Bharatiya Nau Sena (Indian Navy) remains headless for over a month now. On March 26th, the then Naval Chief of Staff (NCS), admiral Devendra Kumar Joshi, filed his resignations as a result of repetitive accidents involving BNS’s naval ships and ending with the death/ injury of officers and sailors or exclusion from active duty of ships, due to their overhaul and repair.
It would seem that the appointment of Joshi’s successor should not be neither time consuming nor complicated. Hierarchy given by the chain of command should make this process fast and efficient, allowing to avoid BNS’s functional paralysis, with which we are dealing now. So, why haven’t it happen yet?
– Admiral Joshi’s resignation proves his honorable approach to his duties and laudable sense of responsibility for BNS’s future. However, with high probability one may say that Joshi’s decision was not motivated politically, though if I was, it would be totally understandable, due to the upcoming parliamentary elections. What is the basis for this presumption ?
– well, fist of all the fact, that the Ministry of Defence was totally surprised with Joshi’s decision and not prepared for it, hence the protracting process of nominating his successor. Sadly, this also confirms the lack o perspective thinking within MoD’s executive board, which obviously didn’t predict Joshi’s honorable decision,
– what’s MoD’s line of defence then? Well, it dismisses those allegations by explaining that nominating new NCS is and has to be a complicated and lengthy process, which requires, for example, every candidate to be scanned by internal security institutions, such as the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). Additionally, MoD makes a point that there’s actually no vacant on the NCS position, since Joshi’s place has been temporarily taken by his former deputy, Vice Chief of Naval Staff, vice admiral RK Dhowan,
– point taken, BUT, as a vice admiral and only a substitute for Joshi till the time when Joshi’s successor takes over the BNS, Dhowan is not able to make any legally-obligatory decisions, at least not on the highest levels, nor can he fully act as the NCS of the Indian Navy, which actually still remains headless,
– we’ve came to the point, when one should ask if MoD’s procedures of choosing and naming new NCS really are so effective as the Ministry declares? On the one hand, the answer is YES. One must not forget, that the process of nominating new NCS usually starts months before the current one finishes his term,
– ok, but this a normal scenario and what about situations like the one we have to deal with now? What happens, when the current NCS isn’t able to finish his term due to his resignation or worse, death? Are there any stepped-up procedures which come into action then? If not, that proves the above-mentioned thesis about lack of perspective thinking within the MoD’s executive board and that the Ministry was really surprised by Joshi’s resignation. If yes, why haven’t they been implemented yet? Maybe because it’s all about politics…
– no one is surprised, when nominations for the highest civilian positions within the government are politically motivated. But when it comes to armed forces, especially ones with structural problems and decision-making impotency, politics should not be taken into consideration. Unfortunately, in this case it is,
– the new Indian NCS probably won’t be named till the upcoming parliamentary elections and the establishment of a new government (and the new MoD’s chief). Of course one can say that the current head of MoD wants to give his successor free position on nominating BNS’s CO. Ok, but why?
– if the new NCS is being chosen on the basis of his hitherto service experience and leadership skills, what’s the difference if he is nominated by the current or future Minister of Defence? The only difference it could make, is that the new head of MoD could consider his predecessor’s choice as politically inconvenient. What it is, if not politics, then?
– last, but not least, there is a big problem with the candidates for new NCS themselves. Currently, three naval officers apply for this position: Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Naval Command, vice admiral Shekhar Sinha, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, vice admiral Anil Chopra and the vice admiral RK Dhowan,
– according to a long lasting tradition, the senior-most naval commander should be nominated as the NCS. In this case, it is vice admiral Shekhar Sinha. The problem is, that most of the accidents which led to Joshi’s resignation, involved ships subordinated to…Western Naval Command. It would be disgraceful though, if BNS’s new NCS became someone who de facto forced the previous one to resign..
– but there is another problem with Sinha’s candidacy. There are some objections being made by the IB and/or CBI and/or CVC to nominating Sinha as the new NCS, which could (but don’t have to) consider his inability to actually fulfill his duties or some legal incorrectness, regarding his hitherto service in the BNS. Nevertheless, those objections don’t seem to be playing a decisive role in this case. After all, they weren’t taken into consideration by the MoD, when Shinha was nominated as FOC-C of the Western Naval Command…
– Dhowan’s candidacy is also doubtful, due to the fact, that he doesn’t have sufficient leadership experience, which are truly required if one aspires to be the next NCS. This could leave vice admiral Chopra as the last and best candidate for Joshi’s replacement, right? Theoretically yes, but in reality.. no. Let’s not forget, that in the scenario in which MoD actually decides to reject Sinha’s candidacy, he will be allowed to demand legal redress, which could be politically costly for the new Minister of Defence and in order to avoid this situation, he might actually be induced to nominate Sinha. After all, it’s all politics, right?