Quiet authority: Meet General Anil Chauhan, India's new Chief of Defence Staff - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 30 September 2022

Quiet authority: Meet General Anil Chauhan, India's new Chief of Defence Staff

General Anil Chauhan is known to express his views frankly, not necessarily adopting the conventional approach


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 1st October 22

India’s military has a new top man. Lieutenant General (Lt Gen) Anil Chauhan, whoassumed office on Friday as India’s second Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) will wear two additional hats: He will head the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) as Secretary; and he will also be the Permanent Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC). The other three members of the COSC will be the chiefs of the army, navy and the air force.


In what might be his most weighty responsibility, Chauhan will also be the Principal Military Advisor to the defence minister on all tri-service matters


Chauhan, whose appointment as the CDS the government announced on Wednesday, could hardly present a greater contrast than his predecessor, Gen Bipin Rawat, who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash last December, along with 12 others, near Coonoor, in Tamil Nadu. Rawat was a gregarious, outspoken commander who interacted with people, including journalists, with very little restraint. Chauhan, in contrast, is described by one of his contemporaries as a “soft-spoken, restrained personality who radiates a quiet but firm authority.”


Chauhan was one of four second lieutenants that found themselves commissioned into a single regiment – 11 Gorkha Rifles – in the years that started from December 1978. Two of them, Rawat and Chauhan, have gone on to become full generals and appointed CDSs. The other two, coincidentally named Shokin Chauhan and AL Chavan, also became generals. In the tight army brotherhoods that are born from shared units and regiments, the latter two share the pride that arises from ascending together the pinnacles of rank and appointment.


“Anil Chauhan knows his job like nobody else. He seldom wastes his time attempting parties and picnics. And he has the courage and integrity to disagree professionally, with his seniors, and to tolerate dissent and disagreement from his subordinates,” says Lt Gen Shokin Chauhan (Retired).


Gen Anil Chauhan is known to express his views frankly, not necessarily adopting the conventional approach. For example, while discussing the proposals for Agnipath and Agniveers – the new scheme to widen and increase the intake of short-service recruits into the military – Anil Chauhan is learned to have suggested changes that made the scheme more practical and workable than the version the defence ministry had suggested.


Chauhan has had the time to develop a bond with National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, under whom he has worked as a military advisor in the National Security Council Secretariat since he retired nine months ago and who, like him, hails from Garhwal. In June, the government changed the promotion policy permitting retired three-star generals under the age of 62 to return to service and take up the job of CDS. This policy permits such officers to serve as CDS until they reach the age of 65. That will permit Anil Chauhan to remain the tri-service chief for a little over three years.


In an army that favours officers who have spent the bulk of their service years doing counter-insurgency operations in Jammu & Kashmir, Chauhan is that rarity: a China specialist who has logged plenty of service years along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the McMahon Line with China. After commanding the crucial Baramulla Division as a major general, Chauhan was promoted to lieutenant general and given command of the sensitive Tezpur corps that defends most of Arunachal Pradesh. He then served a tenure as Director General Military Operations, during which the air force carried out the Balakote air strikes in retaliation for a suicide car bomb attack in Pulwama that killed 40 Indian securitymen. 


Elevated to army commander, just a step below army chief, Chauhan was posted to Fort William, Kolkata, and given charge of the Eastern Command. When he reached the age of 60 in May 2021, he retired from service. But that was only to be brought to the NSC under Doval and to eventually become India’s first lieutenant general to be brought out of retirement, promoted to full general and appointed CDS.


Outside of working hours, the new CDS values his privacy. A good golfer, Chauhan is described by all his contemporaries as a “family man”. He has a single child, a daughter, who is studying architecture in Norway.


Over his busy career, Chauhan has had the time to write two books, including one on nuclear warfare. For the next three years, however, his job description will centre on the creation of joint theatre commands, cutting down on wasteful expenditure and the indigenisation of weapons and systems in India’s military.

1 comment:

  1. Nice to know the BJP government under prime minister Narendra Modi ji appointed a worthy person as CDS (Chief of Defence Staff).


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