When Lieutenant General Manoj Mukund Naravane of the Sikh Light Infantry takes over as Chief of the Army Staff from the incumbent, Gen Bipin Rawat in the afternoon of December 31, it will be only the second in the history of the Armed Forces that the chiefs of all three services are from the same course of the National Defence Academy (NDA) at Kharakvasla.
Admiral Karambir Singh, who took over as the Chief of Navy Staff, when Admiral Sunil Lanba retired on May 30, 2019, and Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, had taken over from Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa on September 30 this year, are from the 56th Course at the NDA.
So is Lt Gen Naravane.
The other instance of all three chiefs being from the same course was in the early 1990s, when Gen Sunith Francis Rodrigues, Admiral Laxmi Narayan Ramdas and Air Chief Marshal Nirmal were heading their respective services.
All three were from the 1st Course at NDA. This course also produced three Maha Vir Chakra recipients during the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
The NDA is a tri-service training institution that undertakes a three year training regimen for cadets who join the academy after 10+2 and complete their graduation alongside basic military training before proceeding for pre-commission training at respective service academies.
According to the NDA’s roll of honour, it has produced a total of 32 service chiefs so far, 12 being from the Army, 11 from the Navy and 9 from the Air Force. Naravane would be the 13th Army Chief from the NDA. Other officers to have become chiefs were direct entries to the Indian Military Academy, Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy.
There have been some instances though of two service chiefs being from the same course, the most recent being Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha and Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag of the 44th Course.
Earlier, course mates included Air Chief Marshal AY Tipnis and Gen S Padmanabhan, Gen VP Malik and Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat and Air Chief Marshal SK Kaul and Gen BC Joshi.
Lt Gen Naravane would be the third officer from the Sikh Light Infantry, the maximum from one regiment, to be elevated to the top slot, the other two being Gen VP Malik and Gen Bikram Singh.
Of the 29 officers to have led the Indian Army so far, including those who have tenanted the erstwhile appointment of Commander-in-Chief, 18 have been from the Infantry, six from the Armoured Corps and five from the Artillery.