
Defense minister Rajnasth Singh. (File photo)
Defense minister Rajnasth Singh. (File photo)
Updated on Dec 14, 2021 11:41 PM IST
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Integration of the armed forces to enhance their effectiveness and reshape the conduct of future operations will progress seamlessly, and achieving the target of jointness will be a top priority for the government, defence minister Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday, while paying tribute to India’s first chief of defence staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat and 12 others who got killed last week in a chopper crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu.

Rawat was spearheading the theaterisation drive to best utilise the military’s resources for future wars and operations. The CDS’ shocking demise is likely to have implications for the ongoing military reforms, including theaterisation, and the government will have to move swiftly to announce a succession plan, officials said.

Singh’s comments indicate that the current vacuum created by Rawat’s demise will not hit India’s theaterisation plans.

Singh said the process of “integration and modernisation of the tri-services” was initiated with the creation of the post of CDS and the department of military affairs (DMA), and it will be carried forward to achieve the goals as early as possible.

Rawat took over as CDS on December 31, 2019, after serving as the army chief for a full three-year term. He held the four-star rank for almost five years, making him the longest-serving four-star general in India.

As the CDS, he wore multiple hats --- he was the permanent chairman of the chiefs of staff committee (COSC), headed DMA, and was the single-point military adviser to the defence minister.

In November, Rawat asked the three services to expedite their ongoing studies on the creation of theatre commands and submit comprehensive reports within six months. The deadline for submitting the reports was advanced from September 2022 to April 2022.

The current theaterisation model to enhance tri-service synergy seeks to set up four integrated commands --- two land-centric theatres, an air defence command and a maritime theatre command.

All eyes are now on who will be appointed as Rawat’s successor at a time when the theaterisation plan is at a critical juncture and needs a man with a vision to carry it forward. The next CDS has his work cut out for him.

Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane became the senior-most military officer in the country after Rawat’s demise. Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari and navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar are both around two years junior to him.

There is a strong possibility of Naravane being named the new CDS if the government follows the seniority principle, the officials said. Army vice chief Lieutenant General CP Mohanty and Northern Army commander Lieutenant General YK Joshi, who are both course mates, are the most senior officers in the army after General Naravane.

Naravane is due for retirement next April but that may not happen in the changed circumstances, as previously reported. Many in the security establishment believe that the first two or three CDS appointments should be from the army as the security challenges the country faces are along the borders with China and Pakistan.

However, making top appointments is the government’s prerogative. The possibility of deep selection cannot be ruled out as was done when Rawat was appointed army chief almost five years back. He superseded two top generals --- Lieutenant Generals Praveen Bakshi and PM Hariz.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2022