The Navy, in the absence of its Chief, is over a barrel tending to its diplomatic commitments overseas.
The country may go unrepresented at the Naval Chiefs’ Conclave of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), an initiative that was kicked off by the Indian Navy in 2008, when it convenes at Perth in Australia, sources said here. The event will be held from March 25 to 28, and only chiefs of navies of the Indian Ocean littoral nations are eligible to participate.
As the name suggests, IONS is a forum of the Indian Ocean littoral navies and was conceptualised by the Navy for cooperation among the navies of the region in the wake of the 2004 Tsunami that claimed several thousands of lives in the region.
The Navy currently has a three-star officiating chief Vice Chief Vice Admiral R K Dhowan, who is not a four-star Admiral. Dhowan is said to be the front-runner though to be named the next Navy chief, succeeding Admiral D K Joshi, who resigned on February 26 in the wake of the INS Sindhuratna submarine gas leak that claimed the lives of two naval officers.
India is likely to go unrepresented when it participates in the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS).
This time, just a warship from the Navy will participate in the event steered by the US, but hosted this time by China.
Even the visit of French Navy Chief Admiral Bernard Rogel to India in early April is to be postponed indefinitely, as there is uncertainty over who will be his host.
Rogel will be here only on the invitation of his counterpart, the Indian Navy Chief.
When asked about the uncertainty naming the next Navy chief, Ministry of Defence officials indicated that there were questions raised about the background information on the four top contenders for the post and this was being checked to reply to the queries of the government.
“Though their background was available with the government when they were appointed as commanders and principal staff officers in the naval headquarters, this check must be done when every promotion is made,” they said.
Apart from Dhowan, others in contention for being appointed the next naval chief are the senior-most officers in the Navy now -- Vice Admiral Sekhar Sinha, who is the Mumbai-based Western Naval Commander, Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, the Visakhapatnam-based Eastern Naval Commander, Vice Admiral Satish Soni, the Kochi-based Southern Naval Commander, and Vice Admiral S P S Cheema, the New Delhi-based Strategic Forces Commander.