Why A China Expert As New Chief Of Defence Services (CDS) Is Vital

Lieutenant General Anil Chauhan's appointment comes in the midst of a root-and-branch reform of the armed forces.

Why A China Expert As New Chief Of Defence Services (CDS) Is Vital

Lt General Anil Chauhan (retd) has been described as a "China expert".

New Delhi:

The centre on Tuesday appointed Lt General Anil Chauhan (retired) as the new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). Lieutenant General Anil Chauhan's appointment comes in the midst of a root-and-branch reform of the armed forces, and nearly a year after the previous defence chief died in a helicopter crash.

The centre has been wary of China's growing troop presence along the border, and disputes -- including deadly Himalayan clashes in 2020 -- have been a perennial source of tension.

Lt Gen Chauhan (retd), described as a "China expert", had been serving as counsel to the national security adviser after his retirement from active service last year.

He will take up the role of chief of defence staff "until further orders", a defence ministry statement said late Wednesday.

Lt Gen Chauhan (retd) commanded ground forces on the eastern front -- including much of the disputed border with China -- before stepping down.

Both countries fought a full-scale war in the region in 1962 for control of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims in its entirety and considers part of Tibet.

New Delhi and Beijing have regularly accused each other of trying to seize territory at key flashpoints along the 3,500-kilometre-long (2,200-mile) Line Of Actual Control.

A high-altitude skirmish in 2020 along the border dividing Tibet from Ladakh, killed 20 Indian and at least four Chinese soldiers,  precipitating a sharp deterioration in relations.

But both countries this month began pulling back soldiers from around the site of that incident after more than a dozen rounds of top-level military talks -- and after a two-year stand-off.

Centre is also concerned over Beijing's increasing presence in the Indian Ocean, seeing the region as firmly within its sphere of influence.

India and the United States are both members of the so-called Quad, a security alliance focused on the Indo-Pacific and aimed at providing a more substantive counterweight to China.

Delayed succession

Lt Gen Chauhan's (retd) career also included a commanding role in Kashmir -- home to a long-running insurgency against Indian rule -- and cross-border strikes in 2019 against militant groups in neighbouring Myanmar.

His appointment ends months of uncertainty over who would succeed General Bipin Rawat, who was killed in a helicopter crash in December 2021.

Gen Rawat, 63, was the first chief of defence staff and was considered a close supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who created the post, especially for him.

While in office, Gen Rawat ruffled Beijing's feathers by repeatedly questioning its actions at their disputed borders and warning Nepal about China's growing footprint.

Centre has been trying to modernise and streamline its 1.4 million-strong armed forces, and is also working to reduce its reliance on foreign arms, unveiling its first locally made aircraft carrier earlier this month.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)