Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: Days after Admiral DK Joshi quit as Navy Chief taking moral responsibility for submarine INS Sindhuratna accident and the Centre government accepted his resignation, four top admirals are in the race to become the next chief of the world`s sixth largest naval force.
According to reports, acting Navy chief Vice Admiral Robin Dhowan, Western Naval Command (WNC) chief Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, Eastern Naval Command (ENC) chief Vice Admiral Anil Chopra and Southern Naval Command chief Vice Admiral Satish Soni are in the race to succeed Joshi.
In view of his criticism for not acting swiftly in the wake of recent naval mishaps, Defence Minister AK Antony has asked the Naval headquarters to provide their dossiers for a thorough examination before selecting the new chief.
The Defence Ministry is likely to make its choice soon and send the name for clearance to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, headed by the PM.
Of the four contenders, Sinha joined the naval forces in June 1974 and is the senior-most but comes with a lot of baggage. Two Navy chiefs had warned the Defence Ministry against giving operational assignments to Sinha, who has presided over some of the worst accidents, including the sinking of INS Sindhurakshak that killed 18 sailors last August.
The INS Sindhuratna mishap that killed two officers last week and led to Joshi’s resignation also took place under Sinha’s watch. In view of the Sinha`s track records, the Defence Minister is not expected to take the risk of recommending him as the next Navy Chief as he promptly accepted Joshi’s resignation over the INS Sindhuratna mishap.
However, in view of the Defence Ministry not recommending his name, Sinha could either resign or drag the government to court. Sinha is due to retire on August 31, 2014. Dhowan is the second senior-most admiral in the line. He was commissioned in January 1975 but hasn’t led a fighting command, either the WNC or the ENC.
However, there are past precedents that could work in his favour. Admiral Sushil Kumar did not have the experience of running an operational command but he was still named chief after Vishnu Bhagwat’s sacking in December 1998. Also, late Admiral Oscar Stanley Dawson, chief during 1982-84, had not led a fighting command. Dhowan retires on May 31, 2014.
Had Joshi not stepped down, he would have served till August 2015 and then been replaced by Soni, who retires in March 2016. A chief can either serve for three years or till the age of 62.
59-year-old Joshi had about 15 months more left in service. He was a specialist in anti-submarine warfare and had taken over as the Navy Chief on August 31, 2012.
The crisis hit the Navy last week on Wednesday when smoke engulfed Russian-made submarine INS Sindhuratna off the Mumbai coast, causing serious illness to seven sailors and leaving two officers dead.
An upset Defence Ministry, which ordered a high-level probe into the incident, also sought a detailed report from the Navy on the mishap, which is the 10th involving an Indian Navy warship and the third submarine mishap in the last seven month after the sinking of INS Sindhurakshak in August, 2013 in which all 18 personnel on board were killed.
INS Sindhurakshak was the second biggest tragedy after the sinking of INS Khukri on the fateful night of December 9, 1971. It sank 40 nautical miles off the coast of Diu after being torpedoed by Pakistani submarine PNS Hangor. The ill-fated ship had 18 officers and 176 sailors on board.
Though INS Khukri was lost in war, INS Sindhurakshak, a frontline submarine, sunk at the naval dockyard in Mumbai on August 14 last year after it was hit by a series of explosions and subsequent fire.
This is the first time in the last 15 years that a chief of Navy has had to leave office in controversial circumstances. In 1998, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat was sacked by the NDA government. George Fernandes was the Defence Minister then.
With PTI inputs