The Indian Govt is all set to appoint Vice Admiral Robin Dhowan, the officiating Chief of Naval staff as the new Naval chief. There will be one supercession, that of Vice Adm Shekhar Sinha. The Army has written to the MoD, about its fears of setting a precedence of merit versus seniority, which could spark off court battles, in the parallel sister service.
The Army and Navy seemed to have turned into battlefields of ambition and lust for power. Senior Generals and Admirals in the Army and Navy appear busy calculating who reaches the top. While Admiral D K Joshi’s resignation indicated that the Navy was sailing on choppy waters, the Army is turning into a hostile terrain as the inner conflict for the top post in the wake of General Bikram Singh’s retirement in August intensifies.
According to sources, trouble for Admiral D K Joshi,who is seen as outspoken and honest, didn’t begin with the sinking of INS Sindhurakashak submarine in Mumbai on August 14, but problems began for him much earlier, and his exit was not entirely about the accidents, but much more.
The jittery relationship between the service and MoD, got its final hammer on November 23, 2013 ,when Defence Minister A K Antony rapped the Navy for “frittering away nation’s assets” at an in-camera naval commanders conference.
Joshi was upset that Antony’s comments in a closed-door meet was made public through a Ministry press release and he vehemently defended the Navy on its safety record at the December 3, 2013 annual press conference, after which began a series of reports on as many as 13 incidents, which created an impression that the Navy was careless in its operations.
Joshi had argued with Antony on the day he resigned that even insignificant operational incidents like a boat hitting the jetty while being berthed were “blown out of proportion”.
Naval officers have said that "there was a pattern emerging, with pulls and pressures at work,” and “there were games being played, with everything becoming obvious with each passing day,”.
What actually bothered the succession line inside the Navy was Joshi suggesting in his resignation letter that Vice Chief Admiral R K Dhowan be made the Interim Chief till a regular Admiral was appointed to the top job.
But Dhowan having no Command experience, is what was made to be against him declaring him unfit for the post as he was not the senior-most Vice Admiral and had no “command” experience at any of the three Naval Commands at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam and Kochi.
The senior-most officer is Western Naval Commander Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, and going by the seniority principle, Sinha qualifies to be the next Chief after Joshi’s resignation. But to scuttle that possibility, questions have now been raised on his moral responsibility, since nearly 12 of the accidents took place under his Command.
The Scenario in the Army:
Chief of Army Staff General Bikram Singh retires in August this year and present , and Vice Chief Lt Gen Dalbir Suhag is tipped to be the next chief, as per seniority.
There have been reports leading to efforts to fix responsibility on Suhag for an intelligence raid in the Northeastern region under him, as the 3 Corps Commander in Dimapur, with reports of a cold-blooded extra-judicial killing in Nagaland by the intelligence unit personnel.
General V K Singh, just before his retirement in May 2012, had imposed a Discipline and Vigilance ban on Suhag being promoted as Army commander for this “lapse” under his 2 Corps command tenure.
General Bikram Singh, on assuming office as Chief in June 2012, revoked the ban, accepting Suhag’s explanation to an earlier notice issued to him.
Lt Gen Dalbir Suhag was promoted with retrospective effect from June 1, 2012, to take charge as Kolkata-based Eastern Army Commander.
If Suhag fails to make it to the Chief's post , then Southern Army Commander Lt Gen Ashok Singh, whose son Dr Anirudh is married to General V K Singh’s daughter Yogja, would succeed General Bikram Singh as Chief. .
He is the second senior-most Lieutenant General, of the Indian army.
But Lt Gen Ashok Singh, too has a chink in his armour, as he was in charge of 1 Corps as its commander in Mathura and the armoured units under his command rolled from Hissar towards Delhi in mid-January 2012, when General V K Singh had gone to the Supreme Court against the Central Government for getting his birth date restored in service records as 1951 instead of 1950.