Lt Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane to be next Army chief


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Mar 11, 2018
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Lt Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane to be next Army chief

Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat is due to retire on December 31 after a three-year stint. He is expected to be appointed as the country's first Chief of Defence Staff.

New DelhiDecember 16, 2019UPDATED: December 17, 2019 08:20 IST


Lt Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane to be next Army chiefLt Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane appointed as next Army chief

Lt Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane will be the next Chief of Army Staff leading the 1.3 million-strong force. He is currently serving as Vice Chief of the Army.

Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat is due to retire on December 31 after a three-year stint. He is expected to be appointed as the country's first Chief of Defence Staff.

Before taking charge as vice chief of the Army Staff in September, Lt Gen Naravane was heading the Eastern Command of the Army which takes care of India's nearly 4,000-km border with China.

"It is an honour to be given this responsibility," Lt Gen MM Naravane said in his first reaction after appointment as next Army chief.

When asked about challenges that may lay ahead of him in his new posting, Lt Gen MM Naravane that it was too early to say about it right now as to what would be the focus areas. "Will have to deliberate on it in times to come."

In his 37 years of service, Lt Gen Naravane has served in numerous command and staff appointments in peace, field and highly active counter-insurgency environments in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast.

He has also commanded a Rashtriya Rifles Battalion in Jammu and Kashmir and an infantry brigade on the eastern front.

He was also part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka and had served as India's defence attache at the Indian Embassy in Myanmar for three years.

Lt Gen Naravane is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy and the Indian Military Academy.

He was commissioned into the 7th battalion, the Sikh Light Infantry Regiment in June 1980.

The General is a decorated officer who has been awarded the 'Sena Medal' (Distinguished) for effectively commanding his battalion in Jammu and Kashmir.

He is also a recipient of the 'Vishisht Seva Medal' for his services as the Inspector General Assam Rifles (North) in Nagaland and the 'Ati Vishisht Seva Medal' for commanding of a prestigious strike corps.

General Naravane's challenges | India Today Insight
The new army chief heads a force in the grip of a budgetary crunch that could stymie its modernisation drive

Sandeep Unnithan New DelhiDecember 17, 2019UPDATED: December 17, 2019 11:57 IST


Lt Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane will be the next Chief of Army Staff leading the 1.3 million-strong force. (Photo: PTI)

The government on Monday opted for the seniority principle when it chose Lt General Manoj Mukund Naravane to be the next chief of army staff. Lt General Naravane, the present Vice Chief of Army Staff, will head the world's second largest army when General Bipin Rawat retires on December 31. General Rawat, it is widely speculated, may go on to become India's first Chief of Defence Staff, but that announcement is yet to be made.

Commissioned into the 7th battalion of the army's Sikh Light Infantry, Lt General Naravane is a storied soldier with several tenures in counter-insurgency and commanding key army commands and formations. He has commanded a Strike Corps, the Kolkata-based Eastern Command and the Army's Training Command. His appointment as Vice Chief of Army Staff six months ago has brought him up to speed with all vital issues in Army Headquarters. The Vice Chief handles all critical issues related to procurement and planning. General Naravane will hence hit the ground running when he takes over as the army chief on January 1, 2020. A low-profile and clear-headed officer with an impeccable spoken reputation, General Naravane, has a busy two years and four months ahead of him.

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He essentially has five tasks before him. His first battle will be budgetary- getting more funds to pay for modernisation. The defence budget at Rs 4.3 lakh crore (including defence pensions) this year, has shown only modest growth over the years. The armed forces brass did pitch for greater funds this year, as they have done for several years now. Given the sluggish state of the economy, the union budget to presented on February 1 next year is unlikely to throw up any surprises. For the army, the budgetary crunch is acute. At Rs 1.71 lakh crore, it accounts for 56 per cent of the defence budget but spends over 87 per cent of its budget on revenue expenditure or running costs, including paying salaries of personnel. This year, it could commit 13 per cent of the budget for buying new equipment. (An ideal ratio is 60 per cent for revenue and 40 for capital procurements).


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General Naravane's second task would be to ensure that the army's modernisation continues despite the budgetary squeeze. This will mean hacking away at the service's Long Term Integrated Perspective Plans-- its wish list for new helicopters, artillery, tanks missiles and communication systems between the years 2012 and 2027. The force will need to prioritise its procurements -- to identify which procurements are vital for the army to retain its combat edge, those that can wait, and the ones can be dropped. This process of weeding out has already begun under General Naravane as Vice Chief, its speed will clearly be determined by what the defence budget has in store for the army.

A third but not unrelated priority will be to steer the Army reforms that were initiated by General Rawat over a year ago. The reforms are the among the most radical restructuring of the force since Independence are meant to address the new reality of flat-lining defence budgets and ensuring the service gets more bang for the buck. The army hopes this restructuring, when fully implemented, will cut back up to 1 lakh soldiers and reducing its crippling revenue budget, projected to rise to over 90 per cent in the years ahead.

The plans are meant to reshape the field army into an agile and operationally more effective force to address emerging scenarios like conventional and hybrid warfare, restructure the army headquarters in New Delhi, give its officer cadre a younger profile and revise the terms of engagement of soldiers, a vast majority of whom retire at the age of 35.

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As General Rawat himself indicated, these plans will take several years to implement and unfold in the tenure of his successors. But these plans are yet to obtain political sanction. This could well happen after the government appoints India's first Chief of Defence Staff - a single point military adviser who will also spur the reform and restructuring of all three services.

General Naravane's fourth task will be to realising the army's Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs)-which aims to turn brigades ( over 9000 soldiers ) and not divisions (over 12,000 soldiers) as its key offensive arm. These lighter and nimbler IBGs, equipped with tanks, artillery and helicopters will be the army's new sword arm, thrusting into enemy territory in hours not weeks as was the case before. Two IBGs, one under the army's Yol-based 9 Corps and a second, under the Panagarh-based 17 Corps have been created. The army is studying the results of their deployment.


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General Naravane's fifth task will be to rebuild bridges with the Indian army veterans. Relations between ex-servicemen fraternity and army headquarters had sharply deteriorated over the last few months into open hostility under his predecessor. One recent reason was the army brass insinuating that retiring veterans were gaming the system to claim disability pensions. The final straw was an interview by the army's Adjutant General calling for a code of conduct for military veterans. General Naravane thus has his work cut out for him over the next two years.