Who Is Lt. General Anil Chauhan (Retd.), India’s Second Chief Of Defence Staff?

Chauhan succeeds late General Bipin Rawat over nine months after his death in a helicopter crash in December 2021
Newly Recruited CDS Anil Chauhan
Newly Recruited CDS Anil Chauhan

The government on Wednesday appointed retired Lieutenant General Anil Chauhan as India’s new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). Chauhan, the country’s second CDS, will fill the post that has been vacant since December 8, 2021 following the untimely demise of his predecessor, Lt. General Bipin Rawat, in a helicopter crash. 

Chauhan will also serve as the Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Military Affairs (DMA), unlike the Additional Secretary rank the CDS post previously held. The officer’s appointment puts to rest the rumours of a split between the posts of the CDS and Secretary of the DMA.

As the CDS, General Chauhan will be the senior-most liaison between the government and the Indian military. He will also direct the government’s procurement, staffing and training decisions, head the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Integrated Defence Staff. 

Who is General Chauhan?

An alumnus of the National Defence Academy Khadakwasla and Indian Military Academy Dehradun, 61-year-old General Chauhan was first commissioned into the Indian Army’s 11 Gorkha Rifles in 1981.

He was the first serving officer to manage the Department of Indian Army Veterans as a brigadier. As a major general, he led an infantry division in Northern Command’s Baramulla sector and later, as a lieutenant general, he commanded 3 Corps under Eastern Command. In September 2019, he was even made Eastern Command’s General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, a post he held until he retired in May 2021.

General Chauhan was the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) during the Balakot airstrike of February 2019. As DGMO, he coordinated Operation Sunrise 1 and 2— coordinated operations by the Indian and armies of India and Myanmar against militant camps in the northeast—along with National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval in February and mid-May 2019, respectively. The officer has also served with the United Nations mission in Angola.

After retiring, Chauhan served as the National Security Council Secretariat’s Military Advisor, reporting to the NSA.

“In a career spanning over nearly 40 years, Lt Gen Anil Chauhan had held several command, staff and instrumental appointments and had extensive experience in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu & Kashmir and North-East India,” the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

For his service, he has been awarded the Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Uttam Yudh Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, Sena Medal and Vishisht Seva Medal.

Opportunities And Challenges

Over the years, India’s new CDS has helped strengthen the Sino-Indian border in terms of combat readiness in the northeast. General Chauhan is considered a China specialist within the military and that will certainly help the Ministry of Defence at a time India and China are locked in conflict.

As China emerges as a significant threat to the Indian political and military leadership in the northeast and other parts of the border, the communist country would be one of the toughest challenges for General Chauhan as far as India’s borders are concerned. 

In terms of domestic challenges, one of the first and most crucial tasks that awaits him is the integration of the 17 operational commands of the Indian Armed Forces—seven each of the Army and the Air Force and three of the Navy. 

Eventually, there will only be a few theatre commands whose commanders will report directly to the CDS. Chauhan will also have to ensure that there is greater tri-service synergy and jointness.

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