NEW DELHI: The sudden and untimely passing away of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat in a military helicopter crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu has raised the big question about who will be his likely successor.
Since the strategically important post can’t be kept vacant for long, the government is mulling to appoint a new CDS soon. According to sources, the post of the Chief of Defence Staff will be filled in next seven to ten days. As per the rules, any Commanding officers or flag officers of the armed forces are eligible for the position.
Since there is no precedent in appointing the Chief of Defence Staff as General Bipin Rawat was the first occupant of the post, the government will have to consider certain points before making the key appointment. In government matters, precedent is extremely important and several aspects will have to be taken into consideration while appointing a new officer as the next CDS.
General Bipin Rawat was appointed the 26th Chief of Army Staff on December 31, 2016. He superseded two Army officers – Lieutenant Generals Praveen Bakshi and PM Hariz – to take charge of the Indian Army. While his appointment as the Indian Army Chief by superseding two officers was unusual, but it is also the prerogative of the government to make such appointments.
The officers who are eligible to become the CDS should be a four-star General or its equivalent ranks in the Indian Air Force (Air Chief Marshal) and the Indian Navy (Admiral). The person can also be a three-star officer in the Indian Army, Indian Air Force or Indian Navy but eligible to become a four-star officer in the respective services. So all the Army, IAF and Navy commanders are eligible.
In the case of India’s only tri-services command – The Andaman and Nicobar Command – the officer heading it is rotated among the three services. Similarly, in the case of the CDS, too, the same can be done, but this is up to the government how it decides to go about it.
General Rawat was also an advocate of integrated commands by bringing in the Army, IAF and Navy commands under one umbrella. But his untimely death, brings back the question of precedence once again into play. As he was the first appointee to the post of CDS, it is now up to the government to find an officer who can take charge of the crucial post.
While General Rawat was appointed the CDS based on his vast military experience, the government can choose any eligible officer based on his expertise and political acuity.
It may be noted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) was briefed on Wednesday about the military helicopter crash that led to the death of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat and other defence personnel near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu.
Besides Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the meeting was attended by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, official sources said.
National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister PK Misra and Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba also attended the meeting, in which the CCS members were briefed about the tragic incident.
The sources said the top cabinet brass expressed condolences on the death of General Rawat. It is believed that the appointment of new CDS also came up for discussion during the CCS meet.
Separately, Chief of Army Staff General MM Naravane briefed the Defence Minister about the crash and related issues. The Defence Minister also visited General Rawat’s residence and spoke to his daughter.
The CDS was on his way to the Defence Staff College in Wellington when the helicopter crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu. The Indian Air Force (IAF) said a Court of Inquiry has been ordered into the accident.