Vice Admiral R K Dhowan is likely to be appointed as the Navy chief, a position he is officiating since the resignation of Admiral D K Joshi in the wake of a submarine accident on February 26.
The second senior-most Vice Admiral, Dhowan will be superseding the senior-most Vice Admiral, Western Naval Command chief Shekhar Sinha, if appointed to the top post.
While putting in his papers following the gas leak on board the INS Sindhuratna that claimed two naval officers’ lives, Joshi had recommended that Dhowan be made the officiating chief.
Though the Centre hasn’t formally named Dhowan as the next chief, there is a buzz in South Block corridors that he will become the Navy chief soon.
Dhowan has no experience in helming any of the three operational naval commands of the two tri-services command at Andaman and Nicobar and the strategic forces and had been on staff postings at the top level. He is set to retire by May-end.
Sinha, who has been the chief of the Integrated Defence Staff headquarters – a command posting – may be superseded, primarily because most of the naval accidents over the past seven months had taken place under his watch.
Having nearly six months of service left, Sinha is the senior-most naval aviator and a fighter pilot of the Sea Harriers on board the ageing INS Viraat.
Though at least two previous Navy chiefs had opposed his posting to command positions, the Centre rejected their opinions when it first appointed him at the IDS headquarters and later at the Western Naval Command in Mumbai.
The other Vice Admiral who was in contention for the Navy chief’s post is Visakhapatnam-based Eastern Naval Command chief Anil Chopra.
But one of the four major naval accidents of the last seven months – the accident on the INS Airavat –happened under his watch.
Chopra is junior to Dhowan, whose appointment to the chief’s post may not pose any hierarchal problems for the former.
If Joshi had continued till August 2015 as the chief, Southern Naval Command chief Vice Admiral Satish Soni would have become the chief, as three Vice Admirals senior to him would have retired by then.