India appoints country’s next top military officer

Lt Gen Anil Chauhan becomes most senior uniformed officer in charge of country's 1.5 million-strong armed forces

Lt. General Anil Chauhan during the inauguration of a multimedia exhibition to celebrate the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose where historic weapons used by the Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army) are displayed at Victoria Memorial Hall. Getty Images
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

India has appointed retired Lt Gen Anil Chauhan as the country’s next top military officer, nearly 10 months after Gen Bipin Rawat died in a helicopter crash.

Lt Gen Chauhan, 61, retired as the Eastern Army Command chief last year and was serving as military advisor to national security advisor Ajit Doval before his appointment as Chief of Defence Staff on Wednesday.

The position of CDS was created in 2019 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to advise the defence minister on all three armed forces — ground, air and navy.

The decorated officer will be the most senior uniformed officer in charge of the 1.5 million-strong Indian armed forces. He shares his four-star rank with the chiefs of the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force, India’s Defence Ministry said on Wednesday.

“The government has decided to appoint Lt Gen Anil Chauhan (Retired) as the next Chief of Defence Staff who shall also function as Secretary to Government of India, Department of Military Affairs with effect from the date of his assumption of charge,” the ministry said.

Lt Gen Chauhan, a graduate of the National Defence Academy and the Indian Military Academy, joined the Indian Army in 1981.

In a career spanning over four decades, he held significant staff positions and participated in a UN mission to Angola.

He is known for his extensive experience in counter-insurgency operations in disputed Kashmir and India's north-east region.

He retired from the Indian Army in May last year but continued to contribute on strategic and national security issues.

This is the first time a retired military officer will return to serve as its most senior officer.

His appointment comes three months after the government amended rules and made all serving and recently retired three-star officers — Lt Gen, Air Marshal and Vice Admiral — under the age of 62 eligible for the post.

Gen Rawat was appointed the first CDS but died in a helicopter crash in the Coonoor region of the southern Tamil Nadu state in December 2021.

Mr Modi controversially hand-picked him to supersede two senior army generals as the Army Chief in 2016, before amending the rules to extend the age of retirement from 62 to 65.

It paved the way for Gen Rawat’s appointment as CDS in January 2020.

Updated: September 29, 2022, 7:16 AM