The government has tweaked the Army, IAF and Navy rules to widen the “pool of selection” for the country’s top military post to include even retired Lieutenant Generals, Air Marshals and Vice Admirals, provided they are under 62 years. With the June 6 amendments to the service rules specifying the age cutoff at 62, recently retired military chiefs like Gen M M Naravane, Admiral K B Singh and Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria will not be eligible for the CDS post. The three chiefs serve till the age of 62 or for three years, whichever is earlier, while the CDS can go up to 65.
The amendments are an indicator that the government is moving ahead to appoint the next CDS after an inexplicable delay of six months. Gen Rawat’s death has slowed down the entire process to build an integrated war-fighting machinery within budgetary constraints through the creation of theatre commands.
The three current chiefs — Gen Manoj Pande, Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari and Admiral R Hari Kumar — will of course be among the top contenders for the CDS post. “But three-star officers who have commanded or are commanding the 17 single-service commands (Army – 7, IAF – 7 and Navy – 3), two unified commands (Andaman & Nicobar and Strategic Forces Command) and the three vice chiefs are also now in the zone of consideration,” a source said.
The gazette notification amending the Army Rules 1954 said, “The Central Government may, if considered necessary, in public interest to do so, appoint as CDS, an officer who is serving as Lt General or General or an officer who has retired in the rank of Lt General or General but has not attained the age of 62 on the date of his appointment.” Similar amendments were carried out in the Air Force and Navy Acts.
Despite strong recommendations from various committees, including the GoM report on reforming the national security system in 2001, successive governments kept the CDS post in cold storage before Gen Rawat was finally appointed as the country’s first tri-service chief on December 31, 2019.
With the groundwork already done by Gen Rawat, one of the crucial tasks for the new CDS will be to work towards the creation of four new unified commands: the integrated maritime theatre command, the air defence command, and two land-based commands for Pakistan and China.