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Post INS Sindhuratna mishap, 4 top admirals in race to succeed Joshi as Navy chief

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.

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