With at least four officers qualified to be the next Navy Chief, the beleaguered UPA government is really spoilt for choice following the unprecedented resignation by Admiral D K Joshi on Wednesday.
The process of selecting the next chief started on Thursday, Defence Ministry sources said here.
But the government would take some time to decide on Joshi’s successor.
Joshi had in his resignation letter, prepared by himself and submitted around noon on Wednesday when he met Defence Minister A K Antony, asked for the government to name vice chief Vice Admiral R K Dhowan to take over his duties in the interim, thereby leading his deputy right into the hot race for the top job.
But Dhowan, a Navigation and Direction specialist, is only the second senior most officer in the Navy at present after Joshi. Senior-most now is Western Naval Commander Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, under whose charge about 10 of the 12 naval accidents of the last six months have occurred.
Dhowan’s only disadvantage would be his “lack of command experience”.
In layman terms, it means the Navy vice chief has never been a Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of any of the three Naval Commands at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam or Kochi.
His previous postings include the Deputy Chief at the Naval headquarters in Delhi, Chief of Staff at the Eastern Naval Command and earlier the Eastern Fleet Commander. He has just about three months of service left, as he would in the normal course retire on May 31 this year.
Sinha, either if he quits on his own owning up moral responsibility or is sacked for the lapses, could be the automatic choice for the next Navy Chief, if the seniority principle is strictly followed. Sinha had been Chief of Integrated Defence Staff headquarters in Delhi and is also Joshi’s batchmate.
He has helmed the Western Naval Command for 21 months now and is ordinarily slated for retirement in August this year. If he is made the chief now, he would have a full three-year tenure till 2017.
The third in the line of succession is the present Eastern Naval Command chief Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, who has previously been the Indian Coast Guard Director General before he took over command at Visakhapatnam in October 2011.
If Sinha quits or is sacked and Dhowan is overlooked, then Chopra would become the front-runner for the post. Chopra is set to retire in May 2015. If Joshi had continued, he would have superannuated in August 2015 and by then all of the next three officers would have retired.
In such a scenario, Kochi-based Southern Naval Commander Vice Admiral Satish Soni would have become the choice as next chief.
Since there is no deadline for naming the next chief, the government has the choice of letting the arrangement with Dhowan holding additional responsibility of the chief’s duties continue before it completes the process of naming the next chief.